Deciding on an Elementary School-very very long — The Bump
Special Needs

Deciding on an Elementary School-very very long

I'm in the wonderful position of having to choose between two good schools for Kindergarten (and hopefully beyond).

School 1

Our neighborhood school.  About a mile away.  Maybe 2 miles by car. I'm assuming busing is available too.  Kids in the neighborhood.  I don't know any of them yet because all of the few kids on my cul-de-sac go to the two charters in my area.  I was very impressed at the parent night.  Parent involvement was stressed and encouraged. The full day K teacher has a background as a SpEd teacher.   There's a lottery to determine full or half day so that teacher isn't guaranteed.  Both teachers didn't think it would be a problem to repeat Kindergarten (DS is a Sept Birthday-we're only sending him this year because we don't think a 3rd year of PK would benefit him). Class sizes are pretty big 27-31 but the full day class has an aid the whole day and the half day has an aid half the time.  One of the K teachers said it might be possible to have tuition waived for full day because of his IEP but I'm thinking it's a long shot.

School 2

A charter school with a fantastic reputation.  It almost 3 miles away and busing is not available.  It is known as very academic. During his full eval the testing showed below average cognitively however it was noted several times that it's not highly predictive at his age and may be an underestimation because of his passive nature etc.  In my gut I think he's pretty average and his reasoning skill have jumped in the last several months. Still it's a concern. 

Honestly, after the first charter indicated that they didn't want to deal with DS's needs I stopped researching the charters.  I figured it would be a long shot that he'd get in.  It's a sought after school and it's decided by lottery. 

They didn't want to see his IEP unless he got in.  I currently have a call into the SpEd teacher there.  They are thought of as more inclusive than the other charter. I know of friends of friends who have kids on the spectrum who are successful there. DS's SpEd teacher has successfully transitioned kids to this charter.  She said they are willing to modify the curriculum. I plan on emailing her ASAP since I won't see her until next Thurs. 

I have neighbor who sent all 4 of their kids there and I will be talking to them soon too.  Parent involvement is strong. It seems like a very close knit community and goes all the way through HS. 

DS got a spot in their Full Day program.  Not a deciding factor but Full day is also tuition based and will cost ~$550 more than the neighborhood for the year with I'm assuming no chance of getting the cost worked into the IEP. 

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Does any one know anything about Core Knowledge Curriculum?  I'm not finding anything on google about it and ASD.

DS will likely remain in mainstream classrooms with pull out support.  At our last IEP meeting it was mentioned that in a few years a 504 plan might be more appropriate.  I'm worried he'll lose his IEP when it's time to re-evaluate after next year.  I'm not sure if there's more of a risk of that happening at a charter.  I'm also a little nervous the support will be less just by nature of the different funding used for the SN Teams at charters.  My local Arc told me that charters can essentially show you the door if they don't want to meet your child`s needs.

Any other thoughts.  I'm leaning towards our neighborhood school.  DH is leaning toward the charter. DH will likely go along with what I decide because I'm more informed. I'm a little worried I would be passing on a great opportunity by turning down the charter. DS's SpEd teacher said if we go to a charter we can change our minds up at the end of a grading period or the end of the year and go back to our neighborhood school.  After that the Charter becomes our home school and we'd have to enter the lottery to get back in our neighborhood school.

Sorry this is disjointed I'm just gathering my thoughts.  The charter  called me today and wants and answer on Monday.

DS 09/2008

Re: Deciding on an Elementary School-very very long

  • I would go with the neighborhood school. They are more prepared to handle him and going to school with kids in the neighborhood is such a huge part of socialization.  We could open enroll DS into a better district because of DH's job.  Our district isn't bad though and I want him with kids that live around us.  Even going on the bus is social and important. He has made new friends that are not in his class even.  
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  • d.fd.f
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    Editing for format

    DS 09/2008

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  • d.fd.f
    Ninth Anniversary 250 Love Its 500 Comments Photogenic
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    Thank you so much for your response!! I really appreciate it.
    image -auntie-:
    image d.f:

    I'm in the wonderful position of having to choose between two good schools for Kindergarten (and hopefully beyond).

    Lucky you.

    Of course the downside of this is that you need to make the best choice possible for the next 13 years and you don't know everything you need to know to do that at this point in time. It's my experience that educational settings for kids on spectrum often need to be tweaked; the notion that you can pick an ideal school for a four year old that'll be an excellent fit in 4th, 7th or high school doesn't apply.

    It's best to embrace the idea that what fits best may change several times before you get his diploma signed. You'll likely be faced with sorting out his placement several times between now and 21.

    I get where you're coming from, I chose a small private school for DS so he could be in one school for 9 years and avoid middle school. God laughed. My son attended 3 schools by 4th grade and middle school turned out to have the teacher I credit with helping DS see himself as a capable student.

