Schools for Autism Spectrum Kids
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Schools for Autism Spectrum Kids
Our daughter, who has an ASD diagnosis but is extremely high-functioning, will start
kindergarten next fall. We're starting to search for the right school for her. Her
therapists think a private school will suit her better rather than a public school
with an IEP, at least at this point.
What we need is a school with small class sizes (or a least a small teacher:student
ratio), and really compassionate and skilled faculty that can assist in her social
development, which is the only area in which she really struggles.
I couldn't really find any advice in the archives tailored to our situation. I'd love
advice and recommendations. We're in Berkeley but would travel for the right school.
Thanks so much!
Call the Berkeley School and talk to the admissions director, Paula
Farmer. It's worth looking at and may meet your needs. We have a very
socially awkward child who has done well there.
I highly recommend that you take a look at St Paul's Episcopal School in
Oakland. The team of learning specialists are truly outstanding and
work closely with the classroom teachers, outside specialists, and
parents to provide differentiated instruction and the right kinds of
support. Social-emotional development is an important part of the
curriculum for all St. Paul's students. The school has a very strong
culture of compassion which makes it a kind place for kids. Like many
private schools, St. Paul's does have a small class size.
My daughter is a solid and engaged student which social skills
challenges and language-based learning differences. She started at St.
Paul's in first grade and in now going into 6th. It has been a thrill
to see her develop and thrive in school and beyond.
Happy to discuss my family's experience with you. Good luck with your
What is your recent experience with non-public schools in this area? (I
understand the school situations can change dramatically as the staff changes.) So
far, we are researching Conye Academy at Lincoln, James Baldwin Academy at Seneca,
Spectrum Schools in Hayward for 5th grade, and Phillips Academy for 6th. Our child
is a highly-verbal extrovert on the autism spectrum (Asperger's) with PTSD,
anxiety and sensory processing issues all of which point to and result in
emotional dysregulation and outbursts if not in the right environment.
Are there other schools we should be checking out? The district says they can only
pay for non-public schools, not private (and we can't afford it ourselves). Any
guidance is much appreciated.
If you haven't already, speak to an educational advocate at dredf - (800)348-4232.
And check out their website: dredf.org.
Get a free consult w/a lawyer. We found a great one on BPN. The school district's
primary goal is to keep costs down.
Check out Star Academy in San Rafael. http://www.staracademy.org/
At least half of Star's students are publicly funded and the school has a fleet of
vans to transport the kids.
Knowledge is power!
We are moving to the Bay Area due to a job relocation to San Francisco. We have two
diagnosed 7 year olds (yes twins) both on the Autism spectrum. What school districts
should we be looking to move into?
As a parent to a 9 yr old with ASD I have relocated to Lafayette specifically
for the schools. My child has classic autism, late talker... And other ASD
symptoms but is more in the high functioning group, not aspergers. Springhill
elementary school in Lafayette is a wonderful school that offeres special Ed
classes specific to kids abilities with mainstreaming into the General Ed class
and a lot of awareness & acceptance for our kids. Yes, it is a bit pricey here
in Lafayette & I've accepted to live in a smaller home than if like to but it's
one of the best school districts in California. There's no tolerance for
bulling which our ASD kids need, acceptance and understanding. I wouldn't send
my kid to school
Anywhere else! A.
I have a 6 year old daughter that recently began first grade at a new, expensive,
private school that we love in many respects. The problem is that there is a boy that
is clearly autistic or on the spectrum in her class. I think his autism is mild. Her
class only has 9 students and this boy was previously in a preschool run by our
school's director so the director has known him for a few years and I suspect that is
why he made it through the typical private school screening process.
The boy is bothering my daughter by talking to her and touching her arm or schoolwork
papers/pencils during class. He also constantly interrupts her, the teacher and the
other students and talks about completely unrelated topics during class. This really
bothers my daughter and she says it hurts her ability to focus. The teacher has
already moved the desks around once, I suspect to move the autistic boy away from 2
other boys that were probably encouraging his behavior, and he is now next to my
daughter. I intend to ask the teacher to move him away from daughter but am unsure
what else to do. I don't think it is a problem for my child to be in class with
children that may have some learning/behavioral issues or disabilities since she needs
to learn how to relate and form friendships with people that aren't exactly like her.
But if that child is impeding my child's ability to learn, then it is a problem.
Particularly since I am paying a HUGE amount of money that I can barely afford in
order to send my child to a private school because I thought it would give her the
best possible learning environment. But since she is in private school, I can
certainly pay tuition elsewhere if I don't feel this is the best school for my kid. I
could ask to move her to the other first grade classroom but this would bother my
daughter since she has already made some friends in the current class. I could just
stick it out and send her to another school next year. Could those of you that may
have neurotypical children in a class with autistic children give me your opinion on
how you would proceed under these conditions?
By the way, I am very aware that parents of autistic children will tell me, rightly,
that it is in the best interests of autistic children to mainstream their education
with normal kids. I have no doubt that this is a great environment for the autistic
boy. I am not sure what is the most politically correct way to ask this question but
would like other's opinion to make a decision. I am trying to figure out if this is
the best learning environment for my daughter. I greatly appreciate any insight!
I have a nuerotypical 8 year old son. There is a boy in his class who is on the
spectrum. For two year, kinder and 1st grade, this child was extremely disruptive
in class, super taxing on the teacher, and required a lot of attention. Last
year, when my son was in 2nd grade, the teacher placed this little boy at my son's
table and asked my son to be a good friend to him. This is the first time that a
teacher had taken this approach, as opposed to just trying to contain the kid and
minimize the ''harm'' he was doing. What happened was amazing and beautiful.
This kid at my son's table was the best thing that could have happened to my son.
He learned compassion, what it means to be a good friend, what it means to help
another member of his class community. He reinforced his own learning because he
began helping this friend with his work - explaining the math concepts to him,
double-checking his spelling. The year was an amazing year of growth for both
boys. My son grew into a compassionate, caring individual and the little friend
has really developed out of a lot of the disruptive behavior. I am telling you
this because you are so worried about your kid's classroom learning, but I want to
encourage you to think about the reality that this may be an opportunity for her
to learn something much more important. I suspect my advice will be quickly
disregarded, and honestly, that is why I would never send my child to a private
school. There is an explicit sentiment that underscores everything - ''I paid for
this, so it should be the way I want it to be''. We all want the best for our
kids, but I think that what's best for our kids is to learn how to be good to one
another, to look out for one another, and to support one another. This is not
antithetical to classroom / hard skills learning. But it is at least equally
a public school parent
You need to tread very carefully when talking to the teacher and school principal
about this issue - in the interests of making your case, please see how you can
tone down your words (compared to the BPN post) when discussing this. I'd focus on
distractions to your daughter, and not even mention that the boy appears autistic
(after all you don't know his diagnosis), unless to say that you are aware of
special challenges some kids have with classroom behavior, and you are all for
integrated classrooms... but you need to make sure your daughter's learning
process is not impeded. You may also bring up that this boy must be distracted too
and not learning at his best.
