Which Preschool for Autism Spectrum Kids?

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello,
    Forgive me for a very long post, but I think I have a pretty specific problem and I’m hoping there’s someone out there who has been in my shoes. I am wondering if there is a preschool that would be a just-right fit for my autistic, hyperlexic (and cheerful and active) son, or if I’m letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

    For him, being hyperlexic means he’s reading (and for the most part understanding) at about a second grade level and he is a gestalt language processor which means he has trouble comprehending/producing spoken language. He’s in speech therapy, OT, and Floortime therapy after school. 

    He currently attends a play-based, large preschool and he is relatively content but he’s often on the periphery (e.g. reading a book in a corner during circle time and the like). The teachers have a nice relationship with him but there are too many kids for them to give him a lot of time. And I’m discouraged that he seems to be withdrawing. 

    I understand there are smaller schools out there for kids with special needs but behaviorist approaches (ABA, “play-based” ABA, ESDM, NET, PRT) are not what I want for my son and they seem hard to avoid. This is also why I haven’t done the Early Intervention/ IEP process with my school district (OUSD). (Though he has been evaluated and we have the ASD diagnosis for insurance.)

    What would be ideal is a smaller school with teachers to encourage him to do more of what he likes. Things like: dramatic readings of “frog and toad,” singing songs in French, jumping on a trampoline and yelling. I want him to grow and be challenged, but only to be more fully himself, not to fit in with other kids. 

    Does such a preschool exist? How about elementary school? Am I wrong about getting an IEP and there actually is a scenario with neurodiversity-affirming goals and services through the district? 

    It would so appreciate hearing from people who have been through it and managed to avoid behavior-based interventions. And if anyone out there has a hyperlexic kid, I would love to connect! 


    If you are planning to send your child to an OUSD school, then you should definitely pursue an IEP through your school district.

    I don’t have experience with a hyperlexic child, but my son who experiences autism was well-attended to at Hearts Leap North and Hearts Leap preschools. We had a wonderful experience at both campuses. My son also had (and still has) a part-time Floortime aide with him at school and she helped to educate his preschool teachers so that he could be more included when she was not there. If you can swing it financially, I highly recommend going that route. We’ve been working with Kendra Frautnick for 6 years now and she’s absolutely super and all about getting your child off the periphery and into the mix and having fun! 


  • Hi

    Our family (2+2) plans a relocation to the bay area in the following months.

    My son was diagnosed with ASD and he is also deaf, so requires special care. We're looking for specialized child care for him that can offer also occupational and speech therapy.

    My daughter (his twin), will also require pre school (but does not require special care) 

    What are our options? And what would be the estimated care cost?


    Ohad Barak

    Do you know about The Center for Early Education on Deafness?  They run a preschool in Berkeley.  I would start there.  Good luck


    Look at this amazing preschool:  https://www.ceid.org/

    Center for Early Intervention on Deafness.

    It is in Berkeley, right near the Berkeley Bowl West. It has both a deaf/hard of hearing classroom and a preschool for typically developing kids-- so it might work for both your kids (both my kids went at the same time, they are both typically developing).

    It is possible that some of the cost for the deaf/hard of hearing kid might be subsidized-- but since it was not the case for my kids, I don't know about that aspect of the situation.

    The school was fantastic for my kids, we loved the school-- and the parents of the Deaf/Hard of hearing students thought the place was amazing.

    The place you're looking for is CEID (Center for Early Intervention on Deafness). There's a deaf/hard of hearing preschool that meets in the mornings and also includes OT and speech from your child's IEP. Also on site is a preschool that your deaf child could attend before and after their DHH program and your hearing child could attend all day. They are phenomenal with deaf children who have additional needs!

    Contact them to get more info about how to enroll (your hearing child should be easy, but there may be a wait list; your deaf child would probably need your local school district to place him at CEID and pay, so which district you move to will be critical as many districts want to keep kids at local schools). The DHH program would be free to you as long as it's your child's IEP placement. Their website (ceid.org) has tuition rates posted for the 2020-2021 year, so they may be different now, but as of then the cost of childcare for your hearing child would be $1400/month for 5 day/week 8am-5pm; afternoon only care is $830/month for 5 days/week 

    Have you looked at the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness in south Berkeley? They have a couple of classrooms for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and one class for  mostly “typically developing” students, with all the classrooms playing together on a shared playground as well as engaging in other activities together. My child (not deaf or HOH) attended for one year (we moved her for reasons unrelated to the school - we were very happy there), and it was an extremely sweet and wonderful experience. As I recall, there was at least one other family in a similar situation to yours, with twins of differing development, and they loved the school. The staff there is extremely helpful, so even if it’s not a great fit they could likely point you to other resources/options in the Bay Area. 

