Private or Public School, for ADHD Kid

Updated on March 25, 2013
M.H. asks from La Grange, IL
16 answers

Hi Mommas,

I am trying to figure out where to put my son, in the Private catholic school or in public shcool. He has ADHD & Sensory issues and he is going into Kindergarten.

I like the catholic school idea, they said that they can accomodate his "challenges". I just want to know which would be a better place for him.

What questions do I need to know to make the decison? This is my first time around with this.

Price is about the same, with after care for both so that is not a deciding factor.

Class size
Ratio to child to teacher
The school is newer and updated. (both)
Private will be all day, Pubic will be 1/2 day.

Thanks, Mama's

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So What Happened?

He does have an IEP in his pre-school. And has been going to school for over a year now to help with his impulsitivity and sensory issues.

He is not on meds, but we have modified his diet with great success. We really are what we eat.

Thank you all for you thoughts and experiences on this. I am going to continue the research and see what is going to be best for him. He is smart, so hopefully we will see the "light" and know what is best for him. But , to try and fail is better than never trying at all.

Featured Answers



answers from New York on will have more options to address the ADHD. Private school will not accommodate any of his needs. They may tell you they will, they can...etc.....but they won't.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Public...a private school is not required to make any accommodations for his ADHD if they do not take any federal funds.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from St. Louis on

The structure of Catholic schools can't be beat for kids with ADHD. My older two thrived in that environment. Now my third was autism spectrum and ADHD, they would have taken him but he would not have thrived.

It is a question of knowing your child. All my kids started off on meds so behavior was never an issue even though they stopped taking their meds in fifth grade. A Catholic school is not going to be able to accommodate a child off meds with behavior issues. They just can't. What will end up happening is lots of phone calls, your child being labeled by the community, I know, there were a couple kids that just shouldn't be there.

I guess I am saying private is better if you are willing to meet in the middle. If you expect the school to handle your child go public. The child's self esteem is most important.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

We are in a very large public school system, and what I have heard from just about everyone in both private and public schools is that the private schools are often unequipped to deal with ADHD and sensory issues. There is one private school in town that focuses just on kids with ADHD and Autism and works with them for several years to get them on track and ready to go back to a mainstream school -- I would look into that possibility in your town. But I would choose public school over private any day.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Okay, at least here in my city:
Public schools, if a child gets support from the school/and IEP/and assigned an Aide through the school, ADHD and other "SPED" kids, have assistance, AT and in school. Kids are mainstreamed here, in classrooms. And it is fine. I work at my kids' school as well, and I know many of these kids. My kids' school, has a population of about 700. And each classroom has about 25 kids. And every year, both of my kids have had, a child in their classroom who has an Aide IN class, with them. And it is fine. The general student population is VERY kind and gracious with these kids. It is "normal." And the "sped" kids are facilitated well.
This is public school.
IF a child, has an Aide and through the school, then, the general classroom Teacher, is NOT... the child's main Teacher, the Aide... is the point person, handling the child.
*The KEY THING IS: that your child, has an Aide, IN school and IN class, with him. A Teacher... is NOT a "SPED" teacher. SPED professionals and regular Teachers, have 2 different educational backgrounds and different certifications and different.... requirements.
Keep this, in mind.

In Private schools here, they do not have... to do this. They may NOT have a "SPED" department at all nor SPED Aides, for the kids.
Each private school, has their own rules. And if a child needs help, they may not have, the SPED facilities or Teachers, for it. So a child will not have assistance or an Aide. Even if they need one.

I know, of some kids, that USED TO go to private school. BUT they now go to public school, because, at the public school, there is an actual SPED Department and Teachers and the child gets an Aide in class with the child.

So, keep this in mind. It is very important, in making a decision.

Now, it is very important, that your child has an Aide in class/school with him. A normal regular Teacher... CANNOT, only work with him. They are not, trained to do this. They have other students to teach too.

In my kids' classrooms, there have been ADHD kids, and Autistic kids of all... degrees. And each one of those kids, has a Aide in class, with them, and all day at school. And at the after care, too.
KEEP in mind, that MOST ADHD and Autistic kids... ARE ALSO, sensory sensitive. This is, common and expected.

Per the Catholic school that you said they said that they can "accommodate his challenges...." well: HOW are they going to do that???? DO they have, a SPED Teacher or Department, or will they have an Aide IN class, with your son? If not, then how is the regular classroom Teacher.... going to facilitate your son.... within the classroom? Is the regular Teacher ALSO trained in handling ADHD kids? If not, then you may not get, adequate or sufficient help, for your son. There.