If the problem appears severe enough, a possible solution could be an classroom
aide for the boy. I've heard that public schools are required to provide one if
the evaluation shows that's needed, not sure if private schools are subject to the
same requirements. I'd mention the possible need for an aide - at least that's a
constructive solution that would keep the boy in the classroom while removing
distraction for other kids.
Finally, I seem to remember my own 1st grade... we had at least a dozen boys
pulling the girls' hair, throwing pencils, making crazy faces etc. They weren't
all autistic - just boys. However that was a blue-collar neighborhood public
school, and I realize you chose private to have a different learning environment.
Keep perspective though; even if you don't manage to get exactly what you want
from your daughter's school, or if it takes most of this school year to make the
change, she will come out ok.
Hi there. I've worked with autistic kids for over 10 years. This is a never ending
issue in classrooms, especially small classrooms. As you said, it good practice
for your daughter to be accepting of others. It's also good for her to be able to
have some extra coping skills to deal with distractions, annoyances etc. in the
classroom. I'm wondering if he's making her feel uncomfortable (with poor
boundaries like touching her arm etc). I think you should definitely talk to the
teacher about your concerns. Maybe there should also be a class discussion (maybe
with a school behaviorist) about appropriate ways to interact with this child and
ways to communicate for him to stop. I'm guessing they have a behavior system in
place for him. Try suggesting that maybe this should be his goal. Does he have an
aide? This is a tough situation because you don't want to sound
insensitive/discriminatory yet you want you child to succeed I the best classroom
environment possible. Give your daughter tools to deal with this. Work with the
teacher/behaviorist. I've seen a lot of parents not say anything and then be
frustrated when that child is in the class. I think it's really important to talk
about it, try to come up with a solution. Feel free to contact me if you'd like.
First, with all due respect, your child is 6 and in first grade. The main learning
in first grade, besides learning to read, is socialization and learning to pay
attention with distractions. Kids of all sorts will be in her class throughout the
years. Some will be distracting. I would recommend helping teach your child how to
communicate clearly her needs to this boy. To politely yet firmly ask him not to
touch her or her things and that while she would love to talk, please dont talk to
her during work time. Additonally, if you feel it would be disruptive for her to
switch classes, how might it be for the other child? This is a great learning
experience for your daughter, as you said. Include your daughter and the teacher,
and possibly the boy's parents in solving this in a positive manner and you will
teach your daughter a grat lesson. Otherwise move her and realize she will make
new friends in a matter of days.
Kids are not perfect. Classroom dynamics are seldom perfect. You could easily
substitute ''autistic kid'' with ''ADHD kid'' (seldom diagnosed before age 6-7) or
''kid who is acting out because her parents are getting a divorce'' to envision a
class where there is disruption. Look on the bright side--there are only 9
kids--the teacher should have plenty of time to figure it out.
Why do you assume that your daughter's classmate only got in to the school because
his family knew the director? Do you think that ''autistic'' is the only way to
describe him? Perhaps he was admitted to the school because he is bright, or
funny, or creative? Private schools ALL say how much they value diversity. Sounds
like your school is putting their money where their mouth is by valuing
neurodiversity. Good for them.
Perhaps the schools high price tag pays for low class sizes and quality
instruction, not keeping the ''riff-raff'' out.
The school year has just begun--how about giving everyone--the boy, your daughter,
the teacher--some time to adjust and get to know each other?
Mom of riff-raff
My daughter is a neurotypical third grader in public school. In first and second
grade, she had two autistic (not Aspergers but classic autism) children in her
class. This year, one of those children is in her class again. Not all classes
in each grade include autistic children, and I consider her so lucky to have been
in classes that did so many times. The opportunity to get used to these kids'
differences has been a gift in tolerance and empathy. She has learned to
appreciate that they have their own interests and talents, not just deficits, and
that they are individuals just as neurotypical kids are. To her, autism is not
weird or scary or something to ridicule but rather another one of the ways people
can be different. I once overheard her explain it to a friend who found the
behavior ''weird,'' and I felt an incredible surge of parental pride.
Now, one difference from the situation you describe is that the autistic kids have
a classroom aide and they also spend part of their time in a separate classroom
focusing on behavioral learning with the aides. This helps things run smoothly,
takes pressure off the classroom teachers, and minimizes the effect of disruption
on the other kids. My daughter's classes are much bigger than your child's (+/-
26 kids) but it sounds like the mainstreaming is much easier because of the
dedicated aides. I remember in first grade the aide gave a great presentation
about autism, and my daughter learned a lot. Overall, it has been a totally
positive experience. Now, my son has just started kindergarten and I noticed that
one of his new classmates has Downs Syndrome, and I was happy to see it, not for
the other child's sake in particular -- I don't even know him -- but for my son's.
Familiarity breeds understanding; distance breeds fear and contempt. I'd like my
son to be academically accomplished, of course, but even more important to me is
that he grow into a tolerant, broad-minded, good-hearted person who can engage
with the world in a positive way.
I am the mom of a 6 year old boy on the autism spectrum in private school - a
different one than yours, since our class size is larger. All the distracting
behavior that you mentioned are ones I would want to know about and hope the
teacher would tell me about. All of those - talking off topic, touching other
children, talking when the children should be listening - are behaviors that our
son learns about in his private social skills group and with his Occupational
Therapist after school. I am going to add that to my list of items to be certain
to communicate with the teacher about, so thank you for helping me understand your
It seems totally appropriate to me to ask the teacher to move your daughter away
from any student who is regularly creating a distraction for her.
I don't think it is appropriate for you to refer to having a boy on the autistic
spectrum in our daughter's classroom as a ''problem'' or to suggest that the
school's screening process is a problem. They accepted a child they knew well
based on their admissions values. They also are likely working with the boy and
his family to help him not disrupt the classroom. If you don't trust the school's
process to create a learning environment that you want for your daughter, I think
you should look for a new school that fits your ideal scenario.
I have one neurotypical daughter and one autism-spectrum son, so at
times I have been in your position and at times I have been the mom of
In kindergarten and first grade, my girl was in a 10-child class class at
an expensive private school that we could barely afford. There were no
A.S. students in the school - they had all been screened out.
Still, my daughter struggled socially in that small pool of kids. From a
learning standpoint, ten is a good number for the teacher to be able
to stay on top of everyone's academic progress. But if the mix of kids
is not right, it can torpedo a little girl's progress. It seems that the
way girls learn, the social setting has to work for them. The fact that
your girl has friends in the class is a major blessing.
IMHO the school is not managing the A.S. boy correctly. I'd bet that
the teacher in your expensive private school is not being paid very well,
and has no special education training. Ideally the boy
would have an aide who is a charismatic grad student in developmental
psychology. That person should sit beside the boy in class and give him
subtle but clear signals when he is off task or annoying other kids.
While each A.S. kid is unique, there are some predictable different flavors.
The writers of the DSM are in complete chaos about diagnostic labels, but
I am going to stick to the classics: high functioning autism, Asperger's
Syndrome, Nonverbal Learning Disorder.