    CEID has preschool programs that I believe would cover both of your kids. My daughter goes to their Sunshine classroom, which is for hearing kids. Highly recommend them. It’s a wonderful organization. https://www.ceid.org/
    You can reach out to Anna to see if it’s a good fit. 
    anna [at] ceid.org

    CEID in Berkeley has what you are looking for.


    I don’t have any personal experience with this or recommendations of specific schools, but in the process of researching east bay schools in general I’ve learned that the public system is far, far better equipped and set up to deal with special needs than any singular private school or preschool. Therefore, if you’re eligible to start TK next year (if your kids were born between September 1 and December 31, 2017), I’d strongly advise you to look closely into the various public systems and maybe even let that guide your choice of geography. Good luck! 

    This might be easier to talk about by phone - hapoy to that, so please just let me know. We went through a similar move with a deaf/HH child a few years ago. There are only a couple of specialized options that I would recommend - one in Redwood City and one in Berkeley. We decided to come to Berkeley, and our kids attended the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness (CEID) on Grayson Street in Berkeley.  This school serves kids from birth through to Kindergarden. They serve children with all kinds of complex conditions, including D/HH, and they teach both sign language and focus on spoken/oral skills. For the preschool age group, they generally have a ratio of 4:1 for the D/HH teacher’s classroom. There is also a regular preschool (Sunshine) onsite, but we chose to keep our twins together in the D/HH classroom. Our child with normal hearing served as the “language model” for that class. We did the evaluation for services through our local school district (Berkeley Unified), so that fees for the affected child were 100% covered. You can also go through one of the “Early Intervention” “Regional Centers” for children with special health needs: https://www.dds.ca.gov/rc/

    Public preschool will be far and away your best option as far as cost (and likely also as far as services). In California, public school districts provide preschool for children with disabilities beginning at age three. Assuming you have some flexibility in where you live, I'd choose based on how well you feel the preschool and elementary options in cities you're considering will serve your child. Reach out to the Special Education departments and explain your child's diagnoses; you will likely need to do a full assessment once you arrive, but most districts have designated programs at particular schools for both Deaf children and for ASD, and you'll want to know where those are as you choose a district and a place to live. Some public preschool program are also open to developmentally typical children for a fee, so you could opt to send your daughter there as well if that's an option. If not, you can try posting again with information on which neighborhood you plan to live in once you decide. Also note that California offers Transitional Kindergarten to children who will be five years old by February 2, 2023, so if your children qualify, that will be a good option to explore too. TK is offered in the elementary schools, while PreK is often separate. Welcome!

  • Hi parents, can I get some recommendations about the inclusive preschool programs for ASD kids in east bay, ideally near Berkeley? Thank you in advance!

    We just toured at Every Child Berkeley and they have a whole section of their website about inclusion and their staff has training based on the Group Early Start Denver model (https://everychildberkeley.org/ecb-inclusion). We didn't know anything about this prior to finding them and they were very passionate about it when we visited their location - so maybe this might be a good fit. We are not attending their preschool, as they have a waitlist at the moment, but I would definitely check them out. Hope this helps! 

    My daughter attended Monteverde and had a wonderful experience there. We did not know my daughter was on the spectrum when she attended preschool. We also know other children with ASD that had positive experiences.

    My now nine-year-old son with ASD had wonderful experiences at Hearts Leap North for preschool and Hearts Leap on College for TK.

  • Preschool for ASD 3 year old

    (1 reply)

    Hello Everyone,

    My daughter was just diagnosed with ASD and I am looking for a preschool for her. We live in Richmond but are willing to drive to Albany, ElCerrito, Berkeley and Emeryville.

    We've started the IEP process with our district but their program is only a few hours and we need half day to full day coverage.

    Our daughter has limited speech but handles transitions pretty well and has mild behavior issues. She likes other children but keeps to herself so we're hoping school will help her build social skills.

    I realize many programs are probably full now but we're willing to make our current arrangement work until the Fall.

    Many thanks in advance!

    Hi there! I live in Richmond and have a 4 y/o girl with ASD as well! I would definitely encourage you to work through WCCUSD and get into one of the early intervention preschools. Our daughter is in her 2nd year at the early intervention preschool for autism at Montalvin elementary in San Pablo. It is a half day, but then she gets sent by bus to a local daycare that we have a good relationship with. Even though the program through the school district is half day, we have found it SO SO helpful with our daughter! This upcoming fall she will be attending Kinder at Wilson Elementary where the autism full inclusion program for WCCUSD is. Our 9 y/o is also in the spectrum and she has absolutely thrived in this program at Wilson! Feel free to email me with any questions or advice. I'm in the midst of it :) Cheers!  debg325 [at] yahoo.com

  • Hello! I am looking for a full-time preschool that will accept a child diagnosed on the autism spectrum disorder, preferably in Oakland. His current preschool will not let him come back until he has a full-time aide. Please send any schools my way! Thanks in advance!

