Unfortunately, for those of us in the US, the school our children attend is determined by geography. So, before choosing to accept a far-away job offer, or selecting a home in a new region, we need to figure out what, if any, school in this area is right for our child.

Being the parent of a special needs child makes this even more complicated -- and more important.

I get that schools can't afford the time for me to get to know a bunch of their teachers, and the speech therapist and other specialists my son would work with there, or go over how they would hypothetically implement his IEP. I couldn't afford to fly back and forth enough times to thoroughly interview them all even if it were possible.

So...what's a parent to do?

Thus far, I've been reticent to consider far-away opportunities. After two disastrous school experiences, we've found a school that has done amazing things for my son. I don't want to risk walking him into another disaster. I'd like to consider some of these non-local offers, but only if I can be sure my son's education won't suffer.

  • You didn't mention that you must move, but it seems apparent from your question. If the risk of a bad school is significant, could you somehow make the move itself unnecessary? Given that the right school is so important for your son (and I understand the importance of that), do you really have to move? Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 11:29
  • @torbengb Thus far, that has been exactly my attitude. However, I'm receiving a number of otherwise attractive offers (including a couple that would drastically change our standard of living) in other parts of the country, so if we can have our cake and eat it, too, I'd like to find a way.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 17:33

6 Answers 6


It seems you need to find and talk to someone that meets the following criteria.

  1. Someone very familiar with the area you're considering moving to (current and long-time resident perhaps).
  2. Someone who shares your values.
  3. Someone who understands your needs and desires.

With our recent move, we also needed to make some important decisions. We happen to be members of a church that has congregations world-wide, so one of our first steps was to call the leader of the local congregation. He met all 3 criteria I listed above--he has been a resident for over a decade, he obviously shared most of our values (as a member of our church), and after a brief explanation he understood what our particular needs were. He was very willing to help, and although he did not have all the answers, he was able to put us in contact with other members of the congregation that did.

If you are a member of a church that is established in the area you are considering a move to, I would definitely recommend this approach. I should think this approach should work equally well for any social or service organizations you may be a part of (if you're not a church-goer or if your church is not established there). If you're not a member of any organization with a presence in this new area, consider contacting a religious/social/service institution in the area to discuss the issue. Even if you typically shy away from such due to differences in values, it's likely you can at least find someone that understands, respects, and maybe even shares your values.

  • After a lot of waffling, I marked this as the correct answer as it is the ideal situation. Unfortunately, we're caught between a rock and a hard place in this regard: the types of institutions equipped for this sort of thing, as far as I can tell, are all of types (churches, government-funded "social service" organizations, etc) with values systems quite incompatible with our own.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 17:39
  • 1
    @HedgeMage, perhaps some of the atractive-offer parties that you mention could provide (referrals to) suitable relocation services which could be non-church alternatives to Daniel's suggestion. Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 18:07

Two things:

  1. Ask your colleagues, neighbours, or people on local forums about schools;
  2. Go to school, talk to teachers,to a director, look around inside.
  • Going there and asking is difficult if it's far away from the present place. The asker did mention that flying is needed to get there. Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 11:27

Another option is online communities. There are many parental/school-related local communities on FaceBook/G+ etc... (I know our locality - which is a small town - has a couple, some very specifically centered around specific shared-value communities). You can try searching community names for "locale+school" or "locale+parents" or "locale+families"

Find out if such a community exists; if it does - talk to its members, may be even ask to join and read the posts.

  • 1
    I realize that the answer may be a bit too late arriving for OP, but hopefully will be of help to others.
    – user3143
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 22:09
  • Seconding. As an advantage, you could look at where people are, or if you can join temporarily, you could even ask a question for what schools people feel well served for if their kids have similar issues.
    – Namey
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 13:59

If you are considering moving you may want to talk to a real estate agent. A good real estate agent should be able to tell you which town is best for what you want and which area of town and maybe even which school.

  • Second this, with the bonus that you might be able to find a real estate agent with a special needs child. One thing about real estate agents is that there are a bazillion of them and it's a pretty flexible career. Good strategy: find a super agent with great reviews (Yelp?) and if they're really that good, they'll point you to the best agent for your unique situation. Win-win: Their reviews go up, you find a first-hand source.
    – Namey
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 13:54

Researching schools in my own City I used the State department of education website to view relative school rankings by percentage. In my city we had a school ranking 99% statewide. That data meshed with the subjective data we had collected talking with people and made it easy to decide to move within that school district.

  • This isn't likely to be that useful for a special needs child, since good average tests doesn't necessarily mean good IEP's. An alternate approach could be looking through the verbal statements in the K-12 Niche site, or through support network forums in the local area to see what schools people are feeling work for kids with similar needs though.
    – Namey
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 13:58

One possible consideration, to be used in combination with person-to-person investigation of course, are rating sites like GreatSchools, which contains information about test scores for local schools as well as parent reviews. Several real estate websites, such as Redfin or Zillow, will allow you to view Greatschools scores for local schools near any given house/condo, which made it much easier for us to feel comfortable when we bought our first home in the suburbs (of Chicago in my case).

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