In my experience with lots of these kids, the true Aspies tend to be abrasive
and don't care whether other people like them or not. It is unlikely that your
daughter's classmate is in that category, or he would not have been enrolled.
If he is an NLD person like my son, he may be clueless about social cues
and it is a necessary part of his education and social skills building that
he be told gently, clearly, and immediately when he is being inappropriate
and rewarded when he improves with behaviors like the off-topic
conversation, interrupting others, and not keeping his hands to himself.
It is a lot of work for the school or the aide to provide this kind of support,
but this is what it takes for these kids to succeed. ''Applied Behavior
Analysis'' is the gold standard. I've seen the wonderful results.
The NLD kids I know are very sweet and eager to please, and their
feelings are deeply hurt when the seating is rearranged to put them in
I strongly suggest that you speak to the school administrator who is
mentoring this boy -- in the spirit of brainstorming a way to help
him AND your daughter.
The way to NOT approach it would be to organize a lynch mob
with the other parents and get the boy kicked out of school. What
kind of lesson would this be for your daughter, if that is the way
she sees adults treating children who are ''different'' or have
This is a difficult and complex situation. For whatever reason, it would appear
that the school believes that this child is a good fit for them - one for whom
they can provide a good education and who can be successful within their
community. On the other hand, you feel that the behavior of this child is
impinging upon the education that your child is receiving. It sounds as if the
teacher had attempted to remediate the situation by making structural changes but
that this failed to be successful, at least for your child. It seems to me that
you have 3 choices: 1. You can work with the school to see if other structural
changes would be possible (including moving your daughter to another classroom),
2. You can remove your daughter from the school, or 3. You can try to help your
daughter to see this challenge as a part of her education. Much of what happens
in the early years of learning (beyond children learning the basics of skills and
the concept of learning itself) involves the experience of social learning. It is
a time when children begin to experience themselves in a world outside the
protected circle of their family and to organize and navigate that world. It may
well be that this boy presents an opportunity for your daughter to learn empathy,
dealing with those who are different, tolerating uncomfortable situations. These
are very useful and important skills. As her parent, it is obviously up to you to
decide your priorities when it comes to your daughter's education, but we
sometimes worry so much about academics that we can fail to see the other aspects
of what the school experience can offer. Good luck to you.
One huge thing I would encourage you to do is to sit down with the teacher and ask
her to help your daughter know what to do when the boy is doing things that bother
her. For example, if he continually plays with her pencils or touches her, he
might need a ''fidget'' such as putty, movable toys, etc, to help him focus, and
your daughter can learn what to say to him to redirect him with minimal
interruption, like ''use your fidget, Johnny.'' The boy can be ''frontloaded''
about what to do when he feels the need to touch something (teacher should pay
attention to what's going on at the time-is he unfocused? Bored? Tired?
Overstimulated? and be able to provide him with something he needs so that he will
not try to get it from his immediate environment, like your daughter or her paper,
and explain to him that when he does these things, other kids feel bothered
because it's an unexpected behavior, and when it's time to do work, he is expected
to be doing his.)I am imagining a scenario in which the children are all sitting
doing their work, and the autistic child is needing sensory stimulation or has had
too much, or feels unfocused, in which case he will do things to try to meet his
needs that might be disruptive. I have an autistic son who was in public school,
and while I'd love for him to be with neurotypical kids, we were doing him no
favors trying to get him through every day at public school because he really
needed that kind of step by step management and teaching about what is
expected/unexpected and what other people feel when he does unexpected things and
what he can do differently or instead and providing him with sensory breaks as
often as he needed them. They have helped his behavior and painstakingly taught
him how to take perspective and taught him through sheer patience and repetition
that he does have choices at every step and taking breaks (leaving the group when
he needs to)does not mean punishment, it is advocating for himself. In other
words, they are giving him the skills to interact with others that he may be able
to use if he goes back to public school one day as that is always their goal. I
totally understand your concern for your daughter and I share it. I hope this
rambling thing makes sense or is helpful in some way.
My child (who attended private school K-8) complained throughout about other kids
distracting him. Eventually my son was diagnosed with ADHD. Being easily
distracted by what other people are doing is one of the main symptoms. Not to
make you overly worried, but you might want to keep in mind that it's possible
that your daughter has ADHD? It's under-diagnosed in girls because they tend to
be compliant and don't display the same kind of hyperactivity that boys do.
Especially if she is bright. Some kids also complain as a way to relieve stress,
particularly if they are anxious about their own performance. It feels empowering
to them. This was part of my son's personality too.
From my experience, your daughter could easily be saying the kinds of things you
listed about a first-grader who is neurotypical -- "he's constantly talking to me
during class, he's touching my arm, my pencils, my homework, he interrupts
everyone all the time, he talks about unrelated topics." All of that behavior --
and a lot worse -- was exhibited by "normal" kids at my son's (very expensive)
private school not only in first grade, but well beyond. In fact, I deal with
adult versions of it in my workplace, come to think of it.
I don't want to sound harsh, but to me it sounds like it might be more your
daughter's problem than anything else. Which isn't to say you should do nothing,
but I think you might want to shift your focus on how to equip her to deal with
the kinds of distractions you are describing, rather than attempt to create an
environment for her where those distractions don't happen. Even if you homeschool
her, she might find that you are annoying (my son sure does)!
If you really think it is good for your daughter to get to know and learn to deal
with all types of children, you know the answer to your own question.
Your daughter stays in the class and learns to deal with it. Tell the teacher you
want help creating the best learning experience for your child and then trust the
teacher to do so.
I highly doubt that your daughter is so focused on her learning environment but
rather I think it is you that is so upset (since you are spending SOOOO much money
on this prestigious school.)I have been around the block and have raised two
children to adulthood so I feel very strongly about saying this---you need to let
go a bit. You will not be able to control your daughter's environment forever. It
is best that you learn this now. Even if you choose to home school her, she is
still going to go over to friends' houses and be exposed to all sorts of things
and ALL of these things will help prepare her for life. please don't be another
helicopter parent---I fear the next generation of children will be totally
fragile, self important adults...
I've thought about your post every day since I read it. I've wanted to reply
kindly and thoughtfully and constructively. You did ask for insight, so I'm going
to help you see this a bit differently by giving you insight into children on the
When you posted your note, it was probably the first week of school. The students
are still settling in and learning new routines and expectations. All children are
trying to feel settled in the classroom and make new friends in class and during
playtime. All children have the impulse to be included, be a part of the
excitement and play with someone. Lots of children feel nervous, anxious, confused
and a little excited to be in a new social setting. It's normal. Kids on the
spectrum feel this too.
For now, rather than looking at this as a boy trying to bother and annoy your
daughter, look at it this way. In his own way - because he's still learning how to
make friends and isn't getting it right yet - he's trying to figure out how to say
hello, get a smile or get an interaction. He might not know yet how to say,
'what's your name, do you want to play on the playground later?' But he may have
the same impulse to be included in what's going on around him. Rather than poking
he needs to learn, or his teacher needs to facilitate him saying, 'Hi Clair'. The
other child has the opportunity to give him guidance with words - 'I don't like it
when you touch my paper, it distracts me'. He may not know; he's just
experimenting with ways to interact. If your daughter gives him kind and concrete
feedback, he'll better understand and she'll learn how to express herself in a
really positive way. Hopefully the teacher will reward them both for interacting
well (though that we can't control).
