Which High School for Autism Spectrum?
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- High School for mild Asperger kid
- Full-time alternative school for AS teen
- Choosing a high school for our daughter
- High School for SID/High Functioning Autism Teen
- School for 15-y-o who may have mild Aspergers
- Student with mild aspergers looking for high school
- Best high school in Bay Area for mildly autistic, bright boy
- School for "Spectrum" Kids
Our 8th grade son with recently diagnosed mild Aspergers is set to attend Oakland Tech this fall, but several teachers have recently expressed concern that it might not be the best fit. Yes, rather late in the year for this!! And now I'm panicked that we need to have an alternative lined up. There is absolutely NO WAY we can afford any private school (we aren't poor enough for financial aid and no way rich enough), so I'm hoping there's a charter school SOMEWHERE in the Bay Area that would work. Any suggestions, recommendations or warnings much appreciated!! Panicked and Stressed
You and your son may want to check out the Alameda Community Learning Center (ACLC) in Alameda, CA. (www.alamedaclc.org) ACLC is a small (300), public (tuition-free) charter middle and high school.
ACLC is a creative, inclusive and dynamic learning community. It provides an innovative, hands-on, research-based curriculum that emphasizes student engagement in a democratic society through leadership, self-direction and personal exploration. Learners participate in unique educational experiences including internships, community projects, and college classes at the nearby College of Alameda.
ACLC has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best High Schools in the United States for the past four years. It is consistently ranked as one of Alameda's top middle and high schools. The ACLC curriculum meets all University of California-approved A - G college prep courses, and over 90% of ACLC graduates are admitted to four year universities. Parent of 12th-grader and 8th-grader
If you are willing to go to San Jose look into Communitas Charter High School. there are openings and it is a small and supportive college prep school. t
I know a student with Asperger's who goes to Flex Academy in San Francisco and it is working out for him after some earlier attempts elsewhere. http://www.k12.com/sfflex/home#.UU-AeByG374 Dusty Sykes
Don't freak out. You say your son is going to Tech in the fall-will he be in the ASIP program there? If not, please make sure you do all the paper work so that he is, you can't ask for him to be in the program if you haven't done the paper work. The ASIP (Asperger's Inclusion Program) at Tech is really supportive. Any kid who needs it has an aid accompany him/her to class and there is a lot of support. I work in the program by the way.
Maybe his teachers were afraid it would be too big and scary but it really isn't. Starting in 10th grade he can be in one of the academies which is an amazing opportunity to get a headstart on a career in either Biotech, Health, Engineering, Fashion Design, and Computers. It is a great opportunity that the Charter schools don't offer.
Our teen has Aspergers and is having a hard time in the public school system. He has been in the Independent Study program at BHS for a year because the social scene at BHS was too much, but IS is not really meeting his needs. He is becoming isolated and is not making any new friends. We cannot afford placement at CLC or Bayhill, and are ideally looking for a home school/charter school arrangement, or even a private tutor, that will meet his needs and also qualify as full-time high school education. Any advice or ideas are appreciated. -Berkeley mom
We have had a great experience at Trails To Success.....www.trailstosuccess.org shea
We are looking for a high school for our daughter (entering 9th grade in the fall) who is intellegent but also on the autism spectrum-- PDD-NOS or Asperger's. In the right environment, she does relatively well in school, but has low self-esteem and also dyslexia which causes struggles with reading (about one grade level below normal). Thus, a highly competitive, college-track-only school might not be a good fit. We're looking for those who have actual experience with the schools in our hunt, right now: Star Academy, Orion, Orinda Academy, CLC (Alameda), Milennium HS, Bay Hill, others we may not know about. We've seen the past BPN posts on this, looking to update our info, thanks.
My daughter had been diagnosed with Asperger's, was very shy and also had low self-esteem. We sent her to Bentley School and she had a very good experience there. It's a small school and we found it both rigorous and ''touchy-feely'' (for lack of a better word). The teachers were very good, very kind and always ready and willing to help with any problems.
Because the school is so small, my daughter was able to form friendships with students in all the grades, not just hers, which I think provided her with social interactions she wouldn't have had in a bigger school.
My daughter did not have learning disabilities per se, though she had trouble with executive function. Bentley was very helpful in that regard, because they taught organization techniques to the students and there was a lot of one-on-one teacher/student interaction.
We have not had personal experience with Orinda Academy, but two of my friends sent their children there and quickly removed them when they found that the school did not seem to know that their kids were leaving campus during the day and getting into all kinds of trouble.
