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I may have to move to Iowa. I have a 9 yo son with Aspergers and where I move within Iowa is completely dependent on which school district works the best with kids with Aspergers/High Functioning Autism.
I already have a wonderful IEP in place that would have to be followed legally. But schools can still make things extremely difficult. I am looking for a district that will not only follow the IEP but be warm and welcoming to my son.
Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
I'm a high school teacher and just this past year I had an Asperger student in my class. It was a very interesting experience because it was an AP class. Academically this kid did extremely well--one of the best in the class by far-- and even though its a large school his counselor was very supportive of him and was very familiar with the quirks of his personality and communicated regularly with his parents.
Although socially he was/is pretty isolated, which has just as much to do with his personality as with the response of others. Plus, unless he is consciously making polite conversation with someone, he typically is very insulated and oblivious to the people around him because he thinks constantly about one thing or another and doesn't have time for irrelevant distractions of others. He would occasionally exhibit some very bizarre behavior in class and at first students would privately laugh and make comments to each other about him. Although eventually he got used to the new situation and the class got used to his occasional outbursts, and eventually they had a lot of respect for his abilities because he was so incredibly talented in the class. But beyond respect and tolerance, they didn't really ever accept him.
However I have also taught at smaller schools and I have to say that if this kid was in a smaller school he would have been eaten alive and wouldn't have had the opportunity to be challenged in a higher level class with other kids who are pretty smart. Bigger schools offer a bit more anonymity and unlike small schools, there is not such intense pressure/oppression from a group of "cool kids" who dominate everyone else. When you reach the high school age, any setting will be extremely challenging and there will be kids who will be rude. But with the one experience I had, I can say that in his case he grew and adapted tremendously in the year that I had him and he'll probably go on and end up making 10X more than I do.
So anyway, I would recommend a big district that has a big high school (or schools). They will have more resources and they will probably be more prepared to accommodate your kid's IEP, plus there are the social benefits of a more diverse and socially decentralized student population as well as more opportunities for specialized classes or perhaps even advanced classes. But Asperger's syndrome is relatively rare so its hard to rank what district would be best. In fact, the kid I had in class never even needed or wanted any IEP accommodations. At that point his struggles were mostly social and behavioral. So depending on the unique characteristics of your child, be sure to look beyond elementary and middle school challenges because what he or she will need may change dramatically over time.
As a parent with a DAUGHTER that is an Aspie, I think that Iowa city has one of the best programs and Special Ed., departments. He's young and the Elem. school that you get him in makes a difference. I recommend Mann Elem. The resource theacher has doen wonders with my daughter. she went to a private school for K and was about 5 months behind when entering 1st grade. This school helped her get to the level that was required. she did 1 and 1/2 years worth of work in 1 school year and she has only improved. Also Iowa city is with in a 30 min. drive of probaly the best Behavioral Pediatrician in the NATION.
Larger school have better resources and to be honest teacher. Most if not all of Iowa City Comm Sch. Dist. teacher have or are working on a Master's Degree. Many have Ph.D's and Ed.D.
Roy... Aspies are normally extremely intelligent. Social issues are the downfall, which makes school quite literally hell for them. This is why I will only move to where my child will be treated wonderfully. The thing with big schools is they tend to have big classes. Aspies do much better with a very low child to teacher ratio. For example no more than 20 children in the class.
Neaner... thanks for the info. I will check out Iowa City. I assume that is the county that Mann Elem is in. Glad to hear your daughter is doing so well!
I wouldn't pretend to know what its like to raise your son and plan for future opportunities and struggles. But from a teachers perspective (and one who has been in many many schools in Iowa) I see a very realistic side of things. As far as social interactions with other students, you are not going to find a school system where your son is always treated wonderfully. Hell, no one anywhere is always treated wonderfully, not even most of the time. Middle school and high school is socially miserable for a lot of people. Kids are egocentric and very often do things to benefit their own social advancement at the cost of others. Its horrible and happens everywhere: public, private, Christian, secular, small, big. That being said, some schools are more pleasant than others--and a lot of the experience seems to depend on whether the parents, counselors, and teachers are kind and supportive and whether the kid has been taught how to be kind and positive toward others even when they don't feel wonderful.
When you move up to middle school and high school you will seldom see a decent Public or private school that has very many classes less than 25 (typically 25-30 is normal). Although I understand why smaller would be beneficial. With my experience the class was about 20 (due to its period in the schedule) and he was very high maintenance (which I was okay with). Although in a bigger class he would have been frustrated easier because he would not have gotten as much 1 on 1 reassurance. However, in Iowa the public schools that have extremely small average class sizes are often very small and in rural areas and that would be an extremely hellish social atmosphere (I've been there, trust me). So watch out for that.
I understand that... I've been through it myself lol.
I am talking about the school system, not the students. Although I would expect the school to have a zero tolerance policy in affect for bullying.
When I talk about my son being treated wonderfully, I am referring to the school staff, the county autism service group, etc. If the school system isn't accepting of children with Autism (and that happens to a lot of families), then I won't be enrolling my son there.
The Davenport Community School district has the state model for programming for students with autism. They run an AVBA based program that is entirely focused on communication, behavior, and socialization. All the students in the districted that have autism are housed there. They have great young teachers that have been working there for years and have been trained by the best (staff from Vincent Carbone). Many miracles can been seen there. Check it out if you can. All I hear is wonderful things about their program.
Davenport? Well that might be just about perfect. No, I still haven't moved hehe. Looks like now I am going to try to wait until 7th grade. That way all the kids will be "new" since 7th grade means a new school anyway. I will revisit this thread though, see how things change. Thanks again to everyone for their input.
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