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  • Writer's pictureBennett International

SEN Challenges For Families Moving Internationally

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

Our CEO, Elizabeth Sawyer, was recently invited to speak alongside Elizabeth Stewart (EVP, Altair Global), Patrick Keery (VP, Altair Global), and Deanna Trevino (International Relocation Specialist, Rockwell Automation) in a webinar hosted by Worldwide ERC - “Bridging the Gap: Special Needs and Mobility.” In this excerpt, Elizabeth covers some real issues faced by families relocating with children with Special Education Needs (SEN), illustrating the importance of supporting families with the proper research before they embark on their international assignment (edited for clarity): 

"The first challenge to be aware of is that there's no norm in terms of how countries view disabilities and how they address them. Families really have to do their own research. Depending on where families are going, it may be that there is a complete lack of options in a given location. Let's say, if you have a child who is pretty severely afflicted with autism, it may be that where you're going, there are no ABA therapists who work in your native language or your child's language. I'm a big proponent of providing pre-decision support in terms of helping families do this sort of research so that they can make informed decisions. So on the one hand, you have many locations where provisions are going to be very limited, but in others, it's quite different - for example, many international schools now operate as businesses for profit. In noting that the demand for Special Needs support has increased in recent years, there are schools out there that are adding on SEN programs, for which they charge an additional fee. So for example, it might be that for a relocating child in fifth grade, a company is paying a school $35,000 a year for regular enrollment and possibly another $20,000 for enrollment in their SEN support program. Many of those programs are generated with very good intentions, but they still should be vetted. We have seen instances of families going on assignment are promised the world in terms of the kind of SEN support their child is going to receive, only to report that they find it to be mediocre, or even not as good as that. There is that reality, and those programs out there should be carefully reviewed. Those are just a couple of specific earmarks that families navigating an international move have to contend with. But we also have to consider the context of the larger framework of support that these families often put in place at home - physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavioral therapists, services supplied by a district -- families have fought hard and put a tremendous amount of energy into obtaining those services for their children. A babysitter your child has known for years and loves, and is comfortable with. Other families nearby that will help you on weekends. Whatever those specifics might be, families are giving up that framework when they move. All of which is to say, there's a real need for families to be fully educated as they consider an international assignment."

Bennett International provides the foremost expert education counsel to families residing or relocating anywhere in the world. We guide relocating families to find the best-fit schools for their children, and further support them with long-range education planning. 

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