Seeking High School for Teen Son
My 15-year old son and I live in New York but I've now accepted a job in Walnut Creek and we'll be moving to the East Bay by Sept '21. I need to find a high school that can meet his needs. He has an autism diagnosis, though that was not confirmed until he was 10 as some teachers and docs suspected a mood disorder before then. He is very verbal and quite naturally intelligent but his behavioral and emotional challenges have been a barrier to many school programs in NY. He has a strong sense of fairness and can react strongly when he perceives himself to be the victim of unfairness, such as when routines are changed in a way which places more demands on him. Change, transitions and unexpected developments can be difficult for him to process and he will often require support in adjusting to such developments. Though he wants friends and has had some recent experience in developing and maintaining friendships, he has had limited opportunities to develop lasting friendships and to develop the social skills needed to maintain relationships. He also suffers from anxiety, treated through meds (Fluvoxamine); one way in which his anxiety manifests is through anthropomorphizing, which means that he thinks of inanimate objects (e.g., a paper towel used in an art project) as having feelings and can become quite anxious if they are thrown away or lost (he usually wants to bring these items home, by which point he's calm and is no longer concerned about whether they're thrown away).
I have found it difficult to find an appropriate school for my son in NY. Over the past 20 months, he has attended a residential school, so he sleeps at the school during the week and comes home on weekends and for extended breaks at holidays. He has been instructed in classes with not more than 8 students and 1-2 adults and has required the assistance of a dedicated paraprofessional to remain moderated and on task. While he is often conscientious about finishing his work, he can be disruptive and inappropriately provocative in class. An FBA concluded that many of his behaviors are attention-seeking.
While my son's current school has been able to manage his behaviors, the school is not very academically rigorous and academics are not a priority for many students or their parents. My son does not want to be challenged, so this creates a self-reinforcing cycle, and I worry that he will resist when the demands on him are increased at his next school.
(I have already been in contact with Springstone School and Orion Academy. Both have been helpful but Springstone has already advised that they could not meet my son's needs. I am continuing to speak with Orion, which sounds like a good program but again the question will be whether they can meet his needs.) In sum, my son is a smart kid with significant potential, but he has presented challenges which have proven a barrier to many programs in NY. He has shown signs of maturing and progress in recent years and hopefully that will continue, but he can become emotionally disregulated and act out in physical manners when he becomes very frustrated, so I need to find a school that can manage such episodes and will not expel him if one occurs. Any suggestions re area schools will be much appreciated. Thanks for your time and advice.