ANOTHER key thing to remember is: Your son has an IEP... but it is from his Preschool. NOT from any of the elementary schools... you MAY send him to. THUS, essentially, your son does NOT have... any IEP from any current school that he will attend in the FUTURE.
So, you HAVE to make sure, that any future school he attends... DOES and will... have an IEP for him and a SPED team to work with you and your son.... and that he will have an Aide in school with him.
Because, no regular Teacher, can adequately handle... a special needs kid... unless they are SPED trained and educated and certified.
AND the school you choose, HAS to have, the resources to do so, and have a SPED Department and SPED trained Teachers.
If a school you chose, does not have these things, then you may not at all... get adequate handling of your son. And they may NOT even know how... to handle your son. And if you choose a school that does not have the resources to assist a special needs kid... then you cannot fault them, for not knowing, how.

ASK that private Catholic school you spoke to... HOW ARE THEY, going to "accommodate" and handle... your son's challenges????
What do they have in place, at the school, to do so?
They don't even know your son and know NOTHING about his IEP or diagnosis. So how can they... even say, that they CAN accommodate his "challenges?"
If a school does not have the resources or specially trained SPED Teachers, then you will not get help for your son.
It doesn't matter how new or old the school is or how long the school day is. What matters, is IF the school has proper resources/sped Teachers for your son or other special needs kids.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My son with ADHD and sensory issues is in kindergarten at a Catholic school in the Joliet diocese. How severe is your son's ADHD? Is he on medication? (Mine hasn't yet started medication, but hoping to get it very soon) Does he have an IEP? (Mine doesn't and his neuropsychologist is confident that he won't need one.)

One thing that helps is that my son's kindergarten class has an aide, which is an accomodation that kids with an IEP are afforded in a public school, but is built into his classroom anyways at the Catholic school. Having a full day program is also an accomodation that an IEP should grant.

For us, one of the biggest reasons that we decided to go with a Catholic school is that they have stronger discipline and academic standards than public schools tend to have. My son NEEDS that discipline, and he needs to be surrounded by kids who are also disciplined. These are the kids and the families that I want to be his friends and part of his support structure. I like knowing that 99% of the families at our school share the same morals that our family has.

We have found his school to be very accomodating to his needs, and his teachers to be very patient and understanding.

ETA: Questions to ask the Catholic school:
What kind of training to the teachers receive regarding special needs?
Do you have someone on staff who is able to administer daily medication?
What discipline methods are used in the classroom?
Can I meet his teacher?

ETA2: While it is true that private schools aren't required to make the accomodations, you might find that because they want to keep their enrollment numbers up, they are willing to work with students and parents who are willing to work hard and really want to be there.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

you need to ask them to spell out exactly what accommodations they will make. catholic schools do not have the funding that public schools have. which means that they don't have the money for an extra aid in the classroom to help with adhd kids who are not able to stay on task. my oldest 3 kids went to catholic school. youngest son is adhd off the charts. at the time he was in kindergarten we decided not to do catholic school for him. he needed speech therapy which he was able to get at the catholic school but pretty much all other stuff was vetoed. no resource class , no extra time on tests / no verbal tests instead of regular. is your son able to sit still without figiting and bothering others? does he realize his own spacial boundaries? or does he crowd people while talking to get his point across? does he pick up on social cues? Does he blurt out things in class that are off topic? or is he able to stay focused? my son was not able to keep his attention on the teacher. she was in his peripheral attention all the time and he could answer whatever she asked. but couldn't keep his mouth shut or his body in his own space lol. he had little to no impulse control. and said whatever came into his mind. didn't stop to think about how what he was saying would affect others. He is so much better now. he is 17 and a junior and most of the issues are long behind us. but i don't think he would be that way in the catholic school.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I live in a suburb of Phila. So around here I would say public school. They have so many more resources to help kids with IEPs. I think you should tour both schools and meet with the Principals though and see which one you like better. I honestly would be shocked if a catholic school is able to accommodate your son the way a pubic school is required to do so.
I also recommend you educate yourself, if you haven't already done so, on educational rights in your state.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I don't have an answer, because both of my ADHD boys attend public school, we don't have an IEP or use any special accomodations (by choice). They are both confident and get great grades.

That said....I wish I'd had your dilemma! And I hope your child LOVES school as much as mine do. :-)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I'd say the Catholic School. But to what degree does your son have these issues?

So much depends on the teacher in and of itself. I'd get a feel for the school - the people there. More than likely you'll find the Catholic to be better for it's way of doing things and the people are usually there for the pure love of teaching.

just my two cents

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on


Public schools have special education teachers who are trained in this area and usually assist the teachers.

In the public school you want to have a plan in place and set up a PPT meeting so the teacher, gym teacher, music teacher, etc... can ALL meet at the same time and discuss the needs of your child. This is very important. I meet with ALL my daughters teachers each and every year.

If he has sensory (I do, too), he should be doing OT excercises or seeing an OT. See the Bk: "Out of Sync Child".