Good luck with your school search. In hindsight I will say, don't worry about your daughter being in the perfect school. As long as she can get the attention she needs from the teachers and can meet some friendly kids, she will be OK.
If you're looking for a small school environment, good teacher support and communication, confidence building for students and really important school feedback for both students and parents Orinda Academy is a good choice. You should visit and talk with students and faculty. It's a few blocks from BART in Orinda so is good for many students from Oakland/Berkeley who take Bart. We've especially appreciated, as parents, a progress update every 2-3 weeks that each student gets. It's really helped our daughter stay focused and those that are falling behind know quickly. The report is emailed to parents as well. It's been good for building our daughter's confidence in many ways. Thanks... Orinda Academy Parent
Does ANYONE know of some really good schools for teens with SID and/or high functioning autism, in sf bay area, esp east bay, and near Richmond would be greatest! Need to accept substance abuse background and accredited would be best. Son already 16.5-I'm desperate! THKS!-Amy amy
My son has Asperger's Symdrome and did very well at Children's Learning Center (CLC) in Alameda. He successfully transitioned to Alameda High School and I found them very supportive. If your son needs a specialized school, call CLC at (510)769-7100. If he can handle a regular high school with support, call the Alameda School District Special Ed at (510) 748-4012. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Nancy
I suggest you look at Saint Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda, a Catholic High School. One of their hallmarks is diversity, which includes students with learning differences such as Aspergers. Your teen need not be Catholic, Christian or even a believer to apply. My son, diagnosed with Aspergers (now High Functioning Autism due to the DSM change) was a self-professed atheist when he enrolled as a Freshman. Our son was welcomed and included by the staff and students from day one. The school is small, with three full time counselors and one part time special needs counselor, and has been very supportive during some bumpy academic and social rides. The tuition is affordable, more so than other private high schools, and worth every penny. There is financial aid available. Our kids also like the school's setting, on a tree lined street in a residential area but with the Alameda Free Library (open until evening) and shops within walking distance.
As a furtherance to socialization, your teen would also have many opportunities to become involved in after school activities in performance arts and sports. My son participates in the Cross Country Team. Our daughter performed in a play and a musical in her Freshman year. The school's website is SJND.org. Google SJND Diversity to find the pdf of their 2008 Annual Report titled ''Embracing Diversity''. Feel free to contact me with questions. Barbara
My 15Y son might have mild asperger, will be tested this month. He is depressed and socially anxious. He is extremely difficulty going to school. In the past, I have tried to enroll him to a private school for independent learners. He responded well for the 1st semester, but lately he even feels anxious and reluctant going to that school. Considering there is not much social activity and help when he is absent,I enroll him to the public school under IEP. There are 8~9 students in that class with 4-6 therapist/teacher. He is not willing to go there either and feel terrified and anxious. We do work with doctors on his issues and he takes meds too. This public school is suggesting home hospital which teachers come to our home. I don't like this idea, since this just make my son feels more isolate at home. But I don't know other approach.
He is very bright, and had good grade all along. But now he doesn't have motivation. All he does is to sleep until noon, watch TV at night, no exercise at all. He does participate family activity even though reluctantly. Someone recommended me therapeutic boarding school. I would like to hear your experience to see whether I should plan for this. Also if you have any idea how I can request school service to deal with school avoidance, please let me know. worried mom
Nancy Chin is very good with children and teens who have asperger. She has done wonders with a child that my son went to elementary and middle school with. This boy who really had few social skills and had trouble fitting in is now a happy, motivated high school student. I highly recommend you call her at 925-299-1069. http://www.stepbystep4success.com/ Nancy-Can-Help
Hello! I work for an educational consulting firm called the Bodin Group. Our expertise is school placement, local and boarding, for young people who need specialized learning or therapeutic enviroments. We also provide assessment and other services. If you would like to learn more, please contact us for a free consultation/information gathering call or meeting.
