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AnotherOne
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05 Dec 2009, 3:05 pm

my son will start K0 next year and we always thought he iwll go to public school since we choose a house based on a school district. anyway now we are reconsidering. crowds definetely confuse my son and he would space out more. i am not concerned about his learning, and would prefer less than more education however the artsy-fancy schools would be out since painting and "projects" are also work for my son. the main pros that i have for private schools are that our wishes are gonna be respected and smaller number of students (am i right on that one?). is montessory a good school for us or something else?
i am interested in experiences and would greatly appreciate any thoughts since we don't know that much about education here in us.



Climber
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05 Dec 2009, 4:29 pm

For our AS son, public school was a horrid, inexcusable exercise in cruelty. Bullying was allowed, in that really nothing was done to stop it. By the sixth grade, our son was suicidal.

He spent two years in private school, and a few months in a charter school. Bullying at these two schools was almost non-existent. They simply didn't put up with it.

The level of education was best at the charter school, but the private school vs public school were pretty head-to-head academically.

I must point out, however, that the bullying in public school was so bad that it took years to remedy well enough that my son could manage in any school again.



jat
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05 Dec 2009, 4:54 pm

AnotherOne,

The questions and concerns you raise are important ones, but there really aren't blanket answers. Each public school system is different, and each private school is different. Even each Montessori school is different - some are much more "true" to the Montessori ideals, and others are more ... relaxed. You need to check out the specific schools you are dealing with.

Some people have found "Montessori" schools that worked well for their children, but true Montessori schools tend not to have adequate structure and predictability for many ASD kids. Some private schools are very respectful of parent wishes and input, while others are not accommodating of students who aren't strictly the "type" of student they "expect." Since public schools are obligated to accommodate and provide for all students, for SOME kids, they are the best choice, but it depends on the school district. If the district is one where they are careful to make sure that bullying policies are enforced and not ignored, it's more of an option than one where bullying is routine and ignored. Also, even though public schools are all supposed to provide necessary services, some are better than others at doing so. If there is a good itinerant autism specialist who would work with your child, that could be an enormous benefit. That specialist may also do programs with the general school population, which would be a benefit to your child. If the district has good supports for the students and staff, it can make a world of difference.

You can't really tell much of anything about a school from the description in a brochure or on a website. You will have to visit each school you are considering, including the public school. Ask all your questions, including how they deal with bullying, what size the classes are, the student:teacher ratios in the classroom, and the structures they utilize to minimize any sense of confusion or chaos. I've seen schools with small student bodies that seem much more chaotic than schools with much larger student bodies. It depends on the school's methods for dealing with large groups of students.

It would also be a good idea to try to talk to other parents, to get an idea from them about their experiences, good and bad.



DW_a_mom
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06 Dec 2009, 12:39 am

This is going to vary highly by area and school. One thing I will say is that you can't count on a private school being more responsive; often, the opposite is true. I've heard great things about Waldorf for AS kids, but you may not have that option. My son has been in pulbic school to date, and his elementary school experience was fantastic. Middle school has been much more disappointing, but the teachers alwasy listen and try to be responsive, its just that options have goten more limited. As far as class size, that depends, as well. In our district, the public school class sizes are limited by teacher contract. Some private schools have smaller classes, but many have larger.

I suggest visiting all the schools that you feel are viable options and listen to your instincts. Question every little detail and make sure you are using the same terminology, so that you have as accurate a picture as possible before making your decision.


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Mom to an amazing AS son, who recently graduated from the university (plus an also amazing non-AS daughter). Most likely part of the "Broader Autism Phenotype" (some traits).


emc2
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06 Dec 2009, 12:50 am

The local Asperger group has produced a booklet here in Queensland, titled something like Which School? to help parents choose a school suitable for their child.



AnotherOne
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07 Dec 2009, 12:25 pm

Thank you all for your advices. I am ware that I would need to check the schools myself but just wanted to know people's experiences.
Climber's experience is disturbing. I feel so bad for the your son Climber, it is so bad and unnecessary to start schooling experience with the worst examples of human behavior.

