Schools for Autism Spectrum Kids
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Schools for Autism Spectrum Kids
Our son has been at a BUSD preschool program for special
needs kids for almost a 1.5 years (it is not an integrated
class) and we are seeing virtually no progress. He is on the
spectrum and at 4.5 years old he has almost no language. We
finally got 10 hours of ABA via Regional Center (that took 9
months) and that is making a difference. BIA of Emeryville
is our provider and they are very good. In our last IEP BUSD
said they would evalute for ABA this fall and now we are
being told the district isn't offering ABA and any ABA they
are provding is being 'phased out'. We are going to pay for
additional hours to increase the intensity, but 15 hours per
week isn't enough. Our next IEP isn't scheduled until April
2012. Has anyone out there had success with getting one-
one-one support from BUSD, ABA, in-home programs paid for,
etc.? Recently he was observed at school and it was
suggested we pull him out becuase he is not getting the help
and education he needs. Help! We need an advocate fast and
any advice on strategies for BUSD would be welcome.
Amy Kossow firstname.lastname@example.org is the best advocate in
town, particularly for kids with autism. She helped my son
get 15 hrs/week of ABA while he was also in a BUSD
preschool, with BIA. I simply cannot recommend her highly
enough. My son is now in 4th grade and doing great and I'm
sure it's because of Amy and BIA. However, I don't know that
she's taking new clients right now, but hopefully she is.
Searching for a preschool for 3 yo with ASD PDD-NOS in El Sobrante,
Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany or Berkeley. Thanks.
My son was diagnosed at 18 months with PDD-NOS. He is currently
enrolled at Via Nova Children's School
in Berkeley and is thriving. I
can't say enough how incredible Ticia and the entire Via Nova staff
have been - to embracing him wholeheartedly and what's needed to
support his success, to integrating him into the larger class and
supporting his relationships with peers, to being flexible to the
therapy services that are performed on-site (and seeing them as an
opportunity for staff development). We feel incredibly lucky.
I'm hoping I can get advice and insight from parents who
may have gone through this already. My son is turning 3
and is being evaluated by Oakland Unified School
District. While the final evaluations aren't in, he will
be diagnosed with Autism. He's high-functioning, without
any cognitive impairment.
Discussing with the evaluation team, they said he'd
probably be offered one of the 5-day/week autism-specific
preschool classrooms, but they apparently try to put kids
with appropriate peers. They don't want me to tour
classrooms until the evaluation is complete. In the
meantime, we need to get our heads around a) what Oakland
might have/offer and b) what's going to be best for him so
I can push for that.
He's currently at a private preschool in our neighborhood
and he's been doing great. He loves it, his language is
developing and he's really happy. Best of all, he's
getting a great social experience with typically
developing kids. He also has a wonderful teacher and a
small class. But his social/emotional delay is starting
to show itself more since this preschool is all about play
I'm sad to think that we're going to be confronted with
pulling him out of this preschool community, but want to
do what's best for his development. I do believe in early
intervention, but will he aquire the social building
blocks he's lacking with peers who are also on the
spectrum? Will he be able to model language with other
kids who may be delayed as well? Do high-functioning ASD
preschool-aged kids need intensive, structured autism-
specific classrooms? I know it's so individual, it's
probably hard to say. He benefited tremendously from the
20-hrs/week of ABA therapy he received up to this point,
but has outgrown it. Now he needs social, play and
language skills-enrichment. Could there be a blend of our
current preschool and speech therapy + social skills
How are the OUSD preschool classrooms for autism? Are
there other options that I'm not aware of? I'm open to
hearing about all options and the experience other
families have had. (Unfortunately at this point, we can't
afford to private-pay for everything.)
Thanks for your help! I'm anxious to get some clarity, as
his IEP is a few weeks away. I'm happy to contact anyone
personally if that's easier, just include email.