I'd try not to characterize him in your mind as a 'problem' or as a barrier to
your daughter's learning. You'll have a hard time seeing the positives or teaching
your daughter to be patient with one of her classmates. Try to imagine that he is
a lovely child who misses social cues and doesn't notice your daughter scowling at
him. He might need confusing, new classroom situations explained a bit more. He
wants to make a friend and be part of the fun, but this doesn't come easily and
some times he gets it wrong. Sometimes people think he's trying to bother them
when he's really trying to say 'hi' in his own way. It's a lot of changes to
navigate for a 6-year old - for both your daughter and this little boy. She may be
able to teach him a thing or two, but that's not her job, of course.
The world is an imperfect, confusing place. Having kindness, patience and an open
heart to see the potential in each other is perhaps the biggest challenge that we
ALL face. Perhaps your daughter will have the chance to begin that life-long
lesson today, but she'll need your guidance to see his potential.
With kindness and with hope,
I wonder if you could switch the way you are framing this concern. Perhaps you can
ask the following questions instead: ''What supports does this teacher and this
classroom need to accommodate all students in it? What can I as a parent do to
help advocate for the resources this teacher needs to effectively address the
behavior and learning needs of every member of the class?'' The fact that you
refer to the ''autistic child'' with thinly veiled disdain is certainly going to
make it difficult for anyone in the business of caring for children to really hear
your question rather than to write you off as a callous, self-interested parent
who has no interest in the wider community of students at your child's school.
Your child is watching your reaction and learning from the way you approach this
situation, so please model decency and respect.
parent of neurotypical kids who values diversity
One more thing I would like to suggest - invite this boy and his parents for a playdate.
Not only would you have a chance to get to know many, many other sides of his personality,
but you would also get an opportunity to observe the biggest experts (aka his parents)
handling and managing any social challenges he may have during interactions with your
daughter. I suspect not only will these parents be more than happy to show you the best
approach to redirecting their kid, but this little act of kindness may go a long way - I
imagine playdates and birthday party invitations may not be abundant in this boy's life.
Big fan of empathy
Hi, does anyone know of any schools in the
Bay Area for children wtih Aspergers Syndrome?
Orion Academy in Moraga. Here's there website
My best to you and your child.
Nancy T. Chin
Check out Stanbridge Academy in San Mateo , SF Waldorf and Bay School in SF.
Last two schools are mainstream but do accept kids who don't have behavioral
issues and are willing to work hard.
I have an aspie son who just completed 4th grade and in my experience there is
a lack of placements for children with Asperger Syndrome in my area - Oakland
and surrounding cities. There are Springstone (middle and HS) and Orion (HS) in
Lafayette and Moraga. Raskob says they don't take kids with AS but it sure
seems like they have quite a few and I think the same would be true of Bay Hill
HS. Some aspie students do well in the public school inclusion programs.
I am looking for advice from families of kids with Aspergers,
PDD, etc. who have moved from mainstream schools to private
schools that specifically support their kid's special needs (e.g.
Springstone, Orion Academy). What convinced you to make the move?
What have been the pros/cons? If you were able to get the public
schools to help pay for the special school, what did you do to
make that happen? Will you go back to mainstreaming?
My child has some characteristics of Aspergers, and has been
successful in public school (Berkeley) until 3rd grade. Now he's
very negative about school, feels overwhelmed even though he does
well grade-wise, expresses high anxiety and little optimism about
school. We believe this is due to ASD-related anxiety exacerbated
by the school setting.
The well-intentioned but overloaded staff has tried to be
helpful, but to little effect. I try to help them, but frankly
I'm stumped. I'd sure appreciate hearing from folks who've found
themselves in this kind of a situation and either improved the
mainstream school situation or made a change. Thank you so much!
Mom of awesome ASD kid
I'm considering this for my boy as well - sorry no advice yet, it looks
like you're closer
to the decision and more informed for now, but I will listen to your
replies for sure! We
did have a Dr speak highly of Orion Academy for high school, though she
also said it
was far too soon to know if it would be the right fit for him when the
If your son needs to change schools for social or emotional
reasons, you'll need to get an advocate or attorney. BUSD does
not understand this disability and will try to keep kids out of
special education unless you know your rights and have an
advocate. If you go to a meeting of BUSD special ed parents, 99%
of them got services for their kids (a range of disabilities)
only after bringing an advocate in.
Frustrated Mom of ASD kid
I have not moved my child to a private school and hope you get responses
who have because your issues apply to my situation as well. I have an
asperger son in
3rd grade this year (Oakland public school) and find that each year it
increasingly difficult for him to have a good school placement. I have
looked at other
school settings - private and public - and have not found the right
school for him. I
believe it does not exist in our area but maybe I'm wrong. If you are
are welcome at our parent support group which meets one evening a month
Oakland. You might enjoy speaking with other parents whose children are
experiencing similar challenges. Feel free to e-mail me for more info
support group or to share experiences.
My son is now 18 but he was in the Berkeley public schools
until 4th grade. His last two years in Berkeley were a disaster
because, even though his team was well-meaning, they didn't know
what to do with him. So, with the help of my lawyer (for the
second time), we got him into Children's Learning Center (CLC) in
Alameda. This was just the right place for him, and by 11th
grade, he was able to attend the public high school full-time.
He has since graduated and is now going to community college.
The pros of a private school include having a specialized
team that knows how to teach your kid, in this case one who has
Asperger's. I credit CLC with my kid's success in making it
through school and getting a high school diploma. The cons
include having to work with the team that's available. My son
disliked his teacher at CLC for four years, but we had no choice
because he was the only one who taught the advanced classes. I
also couldn't volunteer at the private school because of privacy
issues and that is something I really missed. As you can tell, I
am a big advocate for private schools because my son needed a lot
of specialized help. In 4th grade, I saw the general ed teacher
overwhelmed by the needs of all her regular students and the
special ed team untrained in my son's particular disability. In
my son's case, I had to move him and I was fortunate enough to
have a lawyer who got his private schooling paid for.
I feel as though I need to make this post because my experience with my
son and BUSD has been quite different from the other posters'. My son is
grade, in the Rosa Parks Elementary School Autism Special Day Class and
imagine a better place (private or public) for him to be. He has been in
since kindergarten and has been blessed with teachers, therapists and
understand, appreciate and challenge him. Over the years, he has
occupational, speech and adapted physical ed therapy. He shares an aide
other child and the teacher-student ratio has steadily remained lower
private school could maintain.
Three years ago, we agreed to place our
son in a
full-inclusion classroom. When it quickly became apparent that this was
place for him, the school and district immediately responded with a new
that met his needs perfectly. Since then, he has made terrific academic
is a fierce reader and writer, excels beyond grade level in math and
teacher, aides and classmates. He is quite musical and the ASDC program
encouraged him in this in many wonderful ways.
