Fast Facts About U.S. Boarding Schools1

There are over 300 certified and licensed boarding schools in the United States, serving approximately 65,000 students.

Most of those are co-educational and geared toward college preparation. The rest provide a 24-7 education place to get help for troubled youth.

About 100 boarding schools across the country cater to just boys or girls. About half of those are just for boys.

And only a handful actually address just special-needs students, including boys with learning difficulties.

In truth, finding a good(1) boarding school(2) for troubled(3) boys(4) with learning difficulties(5) is literally like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Pros and Cons of Boarding Schools for Your Troubled Boy with Learning Difficulties

“Finding the right school can be daunting…”

Thomas Rossini, Associate Director of Admissions, The Masters School

Boarding Schools for Students with Learning Difficulties2

Learning difficulties are most often neurobiologically-based and negatively affect comprehension of oral language, mathematics and reading, as well as reasoning, memory, organization, and/or physical coordination. Such learning difficulties are not the same as emotional disturbances, mental retardation or handicaps in vision and hearing.

Very few boarding schools actually specialize in learning disabilities. They have a narrow focus such as dyslexia, attention deficit, obsessive-compulsive disorder, various addictions, and other conditions.

Schools that specialize in learning disabilities will teach to the individual child. Every child has his or her own style of learning: through hearing, vision, kinetic activity or a combination of styles, and a good boarding school staff will perform extensive tests and observe each student. A team of psychologists, teachers and educational specialists then will work together to design an individualized learning plan for each student and then monitor it to make sure the child is constantly learning at his or her highest level all along the way.

A good boarding school program will provide specialized equipment such as software to enable a learning-disabled child to organize his lessons. Short class times will be scheduled and will be done so with frequent breaks to enable children with attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity to succeed.

Many children with learning disabilities suffer from such poor self-esteem and depression that they become more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. A good boarding school can really help them begin to enjoy school. As their self-esteem improves, they will become less likely to act out in inappropriate ways and end up being much more focused on academic achievement.

Finding the “Just Right” Boarding School for Your Troubled Boy with Learning Difficulties3

As you can see, finding the “just right” boarding school for your troubled boy with learning difficulties is going to be difficult. You’re going to want a boarding school that brings out the best in your son. You’re going to want a boarding school that encourages your son to set goals and overcome whatever obstacles to meet those goals.

“Compatibility is the broadest and most important factor to keep in mind…” 

Thomas Rossini, Director of Admissions, The Masters School


Consider location as a number one priority. How far away is the boarding school from home? How easy will it be to travel back and forth? How costly?


Don’t just settle for a “general” type school to send your troubled son to. Visit the schools you like most from the recommendations you received, and the internet search you conducted. Make sure the personality of the school and your son are a good match.

Educational Philosophy and Academic Rigor

Even though your primary focus is getting specialized help for your troubled son with learning difficulties, you have to also consider the school’s educational philosophy and the rigor it expects from its students. This also has to be a solid match. The school should be academically challenging, but it should not be so overwhelming that your son’s spirit is crushed in the process.


The smaller the school, the more attention your son will receive. Individual attention is a priority, but there has to be a manageable student population size in order to actually make this happen.

Special Programs

Make sure that the school you choose actually has the special needs programs your son most needs. The staff must be appropriately certified and experienced. And there should be a track record of success to review.


It may not seem all that important, but the appeal of the school facilities has a big influence on both staff and student attitudes. No one likes working in a dump. The facilities must also offer whatever is needed to prepare your son for life and work in the “modern” world.


Two kinds of counseling must be present and available…personal counseling and academic/university counseling. Therapy has to be part of the picture, and in that effort, there must be access to individual counseling. Further, the academic guidance must be expert in pointing out both academic progress along the way and suitable future schooling options, no matter what level at which your son is currently working.

1 “Boarding Schools,” National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17.
2 “Boarding Schools for Students with Learning Disabilities,” Boarding Schools Information, 2018.
3 “Finding the Right Boarding School for You,” Study USA, 2015.

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