I would not rec private school !

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I think one deciding factor will be the schools in your area. It is my understanding that public school would be the best for him, due to the access to resources. However, you state that the private school is able to accommodate him. I would try to search online for reviews on both options. Sometimes you will find interesting comments. Have you looked into the programs available through your public school for students with ADHD? Call your school district as well as the school and see what they have to offer before making your final decision.

Since cost is not an issue and the private school can accommodate, I would start with the private school and if necessary, move him into the public school. I think it is always easier to move from private to public.

My daughter is a mirror reader & writer. With that, it took her a little more work to get up speed with her reading. Her private school had a reading program available and with that, as well as identifying the problem, she is on her way.

With that said, she is a much better reader than I was at that age. Our school was still reading Dick & Jane and See Spot Go.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I think it depends on what interventions the catholic school has available for him and how much they are willing to work with you. Our son has just been diagnosed with ADD inattentive and his school and teacher have made all the difference. It comes down to perspective and involvement. What is their perspective on learning disability and how much involvement in his education choices will they allow you to have.

We moved (military move) in the middle of the year this year and the difference between the two schools was night and day. Is the perspective of either school, "How can we help him?" That made a huge difference in our son's experience. When we switched to the school that was about the best way to teach him and give him a good experience, his behavior improved.
Are the teachers experienced with a child this age with ADHD? How efficient is communication? If they aren't then they could be easily overwhelmed and you will need them keeping in constant contact with you regarding his challenges and good and bad days.
Are they willing to try some different things and take suggestions from you of what works with your son and apply them in the class? We sat down with his teacher, the prinicpal, the school counselor, the school psychologist and the school nurse and discussed interventions that we could try even before an IEP was written. We gave him something to hold during group activities to keep his hands busy so he doesn't squirm as much. It's his "magic ear" and reminds him to listen. We developed a hand signal that the teacher can give him when he is doing the right thing (spider man wrist thing like she's shooting web). It's their secret code and he loves it and it allows her to give him praise in an understated less obvious way. He does deep breathing and focus with her when he is making poor decisions to help him refocus and make it easier to redirect him.
Are they willing to do regular meetings and not just twice yearly IEP meetings? Will you still have an IEP at the private school? We need to all be on team Jack and our house and everyone needs to meet periodically to discuss how things are going and what needs to be changed.

Is the kindergarten class a lot of seat work (which will be the 7th circle of hell for your son) or is it developmental, experiential and hands on (which will work ever so much better)? Are there enough breaks in the day? Are their play centers in the class? These will have a huge impact on his success or failure because it's not about what he will or won't do, it's about limitations he has that no ammount of wanting to change on his part or demanding he change on the teacher's part will fix. It takes time and patience and practice and the right environment for him. It takes a willingness to constantly try new things to see what works. It takes allowing him to do what he needs to do in order to focus. Can they accomodate that?

This has been what we have had to determine. If you have any questions feel free to PM me.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My DD is in public KG this year and it's a lot about the teacher. She has an AMAZING, WONDERFUL teacher!!! We did end up putting her on meds 1/2 way through the year, but that was not due to the school ever encouraging it. We just saw everything falling apart. We follow the Feingold diet and the school was really great for that. We were fortunate to get the first year of full day kindergarten. My DD wasn't in preschool before starting but had very challenging ADHD even with the diet. She needs a combo, but now is doing excellent.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I would try to talk to parents from both school of kids with similar issues as your son. Talk to the school and see if they have any others that are like him and get them to contact the parent and ask permission to put you in contact with them. I would think they should welcome the chance to help other parents that they have something in common with. I would think that private schools are not going to have dealt with as many children with those issues as a public school has. But that's where I would start if it was me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We have had the opposite experience of many here. We started our son in public school and had such a negative experience in kindergarten that we transferred him to a neighborhood Catholic school (and we are an interfaith household, raising our son in the Jewish tradition, so that should tell you something). The public school had an excellent reputation. But the kindergarten class had 27 children, 17 of them boys. His first grade class had 13 kids, and the teacher had an aide half the year. Since then, the class size has grown, to all of 17.

Even more significantly, we have been delighted with the flexible responsiveness of the school culture. In second grade, I asked the principal if a school counselor was available to help address the challenging behaviors that my son was exhibiting. This was on a Friday morning. Monday afternoon, the school counselor was observing my son.

Now, a week before each new school year, I meet with the principal, counselor and my son's new teacher to plan how we will work together. It's the equivalent of an IEP. That level of cooperation, combined with the small class sizes, has been incredibly positive for my son as he learns to negotiate life with ADHD.

Furthermore, attending Catholic school and Jewish religious school on weekends has led to some fascinating theological discussions - and he's only nine years old!

1 mom found this helpful
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