The same thing happened with my teen daughter. 1) First call Berkeley's Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) to learn your son's legal rights and develop a strategy for meeting them. 2) Tell the school's guidance counselor or principal, ''My child has an educational disability: an emotional disturbance''. Use those specific terms; the jargon alerts the staff to what is needed. The school will do a psychoeducational evaluation at their expense. 2) Also have an adolescent psychiatrist evaluate him. The MDs at Herrick Hospital's adolescent psych unit in Berkeley recommended Dr. Richard Pollack (925-945-1355). He charged $1400 up front; our insurance reimbursed $800. It would have been worth it even if we had to pay the full price. 3) An emotional disturbance is one of the qualifying conditions for an IEP, an Individual Education Plan, which entitles your child to specific Federal protections and services. Ask the school staff to set it up. 4) Learn about the signs a depressed teen may be considering suicide, and ask your son openly whether he's thinking of hurting himself. If he says yes, keep him within eyesight all the time until you reach help. 5) Learn now how to get emergency medical help if your child had suicidal thinking. In Alameda County, take your child to the ER at Alta Bates in Berkeley. Don't take him to Children's Hospital; a nurse there told me they don't evaluate kids over 12 for psych admission. (I'm not sure this is accurate). You may have to wait several hours to be seen if your child is not acting out acutely and more urgent emergencies (like heart attacks or accidents) need attention first. Take something to read. 6) If the MD judges him at immediate risk for hurting himself or others, he will declare your son a ''5150'', meaning he needs a 72-hour legal hold for evaluation. This will be done on Herrick's adolescent psych unit, the regional teen psych facility, which is outstanding. Your son will go by ambulance for his own safety. You can't ride with him, which sucks, but you can see him again at Herrick. 6) This is a lot of info to absorb. It's scary to have a child this depressed; know that you will be doing the right things to help your son. Best wishes to you and him. Nancy
Gosh, This email could have been written by me. My son is 14.5 years, academically bright, is not doing well in his current school environment, is anxious about going to school, kids pick on him there and he feels ''uncool''. He sleeps late, has a hard time waking up, grades have slipped, and all he wants to do is watch TV or play video games. As per the boarding school - I researched them all - 1) All the schools which are open to Aspergers are on the East Coast. 2) The really awesome one specifically for Aspergers (I forget the name) has an annual tution of $73,000.
However, the 4 local options are: Springstone School in Lafayette, Bay Hill High School in Oakland, Holden High School in Orinda and Orion Academy in Moraga.
You may be aware of all these places, however, please feel free to contact me directly if you have any more questions.
Wishing you the best. I know EXACTLY what you are going through. anon
You can have your son assessed for autism, PDD-NOS at the Regional Center of the East Bay. If he qualifies for services you will have case management and service coordination. Offices are in both Alameda and Contra Costa County. Good luck. Carol
I don't know about boarding schools, but if you're interested in checking out a small private high school for kids with learning differences look at Bayhill HS in Oakland. Our son was struggling in ways similar to yours and the change has been dramatic. He still has his issues and difficulties but the staff has been wonderful in helping him do his best. Also, once you get a diagnosis, call the Regional Center of the East Bay to ask for an evaluation. If they find your son eligible, there are behavior specialists who can come to your home and help with some of the difficult behaviors. Mom of teen with Asperger's Syndrome
Sorry, I don't have advice on particular boarding schools, but I wanted to respond to the post from Bodin associates about their placement and assessment services. A few years ago we paid for their services for my daughter, on the advice of her psychiatrist. I felt they had a very limited perspective on alternatives. Most of the programs they suggested were really designed for teens out of control, not for teens with depression, motivation, and more subtle social interaction problems. When I indicated I did not see the programs they were suggesting as a good fit for my daughter (whom I would have described at the time as depressed, and with nonverbal learning disability issues), the reaction of our consultant was that she guessed we were just not ready to take these steps. She had little to offer that did not involve what seemed to me quite extreme situations that in our assessment could have been a disaster for our daughter. The service was expensive, and may well be worthwhile for out of control kids, but for us it was an expense we could well have saved. Not a Bodin fan
I saw the response about Bodin and wanted to offer one other suggestion. We used McClure, Mallory and Baron to help us find a school for an ADHD (inattentive type) teen. Amanda Mallory helped us find a boarding school that worked for him. While they do offer theraputic placement help, they also have lots of experience finding schools that work for a wide range of student needs. They are in SF. www.mmbedu.com
There are also directories of boarding schools. You can find something that sounds interesting and then research on your own. Some of the families at my child's boarding school found it that way. Schools will provide references. I got names of several current and past parents and called them all. Good luck. anon
We also found consultants (we used McClure, Mallory, and Barron) unhelpful in a similar case. They made very strong recommendations for wilderness followed by schools that felt inappropriate, and against the school my gut told me was right. We felt guilt tripped -- told we were in denial, falling into the same bad habits that supposedly got us where we were, etc., even though the wilderness program director agreed that it wouldn't be a match. The process wasted time and money and confused my son. It seemed oriented towards teens who need to be separated from a detrimental peer group, have problems with substance abuse, etc. and not more complex or subtle profiles, such as my son's anxiety and learning disabilities. We went with our gut feeling, and our son flourished. It was a residential program back east that helps with emotional, social, and learning issues. At home he had failed in two private schools, refused school, and became socially isolated. He had been diagnosed with ''atypical'' Asperger's or high functioning autism, and schools talked of defiance or even megalomania. That was all wrong -- learning disabilities (masked by high IQ) kept him from doing the work until he had effective remediation, and anxiety made him withdraw, which fooled some professionals into thinking he had social skills issues.
