Wednesday, December 28, 2005
One job I have next month is picking schools for my two older children. Each has to go to a new school next year, and picking that school is up to me (with some input from them). My thirteen year old is in eighth grade in a small Catholic school across town from where we live, but close to my office. He is bright, but mildly autistic with attention, fine motor and social issues. The school has been a gift of God for him, with good teachers who have given him the attention he needs, and kids who have been as nice to him as can be expected of kids that age. While my gut feeling is to look for a small school, the Catholic and public schools generally aren't. While we were in Atlanta after Katrina, he attended a public middle school that had about 200 kids in a grade, and he managed, so I'm not quite as hooked on a small school as I was before that. The easiest place to send him would be our local public high school, but it is one of the biggest in the area and the kids there seem kind of rough. From a convenience standpoint, two Catholic schools stand out. Rummel is the local boy's high school which is a few blocks away from my office. It has a good reputation academically but the worst teasing my son has ever endured happened at their camp--and the staff did little to stop it. Holy Rosary is a new school, started this year for kids with "learning differences". I'm concerned about academics there, since my son is on grade level, but I think socially it would be a good fit--if they would take him--the affiliated elementary wouldn't, and I know they have expelled at least one autistic boy. The tuition is about twice what other high schools charge--and for my son, I'm just not convinced it would be worth it. His elementary counselor called someone with the archdiocese who recommends Holy Rosary as a first choice, DeLaSalle as a second choice and Rummel third. DeLaSalle interests me, but it is a long way away. It is good to have choices, but hard to make good ones for a child who doesn't fit in any pre-cut package.
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I don't know anything about Rummel, but my boys are at an all-boys' school, and IMO you are wise to think twice or thrice before sending your son to one. There is a fair amount of bullying that goes on under the radar at any school, but my sons tell me that there is a lot more scuffling and fighting at their current school than was the case at the public school they used to attend. And adolescent boys can be merciless toward those who are "different," particularly when the target has difficulties with ordinary social situations. My oldest son had a classmate with what I suspect was Asperger's in elementary school. Once the kids got used to him and his various quirks, he wasn't teased much, especially because the "popular" girls took him under their wing and defended him against the bullies.
You know Jay best, but consider that it's much easier to provide supplementary academic enrichment with special outside classes than to try to compensate for a miserable social environment at school.