Deciding between self-contained autism classroom vs. mainstream half-day Kindergarten with support - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 04-02-2012, 07:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi All,

 

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!


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#2 of 11 Old 04-02-2012, 08:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by isisreturning View Post

 

 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.

 

 

 

 

My first thought reading your post is to point out that you are only deciding which classroom to give the first try. It is a big deal to change classrooms (it does require an IEP meeting and those can have wait list) but it can be done. This isn't a commitment for all her school years.

 

Second, I don't think that picking up behaviors is a realistic concern for kids on the spectrum because for the most part, they don't model their peers. Really. If you took a NT child and put her in a room where everyone was hand flapping, they most likely would hand flap eventually. But kids with autism aren't wired the same way. It's a part of their problem that the don't pick up social cues. Overall that makes life harder for them, but their are a few perks of one's child not noticing or caring what their peers are doing. (there are certain concerns that most parents have in the teens years that those of kids with kids on the spectrum will NEVER have to worry about winky.gif)

 

Which leads to be guess that the people in your life who don't feel your child would benefit from being in a classroom designed to meet her specific needs and teach in ways that make sense to her don't know anything about autism. May be they are even people who are denial about the fact that she's on the spectrum.

 

My DD is 15 and on the spectrum.  We've done different things over the years for her education. She was mainstreamed for a while. In some ways she did OK, but she was completely miserable. She has intense sensory issues and found mainstream education to be a complete sensory overload. She cried all the time and had panic attacks.

 

One thing that is missing from your pro/con list is any guess of where your DD would be happier, where she would feel more at home. 

 

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#3 of 11 Old 04-02-2012, 09:20 PM
 
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If you don't take the special class placement, will you lose it?  Where I'm at, those programs can be hard to get into.  I've never heard anything but praise for the special classes and their educators, tho. 

 

I don't have an autistic kid, but several good friends do and they are always gushing about how the autism units are able to meet the kids needs and push them to learn.  They are able to teach at several levels, instead of being stuck with a ciriculum, and the dramatically reduced class size means they can meet the sensory and communication needs of all the kids.  In general, they are amazed at the academic achievement of their kids & how the teachers get so much out of them.  I haven't heard anyone say that their kids aren't challenged at school. 

 

IME, there is always a lot of talk about making adjustments and providing support, but how much of it actually gets done in the class is a bit of a crap shoot, unless you've got pretty close to full time OT or other support.  There is a lot of cueing in kindy classes (ie, when I flip the lights/ sing this song/ clap my hands, we all do xxx), and kids are generally expected to be able to follow along and be somewhat independent.  It can be chaotic and noisy, and would freak the autistic kids I know right out even with support.  Is there a chance she could try a visit at the school, to see if she can handle the sensory side of things?  I know that my NT but dyslexic dd has a hard time learning in a regular class, the noise and fast pace (well, fast for her anyways) are enough to have caused major anxiety issues.  Kids who are overwhelmed or panicked can't learn much. 

 

If I were in your shoes, I would be inclined to go with the special classes.  Even if I eventually wanted my child to integrate into the mainstream, it would be a smoother adjustment to go to a special unit & have them help her learn some school skills before adjusting to a big noisy class as well.  They might even be able to do partial integration with a class while she's at the special class, depending what the set up is like. 

 

I understand your apprehension, I just went through a similar struggle with whether to move my dd to a private LD school vs. staying in her current public school, and altho it seemed clear to many other people that she would do better somewhere else, it was a very hard decision for me.  Eventually I was able to realize what Linda said is right - this is not forever.  I can change my mind.  Public school isn't going anywhere.  It was still agonizing tho :)

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#4 of 11 Old 04-03-2012, 05:53 AM
 
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My son who has autism and seems to have some similarities to your daughter is not in K yet, so take this for what it's worth, but given what my NT daughter's K class is like this year, I'd be inclined to go with the autism classroom. Her class is fast paced, and a lot is expected of the kids. It's not like the K I remember. Lucky for her, my daughter can manage it quite well due to her temperament although I think it takes a lot out of her to keep it together all day. I know some of the kids in her class have a harder time. Of course I know things can change, but at this point I simply cannot imagine my son starting K in that type of classroom even with support.  

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#5 of 11 Old 04-03-2012, 06:11 AM
 
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My ds doesn't have those particular problems (ADHD, Aspergers), so I haven't been in your position, but I have had two children in regular K--and theirs have been a tiring, fast-paced, rugged experience.

 

Your dd seems to need more certain support than the vaguely defined "some." It may be easier to make sure her IEP is detailed for her academics in a SN classroom for K, than to make sure she is getting enough support in a regular K. Perhaps you should put in as a long term goal when you want her to be mainstreamed (i.e. First Grade) and that the academics in K need to prepare her for that.


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#6 of 11 Old 04-03-2012, 07:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone - all of your replies are so helpful. 

 

Next step is to visit the autism classroom and see what it's like (at least with this year's mix of students). I was all set for DD to be in that classroom and then a school district insider cautioned me to think very carefully about placing her in that classroom and that it might be more overstimulating for DD and less able to meet her academic needs - which surprised me and lead to the confusion you can read in my original post.

