Moving? Top Questions to Ask Schools when Your Child Has Autism

 

Interviewing Schools, Child on the Autism Spectrum, Questions to Ask

Can YOU interview Elementary, Middle, and High Schools???  

Absolutely.  

Whenever you change schools, it could possibly wreak havoc on your child. Especially if they are on the Autism Spectrum.  Change is difficult for typical people, so you can imagine how it can send kids with Autism over the edge. When we moved it took a good 8 months to get our son “back.”

Let’s make it easier for our kiddos in our new homes and schools.

So, what do you ask potential schools?  How do you know what to ask???

I went to the experts in the field.  The Parents.  Questions they have either asked or wished they had asked when they moved.  These parents are beyond awesome, they are my go-to moms and dads.

Top Questions to Ask Schools When You have a Child on the Autism Spectrum…

General Questions 

  • What activities do you offer kids on the Autism Spectrum?  If my child is placed in a self-contained setting, will they still receive all the specials, such as music, art, library, PE?

  • What programs do you have in place for kids on the Autism Spectrum? Sensory Rooms? Play-based Lego therapy?

  • How many students have one-to-one aides?

  • How hard is it going to be to get my son’s IEP implemented with an one-to-one aide?

  • What is the procedure for me to observe my child in her school setting?

  • Do you have certified nurse at school? (When my son had seizures a certified nurse needed to be at the public school.)

  • What type of alternative assessments do you have in place for state testing? What is the process?

Mainstreaming Questions

  • Is it important to the district to mainstream kids in their HOME school? (It’s not true mainstreaming, if all of the kids with a certain disability attend inclusion classes, but only in certain schools within the district.  It is also not true mainstreaming if all the kids with special needs are placed in one class, per grade level, with a handful of neuro-typical kids.)

  • How many mainstreamed kids on the spectrum have a one-to-one paras working with them most or all of the day?

  • What is the teacher ratio for special needs students in inclusion as well as self contained rooms? (The standard rule is 30%)

  • What kind of community based instruction do you have in place?

  • Is there an aide on the bus for my son during his transportation?

Speech, Occupational, Physical Therapy Questions (Supplemental Services)

  • How many kids are typically in speech therapy sessions at a time? (The “small group” ST is often compsed of 6 or more kids.)

  • Do they have therapists on staff (in the school), or are they contracted? (It makes a difference in continuity of services. My son’s OT & ST changes about 3 or 4 times every year. Very frustrating.)

  • How many schools do the Speech Therapist and Occupational Therapist serve? (Most have several schools!!)

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA Therapy), Bullying Prevention, and Behavioral Training 

  • Please give me examples on how you train your staff on ABA?  How is it implemented?  How often is the staff trained?  (It is important that the teachers and paras have a good understanding of common ABA principles. Also, that they are receiving ongoing training in ABA- based classroom strategies, and that the SPEd Dept. is encouraged or required to attend professional development in this area. Surprisingly they were doing this in Portsmouth. With young children on the spectrum, it’s pretty indispensable for teachers who work with kids who have autism to understand and use ABA techniques. Also it is important for teachers of older kids with communication and behavioral challenges. I knew they weren’t going to provide one-to-one ABA therapy; but it was important to me that they understood the way that things worked in our home and in my son’s private therapy, outside of school.)

  • How do you train the staff (ALL THE STAFF) regarding kids with special needs being bullied? What are the signs of a child on the spectrum being bullied?

  • Tell me about Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (State-wide initiative). How are you implementing PBIS?

  • How do you support students with social and emotional needs?  Do you have a Behavioral Intervention Specialist?  How do you implement a Behavioral Intervention Plan?

  • How do you handle Sensory Issues?   What preventative measures do you have in place? Sensory Room?  Sensory Box?  Weighted Blankets?

  • Is your staff trained to use augmentative communication devices and picture exchange systems, especially speech personnel? iPads?

In Home Coordination

  • Please give me examples of how your staff coordinates with home behavioral therapists and examples of parental support in the classrooms. (Make sure you ask it in an open ended manner so they have to really tell you what they do, not just give you a generic “yes” as an answer. There are huge issues here in Richmond. It was like prying teeth trying to get the schools to allow observations of my son. The General Ed population has room mothers,  PTA and parents are always welcome in the classroom.  Not so for a self- contained Autism program.)

Some of these questions might be hard to ask, even a little intimidating.  But, I spoke to a Special Education Department Chair and she said she could answer all of these questions without a problem.  Just pick the ones that are relevant to you and your child.

Need support now? Join Spectrum Parents – an online local group that I started a couple years back.  It has grown to over 350 parents with kids on the Autism Spectrum.  They are my go-to moms and dads.

Related Must Reads:

IEP Help: Moving with a child on the Autism Spectrum
I’m done! I can’t take anymore! – Says the 3rd grader with Autism
Autism & Asperger Events in Virginia Beach & Beyond
Switching Gears and The Daily Behavior Sheet
Don’t Give Me a Deadline Unless You Mean It