Too few high-quality public school options exist for children with special needs, writes Christine Gralow, a special education preschool specialist, on the New York Times’ Lesson Plans blog, and getting the DOE to pay tuition for expensive private schools — its legal responsibility when it can’t provide an appropriate setting in a public school — is a costly, stressful ordeal. Describing how the school search led one family with an autistic child to move out of the city, Gralow writes,
All this is not to say that there are no good public kindergartens in New York City, or no good public kindergarten programs for special needs children. They do exist, and some parents of special-needs kids — those enough lucky to live in one of the city’s coveted public education districts — do find good placements for their kids in well-run team-teaching classrooms, or, when appropriate, in well-run self-contained classrooms. But such placements are few and far between. Even in the coveted districts, I’ve rarely seen an appropriate special-needs kindergarten placement come without a parent struggle. …
The city’s handful of public and non-profit charter programs for children with autism, such as the P.S. 255 schools in Queens and the New York Center for Autism Charter School, clearly need to be expanded and replicated, and those working to make such programs succeed should be applauded.
The Department of Education produces a guide for parents of children with special needs who are transitioning from preschool to kindergarten.