Now, having said all
this, I have to
add that after some concerns about appropriate aide selection about 3
we did bring our attorney to one IEP meeting and a BUSD attorney also
meeting. The problem was quickly and respectfully solved. It could be
having an attorney at even just that one meeting gave us a bit of a
I know is that we've had no need of legal representation before or since
the pain and frustration of seeing your child's needs be misunderstood
And I know how exhausting and infuriating it is to be a perpetual
''parent from hell.''
My son is my greatest blessing and my greatest challenge. The ASDC
been one place where I felt tremendously supported in meeting that
where I feel really truly good about getting his needs met. It may not
be the right
place for every ASD child, but it has been a god-send for mine and I
felt like I
needed to speak up and say so. Best of luck to you and your family.
I was wondering if there are any state guidelines that are used for criteria in getting a full time aide when my son is mainstreamed next year in first grade. The school district we are in (pleasanton) stated that he will need to meet some criteria in order to qualify for a full time aide when he is fully included in 1st grade. However, I can't seem to find any literature on this. thanks in advance. LF
It's not so much a state law as it is a Federal law: The
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004. I can't
imagine what criteria you would need other than a diagnosis of
ASD. Here are some useful pages that I've used successfully:
Also, having an advocate is extremely useful. Feel free to
contact me directly if you have more questions. Good luck!
My son is high functioning autistic and will be entering 1st
grade in the fall. We are considering a move to Oakland or
Berkeley from the South Bay and are looking for good full
inclusion programs in either public or private elementary
schools (we'd prefer public). Our son currently attends
regular, public kindergarten and has a classroom aide for
support. We would love to hear about any experiences with and
recommendations for full inclusion programs in any school in
the area. Your advice, experience and recommendations are much
My daughter (12)has been well served by Berkeley, however,not
in a full inclusion program. Our daughter, also mildly autistic
but extremeley smart and talented goes to a fantastic private
school paid for by the district. The inclusion program, even
with an aid had flexibility but not enough structure to allow
her to acheive academically. In addition the teasing was out of
control even with an aid by second grade. Social learning with
autism is so important and school is such a great place for it.
Hi - My son 2 years 7 months old has been diagnosed with ASD,
specifically PDD- NOS. He is in a private preschool three
mornings a week and thriving there. We have an inhome ABA
program and other services being funded thru the regional
center right now, but our transition to the berkeley school
district is coming up and I wanted to find out from other
parents of special needs kids, about staying in private
preschool versus transitioning to the public special ed
preschools? Also did you continue to receive ABA program,
speech, OT after this transition? Any advice? Thanks.
I work with young children on the austism spectrum (moderate-
severe)in the public school system and feel that in general the
best way to have your services covered is to go through the
school system, with the advice of a parent advocate if you feel
more comfortable. While at home therapy can be very
functional, your child will probably get more in the way of
services through the school district then at a private school
where they do not have to provide services. I believe you have
the option of paying for private school and then visiting your
local school for services, but your child will miss out on the
language intensive classroom specifically designed to meet his
needs. I do not work in berkeley, so can't specifically
respond to their program, but I suggest you arrange a visit to
the class your child would be placed in, as well as
conversations with relevant teachers and specialists (SLPs and
OTs). Basically, be as open as you can be to all options and
then make your decision. Oh, and I also recommend if you can
afford it to find a slp/child focused educated play facilitator
to lead regularly scheduled play groups with a neurotypical
child. Good luck on your journey to find the best for your
Wondering which school district would be better for a child with
autism and visual impairment...Orinda or Berkeley
parent of special needs boy.
parent of four year old boy
I've had good experiences with Berkeley USD so far, but I think
it may just be luck and not necessarily because the district is
all that great. I've heard FANTASTIC things about Orinda, though,
and if you can afford to live there, you definitely should!!
Our experience in Berkeley was not as good as the previous poster's.
Your situation will be somewhat different from ours, since our
autistic child is so high-functioning that he eluded diagnosis until
well into elementary school. We found that classroom teachers and
even special ed staff in the elementary and secondary schools had a
low level of awareness about his learning disabilities, so he rarely
had effective academic support and we faced constant struggles.
Outside professionals who helped us said that in their experience the
staff in many surrounding districts ''got it'' much better. He had
three good years of speech and language services, but there was a lot
of luck involved.
This doesn't exactly answer your question, but have you looked into
Lafayette? My information is a few years old, but I've heard from
parents and providers that the Lafayette district was much better than
average for students in special ed and also good in general. Orinda
parents I talked with were enthusiastic about their schools for their
typically-developing kids but warned me that it was not as good for
special needs students. We found it a complex decision, once you
factor in other things such as the availability of independent
providers, the Regional Center, etc. A lot depends on the individuals
who are working in a district at a given time, so things change.
wishing you the best
Any advice on how to find a person who is good with special-
needs kids to engage my 9-year-old son in various activities
after school up to 4 days/week?
Could include help with homework, have friends over, supervise
minor home chores, go to park, kick a soccer ball, go to
library or other short outings, etc.
Prefer someone with background or training with kids who have
autistic-spectrum disorders. My son is high-functioning (PDD-
NOS) and in a regular-ed classroom, but he does need extra help
negotiating the world.
I have posted to the BPN Childcare Digest but feel it is likely
I will need additional sources to find this special care-
If you can suggest any ideas on where/how to go about this,
please let me know. Thanks.
Both Mills and Merritt colleges have education/special-ed programs with
enthusiastic and talented students. I'd start by calling their placement
offices and asking how to best advertise your position to these students.
Loved Our Grad-Student Babysitter
Our 8th grade son with recently diagnosed mild Aspergers is set to attend Oakland
Tech this fall, but several teachers have recently expressed concern that it might
not be the best fit. Yes, rather late in the year for this!! And now I'm panicked
that we need to have an alternative lined up.
There is absolutely NO WAY we can afford any private school (we aren't poor enough
for financial aid and no way rich enough), so I'm hoping there's a charter school
SOMEWHERE in the Bay Area that would work. Any suggestions, recommendations or
warnings much appreciated!!
Panicked and Stressed
You and your son may want to check out the Alameda Community Learning Center (ACLC) in
Alameda, CA. (www.alamedaclc.org) ACLC is a small (300), public (tuition-free)
charter middle and high school.
ACLC is a creative, inclusive and dynamic learning community. It provides an
innovative, hands-on, research-based curriculum that emphasizes student engagement in
a democratic society through leadership, self-direction and personal exploration.
Learners participate in unique educational experiences including internships,
community projects, and college classes at the nearby College of Alameda.
ACLC has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best High
Schools in the United States for the past four years. It is consistently ranked as
one of Alameda's top middle and high schools. The ACLC curriculum meets all
University of California-approved A - G college prep courses, and over 90% of ACLC
graduates are admitted to four year universities.
Parent of 12th-grader and 8th-grader
If you are willing to go to San Jose look into Communitas Charter High School. there
are openings and it is a small and supportive college prep school.
I know a student with Asperger's who goes to Flex Academy in San Francisco and it is
working out for him after some earlier attempts elsewhere.
