Private Schools for ADHD & School Screenings for Autistic Spectrum Kids

Updated on April 09, 2012
D.L. asks from McKinney, TX
18 answers

Wow, where do I start with this question. First a little background. I have a 7 year old girl who was diagnosed with ADHD in December. She is now on meds that has helped a lot but I think still needs some tweaking. She is now able to at least sit at her desk in public school for a short period of time and know that she has a task in front of her to do. Her teacher says that she is doing better but still needs a lot of reminders to complete a task (before she wouldn't even start a task).

The school is wanting our authorization to have her screened for autism. My initial reaction was WHAT? She is so not on the spectrum, are you crazy? But I'm not an expert. I'm just not sure that she doesn't just have a lot of learning to catch up on. She also has some social hurdles etc but I won't get into that here. So here is my question...
We are thinking about just having her independently tested rather than going through the school. We are also thinking about putting her in a private school next year. One that would give her a better opportunity to learn rather than to be labeled and slotted into a pidgeon hole for 'problem kids'.

Do you have any experience with good private schools in or around McKinney (I work in downtown Dallas and live just off Virginia) so some place that would be feasible for me to take her too every day. Also, would you allow the school to do an autism evaluation or would you go to an independent place? I just don't know what to do for her or if I've given her enough time to really recover those lost months/years of learning.


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So What Happened?

I wish this was in a bulletin board format but here's a little more info. Actually I DO want to address her social hurdles but I feel like I have to find the right educational environment in order to properly address them. I don't want to shuffle her around between schools which would cause turmoil in any child. I guess if she is classified as autistic, or on the spectrum, then she would be high functioning. She seems normal for the most part but does things that are just enough out of the norm that other kids look at her like she's a little wierd. As far as her education is concerned, if she is in a one-on-one setting or in a small group then her acedemic abilitiy is very good. If she's in a larger group it's like it renders her helpless. She just can't do it in large groups. That is why we were considering a private school that is geared toward a different learning style than what public schools typically offer. Is that the right answer? I don't know. Honestly, I'm struggling with this topic as it is and havent' had a lot of time to do reasearch. So any advice from those who have been through it, good or bad I'm certainly willing to take and consider.

Yes, I'm probably in a bit of denial. Yes, i want the best for her and give her all the opportunity I can. I can get over the labeling. I know I can but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with emotionally.

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answers from Los Angeles on

The school will do it for free, if that is important to you. However, if it were me...I would go private, so I could have full control of the process and ask LOTS of questions. Homeschooling would be a great option, but you could bring her up to speed and find a community of kids that she has things in common with.

ADHD is NOT on the spectrum. That is incorrect info...

Good luck to you.

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answers from San Francisco on

If I were you I would get the testing done for autism. If she does have it you want to know! Anyway, isn't ADHD part of the spectrum disorders? I think they are all related.

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answers from Provo on

Our son also can not do large groups (he is currently being tested for a few things - ADHD among them). I pulled him out to homeschool him at least for the remainder of the year because I felt like being in the classroom at school...he was getting nowhere (academically, emotionally, socially - it was just not working for him). I don't know if that's an option at all...but in my experience (I was a teacher for a homeschool group for several years, as well as homeschooling my own children briefly when we lived far away from any good schools)...Kids learn faster and make up lost ground a lot quicker in a homeschool type environment. I don't know if that would be an option for you at all...but even doing it for a short while could significantly help her 'recover the lost months/years of learning'. If it is not something you could personally may be able to find someone else who can. That was how I got my first job...a working mom that wanted her 2 children homeschooled, hired me to work with them for about 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. She followed up with them in the afternoons and worked with them on homework or any unfinished work. Both of them moved a little slow because English was a second language - but moved along really quickly because of the extra attention. Both were able to eventually attend a 'regular' school and do extremely well. Good luck!

ETA: Just another note, I read the book, "Lost at School" recently - and one thing it mentioned in there that I really liked was, 'Kids don't need a diagnosis to have a problem, they just need a problem to have a problem.' Or something like that - I borrowed the book from the library - so I don't remember offhand. Anyway...diagnosis' do have their place...but don't get too caught up in the label.

