Independent Schools for Students With Learning Disabilities: What You Need to Know

By Geri Coleman Tucker
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At a Glance

  • Some schools specialize in teaching kids with learning and thinking differences.

  • An independent school for students with learning disabilities can provide a place where your child doesn’t feel “different.”

  • These schools are private schools, which means they don’t have to offer IEPs.

If you have a child with learning and thinking differences, there are many kinds of schools to choose from. The choices can be confusing. And the schools may vary widely in what they offer students.

If there’s a private school near you that specializes in your child’s learning or thinking difference, you may want to take a closer look. Some people refer to these schools as independent schools for students with learning disabilities.

What Independent Schools for Students With Learning Disabilities Are

An independent school for students with learning disabilities is a private school that specializes in serving students with particular learning and thinking differences.

These schools do charge tuition. But they tend to be not-for-profit. And they all have several things in common:

  • All of the students have a learning disability or ADHD.

  • All of the teachers have special training to teach and support students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD.

  • All of the school’s programs are designed to support the needs of these students.

These schools are set up to give kids a place where they’re not “different.” All the teachers and staff are trained to support each child’s learning and growth.

Some kids feel more relaxed in schools like this. They may be more willing to take part in classes if they’re not afraid of teasing.

How Independent Schools for Students With Learning Disabilities Work

Many of these schools offer smaller classes and a lower student-to-staff ratio than public schools. The teachers are trained to work with students with learning and thinking differences. Most of them have master’s degrees in special education, plus extra training. Often, speech-language pathologists and psychologists are on the staff.

What to Watch Out For

Be aware that private schools don’t have to offer Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). That includes independent schools for students with learning disabilities. And public school districts don’t have to pay for a child to go to private school, except under certain specific conditions. But your local public school district may be responsible for providing special education evaluations and some related services to students in private schools.

Here are some questions to ask if you’re considering an independent school for students with learning disabilities:

  • Does the school serve children who have the same challenges as my child?

  • What schools are the other students coming from?

  • How does the school monitor student progress?

  • How does the school communicate with parents about their child’s progress?

  • What is the school’s average class or instructional group size? What is its overall student-to-faculty (not faculty and staff) ratio?

  • How do families pay tuition at the school?

  • How does the school coordinate services with the public school district?

  • Will my child miss having social experiences with kids in general education?

  • What does the school do to promote children’s strengths and interests while it provides support for learning challenges?

  • What are the school’s expectations for parental involvement and financial support beyond tuition?

  • Do students typically receive additional support outside school?

  • Where do students go after leaving this school? What percentage continues their education and where?

If you’re thinking about an independent school for your child, use this checklist to help figure out if it’s a good fit. You can also look into tax deductions you may qualify for if your child attends an independent school.

Key Takeaways

  • In an independent school for students with learning disabilities, most of the teachers have master’s degrees in special education, plus extra training.

  • These schools may have smaller classes than public schools.

  • Public school districts don’t have to pay for a child to go to private school, except under certain specific conditions.

About the Author

About the Author

Geri Coleman Tucker 

is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor forUSA Today.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM 

serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

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