-Wanting to stay on our positive trajectory and uninformed about what Oakland has
OUSD has some excellent programs for students on the autism spectrum. Sounds
like you're doing exactly what you need to do to advocate for your child, and
asking the right hard questions about social opportunities. I don't work at the
preschool level, but I was blessed to work closely with many colleagues who may
end out teaching your son: there are some truly gifted teachers and supportive
paraprofessionals out there. I think it's crucial for you to advocate for a
classroom which has a high number of verbal students--at that age, some kids may
not be communicating verbally yet, and the teacher's teaching emphasis might
understandably not line up with your son's needs in a classroom that skewed in
that direction. Preschool is a huge building block for school success--I
imagine that, after preschool, you may be looking at inclusion (academic and
social supports) or ASIP programs (most frequently for kids with Asperger's,
needing minimal academic support): again, there are good ones. Oakland gets a
bad rap, but it does some things RIGHT.
Best wishes to you and your son!
I am looking for a preschool for my 3 year old son in the
Berkeley/El Cerrito/Albany area (although willing to travel for
something suitable). He is mildly on the autistic spectrum and
is unlikely to qualify for significant school district
services. He needs a lot of direction and help to be involved
in group activities, so the preschool would have to be very
supportive of his particular needs. Anyone have any recent
experiences or recommendations? Anon
My kid was diagnosed as being on the spectrum by one
developmental pediatrician and possibly on the spectrum by
another. He has had a great experience at
Harold Jones Preschool
in Berkeley. I don't know that the teachers have particular
training with ASD kids, but they have like 20 years of experience
and were really good at providing help and support to my son. He
is much better at playing with other kids, making connections
with them, staying on task, imaginative play,..., basically all
the things I was worried about when he started. You need to be
UC-affiliated to get in.
We are thinking about moving to University Village in Albany. We have a high
functioning autistic son who will be four in August. Is there a good, free,
Albany? I've heard of some great public preschools in other cities, but no so
Albany. Anybody have any suggestions? Is there a way to go to another school
if we are not satisfied with our choices? If so, how would we go about doing
not familiar with the area...I've never been there, and we aren't moving there
If you haven't already done so, you should contact the school
district, because Albany is lucky enough to have one of the
finest public special education preschool classes in the county.
Another bonus for your family:it's located in UC VIllage. Contact
the district to see if there are openings and visit the class. I
had the pleasure of student teaching there last year, and the
class has a wonderful, calm staff, and a fantastic OT on site.
Best of luck
My husband was just accepted to UC Berkeley, which is of course
fantastic, but I'm having trouble finding
resources online for my autistic son,
who will be four in April. We haven't technically decided to move to Berkeley yet,
but it's our top pick right now. I saw a preschool online called Tilden in East
Oakland that looks great! Their website was a bit out of date which scared me into
thinking it's not around anymore though.
Colin's autism is very mild, and he does not need an aid. The preschool he goes to
now is part of the school district, and is half low income families and half
kids with special needs. We love it, and I'm trying very hard to find something
similar. He does need OT, Speech, and ABA if those services are available. My
perfect school for him would be an inclusive preschool, full day with these services
provided. I'll be a stay at home mom (at least for a while) with a newborn (due in
June). With the very little money thing, it would be awesome if it was a public
We're willing to not live in Berekely if it means a good school for my
found Tildon in Oakland, but it looks like you have to enroll your child in February
or March of this year. Yikes! We won't even know if we're moving to Berkeley until
April (hubby is keeping fingers crossed for Stanford and Yale). Does anyone know
of any other preschools that are really good? Anybody have any advice? We would
both love to live in the Berkeley area because it such a great school, but if it's
not going to work for our family then we need to plan to move elsewhere. Thanks
Tilden, an Oakland public school, is thriving. It has great
half-day programs for preschool kids with special needs (and
more).... (Click here to
see the rest of this review, and 2 other reviews for Tilden School)
Additionally, if you need respite care, you can get him evaluated
at the Regional Center of the East Bay, (510)383-1200. Good luck
with the move.