Don't freak out. You say your son is going to Tech in the fall-will he be in the ASIP
program there? If not, please make sure you do all the paper work so that he is, you
can't ask for him to be in the program if you haven't done the paper work. The ASIP
(Asperger's Inclusion Program) at Tech is really supportive. Any kid who needs it has
an aid accompany him/her to class and there is a lot of support. I work in the program
by the way.
Maybe his teachers were afraid it would be too big and scary but it really isn't.
Starting in 10th grade he can be in one of the academies which is an amazing
opportunity to get a headstart on a career in either Biotech, Health, Engineering,
Fashion Design, and Computers. It is a great opportunity that the Charter schools
Our teen has Aspergers and is having a hard time in the public school
system. He has been in the Independent Study program at BHS for a year
because the social scene at BHS was too much, but IS is not really
meeting his needs. He is becoming isolated and is not making any new
friends. We cannot afford placement at CLC or Bayhill, and are
ideally looking for a home school/charter school arrangement, or even
a private tutor, that will meet his needs and also qualify as
full-time high school education. Any advice or ideas are appreciated.
We have had a great experience at Trails To Success.....www.trailstosuccess.org
We are looking for a high school for our daughter (entering 9th grade
in the fall) who is intellegent but also on the autism spectrum--
PDD-NOS or Asperger's. In the right environment, she does relatively
well in school, but has low self-esteem and also dyslexia which causes
struggles with reading (about one grade level below normal). Thus, a
highly competitive, college-track-only school might not be a good fit.
We're looking for those who have actual experience with the schools in
our hunt, right now: Star Academy, Orion, Orinda Academy, CLC
(Alameda), Milennium HS, Bay Hill, others we may not know about. We've
seen the past BPN posts on this, looking to update our info, thanks.
My daughter had been diagnosed with Asperger's, was very shy and
also had low self-esteem. We sent her to Bentley School
and she had a
very good experience there. It's a small school and we found it
both rigorous and ''touchy-feely'' (for lack of a better word).
The teachers were very good, very kind and always ready and
willing to help with any problems.
Because the school is so small, my daughter was able to form
friendships with students in all the grades, not just hers,
which I think provided her with social interactions she wouldn't
have had in a bigger school.
My daughter did not have learning disabilities per se, though
she had trouble with executive function. Bentley was very
helpful in that regard, because they taught organization
techniques to the students and there was a lot of one-on-one
We have not had personal experience with Orinda Academy, but two
of my friends sent their children there and quickly removed them
when they found that the school did not seem to know that their
kids were leaving campus during the day and getting into all
kinds of trouble.
Good luck with your school search. In hindsight I will say,
don't worry about your daughter being in the perfect school. As
long as she can get the attention she needs from the teachers
and can meet some friendly kids, she will be OK.
If you're looking for a small school environment, good teacher support and
communication, confidence building for students and really important
school feedback for both students and parents Orinda Academy
is a good
choice. You should visit and talk with students and faculty. It's a few
blocks from BART in Orinda so is good for many students from
Oakland/Berkeley who take Bart. We've especially appreciated, as parents,
a progress update every 2-3 weeks that each student gets. It's really
helped our daughter stay focused and those that are falling behind know
quickly. The report is emailed to parents as well. It's been good for
building our daughter's confidence in many ways. Thanks...
Orinda Academy Parent
Does ANYONE know of some really good schools for teens with SID
and/or high functioning autism, in sf bay area, esp east bay, and
near Richmond would be greatest! Need to accept substance abuse
background and accredited would be best. Son already 16.5-I'm
My son has Asperger's Symdrome and did very well at Children's
Learning Center (CLC) in Alameda. He successfully transitioned to
Alameda High School and I found them very supportive. If your son
needs a specialized school, call CLC at (510)769-7100. If he can
handle a regular high school with support, call the Alameda School
District Special Ed at (510) 748-4012. Feel free to email me if you
have any questions.
I suggest you look at Saint Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda, a Catholic
High School. One of their hallmarks is diversity, which includes
students with learning differences such as Aspergers. Your teen need
not be Catholic, Christian or even a believer to apply. My son,
diagnosed with Aspergers (now High Functioning Autism due to the DSM
change) was a self-professed atheist when he enrolled as a Freshman.
Our son was welcomed and included by the staff and students from day
one. The school is small, with three full time counselors and one
part time special needs counselor, and has been very supportive during
some bumpy academic and social rides. The tuition is affordable, more
so than other private high schools, and worth every penny. There is
financial aid available. Our kids also like the school's setting, on
a tree lined street in a residential area but with the Alameda Free
Library (open until evening) and shops within walking distance.
As a furtherance to socialization, your teen would also have many
opportunities to become involved in after school activities in
performance arts and sports. My son participates in the Cross Country
Team. Our daughter performed in a play and a musical in her Freshman
year. The school's website is SJND.org. Google SJND Diversity to
find the pdf of their 2008 Annual Report titled ''Embracing Diversity''.
Feel free to contact me with questions.
My 15Y son might have mild asperger, will be tested this month. He
is depressed and socially anxious. He is extremely difficulty going
to school. In the past, I have tried to enroll him to a private
school for independent learners. He responded well for the 1st
semester, but lately he even feels anxious and reluctant going to
that school. Considering there is not much social activity and help
when he is absent,I enroll him to the public school under IEP. There
are 8~9 students in that class with 4-6 therapist/teacher. He is not
willing to go there either and feel terrified and anxious. We do
work with doctors on his issues and he takes meds too. This public
school is suggesting home hospital which teachers come to our home.
I don't like this idea, since this just make my son feels more
isolate at home. But I don't know other approach.
He is very bright, and had good grade all along. But now he doesn't
have motivation. All he does is to sleep until noon, watch TV at
night, no exercise at all. He does participate family activity even
though reluctantly. Someone recommended me therapeutic boarding
school. I would like to hear your experience to see whether I should
plan for this. Also if you have any idea how I can request school
service to deal with school avoidance, please let me know.
Nancy Chin is very good with children and teens who have asperger.
She has done wonders with a child that my son went to elementary and
middle school with. This boy who really had few social skills and had
trouble fitting in is now a happy, motivated high school student. I
highly recommend you call her at 925-299-1069.
Hello! I work for an educational consulting firm called the Bodin
Group. Our expertise is school placement, local and boarding, for
young people who need specialized learning or therapeutic
enviroments. We also provide assessment and other services. If you
would like to learn more, please contact us for a free
consultation/information gathering call or meeting.