    The Arc of Alameda has a preschool in Hayward called First Step that takes kids with and without disabilities. A nice space, play based.

  • Hi Everyone - I'm trying ot see if someone else have experience with this. We live in Emeryville, and my little girl is soon to turn 3 and we'll likely apply for IEP through the school district. Everything I've read on the thread has been regarding programs in Berkeley or Oakland. Is there anything in Emeryville? I've heard that if there isn't a school near by then we can go out of the district. If anyone else has experience with this, would appreciate hearing about the process and the schools you ended up choosing. My daughter has been doing well with ABA now (she has language, though behind, and difficulties with interacting with peers) and I think she would be ok in a program that is integrated with other children, but with some extra support on the side. 


    Hi! I can't speak to resources in Emeryville, but I wanted to recommend getting in touch with the public preschools in Berkeley. You don't have to live in Berkeley to attend the BUSD preschools, and they do have inclusion classrooms. Since it's a public school program, they have IEP teams/meetings, etc. Best of luck to you!


    Emeryville does mostly full inclusion from what I’ve heard and the preschool services are typically integrated into the headstart/YMCA preschool programs. They have specialists who will do a variety of push in/pull out therapy depending on your child’s IEP. Once the district makes their offer, I’d recommend going to look at the program they offer to see if you’re comfortable. If not, call another IEP meeting to discuss and see if there are other options available. Through the IEP process you won’t be able to pick and choose any school, but hopefully the district will work with you to find a mutually agreeable solution and offer of services. (I work for another local school district in preschool special education.) Feel free to contact me with more questions if you’d like! 

  • I am looking for a preschool in the North Berkeley, Kensington, El Cerrito, Albany area for my 3 year old son who is exhibiting developmental delays (some echolalia, selective hearing, etc).  Up until a few months ago he seemed to be developing relatively normally (although he has hand flapped since about 10 months). We recently took him to a doctor at UCSF who said it was too early to tell where our son fell on the spectrum (if at all) and that his number one prescription (aside from OT and Speech, which we've already started) was preschool, preferably 5 days a week. I am well versed in the Regional Center system as I have family members on the spectrum and we have already begun the process of getting our son evaluated by the WCCUSD (we are in Kensington).  We have a daughter 15 months and an excellent nanny who has been caring for two kids so we delayed getting my son into preschool until now (side note: I am majorly kicking myself for not starting him in school last year, but I didn't for financial reasons and because he has a late fall birthday such that he won't be able to start Kindergarten until he is almost 6).  We were slated to start at a Montessori school in the area but after spending an hour in the classroom with our son the director there feels it might not be the right fit for him.  Any suggestions are welcome. Ideally, I'd like for him to go to a school that takes children as young as 24 months so I could get our daughter started in the fall.

    Kensington Nursery School, a parent co-op in the morning and regular program in the afternoon may be a good fit. 52 Arlington across from the library.

    Don't give yourself a hard time about not starting school!  Age 3 is the perfect age to begin preschool, ASD or not!

    Our son with mild ASD has been well-served at Hearts Leap North in North Berkeley but definitely wait and see the outcome of your IEP for WCCUSD because you may get more specialized services in your local public preschool and they would be free!  The advice about 5 day/week preschool sounds very idiosyncratic to me so please do take it with a grain of salt!  ...and please know that not every preschool is right for a child with mild ASD.  You will likely need to tour several to get a feel for which environment would be the perfect fit.  It could actually be detrimental to be in a school that doesn't support and help develop your son's social development, so please do not think "full time preschool at any cost"!  I know that for our son, the most important elements are small, calm, nurturing, accepting and structured.  Speaking of idiosyncratic/anecdotal advice, the first MD to diagnose our son is actually a former preschool teacher (!) and she's well-versed in schooling and ASD; she gave us the advice that for young children with ASD, Montessori schools tend to be a bad fit and I think she is actually right about that. 

    You should absolutely be able to get a diagnosis at age 3 at UCSF or anywhere else.  The new standard is 18 months-2years.  I'm really surprised they would tell you that it's too early.  I would ask again or see a different doctor. 

    Feel free to contact me!