    The level of support he needs will likely shift over time. The idea that he may flourish with a section 504 in a few years is appealing but may be unrealistic. He could have learning differences (dysgraphia is almost universal amoung those with ASD) identified in 2nd, executive function deficits could dog him in 4th and beyond, he could develop a comorbid mood disorder, he could be identified as gifted.

    DS's level of support from preschool to college looks almost like a bell curve. In preschool and kindie he was unidentified and had no services at all. In first he got some simple accomodations and outside therapy. In 2nd-4th we sent him to a special reading lab school. He was at public school for the remainder of elementary in a mainstream class with a weekly pragmatics of speech pull out and resource for math/RELA. His middle school slotted him into small learning support classes taught by teachers who were dually certified in Sped and the subject- content was the same academic level as his peers but with organizational supports. These classes were tiny 2-12 kids in each. High school was mainstreamed and the only piece of his IEP left were the option to leave class if he needed to, a quiet place for tests if he wanted one and continuing education for his teachers. Now that he's in college, he's chosen to not register with disability services which are entirely optional anyway.

     

    Great points. I do lose sight of the fact that this might not remain the long term option and the approach is likely to be different over time. I need to let go of the feeling that if we make the wrong decision it's all down hill. I also need to recognize that while his progress has been rapid and and amazing, we will likely have times where it is not nearly as smooth. Between DH and I we have a family histories that include ASD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, and a few who are gifted. That's what we know. It seems like more and more keeps coming out. (It would have been really nice to know about those second cousins with ASD when we were going over family histories with the Dev Ped in April

     

    School 1

    Our neighborhood school.  About a mile away.  Maybe 2 miles by car. I'm assuming busing is available too.  Kids in the neighborhood.  I don't know any of them yet because all of the few kids on my cul-de-sac go to the two charters in my area.  I was very impressed at the parent night.  Parent involvement was stressed and encouraged. The full day K teacher has a background as a SpEd teacher.   There's a lottery to determine full or half day so that teacher isn't guaranteed.  Both teachers didn't think it would be a problem to repeat Kindergarten (DS is a Sept Birthday-we're only sending him this year because we don't think a 3rd year of PK would benefit him). Class sizes are pretty big 27-31 but the full day class has an aid the whole day and the half day has an aid half the time.  One of the K teachers said it might be possible to have tuition waived for full day because of his IEP but I'm thinking it's a long shot.

    Some random thoughts-

    One of the reasons I don't like charters before high school is that they destroy the sense of community where young kids do most of their activities with the same kids. Until middle school children are typically friends with classmates. It's great if those classmates live close and are playing on the same Little League team and cub den. For a kid whose less capable or comfortable socially this common experience can make a difference.

    When DS was in elementary school we always has a say in his teacher/class for the coming year. His IEP came up for renewal in June and both his current and future teacher attended as part of the CSE.

    If your son will be pulled out for special education services more than once a week, you should be able to make the argument than he should be a full day student to avoid missing too much instructional time. Half day where I live is a mere 2 1/2 hours- a kid who got speech 2 x and ot 1 x would miss a lot and could risk becoming a guest in the classroom.

     

    Under his current IEP he has about 90 minutes of integrated services (30 ST, 30 OT, 30 SpEd). That is a good point about pull out services. We will be pushing for Full day even if we have to pay. Half day here is 2 1/2 hours. Science and Social studies are not taught as separate subjects and specials are not taught at all.

     

    Some schools offer a hybrid placement for kindie Sped students- mornings in a mainstream class and afternoons in a self contained speech based classroom. You could also ask for his services to be delivered after dismissal from a morning class so that he only stays 30 minutes later on the days he sees his service providers. You could then collect him or have him delivered home via a van. Transportation is typically addressed in an IEP.

    I don't love the idea of repeating a grade. Adults on spectrum I know who have repeated, even for social maturity reasons, can be very bitter about the experience. Does your district have the option of a pre-first or developmental kindie where he could go if needed. My old district did this for kids who were at risk of doing poorly in first.

     

    I will definitely keep that in mind when we make the final decision about repeating K at the end of next year. I don't think we have pre-first or developmental kindie. The PK is 3-5 year olds grouped together using the same curriculum every year. It has been wonderful but I think a 3rd year will not be beneficial. His SpEd teacher says he's ready for full day K but brought up repeating as an option. His general ed teacher (after 1.5 school years with him I honestly think knows him better than anyone outside of DH and I-she really gets his motives and thought processes) thinks he's going to struggle in K and likes the idea of repeating. We have 3 options. 1) Keep him in PK. I'm worried he will start acting out. 2) Private inclusive PK but our savings will take a huge hit. 3) Kindergarten and maybe needing or choosing to repeat.

