Interviewing a new School for our son with Autism

28 08 2008

I have scoured the Internet and can’t find a set of questions to ask or how to evaluate a good school for a child with Autism so, I’m putting one together.

We are considering a move. Not because we aren’t thrilled with the school J is in now but for a new job.  There are a couple of options and the school will be the deciding factor. So, how do we figure out which option has the best school? What do we ask? What do the school “report cards” really mean?

I’m beginning the process and hope to have a good set of questions together pretty soon — in the next couple of weeks– and will share the whole thing with you then. In the meantime this is what my mother in law who is a retired Elementary teacher and Principal had to say:

I called my friend, Barbara.  She was a supervisor for the Special Education programs in VCSC.  She is someone I trust to give me the correct information.  While she is retired now, she still works with SMWC student teachers in the schools.

These are some of the questions and suggestions she made:

  1. What kind of special education services are available?
  2. How are categorical labels identified in your schools systems and by your state?
  3. Do you have staff that can provide Speech, OT, and PT services that provide functional life skills and direction?
  4. Is Integrated Therapy done with speech in the classroom as a whole, or in a small group, or in a social group for learning pragmatic speaking skills?
  5. How is staff development done in accordance with IDEA?  Do other staff members understand autism and how to integrate such a student into the general education classroom?


Then she also suggested these:

  1. Push to have a multi-disciplinary psychological evaluation that includes speech and OT and or PT requirements.  Usually these are done every three years but you may also request one.  (My thinking is that he is due for a re-evaluation this year if the only one that has been done was in preschool.)
  2. Have a very clear take with you!!  For example it should say that Jay will write his spelling words on the computer maybe 3 times rather than 10.  Write in the IEP that he needs extra time to process information if that is a requirement, etc. Make sure the I.E.P. is very specific to meet his needs.  (I will re-read his IEP to see if I think it needs to be tweaked.)
  3. She said to go to this website: autism speaks   Barb wasn’t sure if it was .com or .net or .org but type that into your Goggle and it should come up.
  4. Barb also suggested a fiction book written by an English man who worked with autistic child who wanted to write a book.  She says it gives great insight into how an autistic person “sees” things.  It is by Mark Haddon and is called the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.  The title is written in lower case.
  5. Barb also quoted another autistic author as saying, “I can look you in the face or I can listen to your words but I cannot do both.”  Barb says that facial features are difficult for the autistic person to understand where they understand perfectly that a dog wagging its tail means it is happy or a bark may mean let me outside because facial expressions do not have to be interpreted. 

 (I started reading the curious incident of the dog in the nightime and couldn’t get through it… when the kid lands in jail and actually likes the quite, stark setting I walked away from it… My sister said it was great. It’s written by an autistic young man so it’s through the eyes of autism.)

If you have tips or questions that should be asked of educators or therapists in order to find the best please comment.  I need help! Thanks!