Would love your advice/insights/recommendations...
My DD (who has autism, among other things) will be transitioning to Kindergarten in the fall. This is a very exciting milestone, but also a nerve-wracking time as we try to figure out the best placement for her.
Option 1: self-contained autism classroom, grades K - 5, probably a big range of skills and abilities
Option 2: mainstream classroom, half day, with some support (exactly what: to be determined)
DD has significant language problems - while she does have some phrases & echolalia, she is still mostly non-verbal. We suspect that she understands far more than she lets on.
Her interest in others has increased, but is still quite low. She tolerates other kids being near her pretty well, but isn't quite to the point of actually playing with them. Eye contact is better, but not great. She doesn't give two hoots about social give and take.
She currently attends special ed preschool 4 mornings a week and is in a mainstream in-home daycare the rest of the time. For the most part, she does pretty well at daycare and can go along with what the group is doing, even if she is only doing the bare minimum (e.g., at circle time she will, for the most part, stay in the circle, but she doesn't sing or participate in the activities). She has occasional issues with being physically pushy/aggressive with younger kids at daycare, but this has calmed down significantly. So we know that with support, she can hang with NT kids, and we believe that the peer modeling of NT kids is helpful for her.
As of now, she is still 100% tubefed and NOT toilet trained. Miracles could happen and she might be *much* further along by fall... she is showing some readiness for eating and potty training...
She is also fairly smart and interested in learning (though her preferred learning style is via computer/iPod, and she needs 10000 times more repetitions than other kids, and she has a processing delay). She knows her ABC's, numbers to 25, can rearrange letters to spell her name, her brother's name, Mom, Dad, and names from daycare. She can - when *she* wants to - repeat verbatim the words on each page of a few cherished board books. She has, after watching her brother do it, learned to play a lot of games on PBSkids.org. Her daycare teacher has been working on getting her to write a straight line for months... and today, she just grabbed the marker and wrote her NAME. We haven't seen her write any letters before, but suddenly she just could do it. So I feel like there is a lot of academic potential that is just locked behind a wall of language/communication difficulties.
I feel like a mainstream classroom would be good for her because of the cognitive/academic and peer modeling benefits, but I also have a hard time imagining her getting much out of it if the class moves at too fast a pace for her learning style. I do worry that the self-contained autism classroom might not provide as much academic benefit, and others have cautioned me about the risk of her picking up problematic behaviors from the other kids in the autism classroom (there aren't any other kids with autism in her special ed preschool class). I don't know if this is a realistic concern or not.
I would sure appreciate some advice from you parents that have been there/done that!