The same thing happened with my teen daughter. 1) First call Berkeley's Disability Rights
Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) to learn your son's legal rights and develop a
strategy for meeting them. 2) Tell the school's guidance counselor or principal, ''My child
has an educational disability: an emotional disturbance''. Use those specific terms; the
jargon alerts the staff to what is needed. The school will do a psychoeducational
evaluation at their expense. 2) Also have an adolescent psychiatrist evaluate him. The
MDs at Herrick Hospital's adolescent psych unit in Berkeley recommended Dr. Richard
Pollack (925-945-1355). He charged $1400 up front; our insurance reimbursed $800. It
would have been worth it even if we had to pay the full price. 3) An emotional
disturbance is one of the qualifying conditions for an IEP, an Individual Education Plan,
which entitles your child to specific Federal protections and services. Ask the school staff
to set it up. 4) Learn about the signs a depressed teen may be considering suicide, and
ask your son openly whether he's thinking of hurting himself. If he says yes, keep him
within eyesight all the time until you reach help. 5) Learn now how to get emergency
medical help if your child had suicidal thinking. In Alameda County, take your child to
the ER at Alta Bates in Berkeley. Don't take him to Children's Hospital; a nurse there told
me they don't evaluate kids over 12 for psych admission. (I'm not sure this is accurate).
You may have to wait several hours to be seen if your child is not acting out acutely and
more urgent emergencies (like heart attacks or accidents) need attention first. Take
something to read. 6) If the MD judges him at immediate risk for hurting himself or
others, he will declare your son a ''5150'', meaning he needs a 72-hour legal hold for
evaluation. This will be done on Herrick's adolescent psych unit, the regional teen psych
facility, which is outstanding. Your son will go by ambulance for his own safety. You
can't ride with him, which sucks, but you can see him again at Herrick. 6) This is a lot of
info to absorb. It's scary to have a child this depressed; know that you will be doing the
right things to help your son. Best wishes to you and him.
Gosh, This email could have been written by me. My son is 14.5 years, academically
bright, is not doing well in his current school environment, is anxious about going to
school, kids pick on him there and he feels ''uncool''. He sleeps late, has a hard time
waking up, grades have slipped, and all he wants to do is watch TV or play video games.
As per the boarding school - I researched them all - 1) All the schools which are open to
Aspergers are on the East Coast. 2) The really awesome one specifically for Aspergers (I
forget the name) has an annual tution of $73,000.
However, the 4 local options are: Springstone School in Lafayette, Bay Hill High School in
Oakland, Holden High School in Orinda and Orion Academy in Moraga.
You may be aware of all these places, however, please feel free to contact me directly if
you have any more questions.
Wishing you the best. I know EXACTLY what you are going through.
You can have your son assessed for autism, PDD-NOS at the Regional
Center of the East Bay. If he qualifies for services you will have
case management and service coordination. Offices are in both Alameda
and Contra Costa County. Good luck.
I don't know about boarding schools, but if you're interested in
checking out a small private high school for kids with learning
differences look at Bayhill HS
in Oakland. Our son was struggling in
ways similar to yours and the change has been dramatic. He still has
his issues and difficulties but the staff has been wonderful in
helping him do his best. Also, once you get a diagnosis, call the
Regional Center of the East Bay to ask for an evaluation. If they find
your son eligible, there are behavior specialists who can come to your
home and help with some of the difficult behaviors.
Mom of teen with Asperger's Syndrome
Sorry, I don't have advice on particular boarding schools, but I
wanted to respond to the post from Bodin associates about their
placement and assessment services. A few years ago
we paid for their services for my daughter, on the advice of her
psychiatrist. I felt they had a very limited perspective on
alternatives. Most of the programs they suggested were really designed
for teens out of control, not for teens with depression, motivation,
and more subtle social interaction problems. When I indicated I did
not see the programs they were suggesting as a good fit for my
daughter (whom I would have described at the time as depressed, and
with nonverbal learning disability issues), the reaction of our
consultant was that she guessed we were just not ready to take these
steps. She had little to offer that did not involve what seemed to me
quite extreme situations that in our assessment could have been a
disaster for our daughter. The service was expensive, and may well be
worthwhile for out of control kids, but for us it was an expense we
could well have saved.
Not a Bodin fan
I saw the response about Bodin and wanted to offer one other
suggestion. We used McClure, Mallory and Baron to help us find a
school for an ADHD (inattentive type) teen. Amanda Mallory helped
us find a boarding school that worked for him. While they do offer
theraputic placement help, they also have lots of experience finding
schools that work for a wide range of student needs. They are in
There are also directories of boarding schools. You can find
something that sounds interesting and then research on your own.
Some of the families at my child's boarding school found it that
way. Schools will provide references. I got names of several
current and past parents and called them all.
We also found consultants (we used McClure, Mallory, and Barron) unhelpful in a similar
case. They made very strong recommendations for wilderness followed by schools that felt
inappropriate, and against the school my gut told me was right. We felt guilt tripped --
told we were in denial, falling into the same bad habits that supposedly got us where we
were, etc., even though the wilderness program director agreed that it wouldn't be a
match. The process wasted time and money and confused my son. It seemed oriented
towards teens who need to be separated from a detrimental peer group, have problems
with substance abuse, etc. and not more complex or subtle profiles, such as my son's
anxiety and learning disabilities. We went with our gut feeling, and our son flourished. It
was a residential program back east that helps with emotional, social, and learning issues.
At home he had failed in two private schools, refused school, and became socially isolated.
He had been diagnosed with ''atypical'' Asperger's or high functioning autism, and schools
talked of defiance or even megalomania. That was all wrong -- learning disabilities
(masked by high IQ) kept him from doing the work until he had effective remediation, and
anxiety made him withdraw, which fooled some professionals into thinking he had social
When we told him he'd be schooled at home as long as it took to find the right school --
home study wasn't a permanent solution -- he became more cooperative and optimistic
than we expected. Being in a supportive, structured residential situation was a big relief to
him. Success, academic and social, turned things around. It was a very hard decision to
send him away, but our relationship became so much better! But it was very expensive,
and it's nearly impossible to get funding through a school district. Another problem with
going away, is that we didn't have continued support when he returned -- but he left
because we didn't have it here to begin with.
My information is a few years old, but have you looked into Glenholme School in CT or
The Learning Clinic in Brooklyn, CT or Brehm School in Carbondale, IL? Those admissions
directors are well connected, and you can ask them if there are other schools you should
wishing you the best
I'm looking for information about Orion Academy and Orinda Academy.
My daughter has very mild aspergers, and we are worried about her
placement at a high school for typical kids. We want her to have a
good social environment during the high school years where she can
make friends. Can anyone tell me if Orion Academy students have
mild aspergers, or are the students more severely affected? Also,
we have been told Orinda Academy would be a good place for her, but
I'm worried that the students don't have special needs, and she
won't have friends there.
Please advise if you have experience with either school.
Orinda Academy has many students with a variety of special needs,
including Asperger's, and caters to them with small classes, lots of
individual attention, careful academic monitoring, and efforts to
build a supportive, accepting community. The school just doesn't like
to position itself as a special needs school. This baffles some of its
parents and pleases others. Visit for a day. Summer school starts
soon, if it's not already in session. Summer school is a little
different from the regular academic year, and gets a somewhat wider
spectrum of students, but visiting now will still introduce you to
many of the teachers and several of the regular students who are
either making up missed work or getting ahead, and the general style
of the place. If you like it, your daughter can visit for a day, too,
and can shadow a current student. The administration can connect you
with some of the Parent Group Board members, to answer specific
questions from a parent's point of view.
