Rejected: Shadowing at private schools

Dylan was scheduled for a shadow day the other day at a school that specializes in kids whose learning disabilities or other challenges make typical school settings a problem for them but whose disabilities aren’t severe enough to warrant placement in special day classes.

The class size is eight – talk about individualized instruction! Since many of their students are on the autistic spectrum, social skills training is incorporated into the curriculum for all students. It’s expensive and 35 miles away from our house, but I thought it would be worthwhile if I could find a high school where my son could learn and thrive.

He’s got a supportive team at the local public middle school, but there are many ways in which he’s not ready for high school, and class sizes of 30 to 40 just don’t sound like the right answer for him.

So Dylan walks into the front office at the private school, gasping and squeaking, and the admissions chair (let’s call her Mrs. Smith) says, “Is he going to keep doing that?” I had sent a bio where I wrote: “Current tics include loud breathing (‘Darth Vader tic’), sudden intake of breath and squeaking. It may sound like he’s gasping for air, but he’s OK.”

So, yes, he’s probably going to keep doing it, at least until he relaxes a bit, which is difficult in a new environment where he knows he’s being evaluated. Well, Mrs. Smith doesn’t think the other students will be able to function with my son in the classroom. One teacher’s willing to give him a shot, but I need to stay at the school.

After one class period, where the teacher reports Dylan quieted down after she gave him a book to read, Mrs. Smith decides Dylan is not a fit for the school and needs to go home. She can’t look him in the eye and give him a straight answer when he asks why. He wants to stay the whole day and shadow. But Mrs. Smith won’t allow that (the Head of School is not on campus for a consultation), so I drive Dylan back to his public school, where he arrives in time for third period.

This makes three private schools that have rejected my smart, capable son after he tries to shadow, because he’s too loud or too immature or lacks executive functioning skills. What now? It’s time to find out what our local public high school district can offer, because we’re out of options locally — unless we want to consider schools that cater to students with extreme behavioral or emotional problems. That’s not the environment I want.

Walking to school this morning I ask Dylan how he feels about the experience at the private school. The answer from a kid who almost never says how he feels about anything? “Pissed.” Maybe we should move to New Jersey.


  1. Gosh, I wish I could assure you that moving to New Jersey would solve your problems…. :-(

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