DW, I'll check for Waldorf schools. I briefly looked a while ago but at that time I was against "special" schools.

jat: thanks for the detailed answer. I thought things should be simple for us since we are not so specific and strict about our son's education however it seems that even that is not so easy.

emc2: that is a good idea. thanks.



0_equals_true
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07 Dec 2009, 1:09 pm

Pick the school based on its merits. Private schools can be just as bad. I know the ones I went to were.



PenguinMom
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07 Dec 2009, 1:43 pm

The one thing I found to be most helpful, was to write out a list of all my child's strengths, weaknesses, and areas of particular parental concern. I then took the list from school to school until I found a school that was a good fit. Good Luck



MommyJones
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08 Dec 2009, 12:58 pm

You need to explore all of your options and see what school will fit your child best. Personally, I'm not a big fan of public school, especially with kids like mine who are high functioning and very smart, but also have learning and social issues in certain areas. He will never go to public school, it's not worth it. Also, I am terrified of bullying because I was bullied as a child, and I know that my son couldn't cope well, and it would really damage him. For me, I have him in a private school, very small, for kids with learning differences and it's the best thing that ever happened to him. He is a very well educated, happy child and I know he wouldn't be if he were in public school. I also have him in social skills class and speech, and he is active with boy scouts and sports so he gets the practice with social skills without the therapist, but in a smaller, more controlled environment. Some spectrum kids do very well in public school. It just depends on the child, and the schools willingness to work with your childs challenges.



Irishlass99
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08 Dec 2009, 8:38 pm

I thought for sure private Catholic school would be the best fit for my son (HFA). He was there from pre-K to 3rd grade. But it was horrible. The kids picked on him and the teachers weren't much better. Hubby and I pulled him out just before Christmas in 3rd grade and put him in a public school. Now he's in the gifted program, loves coming to school (shows pride in his school, which he never did before) and is accepted for who he is. Not for the monthly tuition payment he provided for the school.

I wish we had moved him sooner.



laura123
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08 Dec 2009, 10:35 pm

Our kids go to a small private school and are happy there. The school has a very strict anti-bulling policy. Our older NT-ish daughter went to a public school for 2 years and was bullied, at the end of the second year she would complain of headaches every morning except in weekend and would winge and cry in the hope that she can stay home. It was a nightmare, I already had a younger very difficult aspie daughter at home, and mornings were terrible. As soon as she started in this private school everything changed. She was given a buddy to look after her and to introduce her to the kids, she became very good friends with a girl in the first week, this girl is still her best friend today (she's year 9 now). Never had headaches in the morning since. Our younger aspie daughter is year 3 now and is doing very well. She gets the support and protection she needs. Both girls are very academic and love their little school. There is no way my yougher daughter would cope in public school.



genedig65
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04 Jan 2010, 3:01 pm

My own personal experience is as follows:

I have two sons, one NT and one AS.
My NT /Private Experience
My NT son has been in prviate school since 1st grade. Intially he attended a very small Lutheran school connected to our church. That was a very positve experience. However this school did not go past 5th grade so we enrolled him in our local Catholic K-8 school. Not a good experience. It was just as large as our local public school, our NT son was bullied while there. I think they really just wanted your money. He is now enrolled in a private co-ed Lutheran high school where he is doing well. It is small and lacks much of the flashiness of a large public or private high school. This is both an advantage and a drawback. On one hand since it is small, the children all know one another. Bullying is not tolerated. On the other hand, unless your child likes sports, there is little in the way of afterschool clubs or activities. I think our local private schools would not be a very good fit for someone with AS if that student needs special accomodations or therapies like OT, Speech or writing instructors. They just don't have the resources.

My AS Public School Experience
My AS son was officially diagnosed when he was 4. However, prior to that, our pediatrician suspected he might be AS and recommended we place him in a special program for kids under 3 that have speech/learning issues. This was run by our public school system. He met with an instructor twice a week to develop language and motor skills. It was one of the best things that ever happened to my son, it opened him up.

