Yesterday I received an email from a family that plans to move to either Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, or Suffolk. They have a child on the Autism Spectrum, with an IEP, and he is currently enrolled in a “Cluster Class” in Florida. It sounds ideal. If it were me, it would be very difficult to pull him out and move. They have very small class sizes (6 children) and the ratio is 2:1. We don’t have cluster classes in Virginia Beach, as far as I know.
Their goal is to find a school comparable to the one he is in now. First, I suggested they join Spectrum Parents on Facebook. It is a group made up of about 300 local families with kids on the Autism Spectrum. We live all over Hampton Roads: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, and Newport News. Then, they pick other parent’s brains about different schools, IEP issues, and programs.
Next, I called Virginia Beach’s Parent Resource Center (757-263-2066) and asked what schools match their child’s current classroom. Eileen Ouellette, a Special Education Teacher and the current Director of the Parent Resource Center, was great (Eileen.Ouellette@vbschools.com).
She said that if they are willing to share their son’s IEP with them, they could review it, & narrow down elementary schools he may attend in Virginia Beach.
Then they can search for a home within those elementary school zones. This is HUGE.
I am thinking we could call Chesapeake City Public Schools and Suffolk Public Schools and ask them if they are willing to review an IEP before they have an address. Right now, most schools want an address before they move forward about programs, schools, etc. Virginia Beach City Public Schools has 56 elementary schools alone. If you are looking to buy a home in more than one city, it can make the process beyond overwhelming.
- If they find a homeschool and buy a home in that neighborhood, that does not mean that program would stay there forever. Numbers and needs can change. So, the city might move the program to another school. It never happened at my son’s school, but it is something to keep in mind.
- If they have a school with a program that meets their sons needs, I would interview that school. I would ask the Facebook group what they think of those schools. Another great resource for parent feedback is greatschools.org.
My son started the Autism preschool program when he was 3 at Kempsville Elementary in Virginia Beach. He is now 8 and in a very structured third grade inclusion classroom, still at Kempsville Elementary. I am hoping by fifth grade he will be mainstreamed with a few accommodations.
Every child is unique. Eileen said, “If you have taught one child with Autism, you have taught one child with Autism.” She loves Virginia Beach schools and the programs they offer for kids on the Autism Spectrum. Her son has Autism, too. He graduated from Virginia Beach Public Schools with honors.