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answers from Seattle on

1) Yes. Go private. Schools receive a lot more money for autism spectrum kids since it's officially classified as a disability vs ADHD which usually isn't (Wrightslaw is where to go on more info), so there is an agenda there. There is also the concurrant problem of school psychologists. All psychologists specialize. If you go through the school's, you have absolutely no say whatsoever in choosing the psychologist's background (education and specialization). Autism and ADHD professionals rarely mix. The disorders couldn't be more different from each other, but nearly all disorders share some symptomology. If you go to someone who doesn't understand the disorder your daughter has, but sees the shared symptomology, it's very very very easy to get an incorrect diagnosis. Because of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders, most schools make sure to hire a psychologist with a background in ASD. Meaning, in short, a child with ANY disorder is more likely to be mislabeled as on the spectrum when being tested by the school system than by an outside agency. ((Similarly, pediatricians are most likely to misdiagnose ADHD instead of half a dozen other disorders.))

2) I am ADHD. I also went to nearly a dozen schools growing up (military). A very small handfull were AMAZING places, that couldn't have been better designed for ADHD (1.5 gifted schools, 1 modified montessori type, lots of activity/active time), most, however, could not have been worse designed to bring out everything AWFUL about ADHD. Huge class sizes, strict curriculum (with no room for further exploration, or slowing down, or leaping ahead), very little activity (my son's old public school was the worst I'd come across... only 30 minutes of recess in an 8 hour day).

Schools not only vary TREMENDOUSLY district to district, but also vary a lot school to school. Throw in the incrediable diversity that private and parochial and charter schools offer?

Why stay in a school that is a terrible fit, if you don't have to?

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answers from Chicago on

You can have her independently tested, at your expense. However, in order to utilize resources through your public school system (which are FREE to you) you will have to have her evaluated through their system.

Most private schools (unless they are a "specialty" school which deals with kids who are not mainstream) do not have the resources in place to help a kid "catch up" (at minimum) or mitigate actual learning disabilities. Most private schools won't even complete an IEP for a child, even with extremely mild issues - it's just not in their resources.

I ABSOLUTELY would allow an evaluation. The public school doesn't get anything if your child is diagnosed with something. In fact, it uses resources that could go to another child with an actual need, so it's not really in their best interest to false-diagnose your child, because then she qualifies for support services that she doesn't need and they don't "get" anything. However, it IS their responsibility to ensure that they are testing kids who might fall into a "range" to ensure that the kid is getting whatever resources would help her.

She may be behind due to "missed learning", but isn't it in her best interest to get an evaluation, put an IEP in place and get some resources that will help her catch up to where she is able to perform successfully in a mainstream environment?

Good Luck

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answers from Minneapolis on

Get a private evaluation and take it from there. They will be able to direct you to schools or programs in your area for her specific needs.

Short of a school that specifically services special needs kids, very few private schools, if any, offer academic programs that will be able to address her needs. You would be expected to get private supplemental help outside of school. Your best bet would probably be to look into a charter school or homeschooling.

By the way, if you have good co-ops and other resources in your area, homeschooling is a great solution.


On the question about Autism, ADHD is considered on the spectrum, so testing for it, if ADHD is supected, isn't unheard of .

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answers from St. Louis on

ADHD is on the spectrum it is the other side to the Autism side. The only difference between me and my son Andy is I have the social skills to know not to articulate everything I think. We still think the same, we are still crazy strange, but I can appear normal, he cannot. That is because he slides over to the Autism side.

I find it interesting that you don't want to address the "social hurdles" because that is precisely why the school is looking at Autism.

So about labeled and pigeon holed, I don't understand how you are coming up with problem kid from the labels. All four of my kids lie somewhere on the spectrum and private school tend to treat them differently more than public schools.

My older two went private, they wouldn't even take Andy with all of his issues, ya know? You can probably find a private school that deals strictly with Autistic kids but in the grand scheme of things how would that help a high functioning autistic if that is what your daughter is?