He then attended our local elementary school. His problems there did not stem from the students but rather the instructors. Pre-K and kindergarten went well, but 1st grade was a nightmare. His teacher was simply unwilling to make any accomodations for him despite what was outlined in his IEP. It finally took the intercession of the county's autism education co-ordinator to get her to bend ( slightly). Second grade throught 5th grade went better as the teachers were much more willing to accomodate my son.

Since the 6th grade, my son has been in a special class designed specifically for kids with AS. Sixth grade wnet really well. He exceeded all expectations, he enjoyed going to school for the first time. However, in 7th grade he has been bullied for the first time in his life. Sadly, it's by one of the AS kids in his class. We're currently having issues with school to resolve this.

Bottom line is: Determine your child's needs. Don't let anyone else decide what is best for your child.

Public route:
Examine your local public schools, ask questions. See if they have a specialist for autism in the school's administration. Get to know that person on a first name basis. Often the local chapter of the Autism Society will have that kind of information. Ask some of the local parents of AS kids about their school experience. Be pushy, yet polite. Do your homework before making demands. If you come to the school sounding like some kind of unwashed neanderthal, the school will immediately be uncommunicative and hostile.

Private route:
Look carefully at the grounds. Make some visits, but do not go on "Open House" weeks. This window dressing time for them. Understand that most private schools are connected with some kind of religion. Most in our area are Christian in nature. Ask the school what kind of programs they have for AS kids. Understand that they may not have any in place. They will have firm discipline policies, but may be untolerant of Aspie type behaviors. Depending on the school, class sizes might be small or large. Private high school is very expensive. Our NT son's school costs us about 9k per year. Other private HS in our area charge more... a lot more.



natesmom
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06 Jan 2010, 1:08 am

Montessori - really unstructured. It is individual and kid centered but the lack of structure may not be beneficial especially for children on the spectrum. With that said, I don't have any personal experience with it. I have read that some Montessori teachers do a wonderful job at assisting with the learning process and providing a lot of manipulatives and visuals. It depends on the teacher and school I would be concerned, however, that a child would get so use to doing what s/he wants that when you go out into the work world, it would be more difficult to adapt. That is based on the little information that I do know about Montessori. I did strongly consider it for my child at one point. I guess it depends on the child and experiences.

Private school: My son was in kindergarten last year at a private school. We put him there because it is smaller, Christian and because we figured there was a chance that he would redo kindergarten at a public school because he had just turned five years old. He struggled so much there due to a variety of reasons. The teachers really didn't know how to work with him. They tried. They didn't have enough "tools" in their "tool box" so to speak due to experiences and knowledge level. The school did have a small special ed department and they were great but the teacher still lacked the essential "tools". He still struggled with sensory issues as well, especially in music. We just had a unique horrible experience in other ways but our experiences could happen in public or private.

While at that school, my son kept saying how much he wanted to be in a "normal" school with buses and all of that. If he would have had a different teacher, perhaps the experience would have been better, again it really depends on the teacher. The BIGGEST social aspect is that since it was smaller, it didn't have a lot of choices for playmates. He didn't click with anyone at recess so he played alone. Most of the kids, even kindergarteners, were playing sports or were doing something else that he wasn't into. He got a little depressed and EXTREMELY anxious - stuttered a lot. I wrote about our experiences on this site. You will just have to go back a year. My son was picked on at the private school. I actually saw it when I came into after school care. They were pretty mean. I had to hold back the tears.

Public School: We decided to go ahead and enroll him at a local public school that I work in (two days a week).We did kindergarten again because of maturity and increased anxiety if he were to go into first grade. He "help to decide" and wanted kindergarten again. If he didn't want to do kindergarten again, we would have chosen first grade (research related). Academics were never an issue.

