The Special Needs School Fair which took place at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan on Thursday evening, October 29, 2009 is a wonderful resource for parents and professionals who want to learn what’s available for special needs children in NYC and environs. This is the fourth year that the Fair is taking place and the word is out. The Fair was bustling and crowded with parents eager to hear what the different schools and agencies provide. Parents of special needs children are always looking for the program that will make a real difference in the lives of their children. However, before deciding which school to choose, they first have to know what’s available, and this is where the Fair comes into play.
The Fair was sponsored jointly by YAI/NYL/Lifestart and the JCC and showcased a wide variety of agencies and schools from special needs preschools through high schools. Representatives were on site to hand out brochures and answer questions regarding their program, student body, application process and tuition costs. Most of the schools were private (although often state funded), but some city charter schools were also present as were religious schools and private preschools that are friendly to special needs youngsters, such as the Riverdale Nursery School and Family Center. Organizations dedicated to disseminating information and providing services were on site such as YAI /NYL (NY League for Early Learning) and Birch Family Services – both comprehensive organizations which provide (among other things) evaluations, special education programs and parent training.
Although many of the schools educate children with a variety of learning disabilities and language delays (eg., Aaron School, Gateway School, Parkside School) there were also schools that focused on specific areas. For instance, the Auditory/Oral School of New York and the Clark School for the Deaf educate hearing impaired children, the Rusk Institute Preschool and Standing Tall School focus on children with physical and medical issues and the Lorge School focuses primarily on behavior disorders.
Schools that educate youngsters on the autistic spectrum were strongly represented, demonstrating the growing need for such specialized education and the intensity of interest in this area. Parents were able to learn about the schools’ philosophical and educational approaches to treating autism such as the Rebecca School, which incorporates a DIR (Developmental, Individual, and Relationship) approach and the Brooklyn Autism Center which stresses a behavioral approach.
The Fair is usually scheduled at this time of the year and parents who need information should mark their calendars to make sure that they attend next year. With information about such a wide range of schools available under one roof, parents are able to compare educational philosophies and get some idea of their range of choices. Not every school is right for every child but this is a start. Many special needs schools fill up quickly so parents need to begin the application process early. It can be just as frenzied a process as applying to a regular private school in NYC, with much more riding on the outcome. The Special Needs Fair is an invaluable opportunity to get information that will inform the decision making process.
Here is a list of the 2009 Fair participant schools/services:
- Aaron School
- Aaron Academy
- ABC – Association to Benefit Children – Merricats Castle School
- Auditory/Oral School of NY StriVright
- Brooklyn Autism Center
- Central Park Early Learning Center
- Child Development Center (JBFCS)
- The Child School/Legacy High School
- Children’s Academy
- Clarke School – New York
- Cooke Center for Learning & Development
- DOE ASD Nest Program
- Gateway School of NY
- The Gillen Brewer School
- The Hallen School
- Hawthorne Country Day School
- Imagine Academy for Autism
- Julian School Gymtime’s Leaps and Bounds Program
- Kennedy Child Study Center
- LearningSpring Elementary School
- Lexington School for the Deaf
- The Lorge School
- The Lowell School
- Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf
- New York Center for Child Development
- NYU Langone Hospitals Center Rusk Institute Preschool
- Opportunity Charter School
- The Parkside School
- Pathways School
- QSAC Schools
- Rebecca School
- Reece School
- Riverdale Nursery School and Family Center
- Roosevelt Children’s Center at NYL
- Saint Joseph’s School for the Deaf
- School for Language and Communication Development
- Shield Institute
- Standing Tall Inc.
- United Cerebral Palsy of NYC Inc. Children Programs
- West End Day School
- Winston Preparatory School
- Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities IVDU (Beacon) Lower School
- YAI/NYL Gramercy
- YAI/NYL Harry H. Gordon
About the Contributor: Toby Glick is a regular contributor to the NYC Private Schools Blog in the area of families with special needs.