Special Education

I’m creating this page to allow parents to exchange stories and advice on Los Angeles area schools/districts that may have a better track record with special education, special needs, or schools that help with services that students might need.

If you prefer to post under one of the ‘area’ pages, feel free. This is just an option, like Gifted Education, for parents to talk to parents with similar situations when maybe geography isn’t the biggest consideration.

22 Responses to Special Education

  1. toucheela says:

    I am moving back to the Los Angeles area this summer after spending 4 years in WA state, and I’m trying to figure out what schools in the west part of the Valley might be best for my daughter, who will be 5 at the end of September and is currently receiving special education services through part-time preschool at our local elementary school after being given an IEP last November for a developmental delay in social skills. More recently a private psychologist has diagnosed her with ADHD, hyperactive/impulsive subtype. She does not have the attention deficit problem that usually characterizes ADHD, so her subtype is the least common (representing only about 15% of those diagnosed with ADHD). She is mildly hyperactive, but the main issues she has at school (and daycare) are related to impulsivity, particularly occasional hitting/kicking others when angry, frequent tantrums/meltdowns, interrupting, having difficulty waiting her turn, and constantly seeking adult attention. Academically/cognitively she is probably above average for her age, although I don’t know that she would necessarily qualify as gifted/talented at this point.

    I plan on contacting LAUSD special education as soon as we move there to request an evaluation, but what I really need help with now is trying to pinpoint the best schools in the west San Fernando Valley for kids with mild behavioral issues and special needs, like ADHD. I’m looking for places that have as low a student/teacher ratio as possible and are used to dealing with more challenging kids. Her behaviors are not extreme, but I expect that she will need some help/services at least for now. However, I also want her to be academically challenged enough to keep her from being bored. I’m looking for schools that are known to treat each child individually and help them learn in their own unique ways rather than schools that are really heavy on standardized testing and super high academic standards.

    I’ve already identified Chime Charter as the number 1 place I would want her to go to school when she starts kindergarten in 2015, but I realize that with the lottery system my chances are not that great of her getting in. If anyone can help identify other schools that you think would be good for a student like her, particularly those with guaranteed entrance if you are a resident of the area, I would love to hear your suggestions. Since I work from home, I am able to move anywhere I want to, which is great, but narrowing down my choices is rather hard. I’m hoping to find some good options in the Woodland Hills/Tarzana/Encino areas, but I’m also willing to look at other parts of the west Valley and perhaps even other parts of the LA metro area (I’m also contemplating WISH Charter in Westchester since it’s modeled after Chime). When I spoke to someone at LAUSD special ed, they indicated that the best schools for special ed services are in the west Valley and west LA areas.

    I’m not sure yet what will be our best option for her this coming school year – special ed preschool or transitional K; I’m hoping the evaluation process will help us identify the best place for her now. Of course I’m also concerned about finding a suitable childcare program for when school is not in session as well.

    Thanks for any info/advice you can give on the above!

    • toucheela says:

      I’m so happy to finally see some replies here, thanks very much! Here’s an update, a year later – and I’m still not really any closer to knowing what to do than I was a year ago. We moved to Woodland Hills last July. After a lot of frustration dealing with LAUSD Special Ed dept. my daughter was placed as a TK student at Shirley Avenue Elementary in Reseda in a special ed day class. The school year started off OK, but within a month it started to fall apart. Major behavioral issues, running out of the classroom (she had never done this before), teasing by others that wasn’t being addressed, etc. It got to the point where I felt I couldn’t keep her enrolled there any longer, so I withdrew her, but requested an evaluation for a 1:1 aide at a new school. After months of further frustration with the district (they dropped the ball), we got a new placement in a special ed day class for TK-2 at our home school, Serrania Avenue Elementary. The evaluation was completed in March, and as a result a 1:1 aide was approved. However, there are still issues. She continues to run away and hide frequently, and it seems that nobody is able to prevent that from happening because they aren’t allowed to physically restrain her in any way. So they just follow her to make sure she’s safe. She continues to have some aggressive outbursts. She is happier there than at Shirley Avenue, but still I think there could be a better fit for her out there somewhere. She is in between a rock and a hard place, because academically she’s well ahead of her peers in the special ed classes but behaviorally she can’t stay in gen ed (she is getting a little over 1 hour/day in gen ed at the moment). During school vacations and after school she is at an in-home daycare and doing really well there as well as at home. Her daycare provider feels that her behavior has greatly improved since she first started going there last summer. So I feel that in the right environment she can do really well, but I don’t know what the right environment is academically.

