Help needed re Autistic child and home schooling

This is on behalf of a friend who is thinking of coming to live in France with an autistic child who will be receiving home schooling. Does anyone know of any organisations that can help parents in this situation and/or there any other families in the Dordogne area who home school? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance


Wish you luck with the move. Once back, get to your médecin traitant quickly and get the speech therapist set up to run with the school year, it gives them markers against which to work. We have a really good one who is seeing our daughter throughout the summer break, except her two weeks away, which helps with the continuity of the therapy. She is a bit far away for you but try to shop around and do it on the personality of the person. We had to change a couple of times for that reason , but now have the right one and she is doing well with our daughter who now has only relatively few speech problems, most of which are ironically English but she still has to get the hang of 'r' in such words as regard in French. The therapist is getting there.

Hi Brian,

Thanks for all the useful info. We're considering moving back full-time to the Lot, where our daughter, turning 11 in the Fall, was born. We returned to the US when she was almost 6 to obtain better speech therapy, since she was born was severe bilateral hearing loss, and wears hearing aids. At age 6, she shifted completely into English, and has benefited from good resources here in our public school, including speech and language therapy 3X week. However, she splits her day between a Special Day Class, along with 9 other kids with autism, ADHD, etc - not the best fit for a hearing-impaired child -and a mainstream classroom. Our family is considering moving back "pour la rentree" and enrolling her in our local school, which has less than 40 students, taught in 3-level classes. Her French-speaking ability is very limited, however, she's willing to learn. We're very concerned about the challenges ahead of her. She would be in a community where we have many friends from childhood, etc, with whom she's stayed in close touch. We'd get a French-speaking tutor for her, continue speech therapy (in French of course), and speak both French & English at home. Thanks in advance for any suggestions or relevant experience to share.


As the parent of an SEN child who was also SEN governor of a very good school in Swansea, indeed the one with a special needs and handicapped children building with purpose built amenities and well trained staff, I fought alongside the head (and she was good, fearless but sadly at end of career...) with the local authorities over budgets, matters like special transport and so on. To be honest, all the things that are problematic here are exactly the same in the UK, especially where money is involved. The difference here is that the GP (médecin traitant) is involved and if he or she 'prescribes' speech therapy, physio-therapy, special transport or whatever it is done. Therewith a goodly number of things that are not Dept of Education in the UK are achieved here. On the down side there are fantastic schools and places that should be closed. In our case the CLIS teacher is prettywell below par, but the people supporting her like the psychologist, etc are all very good. I agree about pros and cons, and when the cons are stacked the solution is stay away, so look at where one wants to live first and find out about the school with CLIS and if that is not right, look at the adjoining commune, ask other people and so on and in the end it will work out. I do not really like the way children learn things by rote in French schools one bit, so I am not defending French education, simply saying that where special needs provision goes they wipe the floor with UK standards which are going down instead of up. As for home education, in the UK there is little of the support, inspection and an actual curriculum there is here, so again I think France is the better of the two.

Our daughter shares an AVSi, which is quite common. If a school has a CLIS with more than about 20 children, as in our daughter's case, they already have them there and others they can call in. It is often part-time. As children move on or up to another school the AVSi will be 'inherited' by next intake anyway. It works fairly well. However, as 'our' goes, she has no training in education other than occasion classes on special needs teaching the region organises.

Hi Jean, I dont mean to be negative but it is also important to see all sides of this, personally I have no experience of this but I do know a few families who do, and their battles with authorities are seriously long and hard, and they have good knowledge of the language so thats not the problem, and infact one French family with an autistic chiild tell me how little help they get, very difficult for them! It seems the UK are quite advanced in this regard, am just afraid your friend makes the move and finds it too difficult in many ways! Good to know the pros but the cons may be even more important to know in her case!

