We are moving to Madison this summer, and have a preschool-aged son with special needs (autism and hearing

Asked by Michelle, Edmonton, KY Thu Feb 28, 2008

loss). We have heard that there are some schools/school districts that are great, and there are some to avoid, but nobody has given us much to go on so we can figure out where to strart looking for a house. Our son is likely to attend a program in McFarland, but since my husband will be at the university, we aren't sure that we want to live that far away. Might anyone have some ideas for us?

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Kay Gupta, , Madison, WI
Fri Mar 7, 2008
Most of Madison area schools address this issue and have resources.
I have taught in almost all area schools and they all have some resources.
For Schools:

Following is the Directory:

General information:
University of Wisconsin also have some resources.
Madison is a small place and I know many parents in west Madison who have autistic children. I think joining a parent support group is the best way to go. If you need any more information about that you can email me at: wihome@gmail.com

Web Reference:  http://www.guptahomes.com
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Mindy Allen, , Sun Prairie, WI
Thu Mar 6, 2008

The Waunakee and Sun Prairie School Districts actually hold annual training events on autism and accomodating to their needs. The next training will be June 18th and 19th of this year. It may be a good event to attend and ask questions. Here is the link:


The autism society of Madison is also a great resource for information on school districts. Their link is http://www.autismmadison.org.

I hope this information can be of help to you. Also, in realty, McFarland is only 10 miles from downtown Madison and could still be a great option.

Take care and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
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Paula Dollard, Agent, Madison, WI
Thu Feb 28, 2008
I would suggest contacting local non-profit organizations that work with autistic/special needs children in the area. Since they support children in multiple school districts, they will be familiar with the differences in services offered.

I would also recommend talking with a few parents. These organizations may be able to connect you with other parents. I personally have a nephew with autism and am familiar with some of the organizations in the area. I would also be happy to refer you to a few parents to speak with. Feel free to contact me at pauladollard@kw.com or 608-469-3374.
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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Thu Feb 28, 2008
I faced a somewhat similar issue with a child with ADHD. In our case, though, we weren't moving, but had encountered difficulties at the elementary school and wanted to make sure that the proper issues would be addressed in secondary school. I eventually became very involved in the national group involved with ADHD--CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)--and served as the coordinator (the top elected officer) of CHADD of Northern Virginia, the second-largest chapter in the nation. And we have parents every day asking the same questions.

First, contact the national associations most appropriate for your son/your son's condition. It might be the National Autism Association at http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/ or the Autism Society of America at http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer , or possibly another group. You may already be involved with such a group. If not, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.

Then contact the local chapter or branch of the national organization. Talk to the head of the local group. Be as direct and blunt as you need to be. Most chapter heads will be very willing to be very honest about schools and school districts. As you've probably found out, it's not just the school district, but the individual school. Our own problem at the elementary school was caused by one person: the principal. Many of the teachers were helpful and supportive, but the principal refused to believe that there was any need for any special education programs, much less that ADHD exists. (Yes, I know there's debate about that, but there's something going on with kids all along the autism spectrum--from autism to Asperger's to executive functioning difficulties in ADHD kids.)

At any rate, you should be able to get some straight answers from the people "on the ground" in the area. Also, take whatever steps you can to get your son qualified for an IEP, if he isn't already. And be wary of 504 plans. They actually can be very helpful, but sometimes schools will tell you, incorrectly, "Oh, you don't need an IEP. We can accomplish all that with a 504." Untrue.

And arm yourself in other ways. Some school districts have excellent special education programs; you can tell a lot by what they post online, and what programs they offer to parents to help deal with the issues. Oh, and when you're talking to the local chapter head, also get the name of a good special education lawyer. Hopefully, you won't need a lawyer. But if you do, be prepared.

It really all comes down to: Talk to people who've been in your position before, and have already gone through what you're going to face. And, with all due respect to all the other Realtors here who understandably shy away from questions about "best schools" with advice to "look at online resources," the online resources (number of special education kids per school, for instance, or even ratio of special ed teachers to students) will not--repeat, will not--tell you what you really need to know. Please trust me on this.

Hope that helps. And post any other questions here, or feel free to contact me.
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