No. It's not too soon to start touring schools and applying. Trust me. Anyway, last year was pretty tough for me and I thought I'd share some of the things that were helpful to me.
1. Give yourself plenty of time. The transition from CPSE to CSE is truly a year long process. One with many deadlines - know them all - and appointments. You will need to tour schools, fill out applications, have your child interviewed at schools, possibly make an appointment(s) for a private evaluation, meet with the CPSE and the list goes on and on.
2. Schedule enough time to get a private evaluation. By the time you go into your Turning 5 meeting, you'll want to be armed with a private evaluation with recommendations. Start calling around in September - as there may be wait lists.
3. Attend the JCC Special Needs school fair on Tuesday, October 25th. "The JCC in Manhattan and YAI/NYL/LIFESTART partner to present the annual Special Needs School Fair. Representatives from preschools, elementary, middle, and high schools serving the New York City special needs community will be onsite to provide information and answers to your questions. School materials will be available." For registration information click here and go the the JCC Manhattan website.
I attended this last year. Get there early. Go with a pen, notepad, a bottle of water and some Advil. It's overwhelming. But almost every single school within the 5 boroughs, Westerchester and Long Island are there. If you're a working mom or just limited with time to schedule appointments, the school fair is a great way meet representatives, pick up applications and set up appointments to tour.
4. Make a list/spreadsheet of all the schools you want to tour and/or apply to. But tour a school before you apply. Sometimes you'll know just by walking into a building whether or not it's the proper placement for your child. Many schools will tell you - the earlier (by December is ideal) they recieve the applications the better. Many schools have application fees, which can become a financial hardship when applying to several schools. Ask if the fee can be waived or reduced.
5. Be honest with yourself. I cannot stress this enough. As parents, it's natural to want to believe your child is the rock star of the class. However, when touring schools - look at the children, listen to the them, watch with a keen eye. Then ask yourself the tough questions. Does my child fit in here? Would my child have a hard time? Can my child do the work? Will my child need a para to get through the day?
Your feelings will be hurt. You will feel frustrated. You will be disappointed. Your child will be rejected. You will wonder - why wasn't my child good enough for the _______ School? Your child will be accepted.
In the end - it really will work out. And if it doesn't, that's okay too. Don't be too hard on yourself. It just means, you'll have a second chance to get it right.
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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.