    Wishing you all the best.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Looking for an inclusion preschool for twins

May 2016

I am searching for a private or co-op preschool that is welcoming to all types of kids. My 3 year old twin boys both have a diagnosis of provisional high functioning autism. Both are very verbal and social, but struggle with articulation and knowing how to engage with peers appropriately. We feel that they would do best in a classroom with typically developing children, but with the extra support of an aide, which we can provide. Our school district offered us a spot in their autism-specific class, but after visiting the classroom, it didn't seem like the right fit for them. I have heard great things about Duck's Nest in Oakland, but when I called they told me they are full for next year with a long waiting list. We are looking for a place in Alameda or Oakland. Thanks in advance! Twin mom

I struggled with preschool for quite some time. I also wanted a supported mainstream setting. If you have an autism diagnosis, you can get an aide through the regional center and go most anywhere. We went to Duck's Nest and though they have an inclusion program, it wasn’t as good for us as we hoped it would be. Blue skies for children in Oakland would be better, but also has quite a wait list. There is some value to having a special Ed school in the preschool time and doing mainstream later when social skills are easier for the other kids. I felt like my child's self esteem took a big hit at Duck's Nest where the other children and teachers had a hard time relating to him positively. Good luck and get your IEP going for kindergarten. Mrhsmama

Unfortunately, at this time of year most schools are probably already full for next year, so it may be a bit of a challenge. My kids with high-functioning ASD attended a private preschool with an aide in Berkeley, so I don't have any specific Oakland or Alameda recommendations.

You didn't mention where your kids' aide will come from--the school district or an ABA provider. If they are receiving ABA, you can ask the program staff for the names of schools where they've supported other clients. The clinical director of the program would probably be a great resource to suggest schools that they think will work well for your kids.

If they are not receiving ABA, I highly recommend getting their aide from an ABA provider rather than the school district. It's been my experience that, although there are certainly fantastic school district aides, the quality of aides from ABA providers is generally much higher.

Preschool recommendation for kid on the spectrum

Aug 2015

Hi BPNers, Does anyone have Berkeley-area preschool suggestions for a child we suspect is (mildly) on the spectrum? Need not be a specialized school, in fact may do well in a more mainstream environment if the preschool has some expertise or experience in dealing with this. We are quickly learning this is not every preschool. Thanks hopeful but striking out so far

Sunshine Playschool in Richmond has a nurturing and creative philosophy that supports different styles of learning. Not in Berkeley but not that far away. Worth checking out. anon

The Room to Grow Preschool. It is in Rockridge though. It won't be a good fit if your child needs a controlled environment. If instead he or she needs a school that will embrace the exuberant vibrant person they are, then I highly recommend RTG! Jen

Preschools for Autistic Toddlers

July 2013

It is not a preschool but I really like seesaw studio in the city. They have great social skills classes. The classes are small and led by a psychologist. Johnny

My 2.5-year-old nephew has been diagnosed with autism. He is barely speaking, he is developmentally delayed (late hitting most milestones), and rates low on adaptive skills, but he seems happy and is very affectionate with his parents (shy with others). Has some stereotypical behavior (hand flapping). He is receiving ABA and speech therapy. We are beginning the IEP process with OUSD (parents live in Oakland, but might be willing to move if another district offers better services). I'm looking for advice on preschools that are good for a child that fits his description, either in OUSD (Sankofa was mentioned at our meeting) or other school districts or private. Also, there's a possiblity he could be placed in a Head Start program with visiting ABA services. Any recommendations along those lines would also be appreciated. Thanks. Concerned Aunt

It is not a preschool but I really like seesaw studio in the city. They have great social skills classes. The classes are small and led by a psychologist. Johnny

BUSD preschooler is not progressing, need an advocate

Nov 2011

Our son has been at a BUSD preschool program for special needs kids for almost a 1.5 years (it is not an integrated class) and we are seeing virtually no progress. He is on the spectrum and at 4.5 years old he has almost no language. We finally got 10 hours of ABA via Regional Center (that took 9 months) and that is making a difference. BIA of Emeryville is our provider and they are very good. In our last IEP BUSD said they would evalute for ABA this fall and now we are being told the district isn't offering ABA and any ABA they are provding is being 'phased out'. We are going to pay for additional hours to increase the intensity, but 15 hours per week isn't enough. Our next IEP isn't scheduled until April 2012. Has anyone out there had success with getting one- one-one support from BUSD, ABA, in-home programs paid for, etc.? Recently he was observed at school and it was suggested we pull him out becuase he is not getting the help and education he needs. Help! We need an advocate fast and any advice on strategies for BUSD would be welcome.