I know I am throwing a lot out here but you need to sit back, take a breath and then look at the big picture. My son has thrived in public schools, he would not have in private schools. He would have been that bad kid that all the parents talk about when they pick up their kids. That is not something I wanted for him.

Oh your child should be evaluated by the same psychiatrist that diagnosed her ADHD. If you are only seeing a pediatrician you need to start by finding a psychiatrist because 99% of pediatricians have no business trying to diagnose these kids.

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answers from Las Vegas on

No expert in this area, but I guess I don't understand why you wouldn't want the school to do an evaluation.

Perhaps a little harsh, but you sound in denial. You admit your child has some issues, so why not address them. Who cares what the label is, if she lacks social skills, perhaps she does need to be evaluated for autism.

As for private or public schools. I would only put a child with these issues in private school if the school was geared toward their issues. My MIL is a principal at a school for autistic children. The school has/offers a government subsidy, however it is private.

You have to let this label go and get her the help she needs. If she has lost time and education, don't lose anymore.

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answers from Dallas on

On top of what I just wrote. I have a friend with a son in 2nd grade and we always thought he had ADHD by hi behavior, but would never mention it. Finally she had him tested and it turned out to be a mild case if Aspergers (form if autism). McClure elementary in McKinney gas a special teacher that works with him in the class and he is doing great! Unfortunately there us no easy solution and every child is going to be different. It will take lots if time and patience and a lifetime of maintenance (once you figure It out) to make the best if it!

Do NOT let MISD test her. First off, they are in no hurry to help you and second of of all, they are not experts! Take her Dr. Fala, pediatric neuropsychologist. She is on El Dorado between Ridge and Alma. She tested my son fir ADHD in 2nd grade (he is in 5th now) and she is extremely thorough!! She did a full day of testing that determines all kinds if things. I have gotten nothing but grief from MISD! We had success with stimulants for a while, but he's been off and on them, because he has had suffered a lit if side affects. We have been trying to figure it out for 3 years now and we're frustrated. He does excellent in school with meds, but the side affects are not worth it. We are about to try the homeopathic way and see what results we get. There is a doctor in McKinney that is homeopathic and specializes in ADHD. I can't help you with the ADHD school. Our son would be very angry at us if we pulled him from his friends. I don't want him to be completely protected from the things he needs to learn to cope with. I think a lot of those experiences are preparing him for adulthood. Good luck to you!

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answers from Dallas on

Do the screening, in fact ask for a full autism evaluation. They will look at EVERY area of concern for your daughter. Once you get the evaluation, you will get a plan that will help your daughter catch up and function better in school. I tried several private evaluations, but honestly, the only place that helped at all was Our Children's House at Baylor. We spent a lot of money for a lot of nothing!

I have a son who has Asperger's and ADHD. He is very high functioning and has never had problems in school academically (put him on meds at 7, really helped). He does have problems socially and with other sensory issues (auditory). My problem was the opposite of your's. I knew there was something not right for a very long time, but could not get the school to evaluate him (was in pre-k). We ended up putting him in private school, but were still able to finally get an autism evaluation when he was 8 through the school district. It was such a relief for me! Even though we didn't have him in public school, we were able to get him some help through the school district (speech therapist who helps him with social skills). Now that we have an evaluation in place, I know that he will get the help he needs once we put him in public school.

That being said, the small, private school setting has been wonderful for my son! The small classes have made it easier to function and the Christian atmosphere has fostered a more accepting atmosphere with his peers. Although we are going to put him in public school next year for 5 grade (Prosper schools), I wouldn't change putting him in our private school for anything. He has really grown at that school!! If you are interested, check out the school. It is North Texas Christian Academy in McKinney at Wilmeth and Hwy 75.

Please don't feel that she will be label or pidgeon holed! Special needs in the schools are handled so differently than when we were younger. You are not doing her any favors by not getting her the services that she needs. The schools and the special needs teachers specifically really want these kids to thrive and succeed.