     

    School 2

    A charter school with a fantastic reputation.  It almost 3 miles away and busing is not available.  It is known as very academic. During his full eval the testing showed below average cognitively however it was noted several times that it's not highly predictive at his age and may be an underestimation because of his passive nature etc.  In my gut I think he's pretty average and his reasoning skill have jumped in the last several months. Still it's a concern. 

    A school's reputation is less important than how well they serve your child's needs. I live in a fabulous district; DS's high school routinely makes the lists for "Top High Schools in America". SATs are well above the state and national averages, they had 8 National Merit Semis and 26 Commendeds this year which is their worst performance in the last 6 years. But none of that reputation applies to/benefits my kid and it wouldn't benefit yours either.

    The other piece to look at when you have a child who is "average" is that the scores reported to you on his testing reflect a national average. If you live in a community where people are high achievers and value academics, your "average" kid could be more behind his peers than you would like. DS is a remediated dyslexic, when we bridged him to 4th- reading at grade level- he was still behind his classmates who were all several grades ahead. My school district is crazy competitive- the year DS was in 4th, the neighboring school scored 100% advanced on reading and math on the state's NCLB testing. Not a single kid was merely "proficient" or <gasp> at "basic" mastery.

    This would concern me. If your son isn't the sort of kid with autism who is reading and doing math at 4, I would hesitate. I know that IQ testing isn't entirely reliable at this age, but given the executive function and abstract reasoning deficits that dog most people of spectrum you could be setting him up to be the least successful kid in the class.

     

    More good points. I didn't even entertaining the idea of challenging the other charter school after they said they didn't think he would be successful. I didn't want him to be the only one who was different.

     

    Honestly, after the first charter indicated that they didn't want to deal with DS's needs I stopped researching the charters.  I figured it would be a long shot that he'd get in.  It's a sought after school and it's decided by lottery. 

    Many charters function more like private schools. They have some of the same positives and all of the same disadvantages. Charters are theoretically public, but they aren't funded equally. So much relies on parental support and fundraising. This can give parents more power around the level of inclusiveness at the school and the social level.

    They didn't want to see his IEP unless he got in.  I currently have a call into the SpEd teacher there.  They are thought of as more inclusive than the other charter. I know of friends of friends who have kids on the spectrum who are successful there. DS's SpEd teacher has successfully transitioned kids to this charter.  She said they are willing to modify the curriculum. I plan on emailing her ASAP since I won't see her until next Thurs. 

    I know a number of kids on spectrum who have been very successful in charter and magnet programs. They tend to be the sort of kids who would be successful academically anywhere. The four I know best are unusually bright and academically driven. They are all in different STEM charters. None of these kids get much in the way of IEP supports- two of them don't have IEPs, the others get additional time and are allowed assisted technology (keyboarding) for all their work. Two of the programs passively discourage IEP students by not having SLPs or OTs available. It sounds like this might not be the case where you are since they do have a sped teacher on staff.

    What do they mean when they say "modify" the curriculum? Do they mean your DS gets a reduced work load? Like he only has to complete half the math problems or do they mean differentiated where he gets Handwriting Without Tears while his classmates get D'Nealian?

     

    I'm not sure. It's what his SpEd Teacher told me after I said the other charter indicated they do not modify curriculum. I will ask her.

     

    I have neighbor who sent all 4 of their kids there and I will be talking to them soon too.  Parent involvement is strong. It seems like a very close knit community and goes all the way through HS. 

    These schools can be very warm and inclusive. A big piece to that will be how your son presents in the classroom. Charters and private schools often have a high level of volunteer classroom help. We're talking unskilled gossips who may tell tales to the other moms if your son seems odd, slow or is disruptive in class. Keep in mind that the sort of folks who choose this kind of class are often against inclusion because they feel it intereferes with their own child's right to attention and a calm classroom. DS was a wild child in kindie- he just didn't "get" the rules of the classroom and while he wasn't aggressive or "bad" he was disruptive in leaving the class without asking, getting up to wander around, etc. Warm, fuzzy and "Christian" as the parents there claimed to be, there were a number of times when he was the only kid not invited to birthday parties. And that hurts.

     

    My DS sounds a lot like your DS was in Kindie. He has made amazing progress and no longer leaves the classroom but we are in a bit of a small step back phase where he's no longer attending to circle time and other non-preferred activities as well as he was for a while. He also struggles with personal boundaries like sitting and talking to close. Hugging with out permission and he's loud. He's so cute and charming he gets away with quite a bit. People especially adults tend to like him. I know that as he gets older the behaviors will become less cute and less tolerated if we can't help him get a handle on what's appropriate as he gets older.