 

But yes, very good point that Kindergarten classrooms expect a whole lot out of little kiddos these days... something to think about...

 

And yes, very good advice to keep in mind that we are only having to pick what we're going to try first, and if that placement doesn't work, we'll figure out something else.

 

I forgot to say that a potential option 3 is for DD to attend daycare only next year (no public school) and get homeschooling from one of the daycare owners, who is a retired special education teacher. She has had tremendous success teaching my daughter a lot of things - more so than DD's preschool teacher, because DD is most comfortable at daycare.

 

Any thoughts about whether it is a bad idea to forego the public school system altogether for Kindergarten?

 

Again thanks - really appreciate everyone's comments so far!

 

 


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#7 of 11 Old 04-03-2012, 11:51 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isisreturning View Post

 

Next step is to visit the autism classroom and see what it's like (at least with this year's mix of students). I was all set for DD to be in that classroom and then a school district insider cautioned me to think very carefully about placing her in that classroom and that it might be more overstimulating for DD and less able to meet her academic needs - which surprised me and lead to the confusion you can read in my original post.

 

But yes, very good point that Kindergarten classrooms expect a whole lot out of little kiddos these days... something to think about...

 

And yes, very good advice to keep in mind that we are only having to pick what we're going to try first, and if that placement doesn't work, we'll figure out something else.

 

I forgot to say that a potential option 3 is for DD to attend daycare only next year (no public school) and get homeschooling from one of the daycare owners, who is a retired special education teacher. She has had tremendous success teaching my daughter a lot of things - more so than DD's preschool teacher, because DD is most comfortable at daycare.

 

Any thoughts about whether it is a bad idea to forego the public school system altogether for Kindergarten?

 

Again thanks - really appreciate everyone's comments so far!

 

 


I would try to Kindergarten in some format, if it does not work ( and is not mandatory in your state) you can pull her out. But I would attempt it. The transition from K to 1st is fairly big so to skip that step could be tough. You may also lose OT/PT/speech or any other services is you chose to opt out of public school once your DD is 'of age' (usually age 5).

 

While I do agree w/PP to a point. I would talk to the school. Though  my own DDs have not been in self-contained classes, there are two at the school I work at. There also are a lot of  students in Spec.Ed that are in the Gen.Ed classroom for part or all of the day.

 

I would look at:

 

What would the day look like?

How much support? (all day personal aide? Aide with all classes or just GenEd. K?)

What would her feeding/eating day look like? Who is responsible for those things? (likely an aide)

What do YOU want her to get out of K? (social, academic, behavioral?)

Where would she like be HAPPIEST?

What is your K program like? (all or half day? how many other kiddos w/ Spec.Needs are in Gen Ed. classes?)

Do you know anyone in the K program? Any teacher suggestions?

 

 

Honestly, the program itself and how it run is going to make more of a difference than self-contained ASD or K.

 

Our building has two ASD (one non-verbal) K students that I know of in two K classes. One has a one on one aide in K and then spends some time w/ the Spec. Ed. team in the resource room. It is a good set up for her. Yes, she would struggle with the 'regular' pace, but that said she has her work modified and the one on one aide adapts it as they go-- but she also has learned SO MUCH socially and how to function with her peers. She is also using communication a lot more.

 

They also have an ASD classroom, but it is mostly 2-5th graders. In K- a child working on writing a name or letters blends in and is easily adapted to a lesson since it is likely that one or two other kids are working on the same skills. Plus the storytime, playtime, hands on games/activities, and other daily events in K are suitable to Preschool- 1st developmental range. Not so much the 2nd grade+

 

K is often the most 'included' grade for those reasons. Also, your DD could attend (if she tolerated) art, gym, library, etc with her Gen.Ed K peers if you looked into and were worried about the academics (as for an aide to attend with her!). K teachers are also good at differentiating--- they will  have everything form kids that may not know letters/name, not know English, to kids that can read chapter books. They have to be able to differentiate for all the kids and should be used to it. If standard for K is reading level 4 than your DDs could say reading level 2 on her IEP. IF K standard is to write a sentence, your DDs  IEP could state she will be working on writing her name and letters, etc. An IEP is just for that- individualized.

 

Our ASD program is good as well, with a social worker there 1/2 time and a good teacher/aide ratio. BUT that said it is the age range is higher since it is mostly 8+ kids so it is set  up for more that age. Maybe your area has enough kids that they have a K-2 ASD room and a 3-5 ASD room- our does not.

 

Check out the programs. See what you think will work for your DD. Also, know that you can call and IEP and change it up if needed. Talk to the teachers as well-- different styles may work with your DD as well.

 

FWIW- one of my DDs is not potty-trained for medical reasons and is in 1st. It is such a less big deal than I thought, which I am very grateful for.

 

Good Luck!! We will be here to cheer your DD on matter what you chose.

 

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#8 of 11 Old 04-03-2012, 06:13 PM
 
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I would to to Kindergarten in some format, if it does not work ( and is not mandatory in your state) you can pull her out. But I would attempt it. The transition from K to 1st is fairly big so to skip that step could be tough. You may also lose OT/PT/speech or any other services is you chose to opt out of public school once your DD is 'of age' (usually age 5).