One last thing. My niece was just diagnosed with Asperger's at 17! The school and doctors told my sister that girls on the spectrum often have different and therefore overlooked traits of kids on the spectrum. My niece would shut down when given tests (started in 1st grade), didn't have much interest in having friends, etc. Often, the traits aren't real obvious until the child gets older. This was true with my niece and true with my son!

I hope you get the help you need! I know it's hard, been there, still there!

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answers from Dallas on

My son graduated from the Fairhill School after attending there since 2nd grade. It worked for us and he is in college now. Check it out. They do testing there as well. Not exactly on the beaten path, but I bet you could get a carpool.

You could let the school test, but in my past experience the school (RISD) wasn't motivated to find a diagnosis because when they did they would be required to find a way to teach to that child. McKinney may not be that way.



answers from Dallas on

It doesn't hurt to do both, I did both. I had a private institution diagnose my son as well as the school did their own. The benefit to having two different groups evaluate your child is you can really see and hear what outsiders are noticing which will help when it comes to needing services in a school atmosphere, private or public. I have friends who go to Vanguard Prep in Dallas. I hear they are hit or miss though, either your child THRIVES or they don't get out of the school what they were hoping. It's worth checking out though because I think a lot has to do with specific teachers personalities and how they mesh with your child. Why are you against the school doing an eval? And are you against public schools altogether or just your specific campus? You could put in a request to move your child to a different campus if you think that would help. If you need more info PM me, I'm happy to help you out in this area, I have a son on the spectrum who is high functioning (now) who is 8, close in age to your child.


answers from Chicago on

First, have the school do it as well as your own. Second, ADHD kids NEED things like accomodations to get thru their day - does she have these? My son has things like he sits in a rocking chair vs a standard chair and he can sit/stand as needed for projects. If there is food or scissors he MUST sit, otherwise he is pretty okay to sit/stand as needed for him. In addition, before he needs to really focus on something he is allowed a few min of a physical moment such as push ups, jumping jacks, wall pushing etc. I would push for the school to adjust her IEP/or create one and give/make accomodations. IF she does not have an IEP then the school wanting to evaluate her is them trying to get her an IEP - she will have to go thru their process if you want their help Private or Public. She will not be labled a prolem kid if you allow them to help her and you and if you work as a team member for your daughter, yes you are the leader but sometimes it's good to allow others to show you a path and follow it.

While Adhd/Autism may have some similarities (we went thru that) Adhd is NOT on the Autism spectrum - please correct your information if you think this to be correct.



answers from Dallas on

Hi there,
I have a son who's 9 and is on the high functioning autism spectrum. We live in Allen ISD and could not be happier with his "accomadations". Going back to the testing part, we had him privately tested at first when he was around 3, and it was "inconclusive". Allen ISD started testing him at 4 but it wasn't till 1st grade after testing him every year that made that final diagnosis. He is in a regular class with his "normal" peers most of the day, but gets special small group help with reading, writing, speech, and social skills. He is very successful at school and makes great grades. I'm sure Mckinney ISD provides similar services, its worth checking into. Good luck.



answers from Denver on

Maybe get both evalutations done. My son has been screened both through the public schools (twice) and once privately. There was not diagnosis with any of the evaluations but he is still on an IEP. I was desperate to find a good education for my son too, but one of the biggest things I learned is that private schools do very little for kids with special needs, unless the school was specifically for special needs childred and that always cost a fortune. Just wanted to let you know. It was a harsh reality that I faced for sure!



answers from Dallas on

I know this is overwhelming and I can relate to that "lost" feeling on what to do for your child. Like other poster's have said, I would let the school do their evaluation but I would also take your daughter to a developmental pediatricain for evaluation. The schools aren't experts in my opinion, they know enough to do a text book evalution but a doctor (child psychiatrist or dev. pedi) can evalutate and also tell you options on what to do next.