Your friends will be able to request an AVSi (Auxiliare Vie de Scolaire individuel) for their child. This is an assistant who will sit beside the child if he/she attends normal school. I think however it takes some time to organise this (the child needs to be registered as handicapped with the MDPH - Maison Departementale des Personnes Handicappées) so it might be worth looking into this sooner rather than later.

Yes, I know, but sometimes with a problem you feel as if you are the only one, she certainly feels like this so she is going to be very pleased to get all this info. kind regards...

Also, looked at your home page and you being in Javerlhac are relatively close to PĂ©rigueux where they have first class resources, so give your friend a positive note if she is thinking of being near you. Otherwise OK, children are my work and I will do what can for all and any. So no need to thank me or whatever, this is what SFN is about.

Well Brian, you certainly know what you're talking about. Thank you so much for that very comprehensive reply which I will pass on to my friend and which I know will give her hope.

Thanks again


Bit of a difficult one Jean. The French are not against home school but are very interventionist. We know because our older daughter, who will be 11 next month, has Down Syndrome. Fortunately it is Mosaic Down so apart from need glasss (but then my wife and I do, kind of so what) and being small (my mother was only four foot something and my father five foot two, again so what) and being learning delayed she is not so badly off. She is in a CLIS class which has an undetrained teacher and willing but quite inexperienced assistant. The school is keeping her back one year rather than on to college and ULIS or the like.

Why I have gone through that is because my wife and I (almost ironically) study children and I certainly did take time out from my regular work to work with Special Educational Needs (SEN) children. Before we moved here from the UK my daughter was actually in a normal class but part-time in a special needs class. I took a governorship and became the special needs governor. I have some insights for comparison as a result.

Where our daughter is now autistic children are included. Some are passed on to La Rosette in Bergerac which is too specialised for our girl who is gradually reading, writing and confidently bilingual. We know people who have home schooled but then taken their child forward to school, some stay with CLIS, others go to La Rosette and some go back to home education but with support. School is seen as the best way of dealing with SEN and they are doing it well. Home schooling is acceptable but it is advisable to look through what schools are offering as well.

Provision for SEN students in French schools in increasing in availabilty and quality. Although many French schools have so far not had SEN departments a great deal depends on the school and the particular needs of a child. Some schools are able to work with certain needs, whether those are physical or learning disorders by placing a a child in regular or integrate class. OK, that does not work with autism. So let's look at who can advise and provide special support.

SESSAD (services d'éducation spéciale et de soins à domicile) deals with children and teenagers with mental, motor and sensory disabilities ensuring early education and support for the family (that includes counselling, providing transport such as taxis to and from 'school' and accompanying children tp treatment) through to the end of compulsory education (and in a few cases even through to university). SESSAD is therefore providing a kind of bridge between traditional schooling, extra-school treatments and rehabilitation, but will also help with home education .

CLIS (classes d'intégration scolaire) is for children with disabilities too severe for regular classes that do not require special facilities. CLIS is a special class in primary or secondary school (college) although it is still seldom available in pre-school facilities which is changeing. Teaching is adapted to students' needs but the curriculum taught is essentially aimed at achieving the same as regular classes at a gentler pace and tailored to each child's needs.

There are fourcategories of CLIS:

  • CLIS 1 (D): Cognitive learning disorders, severe mental development limitations )including autism)
  • CLIS 2 (A): Hearing impairment (troubles auditifs: sourds, malentendants)
  • CLIS 3 (B): Visual impairment (troubles visuels importants: aveugles, malvoyants)
  • CLIS 4 (C): Physical disability/severe motor deficiency

Admission to CLIS is decided by the CCPE (commission préélémentaire et élémentaire).

Then there is UPI (unités pédagogiques d'intégration) units that take in children with cognitive learning disorders from ages 12 to 16 years (usually from CLIS 1). UPI provides modified school integration and partial participation through teaching and activities. This system is at present being expanded to incorporate children with sight, hearing and physical disabilities but also with less difficult cases of autism.

