Applying to international schools can be a challenge if your child has learning needs.

When you have a child with special needs, your entire decision to relocate abroad may come down to whether you can find a school to accept him. All international schools have the right to accept or deny children at their discretion.

Before you accept your expat posting, you need to make sure your child can gain admission to a school appropriate for her needs. Most international schools have limited learning support, but if you believe this environment is best for your child there are a few things you should know before you contact schools.

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Developing an action plan is key to helping an expat child with learning needs, according to Carrie Lupoli, an expat mom and founder of Live and Learn Asia.

From the moment you decide to have a baby, the worry starts. I remember being nervous throughout my entire pregnancy, yet retaining the false hope that once the baby was born, I could relax.

Boy was I wrong. It’s only after delivery that the real anxiety begins.

And actually, it never ends. As our kids grow up and learn to crawl, walk, talk and run, our worries might even intensify. It’s a scary thing, realizing there’s a big world out there we need to prepare them for. Specific worries may change over the years, but the emotion remains the same. It’s love that causes us to worry–the intense desire for them to be happy and confident.

So when you see signs your child is struggling in school, it’s understandable that your worry is not only passionate but overwhelming. The key to overcoming it is to have a plan and a path to follow in order to lead you in the right direction. Unfortunately, many families struggle to find their way along this unfamiliar path. When it comes to expats, things are usually even more confused. Parents and teachers seem to recognize when something is wrong, but there are serious misconceptions as to what to do about it.

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The staff at Live and Learn, founded by expat education specialist Carrie Lupoli to better serve kids with special needs.

Over the last couple of years it has proven to be increasingly difficult for children with special needs to gain entry into international schools. Those who do get in often find support services very limited. As a group of educational consultants based in Singapore, it was difficult to sit back and watch this happen. There just has to be a better way, we thought.

In what was initially a intended as a “holding plan” until we could get students into “proper schools,” we ventured into the new world of online learning. We connected with the K12 International Academy, an accredited online private school program of, and together worked to train our inclusion support staff to facilitate the K12 online program in our center.

Based on our experiences with online learning as an option for children with special needs, we found this type of educational alternative may very well exceed the quality of instruction offered in brick and mortar, mainstream international schools. The key reasons are listed below:

  • International schools are selective. Mainstream international schools often have discriminating admissions standards for children with learning concerns. The online program solves this issue because nearly all children gain admission. If siblings attend other schools, the online program can accommodate any holiday schedule.
  • International schools offer limited learning support. Let’s face it. Even for those children admitted to international schools, very few can consistently plan, deliver and maintain a model of individualized programming that is at acceptable and appropriate levels. With online schooling (facilitated by trained learning coaches in our learning center) student needs, learning styles, behavioral trends and motivators are regularly accounted for.
  • Live and Learn’s model strikes a rare balance between individualized attention and social activities.

    International schools have minimal differentiated practices. Although international schools can boast cultural diversity, very few of them cater to diverse learning styles. Differentiated instruction is critical in heterogeneous classrooms. However, as we have seen, these techniques do not seem to be implemented as often or comprehensively as necessary. The supported online learning model we have developed over the past couple of years with K12 has afforded a unique opportunity to truly differentiate for each and every child according to her academic, social and emotional needs. Individualized programs are developed for the child as opposed to fitting a child into a school’s “one size fits all” curriculum. One-to-one facilitation allows for individualized learning, yet with more than a dozen children working on their own K12 programs in our center, we can implement social skills activities: common break/lunch times, morning meeting activities and drama/PE classes, to name a few.

Hong Kong's South Island School was one of three international schools recently profiled by The Telegraph.

Recently The Telegraph‘s Warwick Mansell posted a guide to a number of expat schools in Hong Kong. He noted that a shortage of land has led demand for spots at international schools to spike sharply. These include Harrow International School (due to open in 2012), the South Island School and the Kellett School.

At about HKD 90,000 per year, the South Island School is the cheapest of the three (the other two run in excess of HKD 100,000 a year. This is the result of a fees subsidy.

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Giving birth abroad often requires special paperwork, such as the US consular report of birth abroad.

Giving birth at all (never mind abroad) is an all-consuming experience, so it’s easy to forget the details, such as filling out the proper paperwork. Many countries require documentation proving you’ve had a child abroad, allowing (among other things) for the child to be considered a citizen of your country of origin.

In the US this is called a “consular report of birth abroad,” and there are numerous variations of it across  countries. This is not the only type of paperwork you may need to complete. If you are a UK citizen, for example, and are giving birth in another EEA country you will need an S2 or E112 form showing information such as your expected delivery date, NHS number and travel information.

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A third culture kid is a person who has spent at least two years in a culture other than their own during their  developmental years. It goes without saying that this international experience so early on brings a new world of opportunities for these children.

The name emerges because children who move overseas develop relationships to not only to their home cultures but also the cultures they have moved to. Third culture kids often feel they do not fully belong to any specific culture but are a mixture of two or more cultures, thus the “third culture’.As a parent, you know that moving wit children can be stressful, and even more so when moving overseas. Parents should take every possible step to ensure a smooth move, avoiding undue stress both for themselves and their children.

Despite the challenges of moving abroad, most third culture kids do gain many benefits from their move.  In fact, research has shown that third culture kids have greater adaptability, improved mediation skills, wider global views, increased flexibility, and more insights into cultural and language knowledge.

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Expats find Singapore a safe, family-friendly destination

Despite being one of the most expensive places to live in the world, expats rave about Singapore. CNNGo’s Aimee Chan recently wrote a piece featuring interviews with several Singapore expats trying to pin down the appeal. The families she spoke with all highlighted the family-friendly environment, touching on topics from safety to cultural adaptation.

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International schools are expensive, and in some countries there are no reasonable alternatives

One of the key concerns for an expat family re-locating abroad is education for the kids. There are definite benefits to being educated in a foreign country: expat kids are more adaptable and tend to learn more quickly than their peers at home. The big problem is that a proper education abroad can be phenomenally expensive. Some schools catering to expat families can charge a university degree’s worth of tuition for a single year of primary school!

Some sample annual tuition costs:

  • Avg. private school in the US — USD 40,000
  • Hong Kong Int’l School — USD 21,300
  • International School of Paris — USD 36,000
  • Tanglin Trust (Singapore) — USD 28,000

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Expats and Saudis alike have horror stories of Saudi maternity care

Thinking of having your baby in Saudi Arabia? You may reconsider after reading expat horror stories of the Kingdom’s maternity care.

Procedures in many Saudi maternity wards seem more appropriate to dungeons than modern hospitals, according to’s Abu Mohamed. His piece, titled “Saudi Maternity: Good Business, Bad Medicine?” draws on the experiences of expats and locals alike.

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The Island of Masirah, home to about 7,000 expatriates, is set to get a new primary school, reported Mrudu Naik in The Times of Oman (article no longer available). Expats living on the island (many of whom work at the Al Maha petrol station) had complained about the lack of a foreign school, as it forced them to send their young children elsewhere in Oman or back home for education.

As in most Gulf countries, expats in Oman generally prefer to send their children to either international schools or those modelled on the systems in their home countries.

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