     

    DS got a spot in their Full Day program.  Not a deciding factor but Full day is also tuition based and will cost ~$550 more than the neighborhood for the year with I'm assuming no chance of getting the cost worked into the IEP. 

    One thing to consider is potential siblings. If this is a great school for NT kids, you may want to start there in order to get them in behind your DS. Most of the non-magnet charters here extend enrollment to siblings as spaces allow.

     

    They do offer sibling priority but we are almost positive we are in the one and done camp.

     

    ______________________________________________________

    Does any one know anything about Core Knowledge Curriculum?  I'm not finding anything on google about it and ASD.

    It's the current darling of the ed biz. A lot of the better indie schools use it. It's sort of the antithesis of Montessori. Instead of being child led; it's very rigid and even rigorous around core concepts that prepare a child with knowledge basis that should serve them well as they build on what they know as they transition through the grade levels. One nice thing is that they introduce areas where many kids with autism thrive like science and social studies early on. Many schools sort of ignore these concepts until the intermediate grades.

    DS will likely remain in mainstream classrooms with pull out support.  At our last IEP meeting it was mentioned that in a few years a 504 plan might be more appropriate.  I'm worried he'll lose his IEP when it's time to re-evaluate after next year. 

    They really can't say what your son's needs will be. He most likely to remain on spectrum and socially and emotionally delayed. The expectations will ramp up as he approaches 4th grade, both around academics, organizational skills and social interactions. Since autism brings a delays in social and emotional maturity that is about half his chronological age, he's going to have a bigger gap between himself and his peers in a few years than he does now.

    Make sure they do a Vineland at his re-evaluation. It'll bring his deficits in adaptive and communication skills to the fore.

     

    Thank you for the advice on the Vineland. My opinion is he has been so successful because of his IEP and support. They keep talking like I want him to lose his IEP when the last thing I want is for them to pull it.

     

    I'm not sure if there's more of a risk of that happening at a charter.  I'm also a little nervous the support will be less just by nature of the different funding used for the SN Teams at charters.  My local Arc told me that charters can essentially show you the door if they don't want to meet your child`s needs.

    Probably riskier at a charter. It's also possible they don't have the professionals your son should be seeing in the building. A lot of charters will have a SLP come in one morning a week to work with minor issues like articulation but if your son's IEP calls for 2 x a week, he's out. Or he needs OT for handwriting or sensory issues and they don't have one.

    Two of the boys I described previously have chosen not to even share their dx with their charter schools. The one got nothing in terms of therapy as a teen and the other sees a psychologist privately. Both of these boys are brilliant so many of their quirks are written off as genius behavior allowing them to fly below the radar. They both live in dsitricts with crappy schools, so the did private and then charter/magnet as the most workable solution.


    Any other thoughts.  I'm leaning towards our neighborhood school.  DH is leaning toward the charter. DH will likely go along with what I decide because I'm more informed. I'm a little worried I would be passing on a great opportunity by turning down the charter. DS's SpEd teacher said if we go to a charter we can change our minds up at the end of a grading period or the end of the year and go back to our neighborhood school.  After that the Charter becomes our home school and we'd have to enter the lottery to get back in our neighborhood school.

    Sorry this is disjointed I'm just gathering my thoughts.  The charter  called me today and wants and answer on Monday.

    Ugh. It's a really, really tough choice. Have you been able to observe in either place? Do any of the people you know locally have experience with a child like yours at the charter?

     

    I'm setting up observations at both schools, hopefully next week. I've met the neighborhood school teachers but I need to observe the class in action. I also need to observe him in PK again. It's been a while since I've consciously observed.

    I have a friend on my local nest board whose cousin is a member of the Board at the charter and has a child on the spectrum who attends. I need to see if I can talk or email her.

    If I enroll him at the charter on Monday and send him to the neighborhood the worst that will happen is losing a deposit.  It's not ideal but no the end of the world either.

    Thank you again. You have given me a lot to think about that I wouldn't have otherwise!

    Sorry for the poor formatting.

    DS 09/2008

  • I'm going to email you. Depending on which charter it is, I might be able to offer the impression our school SLP gave me. 
    image

    DD1, 1/5/2008 ~~~ DD2, 3/17/2010
  • d.fd.f
    Ninth Anniversary 250 Love Its 500 Comments Photogenic
    member
    auntie thank you again. ADHD is definitely pretty high on our radar. I have 3 brothers and a sister ,well we all have different dad's which only matters when talking about family histories. My youngest bro has an ADHD diagnosis and my sis and older bro have suspected they have it too. The Dev Pedi initially suspected ADHD before ASD but the child psych said she didn't see it as much but we need to watch.

    K it's the one that begins with a J.

    DS 09/2008

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