      I applied to both Chime and WISH charter schools for next year and didn’t get in to either one, which was extremely disappointing. Last week she had a neuropsychological evaluation; I won’t know the results for a couple more weeks, but the psychologist I spoke to felt that she could possibly be very high-functioning on the spectrum. I’m also looking into behavioral therapy at a local center, and possibly revisiting ADHD medications (we tried them last year without success, but at a small dosage for a limited time). I’m hoping that I can get some sort of direction as to which way to go once I’ve met with everyone and discussed the results.

      I feel like she needs to be in an environment with a small class size and a lot of adult attention/supervision, but also one where they have enough freedom to be “hands on” as needed (not abusively, of course, but there are times when she needs to be held or restrained from hurting others/destroying things). She also needs to be around peers who are also high-functioning to keep her from being too bored. It seems like it’s either/or – places with small class sizes and a lot of adult attention seem to have kids who are not high-functioning. But she clearly has many more problems in larger groups. I may have to end up fighting the district again to see if there’s a nonpublic school that might be a good fit… I just don’t know anymore.

      Any further thoughts and feedback are very welcome!

      • Karlak says:

        Hi there,
        My son has high functioning autism and severe ADHD. He also has behavior issues and issues with focus. He is very advanced in math/science and average in reading/spelling. He is currently in a mainstream classroom with some assistance from a 1;1 aide. His aide gives him occasional breaks (sensory issues) and helps with focus. He has done REALLY well in first grade and I 100% credit his school and 1;1 aide.
        If you suspect your child is on the autism spectrum contact your local regional center. I think you are in the North East Valley Regional Center area. Complete all the documentation and submit it ASAP. While you are waiting (it takes 4 months to get assessed), make an appointment with Dr. Danis in Pasedena. She is a very good doctor and very skilled at diagnosing HFA (often doctors miss very HFA, she won’t). basically she will help you get the ASD diagnosis you need to get the services that will REALLY help. If you get the diagnosis fight for ABA therapy (from the Regional Center). We get 10 hours a week for our 7 year old.
        If she gets accepted by the Regional Center you will be eligible for respite care, ABA, after school aide, summer aide, etc. Also, you can request the Regional Center give you a medical waiver (income doesn’t matter) and then apply for IHSS. If she needs “protective supervision” you will get paid or be able to hire someone to take care of your child if needed.

        • Jacki says:

          What elementary school is he attending

        • toucheela says:

          I seem to only remember to update this once per year, lol. We have been at Serrania for the past year and half, and there have been definite improvements, which I attribute both to her getting older/more mature and having been in behavioral therapy for the past year at the Learning and Behavioral Center in Tarzana, plus a good special ed teacher who seems to get what she needs. Her kindergarten year went much better than her TK year, though she still has some self-regulation issues and is still in the special ed day class with a 1:1 aide with gen ed pullouts. The goal is to have her fully mainstreamed by the end of 2nd grade since the school does not have special ed beyond 2nd grade. If she is not mainstreamed by then, we will have to change schools. Even though things have been better, I still think there could be a better environment out there somewhere for her. I’m still applying to Chime and WISH, and also now Our Community School in Chatsworth, which we got into for K and I declined for various reasons, much to my chagrin now. As expected, we didn’t get in to any of them for 1st grade, so we will be at Serrania another year at least. I’m still interested in hearing from people who really like their special ed public school. If she didn’t have special needs I probably wouldn’t be considering other schools.

