We live in middle Tennessee, south of Nashville. Our daughter is 4 years old, diagnosed with autism 2 years ago. She's been attending a great preschool and has fabulous therapists. We have been blessed, she has worked very hard and is doing very well. With that being said we have been looking for a private education for her. We have toured schools, made many phone calls, totaling almost 14 different places
We have been flat out told no to the options we thought she had. There is not a school… read more
I'm not sure there are any good answers. Moving away is a bad option - you'd probably lose your support network, job(s), etc. and that's a ton of stress. Going to the press almost certainly won't work.
The hard reality is that school tends to be a disaster for our kids - spend some time on this forum or any other and you'll see so many stories. And that's because the most common kind of school tends to be a bad fit. Public schools in particular: kids expected to develop together in lockstep, age-segregated classrooms, curriculum is all academics with minimal social, special education is usually sort of undertrained compared to a private BCBA or SLP or whatever, "zero tolerance" discipline policies, overworked teachers. A private school can be a bad fit, too, of course.
In public school, a diagnosis gives a way to advocate your way to some minor accommodations. But the school is still inappropriate. For private school, a diagnosis leads to discrimination - which is legal, unfortunately. Homeschooling is a popular option around here for quirky kids. If the plan is private school, getting a diagnosis can be a bad idea, that's the brutal reality.
We had a private school reject our son without even meeting him. And yes, they kept the application fee. I made the admissions director listen to me about autism awareness and discrimination for an hour, and I guess I felt better, but that's it. A couple other schools made clear we shouldn't even apply.
We were super depressed about this and on the verge of homeschooling when we found a school that was happy for our son to attend - instead of rejecting him without meeting him, they accepted him without meeting him. It's also a good fit. It started out as an "unschooling" (sudbury-type) school, sort of a homeschool coop, but over time they moved to something more structured. But they still have a lot of outdoor and social time, a lot of age-mixing, individualized teaching. The school is also small, around 60 kids, so every kid knows every kid.
I don't bring it up to make you feel bad... just to say MAYBE there's some hope that one school will be right... or maybe if you really have a lot of energy you could find a way to create your own school by starting in the homeschool coop model and growing it... kind of nuts I know.
Maybe it's possible to talk your way into some private school - maybe offering to send a shadow with your child as long as they feel it's necessary... ask how you can help them say yes... if you seem friendly enough someone might have some heart. Could you toss in some "she's going to be fine" letters from preschool teachers?
I know this sucks. When the one school rejected our son without meeting him, we were so unbelievably angry. And we are not angry people. But they could at least have met him.
For us, we've been headed to the move option. It's unlikely the local options are going to change a lot to benefit our daughter so it's simply makes sense to find a better situation. We don't have family here so it's much easier to make that decision and you need to find a place that is better and that takes research and even then we still can't be sure until we get there so it's a gamble.
I may be wrong but I don't want my kid to sit in a special ed class for 13 years and just accept whatever they will give us knowing that there are other options in other states. I can relate to the anger bit when our daughter was the sole ASD kid in the preschool and the school director was saying that Pre-K classes were free to all except our kid because she spent too much time in OT and ST to eligible in Georgia. My daughter is enrolled to go a kindergarten in a public school but I feel like we've been burned too many times in her short life so I'm willing to make some big changes. We simply can't afford expensive schools and therapies without some assistance and neither my wife nor I think homeschooling is good idea for us to live on single salary.
I wanted to make sure I mentioned there is a difference between a standard private school and a private school for autism. A standard private school is not going to be better than public most times, however a private autism school is far different and much better.
At my daughters school which is a private autism school it costs 360k a year for her to be there and the school district pays for it. I will say my daughter is more on the severe side and nonverbal. She is also in residential so that is why the cost is so high. The school does have a day program but that is more around the 120k a year range so it is still out of reach for you to pay yourself. Again the problem is for you to get the school district to pay for it you would have to prove your child needs it. This is the reason we have our HFA son in public school, because we can't prove it, and also the public school has been great for him. We did move five states to get our daughter in the school she is in.
My thought on moving away from family and support system is that you have to gauge how much your family is really helping you. It is great if you have family who supports and actually helps but if they don't do much in the way of helping then what are you actually loosing. In regards to jobs unless you have a great one, you can often find one somewhere else. I am not saying any of this is easy but you have to do what is best for your child.
Hi RHP...you mentioned the small school you found. Which one is this?
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