When Your School Choice May Not Be Working Out...

Written by: Leah Harp

When we first enrolled our eldest child in a prestigious private school, we thought we had his education all figured out. “What a relief,” I remember thinking—and saying—to everyone I knew. Though the private school was not exactly affordable for us, we were grateful to be able to send our son to a top-notch school without having to navigate the complexities of Chicago Public Schools. Then school started.

About two weeks into Elliott’s first year, we received a call from his teacher indicating that something might be wrong. As the year progressed, he continued to have difficulties in the classroom and parent teacher meetings were dreadful. We finally decided to have Elliott evaluated by professionals who diagnosed him with PDD-NOS—now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We immediately left the private school and enrolled him at LEEP Forward, a therapeutic clinic located in Chicago providing developmental services to children with social communication, sensory processing, and emotional regulation challenges. He has been thriving at LEEP ever since, and we have all benefited as a family.

One big question loomed, however: where would we send Elliott after LEEP? What we are looking for in a school is:  

  • Small classrooms, ideally no more than 15 kids, and with a student/teacher ratio of 5:1
  • DIR-Floortime therapy in the classroom as well as speech and occupational therapies available throughout the day
  • A sensory gym
  • Teachers who understand our child and can tailor education to his needs – without pulling him out of the classroom
  • A school where our child can have peers and the chance to be a leader
  • City of Chicago-based: we don’t want to move!

Finding a school that fit this criteria was not easy- we had to weigh the pros and cons of many school choices. In the end, we decided to invest in City Elementary.  City Elementary, which will launch in fall 2014, promises to be the fulfillment of our wish list of needs for Elliott. An extension of the philosophy and methods of LEEP Forward, City Elementary will provide a strong education while simultaneously encouraging regulation, social engagement, and peer interactions.  

We are delighted that we’ll have a chance to give our child the education that he needs and stay in Chicago, the city that we love. I would encourage any parent to think carefully about their child's needs and consider schools where success will be supported with the tools and understanding your child will need. 

With an initial offering of Kindergarten through second grade, City Elementary will be located in the West Loop near LEEP Forward, and will be the only other elementary school in the Midwest to implement the Developmental Individual-difference Relationship (DIR) Floortime therapy model in the classroom. Students will also learn the core curriculum and the school will endeavor to meet the benchmarks established by Illinois State Standards and Common Core Standards. The school’s project- and play-based experiential approach will allow children to co-create the learning experience based on their passions. Please email cityelementarychicago@gmail.com  or visit http://www.cityelementary.com for more information! 



Posted on March 03, 2014 at 1:02 PM