East bay mom
Hi, I don't have any great suggestions for Berkeley, but I can tell you that I can think of
two great options if you end up in New Haven. The first is The Neighborhood Music
School which runs a wonderful small traditional (not daycare) preschool program (my
son went there) their director, Leslie, is highly skilled and works tightly with every
family's differing needs. They also offer financial aid. Second, if your husband is at
the law school, you will be eligible for the law school's sponsored day care/preschool,
which we had several friends who sent their children there and were very happy. Good
I am a Special Education Teacher who specializes in working with
kids on the Autism Spectrum for the West Contra Costa Unified
School District (about 10 min from Berkeley) and can HIGHLY
recommend ALL of their preschool special day classes (if I
remember correctly there are 15 preschool classes, yes 15!!!).
In fact after seeing all the preschool Autism programs in this
area it is the only district that I feel would have the quality
staff, knowledge and diversity in programs to meet the many
different levels of children on the Autism Spectrum.
It is possible your son will qualify for funding through the
East Bay Regional Center. In California - children/adults with
developmental, autistic and some other disabilities are funded
by the Regional Center system - For Berkeley and most cities
near by you would be served by East Bay Regional Center office
in Oakland. Call them and see if your son would qualify for
services. They would work with you and the school district to
find a placement and possibly help fund his placement as well.
Good luck, and as a former Illini - still miss Chicago, but love
The Bay Area is one of the better areas to live in for autistic
children. Emily Rubin (co author of SCERTS) for all children on
the spectrum, is in Monterey and has trained several Bay Area
therapists, clinics and districts in Northern California. Her co
authors and she originally researched, developed, tested, and
implemented their methods, research, assessments, and
interventions at the Yale clinic in New Haven (also a great place
to live for an autistic child).She incorporates several different
resources in her interventions (TEACH, Carole Gray, Tony Atwood,
ect.). Her company's website is:
I believe she is located in Monterey.
Michelle Garcia Winner, who is very well known in the field of
High Functioning Autism, and often works with Carol Gray, has a
clinic in San Jose (South Bay, closer to Sanford). She has also
trained several therapists, clinics and school districts in the
area. I know at least one of the speech therapist in the Berkeley
Schools who has received training from both her and Emily and
implements it into her therapy.
for Carol Gray:
Lots of clinics in the bay area specialize in social disorders.
Several Berkeley parents with high functioning autistic children
take their children to Communication Works in Berkeley at
phone # 510.639.2929.
They incorporate a lot of Michelle Winner's methods. Diann Grimm,
from the Diagnostic Center-North, now specializes in spectrum
children and comes to the school site if a request is made, free
of charge, for an evaluation and recommendations for intervention
For the public pre school in Berkeley I would recommend Margaret
Lindenstein as a speech therapist and Joni Miller as a teacher.
Joni primarily takes low functioning spectrum children, but I
know a couple high functioning spectrum children who have been in
her class, because she does such a wonderful job. Joni used to be
at Hopkins, but I think she moved to Franklin. Margaret is at
Hopkins and maybe Franklin.I know they both work well together.
Louise Fender is another wonderful preschool speech therapist in
the Berkeley public preschools. Vicki Van Steenburg is the
pre-school Full Inclusion directer. Insurance usually covers
therapy before children are school age and possibly for the
Berkeley Communication Works when they are school age. I am not
sure how young Comm. Works takes clients. Several of the Berkeley
therapist have been trained for spectrum children and a full
inclusion program is offered as early as preschool. Currently
the training of therapist is sporadic with therapist using a
hodgepodge of methods. Most of the OTs and Adaptive P.E. teachers
work with autistic children together with the speech therapist
and Full Inclusion teachers. Soon the Berkeley district may
receive SCERTS training for all therapist working with spectrum
children. The Emerson Elementary speech, full inclusion, and OT
staff are already implementing SCERTS, Michelle Winner and Dainn
Grimm into therapy programs.
