Open dialogue with schools vital for parents of special needs children

Inclusivity is on the rise at international schools but parents still have to check that their special needs kids can receive optimal support before enrolling.

Market demands

As privately run institutions, international schools are not guaranteed to comply with any special education laws. However, as businesses, they do move to meet demand. An increasing awareness of inclusivity, all around the world, has undoubtedly led to an increase of specialist programmes / services at international schools.

Good news but…

If parents with special needs kids can find the support they need to relocate to another country, and thrive, that’s certainly good news for Global Mobility. But there are some caveats. “Special education programmes vary around the world. There’s no universal standard. Somewhere like Canada would be ahead of most other countries in terms of its inclusivity at schools,” says Jan Willem Helmink, a manager at Edufax, an organisation that provides tailored educational solutions for children who are moving to another country.

Opening a dialogue

Jan Willem agrees that parents need to open a dialogue to ensure the school either a) already accommodates specific specialist needs or b) can develop their specialist programme accordingly. “There is a risk that ‘inclusivity’ is sometimes used as a buzzword in marketing materials. So parents need to be absolutely sure their child will get the support they need,” says Jan Willem, who was formerly a head teacher at an international school in the Middle East.

High-calibre schools

From his personal experiences, Jan Willem has seen how international schools can provide special education services for students classified as having mild to moderate needs. “In developing countries, you will find high-calibre international schools with excellent teachers, where parents can find the support for disabilities such as dyslexia or speech therapy,” says Jan Willem. “However, specialist services for more intensive needs, for example autism, might not be offered. Parents need to check.”

Is it possible?

Parents would be well advised to also provide all information/ records related to their child’s educational history to date and current needs. “That will allow the school to make an informed decision about whether or not it can meet the child’s needs,” adds Jan Willem. “If they can provide optimal support, it’s undoubtedly a major boost for global mobility. The well-being of children is a major factor for families on an international assignment. Happy kids means happy families.”

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