          We did go to the Regional Center in Van Nuys last year, but after an evaluation they said she didn’t qualify as on the spectrum. She has a few spectrum-like behaviors, but not enough to qualify, and according to the evaluator, those behaviors could also be explained by ADHD. Based on my research, I also don’t think she is on the spectrum, although she definitely has her quirks.

          • Linda says:

            Have you had her IQ tested and evaluated by a private psychologist? Your daughter sounds like my now 9 year old son. He is highly gifted with an ADHD diagnosis (although this could just be a highly gifted trait resulting in being bored in the public school classroom) which makes him 2E (twice exceptional). Also, the higher the IQ the harder it is for these kids to behave in school, relate to peers, argue with teachers, etc. If she is highly gifted you will need to find a psychologist that specializes in diagnosis and identifying gifted children. It is common for gifted children to be misdiagnosed, especially by the school. And ADHD is very commonly used to identify any child that is hyper or causing disruptions in the classroom. You can read about misdiagnosis of the gifted on the SENG website. http://sengifted.org/programs/seng-misdiagnosis-initiative

      • Elena says:

        Hi I’d like to speak to your I have The same concern

  2. I’m so sorry you never got a reply. I am in the Sherman Oaks/Valley village area if you need any help. I have a 2E KID and my son attends a Charter, although I am unsure if it’s the one we should stay with due to their emphasis on ARTS and not enough Science, I suggest the book Bright not Broken it explains 2e kids perfectly, which your daughter sounds very much like.

  3. karla says:

    My son is similar to your child (I think). You are correct at attempting to get into CHIME. That was my number 1 as well. IF you can get a diagnosis of high functioning autism (and I’m not sure you could/want to) an amazing school is Encino Elementary. They have a HFA program. The kids are 100% in the general education classroom but work with an aide part time (up to 3 hours a day). My son just needs a little help with focusing in the classroom and socializing with his peers on the playground. This is really for kids that can handle a mainstream classroom of 24 kids but may need to take breaks, get help for social issues or help with managing mild outbursts (which we have). It is very hard to get into but they also have a similar program at Kester.
    Good luck!

    • Steve says:

      My son attends Encino Elementary as well and is HFA. He receives almost no help from the staff. They mock my attempts to find out what is going on and to try to help solve things. I have felt very unwelcome at this school.

      • lenny says:

        Steve, it sounds like we have had completely opposite experiences. LOL. Being in the HFA program is VERY different than having a child in “gen ed” at Encino. The HFA Program is very good and hard to get into. WE had to file for due process to get it. If you already have a child at Encino FIGHT to get them into that program. It’s well worth it.

    • Katelyn says:

      My son is 8 and goes to Kester. He is HF. Kester does not have an official HFA program. We have fought the school for years to keep him in gen ed with a full-time aide. We’ve seen the alternative and it was terrible. I can’t recall the name of the school. It was obviously underfunded. My son has had a couple of really supportive teachers at Kester but the administration has changed recently. They have a new AP and principal who would rather ship him off to some other school to make their lives easier. I’ve applied for Chime for the past 2 years too. I took the tour and really liked their philosophy and the atmosphere. I think Chime only goes up to 5th grade, so we would only get 2 years before we have to look again.

  4. I have a similar situation. My son is average to high average academically but when triggered he runs out of the classroom and hides. He also hums during class. He’s been diagnosed with ADHD. Haven’t found the right med yet so that hasn’t been the magic bullet I thought it would be. He is at a math/science magnet. Last year started off rocky but got better. This year’s teacher was a little more rigid and we saw some regression. I’m also looking at the right placement for a child who is academically sound with behavioral issues. He does have a 1:1 but he’s in gen ed.

  5. Michelle says:

    I’m in the East San Fernando Valley and my 8 year old sounds so much like these kids! His charter public school is trying to make a case for him to go to an NPS but I want him in a less restrictive environment — even if it’s special Ed. He’s average to above average intelligent HFS and ADHD and struggling academically in his gen Ed class and simply refusing to do the work which has the teachers literally throwing their hands up. (He has pullouts to an SLD/resource class but this school does not have a full time Special Ed class. There are too many transitions in the classroom and he’s not keeping up. The school just informed me they won’t allow us to make a lateral placement to another school but I believe he needs a fresh start. I have yet to find the right fit to help him emotionally self regulate. I’ve found a few private schools such as Frostig but they are far from us and would also require us to go through due process. SOS!

