**Please keep in mind, that these opinions are my own, and as a mom. My son’s diagnosis, skills, abilities and personality are certainly unique to him. While it’s always good to gather different opinions, you owe it to your child to visit the facility yourself and make your own call.
Melmark is a huge beautiful campus, also in Berwyn. They offer education and services for ages 5 through adult, so Melmark can really be a lifetime placement if that is what you need. I visited and am going to review their day school.
What this mom liked about Melmark: I could go on for days, I loved this school and feel it is perfect for my child. They offer ABA–true ABA, not ABA style or ABA model programming, real ABA. I like that they can be a lifetime placement, because while I don’t want to restrict my child in gaining any skills or abilities, my reality is that we may need an adult placement setting. I liked that even though the main building was older and some portions very dated, the newer parts looked and felt very new and modern. And, even though they are a true private school, they offer every service or make every service available for your child if it’s in their IEP. They do weekly team meetings and weekly or biweekly parent meetings talking about your child and what the team is working on. They also follow the model that I loved about our county’s 0-3 program–they involve the whole family in the process. They do community based programming and teaching too–taking the older kids into the community to work on ADLs or possible future job training or whatever is appropriate.
What I did not like abut Melmark: It feels (well, because it is!) like a special needs school. There are no typical kids here; my child will not have any interaction with typical peers in a given day. It’s a bit farther from my home than I care for. And I’m assuming that this would change should we place him here, but I didn’t get the warm, friendly welcoming that I had at the other schools. Also, as a parent, you cannot proceed past any of the steps except for the Information Session, without a referral from your district. You are not allowed to visit the school or classrooms without a referral. While I certainly understand why they don’t want families traipsing through all the time, doesn’t mean I have to like it. Essentially, I’m asking for a referral for a school and I haven’t seen any potential classrooms yet.
Melmark is set up for multiple disabilities, you do not have to have a specific Axis 1 diagnosis for admittance. Visit their website or talk with your district’s special education director for more information.