Moving your child to a new school is always a little scary. Moving a child with special needs, regardless of type, is even more scary. Will the district be able to help him? What resources will be available for her? You'll likely be picking your home based at least in part on the quality of the local school -- but how are you supposed to know the nitty-gritty of their special needs resources before you get there, get involved and see for yourself?
While there may be no replacement for actual experience, a newly expanded Defense Department resource might be able to help you make the right decision.
When it launched four years ago, the Education Directory for Children With Special Needs only addressed the 15 states with the highest military populations.
But now it has been amped up to include all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In it users can find both a rundown by state of disability support and population numbers, and profiles of intervention offerings by school district for older children as well as early intervention support for those under three years old.
"The directory has been designed to help parents make better decisions, and it gives them information and tools as they work with their family members' special needs," said Ed Tyner, acting deputy director of DoD's special needs program in this breakdown.
While they do cover all 50 states, some bases appear to have been left out. For example, no information on the school districts or early intervention programs surrounding Fort Knox, Ky. are included.
If you're looking to use the directory as a review guide to the best schools and local services, you'll be disappointed. Instead of rating any available service or district, it simply lists what each location offers. While reviews would be nice, a simple rundown seems like enough, especially given that military families rarely get to pick what duty station they're headed to anyway.
Military family advocates said expanding the list to include all states - not just those with the highest military saturation - acknowledges an important truth about military life: it's those in the smallest communities that need the most help.
"It’s important to recognize that families rely on resources found in their local civilian communities," said Eileen Huck, a deupty director of government relations with the National Military Family Association. "Gathering all the information in one location will make it easier for families to identify and connect with the resources they need."
The directories also include a handy toolbox of forms and checklists that could be used by all military parents, regardless of whether or not their child is special needs. The school age directory, for example, includes a relocation checklist on page 372 that any parent can use when getting ready to move school districts with their child.
You can learn more about the directories and ideas for using them here on the Office of Special Needs' website.