My 3 year old son was diagnosed with PDD/NOS when he was 2
years old by the East Bay Regional Center. His been getting
services through them for about a year now. He currently gets
in-home ABA, Speech and OT. He has made great progress and we
have him in a mainstream pre-school with an aide 2 days a week.
Here is my concern and I need advice....
Because he is turning 3 in December, the Regional Center can't
continue the services and we now have to go through the school
district. It's the San Ramon School District. We had our first
IEP meeting on Tuesday and we ran out of time. There was just
so many questions I had. We have to schedule another meeting. I
am very concerened because what they are recommending for my
son is Special-Ed classes, the CEIA Center and their services
through the district.
Has anyone gone through these services?
How was your expereience?
and what would you recommend?
Has anyone had to fight with the school to keep the services
I would love to talk to someone who has gone through this
because I'm on information overload and have so much
information and not sure what to do. I just know that
the ''appropiate'' services for my son should be what he is
getting now. I know my son the best.
Any advice or input would be greatly apprciated.
The CEIA Center seems to be a pretty good program. The lead behaviorist is new
(which is a nice/good change from last year) and I think she has a great feel for
kids and the program. Have you had the chance to visit the program? San Ramon
a good District but you need to be on top of things. The District has been
impacted by the growth and development in the community and therefore are short
staffed. It is my understanding that the District is short staffed on Speech and
and that they have been contracting out and using the family's current therapist
through Regional Center so that the kids are not without services. As for the
Day Class or CEIA center...not sure what they are recommending for your child so
can not really comment. The only time a District will consider paying for
services is when they have no place to put the child due to overcrowded
and that is also only short term until they open up new classrooms, etc.
The biggest shock/adjustments families have to make when transitioning out of
Regional Center Early Intervention Services is the change in services. Some
supplement the District services by paying privately for other services. If you
someone from your ABA program that can attend your IEP that would be great or if
you have an advocate. You can call DREDF or CASE or your Regional Center Case
Manager for advocate information. anolther thing you should get is the book, ''A
parents guide to an IEP.'' You can get it through Nolo Press in Berkeley.
I belong to a few yahoo groups who seem to have many parents in the San Ramon
district and they overall do not seem happy with the district. What you are being
offered sounds very similar to what my 3 year old has in the Mt. Diablo school
district and it is really working well for him. He has improved dramatically. He
scheduled so much of the day that I really don't want additional services. But,
all know with autism, every kid is different and individualized programs are what
they need. But we also live in a time when school districts have very little
funding...from our pathetic state education funding AND the federal funding. I am
going with the services offered for this reason, and staying on top of things and
vigilant to make sure they are what he needs. I also know as a mom to two kids on
the spectrum who works closely with both children every day that my time is
precious, and I don't want to waste my time with them in battle with the school
district and with lawyers, as long as I see the kind of progress I am seeing. I
happen with a lot of autism parents. So...good luck getting what your child
wish you the best.
parent of two ASD kids
Hi Nilesh! My son gets in-home ABA, is enrolled in a full
inclusion preschool class with a full time 1:1 aide, and it's all
paid for by the school district. I'm happy to talk to you about
my experiences, please feel free to contact me directly.
A really good book that addresses these issues is '' Autism
Spectrum Disorders'', by Chantal Sisile-Kira. She has an
information packed chapter on how to deal with the system, what
your rights are and how to get the best education for your
child. If you don't have the book, go get it. It's published by
My son, diagnosed with PDD-NOS, will be three at the end of this
month. He's been in an Early Intervention program (Small Voices)
for most of the last year, and now we're ''transitioning'' him into
the Berkeley USD (as I write this, he hasn't yet had his IEP).
I'm confused by our options, I'm concerned about doing the right
thing, I need somebody to talk to! Are there any parents out
there who have been where I am and can talk to me?