When we told him he'd be schooled at home as long as it took to find the right school -- home study wasn't a permanent solution -- he became more cooperative and optimistic than we expected. Being in a supportive, structured residential situation was a big relief to him. Success, academic and social, turned things around. It was a very hard decision to send him away, but our relationship became so much better! But it was very expensive, and it's nearly impossible to get funding through a school district. Another problem with going away, is that we didn't have continued support when he returned -- but he left because we didn't have it here to begin with.
My information is a few years old, but have you looked into Glenholme School in CT or The Learning Clinic in Brooklyn, CT or Brehm School in Carbondale, IL? Those admissions directors are well connected, and you can ask them if there are other schools you should consider. wishing you the best
I'm looking for information about Orion Academy and Orinda Academy. My daughter has very mild aspergers, and we are worried about her placement at a high school for typical kids. We want her to have a good social environment during the high school years where she can make friends. Can anyone tell me if Orion Academy students have mild aspergers, or are the students more severely affected? Also, we have been told Orinda Academy would be a good place for her, but I'm worried that the students don't have special needs, and she won't have friends there. Please advise if you have experience with either school. Thanks. aspie mom
Orinda Academy has many students with a variety of special needs, including Asperger's, and caters to them with small classes, lots of individual attention, careful academic monitoring, and efforts to build a supportive, accepting community. The school just doesn't like to position itself as a special needs school. This baffles some of its parents and pleases others. Visit for a day. Summer school starts soon, if it's not already in session. Summer school is a little different from the regular academic year, and gets a somewhat wider spectrum of students, but visiting now will still introduce you to many of the teachers and several of the regular students who are either making up missed work or getting ahead, and the general style of the place. If you like it, your daughter can visit for a day, too, and can shadow a current student. The administration can connect you with some of the Parent Group Board members, to answer specific questions from a parent's point of view. -Happy OA parent of successful LD kid
My son is at Orinda Academy and we couldn't be happier with the school. The philosophy of the school is that the very small classes and quick feedback make it possible to accommodate different learning styles while not in any way compromising a pre-college curriculum.
As for your daughter's mild asberger's, my advice would be to go to the school and ask for an interview with the head of the school, Ron Graydon. He is an extremely principled person who is not going to tell you that the school is right for her unless it is. I feel absolutely sure about this. He is very experienced and wise in terms of not only educational issues, but interpersonal dynamics amongst teens. P
Has your daughter visited either of the schools you're looking into? Our child's visit at Orion and the impressions shared with us told us a lot. I think that many students find a respite from teasing and bullying there and find it easier to make friends, but it's hard to say how an individual will fit in without trying it. The director's book will give you a good idea about the school's approaches and program. If you'd like to chat with us about our experience with Orion, you can contact me at yahoo.com. another parent
There was a post about Orinda Academy in the last 'parents of teens' newsletter (see 'Happy OA parent of successful LD kid') in which the writers said the school has many sudents with a variety of special needs, including Aspergers. I am a member of the parent group board and have run this post by the director of the school, Ron Graydon. Ron mentions that in the entire school there is only 1 student with very mild Aspergers, and that well-meaning posts like this one misrepresent the school's mission and student body. If your daughter is looking for a special needs school that specifically addresses Asperger's students you might consider Orion Academy in Moraga, or Springstone School in Lafayette. For a special needs education (not specifically Aspergers) you might try Sterne School in San Francisco or Star Academy in San Rafael (SA caters for grades 1 through 10). Orinda Academy provides an excellent, inclusive college prep environment for a diverse range of students, and it strives very well to accommodate moderate learning style differences and to provide a positive and supportive culture where all students can work to their potential. It has been hugely successful for our son, who is very bright but has focus issues.
