As my post Moving Back to Iceland states, we are returning to the land of ice and fire after two eventful years in Copenhagen, Denmark. As such, we found it fitting that I made a trip to Iceland to look at preschools and schools in search for the best services for our boys. So, I’ve been in Iceland the past few days (the reason why it has been oh so quiet in here) scanning the system. The goal was to find a neighborhood that has a good preschool AND elementary school that BOTH offer excellent services for autistic children. But the big question here was: How do I define the best school? What should I be looking for? How do I choose?
Well, there are a few things that affect the decision such as the child’s abilities, whether you want the child to be in a mainstream school or in a special institution, where your family is located (and if you find it important to be located near them), and where you are willing to live. In our case, we are talking about the future destination for our family resident for at least the next 15 years – maybe more – so this is not a decision that we take lightly.
As I am no expert on the matter I turned to those possessing the experience, i.e. other parents of autistic children. I found it refreshing to hear what they had to offer and to hear their opinion on whether it was a good idea to send children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) to mainstream schools or not. The suggestions and general discussion was very useful and I figured there might be others out there that might find it helpful too. Thus, I decided to write a post about what to look for when deciding where to send your children:
- Does the school base their work with ASD children on ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) or TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children) or can you choose the method you prefer?
- Do the facilities offer a quiet work space away from the other children where it is possible to take the child for 1:1 support?
- How much ASD expertise and experience exists within the school and among the employers? Are the support employees educated as support teachers or have other kinds of qualification? Who decides who will be the child’s support teacher (the school or the municipality) and do the parents have a say in that decision?
- To what extent are the parents integrated into the support work? How frequently does the support team meat with the parents? How does the school include the parents in the training?
- Are there other ASD children in the school right now? If yes, how old are they?
- Could they contact other parents that have (or had) ASD children in the school to see if they would be willing to talk about the school and the work that takes place there? (this is the most important issue as you usually get the best information and most honest opinion from those who have gone through the process themselves).