Amy Kossow amyadvocate [at] hotmail.com is the best advocate in town, particularly for kids with autism. She helped my son get 15 hrs/week of ABA while he was also in a BUSD preschool, with BIA. I simply cannot recommend her highly enough. My son is now in 4th grade and doing great and I'm sure it's because of Amy and BIA. However, I don't know that she's taking new clients right now, but hopefully she is. Jill

Preschool for 3 yo with ASD PDD-NOS in East Bay

Feb 2011

Searching for a preschool for 3 yo with ASD PDD-NOS in El Sobrante, Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany or Berkeley. Thanks. Leanin

My son was diagnosed at 18 months with PDD-NOS. He is currently enrolled at Via Nova Children's School in Berkeley and is thriving. I can't say enough how incredible Ticia and the entire Via Nova staff have been - to embracing him wholeheartedly and what's needed to support his success, to integrating him into the larger class and supporting his relationships with peers, to being flexible to the therapy services that are performed on-site (and seeing them as an opportunity for staff development). We feel incredibly lucky. anon

High-functioning autism and OUSD preschool

Nov 2010

I'm hoping I can get advice and insight from parents who may have gone through this already. My son is turning 3 and is being evaluated by Oakland Unified School District. While the final evaluations aren't in, he will be diagnosed with Autism. He's high-functioning, without any cognitive impairment.

Discussing with the evaluation team, they said he'd probably be offered one of the 5-day/week autism-specific preschool classrooms, but they apparently try to put kids with appropriate peers. They don't want me to tour classrooms until the evaluation is complete. In the meantime, we need to get our heads around a) what Oakland might have/offer and b) what's going to be best for him so I can push for that.

He's currently at a private preschool in our neighborhood and he's been doing great. He loves it, his language is developing and he's really happy. Best of all, he's getting a great social experience with typically developing kids. He also has a wonderful teacher and a small class. But his social/emotional delay is starting to show itself more since this preschool is all about play and social.

I'm sad to think that we're going to be confronted with pulling him out of this preschool community, but want to do what's best for his development. I do believe in early intervention, but will he aquire the social building blocks he's lacking with peers who are also on the spectrum? Will he be able to model language with other kids who may be delayed as well? Do high-functioning ASD preschool-aged kids need intensive, structured autism- specific classrooms? I know it's so individual, it's probably hard to say. He benefited tremendously from the 20-hrs/week of ABA therapy he received up to this point, but has outgrown it. Now he needs social, play and language skills-enrichment. Could there be a blend of our current preschool and speech therapy + social skills training?

How are the OUSD preschool classrooms for autism? Are there other options that I'm not aware of? I'm open to hearing about all options and the experience other families have had. (Unfortunately at this point, we can't afford to private-pay for everything.)

Thanks for your help! I'm anxious to get some clarity, as his IEP is a few weeks away. I'm happy to contact anyone personally if that's easier, just include email.

-Wanting to stay on our positive trajectory and uninformed about what Oakland has to offer.

OUSD has some excellent programs for students on the autism spectrum. Sounds like you're doing exactly what you need to do to advocate for your child, and asking the right hard questions about social opportunities. I don't work at the preschool level, but I was blessed to work closely with many colleagues who may end out teaching your son: there are some truly gifted teachers and supportive paraprofessionals out there. I think it's crucial for you to advocate for a classroom which has a high number of verbal students--at that age, some kids may not be communicating verbally yet, and the teacher's teaching emphasis might understandably not line up with your son's needs in a classroom that skewed in that direction. Preschool is a huge building block for school success--I imagine that, after preschool, you may be looking at inclusion (academic and social supports) or ASIP programs (most frequently for kids with Asperger's, needing minimal academic support): again, there are good ones. Oakland gets a bad rap, but it does some things RIGHT.

Best wishes to you and your son! -TchrBeth

Preschool for spectrum kid

Nov 2008

I am looking for a preschool for my 3 year old son in the Berkeley/El Cerrito/Albany area (although willing to travel for something suitable). He is mildly on the autistic spectrum and is unlikely to qualify for significant school district services. He needs a lot of direction and help to be involved in group activities, so the preschool would have to be very supportive of his particular needs. Anyone have any recent experiences or recommendations? Anon

My kid was diagnosed as being on the spectrum by one developmental pediatrician and possibly on the spectrum by another. He has had a great experience at Harold Jones Preschool in Berkeley. I don't know that the teachers have particular training with ASD kids, but they have like 20 years of experience and were really good at providing help and support to my son. He is much better at playing with other kids, making connections with them, staying on task, imaginative play,..., basically all the things I was worried about when he started. You need to be UC-affiliated to get in.