  6. Mediocre Mom says:

    I tried to get in at Chime. I could not. My son is doing a lot better with his teacher though.

  7. Noni says:

    I was wondering, what are the schools with HFA programs in the San Fernando Valley? I see that Encino is mentioned. My son is in his second year of LAUSD preschool (he has done PAL and PSC in the east valley), but we are trying to identify the next step.

  8. KeiH says:

    Does anyone have any school recommendations for the Culver City, Westchester, SouthBay area? It can be inclusion or HFA or any good environment at this point. I have had a terrible time trying to navigate the LAUSD system. WISH would obviously be number 1 on the list but I need a few more realistic options.

    • Rs says:

      Hi , I can totally understand your frustration as we are also struggling with a very bad school in lausd. Found this link in search of better option for my son .He is having very hard time at school (first yes inclusion with out support which we are asking since kast two years) and his teacher yells at him and other kids.

  9. Rs says:

    Hi , I m looking for a better school for my son in 2nd grade which promotes inclusion . He is digonsed with high functuning autism and a possible add/adhd.

  10. My 9 yr old daughter is speech, language, and reading delayed. She has an IEP and is receiving pull out resources at Apperson Elementary mainstream class. These intense pull out services are the only way she will pass her classes. What will happen in Middle School? Can she receive these same services at Mt Gleason Middle School?.

    • magnetangel says:

      While this blog is usually about LAUSD magnet programs, my understanding is that if your child has an IEP in elemeentary and it continues into middle school, the new school will need to provide the services.

  11. Tam Anderson says:

    Hi. I stumbled across this blog and felt that I had similar issues. My son is 5 years old in TK. He is in an autism program at Canoga Park Elementary, but he doesn’t have autism. I chose this program because my son has a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) which causes development delays and he also has behavior problems. I felt he needed to have 3 teachers in a smaller classroom vs. 1 teacher with 20-23 students. My son is adopted and I have had him for 3 years. He lived in a medical facility up until I adopted him. While at this facility, they were not able to legally discipline him at all. So, imagine a 3 year old that gets to do whatever he wants to do with no consequences – even if it’s hitting you upside your head, breaking things, saying bad words, throwing, spitting, etc. Yeah, that was hard to deal with. Well, I have worked extremely hard with implementing structure and discipline, and it has worked. Yeah, he definitely has his moments where he wants to test the water, but he is truly a different child than before. My problem is school. There are 8 kids in his classroom with 1 teacher and 2 aides. I feel that the teachers are not firm and are very passive. They are only concerned with making their day go easier, but not fully helping the child thrive and work through the issue. They give the kids too many choices – that basically means that the kids get to ultimately do whatever it is they want to do. That’s not beneficial to the kids at all. If a child doesn’t want to do something, instead of making the child do what it is they were told to do, they ask they child what they want to do. How does letting a child do whatever they want to do, help them? They also get rewarded for bad behavior. I’ve been in the classroom many times as a volunteer, and have seen the kids hit, scream, spit, say bad words – but still get treats/toys. I don’t believe in rewarding bad behavior. That makes the child think, “Hey, I can slap you, but still get a toy. How cool.” When I’m at the school, my son has the perfect behavior, but when I leave, it goes downhill sometimes. He will hit, kick, say bad words, etc. He is reverting back to some of his old ways, mostly because the teachers let him do whatever he wants. That is what he was used to doing in the medical facility. And, I’ve worked too hard to have him go backwards. He is already with the Regional Center, so I have resources from there. But my problem with my son is only at school. He needs to have teachers that hold students accountable for their behavior – and not reward bad things. It confuses the child. I looked into Chime School, and I saw that I missed the lottery application for 2017-2018 by a couple of weeks. I’m sad about that, but I’l try again next year. But, has anyone found any other schools in the Valley (preferably Woodland Hills, Canoga Park, West Hills area) that has a great program?

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