Where we live probably isn’t ideal for our son with high functioning autism. Where in the United States or Canada would we find the best services? We’re worried about him now and in the future. We’re willing to do anything to help. Should we move for his sake?
How lucky your son is that the whole family is willing to give up everything and move for his sake. As to which locale would be ideal for your son, well that’s a tough question.
I live in Canada and am more familiar with Canadian educational systems than those in the US. Last year though, when I spent five days at the Autism Leadership Academy in Fort Lauderdale, I discovered that there are more similarities than differences in how we actually work with kids with autism spectrum disorders.
I would assume that at least in principle, the educational services available for your son should be the same no matter where in the US you live due to the federally legislated IDEA, etc. While on paper, the services should be the same, I realize that the reality may differ.
In Canada, there is no centralized special education system as in the States; each province is responsible for its own. Inclusion is the norm rather than the exception. Below are links to some provinces’ publications regarding students and autism. As I wrote this, all the links were clickable. Please contact me if some do not work for you.
British Columbia – Teaching Students with Autism
Alberta – Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Saskatchewan – Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Educators
Manitoba – Implementing Programming for Students with Autism
Ontario – Teaching Community Skills and Behaviors to Students With Autism
Quebec – I was unable to find any English language materials on Quebec’s curriculum as it pertains to students with autism
If anyone knows of a link to this information, I’d appreciate hearing from you.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia– Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Newfoundland –Model for the Coordination of Services to Children and Youth with Special Needs
Prince Edward Island – Effectiveness of the Programming and Services for Children with Autism in Prince Edward Island
You might be interested in listening to this audio link that was created by Mrs. Carla Grant and her son, Elliot for CBC radio. Elliot is a high functioning young boy with ASD. You’ll find their audio at this link: The Cause of Thunder
For information on services throughout the United States, I’d suggest you contact some national organizations such as:
Autism Research Institute
Autism Society of America
Apart from all this research, why exactly to you want to move? If you are seeking the most ideal place in which to raise your son, I’d worry that it may not exist. I’ve talked with families who believe that if only they were in the right place, if only they had the correct teacher aide or special ed teacher, or program, then their child would be “fixed” or “normal”.
Unfortunately, (or not!) while strategies can be learned and kids grow and mature, as Temple Grandin says, “Once autistic, always autistic.” In fact, many articulate adults with autism take great exception to the idea of anyone trying to fix or change them. While they realize they may differ from the general population, they like who they are. You can read some of these views at:
Institute for the Study of Neurologically Typical
Ask an Aspie
It goes without saying, that your son’s well-being is extremely important. But he’s just one person in your family. What if you found what you felt were the ideal set of services for your boy but adequate employment was an issue for the wage earners in your family? Or you were torn between your duty to your child and your responsibility to ill, aging parents residing in another part of the country?
Young adults tend to have minds of their own. Even if you feel you’ve located your family in the perfect location for high school, post-secondary and work opportunities, your son may have different ideas. He may want to go to college elsewhere. He may seek job or school opportunities several States away. He may respect your opinions but still choose to move do make his own decision. (While worried, you’ll be proud that you’ve raised a child who can think for himself and has the confidence and skills to strike out on his own.)
It’s hard to judge a place by the services that are available, because even amid that array of services, many may be things your son does not need. It’s hard to believe that there is that one correct way of working with every person with autism, just as there is no one correct way to teach reading. Each of us is unique. Even though he has autism, there aren’t uniform traits across the spectrum, just tendencies that he may experience to varying degrees. And what your son experiences as a weakness at age eleven may differ from things that may cause him trouble when he’s twenty.
Since the incidence of autism is so prevalent now, most schools have at least some experience with students with autism spectrum disorders. By contacting the State or Provincial Departments of Education, you will gain some idea of their policies regarding children with autism.