I did a brief presentation at the Families in Global Transition conference in Washington, DC, for internationally mobile families about taking special needs children overseas. These are my “top 5” tips based on years of experience working with international families as an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC).
1. Do not expect that international schools will always offer services for children with learning disabilities. Furthermore, even though the school may be known as “the American school”, American schools overseas do not have a federal mandate of IDEA to provide special education services like they would in the United States.
2. Many children with learning disabilities also need other wrap-around services, i.e. physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, that may or may not be available overseas. This must be investigated.
3. Those who offer services are often expats themselves – if you identify their services, they may not be there when you arrive, or may not stay in the foreign location for the entire time of your stay, or have openings for new students. Check before going.
4. Some families realize their children are struggling after they arrive. Sometimes this is due to transition and resiliency issues, so you want to give things time to settle down. However, it is also important to get these students a quality psycho-educational evaluation as early as possible. The younger a child is when his/her needs are identified, the more effective the intervention can be. Do not wait too long before getting help.
5. The most successful students are those whose parents are extremely well-informed and pro-active – researching options, finding resources, getting their kids help, and if no adequate resources are there at that location, then a boarding school that specializes in learning differences, or offers support to students with learning differences, may be a viable option.
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Feel free to contact RNG International Educational Consultants if you have concerns about a young person in your life.