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Finding the right school for your child is a challenge in any situation. But finding a school to support a child with additional learning needs can be quite difficult.

The vast majority of schools will make it clear on their websites how they build SEN support into their academic programmes. To find out more, we spoke with some parents who had first-hand experience of finding the right additional support for their children.

Offering information and asking questions

The most frequently offered advice from schools and professionals is to be upfront about the extra support your child may require. Sandra Price, who moved to Hong Kong in 2016, says “The first thing we always do once we know a move is on the horizon, we research and contact suitable schools prior to even negotiating the move with my husband’s company. We know very well, that there is nothing worse than signing a contract, and then discovering there is no schooling option.

"...make absolutely certain that the school you are looking at has the support you need..."

It's sensible to supply the school you’ve chosen with a professional evaluation form an educational psychologist so that they can determine the extent of any difficulties. As Sandra points out, this in itself can be a challenge, as schools are supplied with different documentation and styles of assessment from many different countries. “In some cases you might get nothing or something very cryptic (like a number – which tells you nothing really). Psycho-educational reports and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are something we get only from very developed countries.

As well as being upfront with the information you have, the other advice from Sandra is to ask as many questions as possible of the school. If the school does provide learning support, how much will your child receive and how often will you have meetings to stay up to date? Will they provide you with an IEP for the year? If the school cannot cover all of your needs, do they have the resources available to help you secure the necessary support such as tutors, psychologists or occupational therapists?

As parent Stephen Marshall puts it, “Don’t be afraid to push! Push hard! Be demanding. And make change happen if they aren’t willing to do what you need. Who says you can’t be the first? Make absolutely certain that the school you are looking at has the support you need. And if they don’t, can they help you with outside resources? Can those resources come to the school? Be honest up front even if it means that a school says they can’t help you – better to find out early than when you really need the help. “


Learning Support in Hong Kong

Unlike in the UK, Australia, the US and other Western countries, there is no regulation stipulating that international schools must accommodate children with additional learning needs. There is no government funding for English speaking children, which means expatriate parents have to pay a significant amount of money for additional support at private institutions. Some mainstream international schools have learning support units and some offer occupational and speech therapy, but on the whole the options are limited.

The following schools and organizations offer support to children with special educational needs: *make sure to check exactly what support is offered and if your child’s learning needs can be accommodated.

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