HE IS DOING GREAT! There are three kindergarten classes, two half day and one full day tuition. He is in the full day tuition. Each class has about 25 students. I was very nervous about that at first. The teacher is extremely good at classroom management, can relate and adapt instruction for all kids and still can meet his needs. He has found a few friends in that class and at recess that he connects with. There are more students so more opportunities to find others with similar likes and interests. He has a best friend who is a girl who wears lego shirts and camo underneath. She plays just like him, talks like him-.I just met her mom and we feel they are twins LOL. I do think that situation is very unique. They have a few others they play with as well.[u] So, yes there are more opportunities of bullying in a bigger school only because there are more kids BUT more chances at finding one of two people that you may connect with. [/u]

I feel that as long as he stays in the same school with the same kids, it should be alright. They all get to know each other. He may have his difficulties but I have never been so happy in my life. He is happy everyday. Staff refer to him as the smiley kid. I work at that school as a school psych. I really don't interact with him much due to "boundary issues" but do see him from time to time. It is so wonderful to see how other kids interact with him!! If some other kids pick on him, he doesn't notice because he has some friends and is having a good time. I really hope this continues. It may not and we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Public schools are also usually good at placing kids with specific needs with teachers who are great and accommodate for that specific disability. For example, there are some teachers who work great with lower cognitive functioning kids but really can't work well with chidlren who have ADHD. At least at most of the schools I have worked at. They also are required to meet their needs. I know people have their "horrible" teacher stories but to me, that was poor matching with the school staff or perhaps just unforeseen circumstances.

In the first two weeks of school my son told me:
Mom, I love this school. I love my teacher. She is nice.
I really love the bus. It is fun
School is so easy, it's fun (second year in kindergarten LOL)
I have friends now, mom. I have a lot of friends!!
I have friends that I play with at recess. We play together.

I was also worried about he sensory issues in the cafeteria. I can't stand that cafeteria as my sensory issues or pretty bad. He did just fine. The prinicpal told me that he is one of the best eaters. My son? He hardly ate before.

My biggest advice is to meet with the staff at different schools. Request a meeting with a regular education teacher, special education teacher, principal, school psych (if available) and school counselor. Private schools may not have some of those but I am sure they can find some people. Don't just meet with the principal as you won't get a good feel. Look at how the school and classrooms are laid out. Ask about accommodations and really see how flexible they are in working with children who learn differently. Ask about experience level and knowledge (especially in the private schools). My sons private school did have experience with kids who are AS but those are just a few teachers. Don't get stuck in the trap of "they seem so flexible and nice" so that will be a perfect school. Really take note of the other things as well. As for the "firm on bullying" in private schools - really those kids are just better at not getting caught. I guess the upside is that kids who are really mean get kicked out whereas you can't kick them out of the public school setting.

As I read all of these experiences, everything can really happen in a public or private school setting. It just depends on the actual school, teachers and staff. I am reading how other private schools have accommodated such as providing a buddy (not picking on you PP) but the schools I work at do the same thing. Also, just because a child attends a private school does not ensure that he or she will make that one good friend or a few friends. Same thing goes for any setting - it depends on the kids, school, teachers - all of those factors.

To say a child wouldn't be happy in a public school or even a private school I feel is really black and white. Every situation and every school is different.

Oh -Waldorf: we checked that out and the kids were extremely advanced at least in the school we visited. It was extremely expensive. I found it to be a little too bare and almost too structured yet at the same time, the kids couldn't get over stimulated by a lot of various stuff on the walls. They could focus more on academics. That was only based on 20 minutes. I can say that they really didn't seem flexible for special needs kids. At the same time, I was completely impressed at how well those kids were doing academically. We couldn't afford it but I would still consider looking more into it. I am a fan of my son's public school not only because I work there but it is known for being great with kids who are special needs. There are some schools I wouldn't consider.


It is a very very difficult decision. If you narrow it down to one or two schools, take your child there and see how he feels. Have him meet the staff and see the school!



AnotherOne
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06 Jan 2010, 1:01 pm

thank you very much for your thoughts and experiences. it is very valuable.



lewdi28792
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09 Jan 2010, 6:46 pm

as an aspie who got ALL my education through the private schools because the public ones sucked crap - i would suggest either:

1) private school him

OR

2) thumb your nose at the local board of ed, pull him out, and home school him. that way, he will be able to learn at his own speed, not be bullied by idiotic classmates, and you will be able to help him out if he gets stuck (and the hugs are a very good incentive to perform and excell also :P)