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Next Stop, High School!

3 Tips To Help Find The Right High School For Your Complex Learner

As a parent of a Complex Learner, the idea of high school can be terrifying. You’ve worked so hard to find the right environment for your child during their K-8 days and now you have to do it all over again? Where do you begin? What should you be looking for? When should you start? The whole process can feel overwhelming and with such an important decision ahead for you and your child, you want to make sure you’re doing it right!

Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! We spoke with Wolf’s own Director of Enrollment, Paula Kelly, to get some tips to help you as you begin preparing for your child’s high school journey. Whether you’re just beginning to research schools or looking to start applying this fall, take a look below for 3 ways you can help your child find the right high school.

1. Start the high school search early and with an open mind

There’s no secret recipe to make the transition to high school quick and painless but the number 1 tip we recommend is starting the process early and with an open mind. While there’s no harm in doing basic research about high schools to get some ideas of what’s out there in 6th grade or earlier, the research phase should really kick off during 7th grade. By starting the process early, you’re giving yourself time to not only do your research to find schools but fully grasp the timeline ahead of you.

Applying to schools is more than just filling out a one-page application. For many high schools catering to students with learning differences, they’ll require updated testing, potential day visits, recommendations, interviews, and more. To ensure you have enough time to tour schools, find an outside provider, prepare your child for interviews or visits, schedule testing, and get all the necessary documentation in a row – don’t wait to begin the process!

It can also take time to talk to your educational contacts and begin your independent research to find schools in your area that cater to a student population similar to your child. While researching, try to keep an open mind around what type of school might be best for your child. While you might not think your child is mature enough for a boarding school, for many Complex Learners this provides the additional structure academically and socially that they need to really flourish and mature. While finances are a key deciding factor, many private schools provide financial aid or scholarships that you might not be aware of. Don’t rule out any schools just yet until you learn more!

2. Utilize Connections

It takes a village to raise a child and applying to high school is no different! Utilize your child’s classroom team and anyone involved with next school placement at your child’s school. There’s a reason you’ve trusted these people over the past few years, let them help you as you and your child prepare for this next step!

Your child’s educational team can work with you to help you understand what your child needs from a high school – like what accommodations and support they would recommend or what type of workload they think your child could handle. They can also help you with your beginning research with potential schools by sharing past students’ experiences or even sharing a list of high schools attended by past students. Furthermore, once you’ve started the application process, your child’s team can help prepare your child during the school day for any upcoming interviews, work with them on any writing prompts, and overall work to help ease your child’s anxiety over transitioning to high school. You have a team ready to work with you to help set you and your child up for success – don’t be afraid to reach out!

If offered, you can also ask your current school to connect you with past alumni families and students with similar learning profiles so you could talk to someone who has gone through exactly what you are and made it through to the other side. Not only will this definitely help ease your mind but it will also give you the chance to learn more about potential schools and the student experience (outside of a brochure or guided tour!). This also gives your child a relaxed opportunity to talk to a peer about any questions or concerns they may have about high school in general or around a specific school.

3. Trust Your Child & Trust The Process

As you prepare to start the search for high schools, it’s important that you talk to your child. Do they have specific goals/dreams in mind? Do they love the idea of a boarding school? Are they looking for a school with small class sizes? Are they looking to join a sports team or maybe they’re hoping for an active drama club? Chatting with your child can help ensure that you are both on the same page as you begin to research schools.

It’s important to note that once you have a general sense of what your child is hoping for from high school, you should work independently to come up with a few options you’d like to explore together. It’s important to do the beginning stages of research alone since it might be overwhelming or anxiety-provoking for your child to be a part of the entire research process. It can also be tricky when you, as a parent, have to rule out a school due to distance, finances, or other reasons, if your child has already fallen in love with it.

After you have your choices narrowed down to a few options that would work for you and your family, now is the time to get your child back involved. Typically, they’ll have a fantastic sense of where they belong and where they feel comfortable. When you go to open houses or talk to alumni families, check in with your child. Could they picture themselves here? What worries them?  What did they love about the school?

It can feel overwhelming when you first begin to think about the high school search but you have to trust the process. With research, a support system, and your child’s best interests at heart – you and your child will find the perfect high school for your family!

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