-Happy OA parent of successful LD kid
My son is at Orinda Academy and we couldn't be happier with the
school. The philosophy of the school is that the very small classes
and quick feedback make it possible to accommodate different learning
styles while not in any way compromising a pre-college curriculum.
As for your daughter's mild asberger's, my advice would be to go to
the school and ask for an interview with the head of the school, Ron
Graydon. He is an extremely principled person who is not going to tell
you that the school is right for her unless it is. I feel absolutely
sure about this. He is very experienced and wise in terms of not only
educational issues, but interpersonal dynamics amongst teens.
Has your daughter visited either of the schools you're looking into?
Our child's visit at Orion
and the impressions shared with us told us
a lot. I think that many students find a respite from teasing and
bullying there and find it easier to make friends, but it's hard to
say how an individual will fit in without trying it. The director's
book will give you a good idea about the school's approaches and
program. If you'd like to chat with us about our experience with
Orion, you can contact me at yahoo.com.
There was a post about Orinda Academy in the last 'parents of teens'
newsletter (see 'Happy OA parent of successful LD kid') in which the
writers said the school has many sudents with a variety of special
needs, including Aspergers. I am a member of the parent group board
and have run this post by the director of the school, Ron Graydon. Ron
mentions that in the entire school there is only 1 student with very
mild Aspergers, and that well-meaning posts like this one misrepresent
the school's mission and student body. If your daughter is looking
for a special needs school that specifically addresses Asperger's
students you might consider Orion Academy in Moraga, or Springstone
School in Lafayette. For a special needs education (not specifically
Aspergers) you might try Sterne School in San Francisco or Star
Academy in San Rafael (SA caters for grades 1 through 10). Orinda
Academy provides an excellent, inclusive college prep environment for
a diverse range of students, and it strives very well to accommodate
moderate learning style differences and to provide a positive and
supportive culture where all students can work to their potential. It
has been hugely successful for our son, who is very bright but has
I want to offer a suggestion to the parent looking at
for their child with mild AS. I think that it is very important to the
administration to protect their school from having a reputation for
having LD children and the response from the director reflects that.
It is not however in my opinion (as the parent of a child attending
Orinda) that it was a typo. Orion is better suited for child with
severe LD issues. Orinda could be an excellent choice for milder LD
issues. It would depend on the issues your child faces. It is very
small and most of the children have some type of concern that brings
them to the school. The teachers are caring and available to work out
individualized learning plans that can maximize your childC",b"s success.
I think it is an excellent option that should be considered. I'm sorry
that the administration shies away from acknowledging that.
Been there parent
Another school in the Bay Area that serves students with special needs is
Bayhill High School
across from Lake Merritt in Oakland. The majority of Bayhill's students have
differences but many students have social skills challenges, including mild
syndrome. Bayhill High School would be a less restrictive setting than Orion
because there is
more of a range of social profiles from very socially adept to Aspergers and
Bayhill has special education teachers, small classes, a multi-sensory
instruction, social skills groups and speech and language therapy, as well as
a very positive
and supportive school climate. If you would like to learn more, contact
As an MD and parent of two teens, one with mild LD, one without; one
currently in Berkeley High School,
one who went to a competitive private high school
and is now a junior at an Ivy League college, I wanted to respond both
to the HS for ''mild AS'' question and the private vs public HS, because
I think there are some key principles here:
1) knowing your child and what they need for both support and
appropriate challenges (and helping them recognize and advocate what
they need for themselves)
2) recognizing that our understanding of LD/ADHD/AS/ASD is primitive;
that diagnostic labels are imprecise shorthands for complex
individuals who have a wide spectrum of specific difficulties and
strengths, which also vary from quite mild (and occasionally
overdiagnosed) to profoundly challenging.
So our child with LD/AS feels great about doing well academically at
Berkeley High School. He has done well in part because of the study skills and routines
he learned at his private elementary and middle school; in part, he
has been in one of the small school programs and has had excellent
responsive teachers--as good as most of those we have had in private
schools. BHS has been accepting and even welcoming of his social
We expect we will be utilizing tutoring help in the future, and he has
done pragmatic speech groups for social skills work. We looked at
Orinda Academy, which I think would have been excellent for him, but
he felt he did not need that level of structure--so far, he seems to
be correct. But for other teens, Bayhill or Orion may be the
environment in which they can thrive and learn.
Our experience of private schools has been positive--but far from
''real world''--of course there are great kids, families,
opportunities--but the one overwhelming impression that sticks with me
is--too much money and consumerism. Our older son felt
underprivileged (FAR from true) when he wasn't spending spring break
in Barbados. Of course your family is the primary determinant of
culture--but I was troubled by the peer messages... even more true in
private colleges--the amount of spending money many kids have is
striking. And in retrospect, I'm sure our older son would have done
just fine in public high school with good AP classes.
learning as we go....
There is another wonderful school in Alameda, Children's Learning
Center. C.L.C. has 2 campuses, one for grade school and the other for
middle school and high school.
C.L.C. provides are a small, warm, school environment with a
thoughtful sensitive behavioral system, which encourages/supports
students to grow and stretch. The classes are very small. The
teacher's are amazing. The staff stays for years and years because
it is such a supportive learning environment. There are spot on for
academics. They work on supporting and learning social thinking
(speech pragmatics, social skills). CLC provides a behavioral piece
and services are a bit more intensive as I understand it than
Bayhill. So, it is for a child or adolescent that needs a bit more
structure and support. CLC has sports teams, cheerleading, and the
best talent show. The info is: Children's Learning Center,1910
Central Avenue, Alameda, CA. 94501, phone 510-769-7100. Wishing you
the best in your search!!!
Parent of teen at C.L.C.
I am moving back to the Bay Area and need to find the very
best high school in the area for my 16 year old son who
has mild autism and needs some support. Any suggestions as
to which district/high school is best? Thanks so much.
If you're looking for a public high school, my son, who has Asperger's, did
well at Alameda High in the city of Alameda. The Special Ed team was very
organized and extremely supportive. They were also very good at getting in
contact with me when there were issues, such as late homework. I highly
We are looking for other parents of children with high functioning
autism, Asperger's syndrome or similar non-verbal learning
disorders. We are having great trouble finding an appropriate
school for our boy. He is 15 and very very bright, but has
sensory integration problems and a list of other things that make
it impossible for him to survive (let alone thrive) in the public
schools. This is a common problem among high functioning kids on
the spectrum. Many can't function in the large, noisy, ''full
inclusion'' setting for behavioural, language processing, and
sensory reasons, but the smaller, ''special day classes'' are geared
to students on a cognitively low level and so are equally
pointless. There is supposed to be an epidemic of autism out
there, and we KNOW there must be other families stuck in similar
situations. Where are the good schools for these remarkable young
people? They can grow up to make enormous contributions to
society, and to make their way in the world. But they need the
right educational setting, social skills training, and lots of
attention. Can't we get together and form a school, or help the
school districts form an appropriate school? At least we could
share ideas. Please write to me.
A Better Chance School in Richmond.
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