I don't know what kind of preschool programs are available at
BUSD, but I will tell you about the class my son attended when he
was 4. It was a preschool for the ''communicatively handicapped''
that Oakland has, and it contained kids with a variety of
diagnoses: PDD, autism, one or two children who had hearing loss
but did not rely exclusively on signing.
It was a very structured program, which helped these kids learn
and perform. The teacher we had there was wonderful and it really
helped get my son on the path to learning. He had a hard time
with staying on task etc. but did pretty well.
If you have a diagnosis for your child, you have presumably seen
a professional. Ask him/her what kind of preschool setting would
be best, and then ask the school (in advance of your IEP) for
permission to visit any preschools that might apply.
I'd also look in the archives here to see if any of the private
preschools seems appropriate. I'd also go visit Linda Beech
school in Piedmont to see the kind of program they run.
Looking at a lot of options and seeing what kind of kids are in
each setting, and whether they seem attentive and happy, will help.
If you would like general help on your IEP, there is a great
book: Lawrence Siegel's ''The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate
for Your Special Ed Child'' from Nolo Press. I used this to
prepare for my 1st IEP and have found it a great, great reference
You can also contact me directly if you want more suggestions,
but for school district navigation advice it's better to hear
from BUSD parents.
I checked on the website and there's no recent information on
good childcare/preschool programs for a child with special needs.
My son has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and we
are hoping to find a preschool that can accomodate both he and
his twin (normal functioning) sister. He's pretty mild, but his
current preschool gives me the impression that he is still much
more work than they are used to. Any recommendations would be
greatly appreciated. I have heard of a good school out in
Danville, but since we live and work in El Cerrito it's just not
feasable to do such a commute daily.
Daisy Child Development Center (Oakland)
Oak Hill School (Marin)
There is a preschool attached to Castro Elementary School on Donal St. in El
Cerrito that may be just what you are looking for. The preschool does ''reverse
mainstreaming,'' meaning most of the children have special needs but the
group includes non-special needs kids as well. The teachers I met there last
year were incredibly warm and loving had wonderful relationships with all of
the children. You can probably reach them through the West Contra
Costa County Unified School District.
Courtney Zeleski is a great resource for parents of special
needs children, especially those with autism. She does
wonderful one-on-one work, and knows a great deal about what
resources are available. Her phone numbers are (510) 326-9062
and (510) 531-4197. You can also reach her by email at
wocnebi AT yahoo.com.
Paul ''The Tutor'' Osborne
Our (almost) three year old was just diagnosed with autistic
spectrum disorder. She is very verbal and the diagnosis may be
changed to Asperger's as she grows older. Our IEP is coming up
soon and we are looking into various preschool options.
We are uncertain as to whether she would be best suited in a 5
day per week special day class or in some combination
of ''typical'' community preschool combined with special services
for spectrum disorder. Our child is very high functioning and
we're not sure she'd be best served in a school district day
classroom that also serves children with more severe
disabilities. In addition, we are investigating various
schools and services for preschoolers on the spectrum.
Recommendations from parents who have been through this would
be much appreciated.
You didn't say which school district you were in, but if its
Oakland, you should look into one of the classrooms at
School. This is a small special education public school for
preschool/kindergarten, and has classes for a variety of non-
severely handicapped disorders such as Asperger's, autism,
language, deaf/hard of hearing and more. (My son attends there
in one of the communicative handicapped kindergarten classes.)
If you happen to be in the Piedmont School District, the
Asperger's expert teacher who used to teach at Tilden is now
teaching at a school there. Her name is Patti Stevenson.
you are in neither of these districts and your district is not
offering an appropriate placement, you could perhaps get an
inter-district transfer. Under the law you are entitiled to
a ''free and APPROPRIATE education'' for your child. If the
classroom being offered to you has a mixture of children with
disabilities ranging from mild to severe, that is not an
appropriate placement for your child. If you need any further
information, I would be happy to direct you to some parents who
could better answer your questions.
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 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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