School districts with support for autism spectrum

Our 2.5-year-old son has significant communication/speech delays, and he is now in the process of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) evaluation.  Our older son (4.5 years) is a developmentally typical kid, and in fact, he loves academically challenging environments.  We would like to settle in a place before our older son starts kindergarten.

Are there school districts that have great special education programs as well as strong academics?  Are certain districts easier to work with than others?  We would appreciate any district information in the East Bay, from Richmond to Fremont.  Please share any and all experiences. We really appreciate your insight!  We are very overwhelmed.  

It would be especially helpful to hear from parents whose children are on the autism spectrum, but I would love to hear from parents of children with a range of disabilities as well.

Thank you in advance.  

Parent Replies

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Hi there. I have a daughter with autism and global delays and have been scouring all the online discussion groups and boards on this topic for a few years now. I have direct experience with Walnut Creek, which I don't recommend, but no other Bay Area districts. What I have gathered along the way is that even the best school districts will have a lot of parents who are unhappy with the district depending on their kids needs and specific experience. It's really all about what your kid needs, how well you navigate the system, and the degree to which you are able to access resources like an attorney. That said, if I were looking now, I would suggest San Ramon, Lafayette, and Albany as starting points. I've heard nothing but good things about Albany, but no specifics, SR is supposed to be a "destination district" for special needs, but they are huge and if you have a disagreement, might be difficult to deal with. Lafayette is smaller, but I've been told that they have a wonderful team there and I know a number of parents who moved there for the special ed program. It sounds like you are only just starting your journey into the special needs experience. I highly recommend looking into the resources at DREDF. They offer an overview of the IEP process, advice from an advocate for free, and lots of template letters and other resources. Good luck to you and, believe me, it's all going to be okay!

My soon to be 4th grade dtr is also high functioning on the spectrum. Our school district WCCUSD has a GREAT full inclusion program for high functioning autism at Michelle Obama (formerly Wilson) elementary in Richmond. Our daughter has been attending since K and has thrived in her mainstream class with occasional pull outs for social lessons etc. The community is warm and accepting and the principal Ms Velez is engaged and accessible. Our daughter is bright and has had no issues with being bored with academics and is often challenged at her level. Feel free to contact me if you want to talk more.