.....Good Luck!! We will be here to cheer your DD no matter what you chose.

 


This is an awesome post. I totally agree about trying school in some format.

 

And we all will be cheer her on whatever you decide! There are moms here whose kids are in all sorts of educational settings. (My DD currently attends a private alternative school). There isn't one right answer. There's just what seems to work for now


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#9 of 11 Old 04-03-2012, 10:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Again- thanks so much for the replies. Super duper helpful. Lots of great ideas and encouragement. I feel less anxious now!


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#10 of 11 Old 04-04-2012, 08:05 AM
 
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My son will be 8 later this month and is in the 2nd grade.  He has autism with hyperlexia and dyspraxia and a mild vision impairment due to albinism.

 

Short version of our story:

 

DS did Kindergarten in the district's K-2 Autism classroom. He was very academically advanced, especially in math and reading, but was unable to follow group instruction, stay on task independently, work with other kids, and handle the sensory environment of a regular classroom.  DS thrived in this setting, learned a lot classroom skills, and benefited from being in a mixed-age class where the teachers could draw academic material from any grade, as needed.

 

In first grade, DS was partially mainstreamed.  He spent mornings in the regular 1st grade classroom (with an aide) and afternoons in the Autism classroom.  He also joined the 1st grade class for "specials" like music, gym, art, etc. DS already knew most of the 1st grade curriculum, so his time in that classroom focused on learning how to be part of the class: following the lesson, participating in the discussion, taking tests, managing his behavior, etc.  DS loved being in the regular classroom, but it was obvious that he could only handle a half-day in that environment.  Overall he had a really good year and gained a lot of skills.

 

At the start of this academic year (2nd grade), the school staff decided to try mainstreaming DS fulltime, even though this was not what we had agreed to in the IEP.  The district Special Ed department was under a lot of pressure to do more mainstreaming under a misguided understanding of LRE (Least Restrictive Environment).   It was a complete disaster.  At first, DS was able to "hold it together" at school, but his behavior everywhere else was unmanageable.  Then as the demands of school got harder, DS had more difficulty in the classroom. I kept calling emergency IEP meetings to get him more support and time out of the regular classroom.  The school agreed to have him spend time in the resource room everyday and take some of his instruction there.  As time went on, DS was spending more and more time in the resource room because he was unable to behave in the regular classroom or he refused to go to the regular classroom.  I wanted him back in the Autism classroom.  DS kept asking to go back to the Autism classroom.  The district refused because of LRE.  After 4 months of fighting, the district finally agreed to put DS back in the Autism classroom, thanks to an amazing act of self-advocacy on the part of my remarkable son. 

 

Since December, DS has been in the Autism classroom full time, except that he joins the 2nd grade class for specials.  The Autism teacher (who has taught him since Kindergarten)  told me that he is a different kid after the failed attempt at mainstreaming.  His self-confidence and sense of security at school were shattered and we are slowly rebuilding those.  Likewise, he needed to rediscover his love of learning and his motivation to do academic work.  His behavior continues to be a challenge, but is getting better.  It's been a very rough year and I'm hoping that by the end of it he will have gained some skills.

 

Anyway, that's the road we have been on. deciding on placement in the Autism classroom or the regular classroom is not a one-time thing. You can re-examine the issue and make changes as needed. Nor is it strictly a one or the other choice.  Lots of kids do well in a partial mainstreaming system.  If you do choose to place in a regular classroom. make sure there is a good match between the teacher's teaching style and your DD's learning style. That's really important.

 

Good luck in making your decision.

 

 


Lolly
Mom to an amazing little guy, age 9 (Autism, Hyperlexia, Dyspraxia, Albinism, Chromosome Microdeletion)

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#11 of 11 Old 04-04-2012, 08:46 AM
 
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from a non-parent of an autistic but I have a BFF who's DD is and she has been working with autistic children for over 20 years and I have a friends that teaches autistic at our local school

 

a few things to keep in mind  - from the one who teaches, she tells me often of parents who want the "autism" class but also want some interaction (mainstreaming) for some this works for others it's a daily nightmare - mostly comes down to lunch when most interact and for some coming from a quiet classroom to a large, brightly lit and noisy lunchroom upset some so much the rest of the day is just sent calming them down

 

also do you have private bussing? or are all the students bussed together?

 

 

from the parent who has dealt with this for last 20 years (and in her state her DD can stay in school to age 21) - she has always been in the autism classroom (and flourished because of if) and has had some (no lunch or gym, etc) with mainstreamed children, what was important to her DD was to be with others and for them to see her and for her to see them- many non-autistic children benefit greatly from getting to know what autistic children are all about

 

- my BFF also has the home phone numbers of the teachers and aids (and has had the same ones for years!!! BIG PLUS) and the contact is the KEY!!! doesn't matter so much what class you pick if you don't know what is going on it's a problem! When you get an email/text prior to your child getting off the bus you know what is causing the meltdown.


 

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