Choosing A School: Know The Options For Your Child








Your local public school is close by and probably where most of the kids in your neighborhood go. But it isn’t the only option. There are many different types of schools out there, public and private. There are even schools that specialize in helping kids with learning and thinking differences.

Learn more about options for your child when choosing a school.

Neighborhood Public Schools

The local public school is close to home. It’s free and lots of neighborhood kids go there. It also has some important benefits for kids with learning and thinking differences. These include:

Keep in mind, though, that your neighborhood public school may have large class sizes. The instruction may also be less personalized instruction than in other schools, like private schools.

Researching schools in your local area? Use the GreatSchools ratings tool to learn about and find a local school that best serves your child’s needs.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are specialized public schools within your local school district. Because they’re part of the public schools, they’re free to attend. And your child can still get  an IEP or a 504 plan if eligible. Other possible advantages of a magnet school include:

  • Focus on a specific area your child may be passionate about or strong in, like math and science or the arts
  • Access to special education services and specialists in the school district

Keep in mind, however:

  • Applications are often required, and it can get competitive.
  • Waiting lists may be long because of high demand and limited enrollment.
  • Your child may need to travel if the magnet school is far from your home.
  • Magnets have fewer neighborhood kids, which may make it harder to make friends.

Learn about vocational high school programs, a common type of magnet that teaches kids career and technical skills.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are independent public schools run by nonprofit groups, private companies or community organizations. They are free to attend. And they exist in most states, although there may not be one near where you live.

Charters don’t have to follow all the rules that traditional public schools follow. However, charters are required to follow special education law and provide IEPs and 504 plans to kids who qualify.

Read more about charter schools and students with learning and thinking differences. And take a look at data on special education and charter schools.

Private Schools

These schools are run by private organizations, outside of the public schools. A private school can give you a lot of choice over the kind of school environment your child is in. But you have to pay for tuition, and it can be expensive.

See a chart that lays out the differences between public, charter and private schools.

Check out our suite of resources and information on private schools. And read six things to know about private schools and special education.

Some states may give parents vouchers to pay for private school. However, it’s important to know that school vouchers generally don’t cover the full cost of tuition. Here’s a list of questions to ask when deciding on a private school.

Independent Schools for Students with Learning and Thinking Differences

Some private schools specialize in teaching students with learning and thinking differences. They typically offer your child more comprehensive and individualized support, but tuition can be high. However, sometimes a state or public school district will pay the cost of private school if a child can’t get an appropriate education in the public schools.

Explore the pros and cons of independent schools for kids with learning and thinking differences.


One last school option is homeschooling, which is to teach your child at home. Every state allows homeschooling.

Read about pros and cons of homeschooling. Learn what public resources are available to homeschoolers.

Choosing a school is a personal decision for your family. As you decide, it’s important you consider the level of support your child needs. Even within a public or private school, there may be other options, like inclusion classrooms or online learning.

Need more help? Discuss school options with other parents of kids with learning and thinking differences in our  online community groups. You may also want to read about common pitfalls when picking a school.