Preschool in Albany for autistic son

April 2008

We are thinking about moving to University Village in Albany. We have a high functioning autistic son who will be four in August. Is there a good, free, preschool in Albany? I've heard of some great public preschools in other cities, but no so much in Albany. Anybody have any suggestions? Is there a way to go to another school district if we are not satisfied with our choices? If so, how would we go about doing that? I'm not familiar with the area...I've never been there, and we aren't moving there until this summer. frustrated mom

If you haven't already done so, you should contact the school district, because Albany is lucky enough to have one of the finest public special education preschool classes in the county. Another bonus for your family:it's located in UC VIllage. Contact the district to see if there are openings and visit the class. I had the pleasure of student teaching there last year, and the class has a wonderful, calm staff, and a fantastic OT on site. Best of luck Alesia

Finding a preschool for autistic son

Feb 2008

My husband was just accepted to UC Berkeley, which is of course fantastic, but I'm having trouble finding resources online for my autistic son, who will be four in April. We haven't technically decided to move to Berkeley yet, but it's our top pick right now. I saw a preschool online called Tilden in East Oakland that looks great! Their website was a bit out of date which scared me into thinking it's not around anymore though. Colin's autism is very mild, and he does not need an aid. The preschool he goes to now is part of the school district, and is half low income families and half kids with special needs. We love it, and I'm trying very hard to find something similar. He does need OT, Speech, and ABA if those services are available. My perfect school for him would be an inclusive preschool, full day with these services provided. I'll be a stay at home mom (at least for a while) with a newborn (due in June). With the very little money thing, it would be awesome if it was a public school. We're willing to not live in Berekely if it means a good school for my son. I found Tildon in Oakland, but it looks like you have to enroll your child in February or March of this year. Yikes! We won't even know if we're moving to Berkeley until April (hubby is keeping fingers crossed for Stanford and Yale). Does anyone know of any other preschools that are really good? Anybody have any advice? We would both love to live in the Berkeley area because it such a great school, but if it's not going to work for our family then we need to plan to move elsewhere. Thanks so much!!

Tilden, an Oakland public school, is thriving. It has great half-day programs for preschool kids with special needs (and more).... (Click here to see the rest of this review, and 2 other reviews for Tilden School)

Additionally, if you need respite care, you can get him evaluated at the Regional Center of the East Bay, (510)383-1200. Good luck with the move. East bay mom

Hi, I don't have any great suggestions for Berkeley, but I can tell you that I can think of two great options if you end up in New Haven. The first is The Neighborhood Music School which runs a wonderful small traditional (not daycare) preschool program (my son went there) their director, Leslie, is highly skilled and works tightly with every family's differing needs. They also offer financial aid. Second, if your husband is at the law school, you will be eligible for the law school's sponsored day care/preschool, which we had several friends who sent their children there and were very happy. Good luck! barbara

I am a Special Education Teacher who specializes in working with kids on the Autism Spectrum for the West Contra Costa Unified School District (about 10 min from Berkeley) and can HIGHLY recommend ALL of their preschool special day classes (if I remember correctly there are 15 preschool classes, yes 15!!!). In fact after seeing all the preschool Autism programs in this area it is the only district that I feel would have the quality staff, knowledge and diversity in programs to meet the many different levels of children on the Autism Spectrum. Go WCCUSD!!!

It is possible your son will qualify for funding through the East Bay Regional Center. In California - children/adults with developmental, autistic and some other disabilities are funded by the Regional Center system - For Berkeley and most cities near by you would be served by East Bay Regional Center office in Oakland. Call them and see if your son would qualify for services. They would work with you and the school district to find a placement and possibly help fund his placement as well. Good luck, and as a former Illini - still miss Chicago, but love it here. Former Illini

The Bay Area is one of the better areas to live in for autistic children. Emily Rubin (co author of SCERTS) for all children on the spectrum, is in Monterey and has trained several Bay Area therapists, clinics and districts in Northern California. Her co authors and she originally researched, developed, tested, and implemented their methods, research, assessments, and interventions at the Yale clinic in New Haven (also a great place to live for an autistic child).She incorporates several different resources in her interventions (TEACH, Carole Gray, Tony Atwood, ect.). Her company's website is: http://www.xroads.com www.scerts.com I believe she is located in Monterey.