Generally learning assistance is handled outside of school hours by specialised therapists (for instance, our daughter goes to a speech therapist once a week since she has particular language problems common to both English and French). If a child needs constant or specialised assistance then they will be admitted to a specialist school, such as La Rosette in Bergerac which is our closest one. The family doctor (médecin traitant) will advise further and also the Mairie should know about schools and SEN in the district/regional catchment area.

If home schooling is the only real option then in France it has been legal since December 1998 although annual registration is compulsory. A declaration must be made each year at the local Mairie and withthe school inspectorate (inspecteur d’académie or rectorat). For children from ages of six to 16 in home schooling an annual visit will be made by the school inspector (inspecteur d’académie) and at least every two years by the Mairie. In the event of two unsatisfactory inspections, parents may then be ordered to send the child to school. In the event of a change of address, a declaration must be made at the Mairie of the new place of residence within eight days of the move and the Mairie at the former informed.

A variety of preferred methods exist for teaching children at home, for example through correspondence classes or Montessori. However the law requires that children acquire these aspects of knowledge listed below and reach a level of education comparable with (but not identical to) children in school:

  • Good command of written and spoken French
  • French literature
  • Principles of mathematics
  • One foreign language
  • Basics of science and technology
  • Basics of history and geography of France, Europe and the rest of the world
  • Artistic education
  • Sport

National exams may be taken by registering at the rectorat.

Further information is available from the government's education website and Les Enfants d'Abord which is a French organisation for home schooling families.

Here in the Dordogne there is a group called Sesamé that provides mutual support and resources.

Try these websites as well:

and perhaps might help a little.

Whatever, and having been a UK governor and somewhere else a chairman of a local council, I would say that without prejudice France wins hands down with what they provide. My wife is Swiss and my sister-in-law a teacher with SEN skills in Switzerland and France scores very high. So look at all of the info I am passing on objectively, positively and with hope in mind.

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There is an organisation in Dordogne called Sesamé. A mutual support and resource group. here might be a start

I'm sorry I haven't much more to add but I'm open to enquiries.

many thanks Claire,will pass all this on to my friend.


I beleive there is a group for autism, there may well be several but french speaking.

Not sure about the home schooling. Our youngest has dyspasia with autisic tendencies . He is now in lycee for a Bac Pro. having made it through french school redoubling twice.

Just found this site also.

Hi Brian,

I’m thinking of moving to france with my son who is also autistic, he speaks no french, will the school provide him with a AVS that speaks English or not?

I was talking to a teacher friend this week. It sounds like you may be lucky to get an AVS AT ALL at the moment. he was telling me that his wife (primary teacher) has 3 kids with learning disabiliteis starting and she is getting NO AVS / help at all. Apparently the budget this year is the same for the whole of Nouvelle Aquitaine as it was for just the dordogne last year. I think there are 13 departments so do the sums! Appalling!

Thank you so much for your response.
I’m looking to move maybe by end of next year. What advice would you give me?

To really do your research, find out about where there are specialist schools and move there. Be sure your child can cope, it is hard enough for regular kids and from what I’ve heard things are pretty tough here. I think there has been some links posted above that would be a good place to start. Use the time before you come to all learn French.

The trouble is that even those schools that do have their quota of support staff this year, may not still be in the same fortunate position next year. I think before you move to an area because a school’s website says it offers AVS support, you would be well advised to have a chat with the head and see if they can say with confidence that they will still be offering the same support for the forseeable future.
I hate to say it but your son may be better served by remaining in the UK until he’s completed his education, although you don’t say what your son’s age is which will make a difference.

Right I see, yes I’ve done abit of research and I’m just worried if the support will be offered for him, he is turning 6 next week. And he’s only just started using his words in English, to express his feeling , and ask for what he wants. My partner lives in France and we were hoping to go join him there. We are both aware of the child’s needs and we are putting that as priority. We just want as much information as possible. I’ve done a lot of research and saw that help could be provided but the language barrier is scaring me and I don’t know if the help is for sure as many people are stating that it is extremely hard to get those help.