Finding the right school environment can be a stressful process for parents of children with autism. Mothers and fathers on MyAutismTeam connect over their struggles, including limited options in their region, piecing together the right in-school services, negotiating with school districts, and the costs of private schools.
Many parents find themselves in an advocate role they didn’t anticipate when navigating the labyrinth of individualized education programs (IEPs), in-school therapies, aides, and other school services. After hitting a brick wall, some parents hire professional advocates or lawyers. “We hired an advocate to get him into the classroom he’s is in right now - an expensive but well-worth-it decision,” one mom wrote.
Parents remind each other to know their children’s rights. After one woman’s nonverbal son was locked in a closet for aggressive behavior, another parent encouraged her to talk to her district about sending him to an out-of-district or private school. In the United States, schools may be obligated to send a student out of the school district or pay for private school if its services are deemed inadequate.
Even in communities with many public and private options for students with autism, it can be challenging for parents to determine which approach is the right fit for their child’s unique needs. One mom looking for alternative education options described one school as for “kids who are too verbal” and another “is designed for kids who have less expressive speech. Autism is so varied and different that finding a school for one individual kid is a challenge!”
Some families choose to homeschool after determining local schools aren’t a good fit for their children with autism. One parent shared, “After the local school district repeatedly failed (failed failed failed massively failed) to be of ANY use at all, we elected to homeschool.” Another parent commented, “homeschool has made it easier to get what our children need.”
While homeschooling is the right option for some on MyAutismTeam, it’s not without its challenges. “We homeschool her, but she hates school,” a parent of a teenager wrote. “She fights every minute when it comes time to study. We are so frustrated and feel like finding a school outside.”
Another homeschool parent empathized, “I'm homeschooling a teen also. I try to give him a lot of input into what he studies and how. This makes the battle a little easier.”
In other cases, families make the tough decision to move to a new city, state, or even country to find better services for children with autism. One frustrated parent wrote, “I’ve been fighting with the school for the last couple of years just to get adequate support for my son. Thinking about moving to another state. Can any parents share positive experiences with public schools?” Another member moved from Europe to Florida in search of better services for her child with autism.
While many parents on MyAutismTeam encounter hardships when finding the right school or school accommodations for their children, there are also success stories to celebrate. “[My son] now has his own aide at school. They realized the importance, and his teacher told me today that he will have a one-on-one aide at all times,” one mom shared alongside a gif of a victory dance.
Parents on MyAutismTeam are there for each other in hard times and share in each other’s achievements. “I am so happy for you and your son!” one member wrote in response to the news of a permanent school aide. Another cheered, “Great job Mom!!!”
On MyAutismTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with and caring for someone with autism, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles. Finding the right school setting is one of the most discussed topics.
Here are some question-and-answer threads about finding the right school:
Here are some conversations about finding the right school:
Can you relate? How did you make decisions about school for your child? Share your experiences in the comments below or on MyAutismTeam.