Michelle Garcia Winner, who is very well known in the field of High Functioning Autism, and often works with Carol Gray, has a clinic in San Jose (South Bay, closer to Sanford). She has also trained several therapists, clinics and school districts in the area. I know at least one of the speech therapist in the Berkeley Schools who has received training from both her and Emily and implements it into her therapy. www.socialthinking.com info [at] socialthinking.com Phone# 408.557.8595x303 for Carol Gray: www.futurehorizons-autism.com

Lots of clinics in the bay area specialize in social disorders. Several Berkeley parents with high functioning autistic children take their children to Communication Works in Berkeley at cwtherapy.com phone # 510.639.2929. They incorporate a lot of Michelle Winner's methods. Diann Grimm, from the Diagnostic Center-North, now specializes in spectrum children and comes to the school site if a request is made, free of charge, for an evaluation and recommendations for intervention at: www.dcn-cde.ca.gov

For the public pre school in Berkeley I would recommend Margaret Lindenstein as a speech therapist and Joni Miller as a teacher. Joni primarily takes low functioning spectrum children, but I know a couple high functioning spectrum children who have been in her class, because she does such a wonderful job. Joni used to be at Hopkins, but I think she moved to Franklin. Margaret is at Hopkins and maybe Franklin.I know they both work well together. Louise Fender is another wonderful preschool speech therapist in the Berkeley public preschools. Vicki Van Steenburg is the pre-school Full Inclusion directer. Insurance usually covers therapy before children are school age and possibly for the Berkeley Communication Works when they are school age. I am not sure how young Comm. Works takes clients. Several of the Berkeley therapist have been trained for spectrum children and a full inclusion program is offered as early as preschool. Currently the training of therapist is sporadic with therapist using a hodgepodge of methods. Most of the OTs and Adaptive P.E. teachers work with autistic children together with the speech therapist and Full Inclusion teachers. Soon the Berkeley district may receive SCERTS training for all therapist working with spectrum children. The Emerson Elementary speech, full inclusion, and OT staff are already implementing SCERTS, Michelle Winner and Dainn Grimm into therapy programs. anon

PDD/NOS Autism Spectrum, changing from Reg. Ctr. to School District

December 2006

My 3 year old son was diagnosed with PDD/NOS when he was 2 years old by the East Bay Regional Center. His been getting services through them for about a year now. He currently gets in-home ABA, Speech and OT. He has made great progress and we have him in a mainstream pre-school with an aide 2 days a week.

Here is my concern and I need advice....

Because he is turning 3 in December, the Regional Center can't continue the services and we now have to go through the school district. It's the San Ramon School District. We had our first IEP meeting on Tuesday and we ran out of time. There was just so many questions I had. We have to schedule another meeting. I am very concerened because what they are recommending for my son is Special-Ed classes, the CEIA Center and their services through the district.

Has anyone gone through these services? How was your expereience? and what would you recommend? Has anyone had to fight with the school to keep the services they have?

I would love to talk to someone who has gone through this because I'm on information overload and have so much information and not sure what to do. I just know that the ''appropiate'' services for my son should be what he is getting now. I know my son the best.

Any advice or input would be greatly apprciated. Nilesh

The CEIA Center seems to be a pretty good program. The lead behaviorist is new (which is a nice/good change from last year) and I think she has a great feel for the kids and the program. Have you had the chance to visit the program? San Ramon is a good District but you need to be on top of things. The District has been heavily impacted by the growth and development in the community and therefore are short staffed. It is my understanding that the District is short staffed on Speech and OT's and that they have been contracting out and using the family's current therapist through Regional Center so that the kids are not without services. As for the Special Day Class or CEIA center...not sure what they are recommending for your child so I can not really comment. The only time a District will consider paying for current services is when they have no place to put the child due to overcrowded classrooms and that is also only short term until they open up new classrooms, etc.

The biggest shock/adjustments families have to make when transitioning out of Regional Center Early Intervention Services is the change in services. Some families supplement the District services by paying privately for other services. If you have someone from your ABA program that can attend your IEP that would be great or if you have an advocate. You can call DREDF or CASE or your Regional Center Case Manager for advocate information. anolther thing you should get is the book, ''A parents guide to an IEP.'' You can get it through Nolo Press in Berkeley. Good luck. anonymous

I belong to a few yahoo groups who seem to have many parents in the San Ramon district and they overall do not seem happy with the district. What you are being offered sounds very similar to what my 3 year old has in the Mt. Diablo school district and it is really working well for him. He has improved dramatically. He is scheduled so much of the day that I really don't want additional services. But, as we all know with autism, every kid is different and individualized programs are what they need. But we also live in a time when school districts have very little funding...from our pathetic state education funding AND the federal funding. I am going with the services offered for this reason, and staying on top of things and vigilant to make sure they are what he needs. I also know as a mom to two kids on the spectrum who works closely with both children every day that my time is precious, and I don't want to waste my time with them in battle with the school district and with lawyers, as long as I see the kind of progress I am seeing. I see this happen with a lot of autism parents. So...good luck getting what your child needs! I wish you the best.
parent of two ASD kids

Hi Nilesh! My son gets in-home ABA, is enrolled in a full inclusion preschool class with a full time 1:1 aide, and it's all paid for by the school district. I'm happy to talk to you about my experiences, please feel free to contact me directly. Jill

