It’s no secret that in the right learning environment just about any student will thrive. But for a child with a learning difficulty, the right learning environment can be hard to find. For parents facing this challenge, understanding what their children need in a school marks the first step toward getting the necessary educational support. Unfortunately, this understanding may only come after years of watching their kids struggle with oversized classes and overwhelmed teachers.

We asked parents of children with learning differences to share with us what would make a top LD school. What attributes would support their kids’ learning challenges? What amenities might transform their children’s experience of the classroom? What educational philosophies could accentuate natural strengths and cultivate a joy of learning?

While some parents disagreed on whether or not students with LD should be in mainstream classrooms, there was unanimous agreement on a few fundamentals:

  • Small classes with 10 or fewer students
  • Individualized instruction
  • Highly and continuously trained teachers

Other wish list items included:

  • The school would have a clear, achievable mission that guided every decision.
  • Students of various levels could work collaboratively.
  • The school would use digital literacy and technology to each student’s best advantage.
  • Teachers would build on each student’s strengths while addressing his or her weaknesses.
  • The school would use cutting-edge science and technology to improve each student’s outcome.
  • Every decision and approach would be student-centered.
  • There would be an emphasis on community and relationship building.
  • Kids would be taught to understand their learning styles, advocate for themselves, and be actively involved in their own learning.
  • Lessons would be presented visually as well as orally.
  • The school would be open to parent feedback.

Thanks to the members of the GreatSchools parent community who contributed to this article.