As far as school goes...check out this website, If the link doesn't work then google Great Lakes Academy in Richardson, TX. It's a school for children ADHD, ADD, chidren on the spectrum, asperger's, etc. and it's elementry school - high school. Each child is created as an individual and is not expected to learn one way or fit in a certain box on how to do things. My friend has a 13yr old that goes there and she is extremely happy. You could always call and tour the school to see if it's the right fit. They may require some sort of diagnosis but I don't know this for sure.
Good luck on your journey! You are doing the right thing by asking questions and realizing public school may not be your daughter's cup of tea!



answers from Dallas on

A couple of thoughts. If the school is offering to have her tested, then take them up on it. It doesn't cost you a penny. And once you get the results you can always get her independently evaluated if you feel a second opinion is needed. I have a daughter (now 17) who has never been formally diagnosed with anything, although I am cetain she has some type of learning difference (maybe ADD, without the "H" since she's never been hyper, or possibly Asperger's). I think mostly that's because I have always been in denial about her unusual behaviors, which she has had since she was young. When I finally approached the school about getting her evaluated (in her sophomore year of high school!) they essentially ignored my request (which technically is not allowed because in the public school system if a parent requests an evaluation they have to do it). Instead, they just said she was being lazy and if only she applied herself (because by this time she was failing several classes, even though she is very intelligent!). So anyway, I got disgusted with the school system (McKinney ISD, by the way) and finally put her in a private school to finish out high school. So in hindsight, I wish somebody had offered to test my daughter! That is why I encourage you to take advantage of the offer.

On the matter of a private school, I suggest you start by looking in Dallas Child magazine, which is available in practically every pediatrician's office and is also online at They always have an advertising section for private schools of which several are for children who learn differently. It is a good place to start. Then you'll want to do some checking on; often you will find parent reviews of schools. And plain 'ol Google searches can be helpful, too -- that is how I found my daughter's school.

I applaud you for admitting you may be in denial, but that you're taking these steps to help your daughter be successful! Good luck!



answers from Tyler on

Hey -
I have not read any of the other answers, so please forgive me if I am repeating what others have said.

First of all, definitely let the school test her. I knew something was "off" with my son basically from the moment he was born and the doctors completely ignored me. I basically got to the point where I was begging someone to look at him. He finally got evaluated when he was 2 and he had sensory integration disorder. This is NOT autism, but a lot of kids with autism also have sensory integration disorder. When he first got diagnosed, I was scared to death that he was going to be "tagged" and treated differently. But, what I did not realize is that because he now had a diagnosis, he was FINALLY getting the help he needed. Instead of having to go outside with all of the other kids onto the sand that he HATED, he was allowed to NOT go out onto the sand. The school HAD to have a different activity for him. Eventually he was able to go onto sand, but he wasn't thrust onto it with no care. And, with a diagnosis, the teacher's now realized that he was different (officially) and he wasn't just acting out because he couldn't cope. He just flat out couldn't cope and with a diagnosis, it was now THEIR problem. They had to do something different. When my son was diagnosed, he was in a pre-school which turned into an elementary school. He stayed at that school for Kindergarten and 1st grade. During this time period, he was getting occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. By the time he was in 1st grade, I would say that you could not even tell he had sensory integration disorder. But, because the school knew about it, he was dealt with if there was an issue (and dealt with with open arms - not as a problem child).

He transferred to a public school in 2nd grade. I did not even reveal any of his issues to the public school because they were all essentially gone. BUT, the public school came to me and said he needed speech therapy still. He's in 3rd grade now and STILL getting speech therapy. So, for me, the access to the public school resources is AWESOME. Further, I found that the public schoool actually has better resources and more acknowledgement of problems and the ability to deal with them. So, I would not discount the public schools out of hand. Do your research, let the schools do their assessments and then make a determination.

Through my experience with my son, the main thing I discovered is that YOU are your child's best advocate. The kind of help your daughter gets is entirely up to you. And, honestly, you may have to force the school to comply with some of the requirements your daughter may have. But, I can promise you that without a diagnosis, the school will not help you. With a diagnosie, the school is obligated to help you. I'm not 100% sure what the rules are with autism, but I THINK she might be entitled to an assistant and she also might be entitled to not have to deal with LARGE group assignments. So, that is why I am saying do your research and definitely let them do the assessments. IF she is autistic, that opens your world up to some resources that you currently do not have access to. And trust me, take advantage of the resources.

Good luck,

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