Dear Nilesh, A really good book that addresses these issues is '' Autism Spectrum Disorders'', by Chantal Sisile-Kira. She has an information packed chapter on how to deal with the system, what your rights are and how to get the best education for your child. If you don't have the book, go get it. It's published by Perigee. lorrie

Preschool for PDD-NOS son

Jan 2005

My son, diagnosed with PDD-NOS, will be three at the end of this month. He's been in an Early Intervention program (Small Voices) for most of the last year, and now we're ''transitioning'' him into the Berkeley USD (as I write this, he hasn't yet had his IEP). I'm confused by our options, I'm concerned about doing the right thing, I need somebody to talk to! Are there any parents out there who have been where I am and can talk to me? Jill

I don't know what kind of preschool programs are available at BUSD, but I will tell you about the class my son attended when he was 4. It was a preschool for the ''communicatively handicapped'' that Oakland has, and it contained kids with a variety of diagnoses: PDD, autism, one or two children who had hearing loss but did not rely exclusively on signing.

It was a very structured program, which helped these kids learn and perform. The teacher we had there was wonderful and it really helped get my son on the path to learning. He had a hard time with staying on task etc. but did pretty well.

If you have a diagnosis for your child, you have presumably seen a professional. Ask him/her what kind of preschool setting would be best, and then ask the school (in advance of your IEP) for permission to visit any preschools that might apply.

I'd also look in the archives here to see if any of the private preschools seems appropriate. I'd also go visit Linda Beech school in Piedmont to see the kind of program they run.

Looking at a lot of options and seeing what kind of kids are in each setting, and whether they seem attentive and happy, will help.

If you would like general help on your IEP, there is a great book: Lawrence Siegel's ''The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child'' from Nolo Press. I used this to prepare for my 1st IEP and have found it a great, great reference guide.

You can also contact me directly if you want more suggestions, but for school district navigation advice it's better to hear from BUSD parents.

Good luck! Nancy

Preschool for Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Feb. 2004

I checked on the website and there's no recent information on good childcare/preschool programs for a child with special needs. My son has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and we are hoping to find a preschool that can accomodate both he and his twin (normal functioning) sister. He's pretty mild, but his current preschool gives me the impression that he is still much more work than they are used to. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I have heard of a good school out in Danville, but since we live and work in El Cerrito it's just not feasable to do such a commute daily. Many thanks, -Susan

Recommendations received:

  • Daisy Child Development Center (Oakland)
  • Oak Hill School (Marin)

    Other advice:

    There is a preschool attached to Castro Elementary School on Donal St. in El Cerrito that may be just what you are looking for. The preschool does ''reverse mainstreaming,'' meaning most of the children have special needs but the group includes non-special needs kids as well. The teachers I met there last year were incredibly warm and loving had wonderful relationships with all of the children. You can probably reach them through the West Contra Costa County Unified School District. Good Luck!

    Courtney Zeleski is a great resource for parents of special needs children, especially those with autism. She does wonderful one-on-one work, and knows a great deal about what resources are available. Her phone numbers are (510) 326-9062 and (510) 531-4197. You can also reach her by email at wocnebi AT yahoo.com. Paul ''The Tutor'' Osborne

    School for autistic/aspergers 3 year old

    October 2003

    Our (almost) three year old was just diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. She is very verbal and the diagnosis may be changed to Asperger's as she grows older. Our IEP is coming up soon and we are looking into various preschool options. We are uncertain as to whether she would be best suited in a 5 day per week special day class or in some combination of ''typical'' community preschool combined with special services for spectrum disorder. Our child is very high functioning and we're not sure she'd be best served in a school district day classroom that also serves children with more severe disabilities. In addition, we are investigating various schools and services for preschoolers on the spectrum. Recommendations from parents who have been through this would be much appreciated. Concerned Parent

    You didn't say which school district you were in, but if its Oakland, you should look into one of the classrooms at Tilden School. This is a small special education public school for preschool/kindergarten, and has classes for a variety of non- severely handicapped disorders such as Asperger's, autism, language, deaf/hard of hearing and more. (My son attends there in one of the communicative handicapped kindergarten classes.)

    If you happen to be in the Piedmont School District, the Asperger's expert teacher who used to teach at Tilden is now teaching at a school there. Her name is Patti Stevenson.

    If you are in neither of these districts and your district is not offering an appropriate placement, you could perhaps get an inter-district transfer. Under the law you are entitiled to a ''free and APPROPRIATE education'' for your child. If the classroom being offered to you has a mixture of children with disabilities ranging from mild to severe, that is not an appropriate placement for your child. If you need any further information, I would be happy to direct you to some parents who could better answer your questions. Charlotte