Annemiek Young, Bennett Education Consultant, Director of Private Client Relations Emeritus and good friend, caught up with our consultant Lynn Carey, one of Bennett’s Special Education Needs consultants. Their conversation highlights the impressive breadth and depth of Lynn’s expertise and offers insight into her process as she works to support and guide families.
Annemiek: Your area of expertise is consulting with Special Education Needs students and their families; how long have you worked in this field and what drew you to it?
Lynn: I have been in the special education field for over 40 years serving as a classroom teacher, program coordinator, and school administrator. With a background in psychology, I was always interested in behavior and how children adapt to social and environmental forces. The field of special education offered a practical outlet for this interest and has proved to be a most rewarding career path.
Annemiek: What's your professional background?
Lynn: For much of my working life, I have been a special educator in the Alabama and New Mexico public school systems either working directly with students in the classroom or serving as a program coordinator. In the early 2000’s, I made my way to school administration and cofounded a middle/high IB school in Albuquerque, NM. I served on the leadership team there for a few years and then moved overseas to work with the U.S. Department of Defense overseas schools program supporting military families and their children in Europe, Asia, and Africa. While living in Germany and Japan for ten years, I helped families who were stationed in remote locations find appropriate schools for their children who required extra support. Knowing I would be leaving that job, I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the Bennett team as a Special Education Needs (SEN) consultant in 2020.
Annemiek: How did you come to be associated with Bennett?
Lynn: As they say, ‘it’s all about networking’. In my previous job, I had been working with a colleague in the diagnostic field who knew Elizabeth Sawyer (Bennett’s CEO). My friend saw the parallels of my work with military families and similar private sector work provided by Bennett. She said that I HAD to meet Elizabeth, so we connected. Shortly thereafter, I was hired by Bennett to provide SEN consultation services.
Annemiek: What age groups do you work with?
Lynn: I have taught preschool (Montessori) through grade 12. At Bennett, I work with PreK through grade 12 students.
Annemiek: Do you work with families all over the world?
Lynn: Because I was fortunate to work with U.S. military families in Europe, Asia, and Africa, I have a working knowledge of many locations and schools around the globe. My most recent work has focused on the Asia Pacific countries of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Australia. I have also worked with families on a fairly consistent basis in the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, and, as well, with families in the U.S.
Annemiek: Are there parts of the world where families with special needs children are particularly well supported?
Lynn: The short answer is ‘no’ in my opinion. There are some consortiums such as the Dwight School network which has a built-in program (Quest) that provides support for students in all of their schools. However, I have found that overarching support for SEN children within a country’s school system typically comes about through systemic change. Most countries are light years behind the U.S. in that regard. What I find are pockets of excellence where a school has embraced a SEN continuum of services, incorporated inclusion in its truest sense, or built a school within a school to support children with greater needs. I often find that at those particular schools, there is a dynamic, forward-thinking special educator usually trained in the U.S. who is the driving force behind the expanded programs.
Annemiek: What's the optimal timeframe for families with special needs children contemplating relocation to start planning?
Lynn: For many locations, it’s not too early to start planning a year out from the move. First, schools in general have limited space availability. This situation has recently been exacerbated by lack of family movement due to COVID. For schools offering learning support, seat availability is even more limited due to space, personnel, funding, or simply the ethos of the school. Second, the application process can be a bit more involved for a SEN student than for a neuro-typical learner. There may be additional interviews, assessments, teacher recommendations, panel reviews, etc. Finally, in many cases, the school will ask for current psycho-educational evaluation information. If the last assessment is somewhat dated, the family will need to initiate new assessments. This process can often take months to complete.
Annemiek: In your years of experience, what's the single most important thing families relocating with SEN children should keep in mind?
Lynn: Do not think that you will be able to replicate current services for your child in the new location, particularly if you are coming out of the U.S. Every school system supports SEN students differently. Be open-minded and flexible. There is more than one way to support student learning.
Annemiek: What's your favorite part about helping families find the optimal school setting for their children?
Lynn: I am particularly warmed by the fact that families entrust me with their child’s future education and understand that I have their best interests at heart. For many families, moving overseas is a huge shift in thinking and way of life, particularly with so many unknowns surrounding their child with special needs. I am gratified when families not only trust me but also trust the process with the end result being a perfectly matched school placement for the student.
Annemiek: How do you spend your free time?
Lynn: I have always loved to read but must force myself to carve out time as I’d rather be outside doing something active. I enjoy gardening, a simple walk or hike or a Zumba class. This year I discovered pickleball which is a cross between tennis and badminton and enjoy playing in local tournaments. I also love working with and riding horses. I am involved with a horse rescue ranch and a local food pantry.
Annemiek: Tell us about the school you co-founded!
Lynn: In 2006, a close colleague (also Lynn) and I were bemoaning the fact that in Albuquerque, New Mexico, families have to send their children to a private school to get a quality education. Wouldn’t it be nice, we thought, if a child could get a private education at no cost? That’s when we hatched the idea to create our own tuition-free school. We were determined to make it the highest quality possible, so we created a state-chartered 6th through 12th grade school that infused the Paideia approach which incorporates Socratic seminar and the use of classical texts into an IB framework. After an intense year of state approval and preparation, Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School (CCPS) opened its doors for the 2008-09 school year. By 2016, U.S. News and World Report ranked CCPS as the 67th best public high school in the U.S. and the #1 public high school in the state of New Mexico. I am filled with joy to know that I was able to help realize a dream for students who would not have had the opportunity of private school education at public school cost.
Annemiek: If you had a year's sabbatical and could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Lynn: Amsterdam has always been an intriguing city to me. Keukenhof Gardens, amazing museums, the canals and picturesque bridges, and the millions of bicycles! This city could easily keep me busy for a year.
Annemiek: Thank you, Lynn, for your time, warmth, and candor. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
Lynn: My pleasure, thank you.
By Erin Brady & Annemiek Young.
Lynn Carey is an independent education consultant in Albuquerque, New Mexico working for Bennett International and focusing on special needs and research. While living in Germany and Japan, she previously worked with the U.S. Department of Defense military and civilian families facilitating student placement in international schools throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. She has been a teacher, special education coordinator, and administrator in U.S. public and military schools and co-founded a middle/high IB school in Albuquerque. Lynn has a B.A in Psychology, an M.A. in Special Education, and an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from the University of New Mexico. Lynn loves hiking and horses. She works with the New Mexico Horse Rescue helping to retrain and rehome neglected or abandoned horses.
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Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.