I want to offer a suggestion to the parent looking at Orinda academy for their child with mild AS. I think that it is very important to the administration to protect their school from having a reputation for having LD children and the response from the director reflects that. It is not however in my opinion (as the parent of a child attending Orinda) that it was a typo. Orion is better suited for child with severe LD issues. Orinda could be an excellent choice for milder LD issues. It would depend on the issues your child faces. It is very small and most of the children have some type of concern that brings them to the school. The teachers are caring and available to work out individualized learning plans that can maximize your childC",b"s success. I think it is an excellent option that should be considered. I'm sorry that the administration shies away from acknowledging that. Been there parent
Another school in the Bay Area that serves students with special needs is Bayhill High School across from Lake Merritt in Oakland. The majority of Bayhill's students have learning differences but many students have social skills challenges, including mild Asperger's syndrome. Bayhill High School would be a less restrictive setting than Orion because there is more of a range of social profiles from very socially adept to Aspergers and NLD students. Bayhill has special education teachers, small classes, a multi-sensory approach to instruction, social skills groups and speech and language therapy, as well as a very positive and supportive school climate. If you would like to learn more, contact (510)268-1500. Rachel
As an MD and parent of two teens, one with mild LD, one without; one currently in Berkeley High School, one who went to a competitive private high school and is now a junior at an Ivy League college, I wanted to respond both to the HS for ''mild AS'' question and the private vs public HS, because I think there are some key principles here:
1) knowing your child and what they need for both support and appropriate challenges (and helping them recognize and advocate what they need for themselves)
2) recognizing that our understanding of LD/ADHD/AS/ASD is primitive; that diagnostic labels are imprecise shorthands for complex individuals who have a wide spectrum of specific difficulties and strengths, which also vary from quite mild (and occasionally overdiagnosed) to profoundly challenging.
So our child with LD/AS feels great about doing well academically at Berkeley High School. He has done well in part because of the study skills and routines he learned at his private elementary and middle school; in part, he has been in one of the small school programs and has had excellent responsive teachers--as good as most of those we have had in private schools. BHS has been accepting and even welcoming of his social eccentricities.
We expect we will be utilizing tutoring help in the future, and he has done pragmatic speech groups for social skills work. We looked at Orinda Academy, which I think would have been excellent for him, but he felt he did not need that level of structure--so far, he seems to be correct. But for other teens, Bayhill or Orion may be the environment in which they can thrive and learn.
Our experience of private schools has been positive--but far from ''real world''--of course there are great kids, families, opportunities--but the one overwhelming impression that sticks with me is--too much money and consumerism. Our older son felt underprivileged (FAR from true) when he wasn't spending spring break in Barbados. Of course your family is the primary determinant of culture--but I was troubled by the peer messages... even more true in private colleges--the amount of spending money many kids have is striking. And in retrospect, I'm sure our older son would have done just fine in public high school with good AP classes. learning as we go....
There is another wonderful school in Alameda, Children's Learning Center. C.L.C. has 2 campuses, one for grade school and the other for middle school and high school. C.L.C. provides are a small, warm, school environment with a thoughtful sensitive behavioral system, which encourages/supports students to grow and stretch. The classes are very small. The teacher's are amazing. The staff stays for years and years because it is such a supportive learning environment. There are spot on for academics. They work on supporting and learning social thinking (speech pragmatics, social skills). CLC provides a behavioral piece and services are a bit more intensive as I understand it than Bayhill. So, it is for a child or adolescent that needs a bit more structure and support. CLC has sports teams, cheerleading, and the best talent show. The info is: Children's Learning Center,1910 Central Avenue, Alameda, CA. 94501, phone 510-769-7100. Wishing you the best in your search!!! Parent of teen at C.L.C.
I am moving back to the Bay Area and need to find the very best high school in the area for my 16 year old son who has mild autism and needs some support. Any suggestions as to which district/high school is best? Thanks so much.
If you're looking for a public high school, my son, who has Asperger's, did very well at Alameda High in the city of Alameda. The Special Ed team was very well organized and extremely supportive. They were also very good at getting in contact with me when there were issues, such as late homework. I highly recommend them. Nancy
We are looking for other parents of children with high functioning autism, Asperger's syndrome or similar non-verbal learning disorders. We are having great trouble finding an appropriate school for our boy. He is 15 and very very bright, but has sensory integration problems and a list of other things that make it impossible for him to survive (let alone thrive) in the public schools. This is a common problem among high functioning kids on the spectrum. Many can't function in the large, noisy, ''full inclusion'' setting for behavioural, language processing, and sensory reasons, but the smaller, ''special day classes'' are geared to students on a cognitively low level and so are equally pointless. There is supposed to be an epidemic of autism out there, and we KNOW there must be other families stuck in similar situations. Where are the good schools for these remarkable young people? They can grow up to make enormous contributions to society, and to make their way in the world. But they need the right educational setting, social skills training, and lots of attention. Can't we get together and form a school, or help the school districts form an appropriate school? At least we could share ideas. Please write to me. Tobie
- A Better Chance School in Richmond.