I can't really help you claw, my ds goes to ms school with an sn support unit - was once asd unit, but now it is for all children who need support/time away from the classroom - so not children with a dx necessarily. They are aiming for inclusion, ds being in his classroom as much as possible, with his peers. Could you phone the schools and arrange a visit? Seeing people face to face and the school might help you more, there seems to be no standard, every school has a different approach imo.
From what i'veseen the questions you need to know are about the approaches and teaching support systems used, the general development of existing pupils (our local one for example has no verbal children- so a big no no for our ds3), and also things that are relevant to your ds- such as transition lanning, tiletting needs if he has any (I wrote off one placement purely on the 'we shall deal with that! comment from one teacher) and any dietary stuff. Go on feel as much as the answers.
DS3 attends a non specific SN placement but every child in the unit I have met has either ASD or the likelihood of getting an asd dx as part of a co-morbid dx at soem stage. So non specific units are well worth consideringa s well i think.
Are there any Sn parents you know locally you could ask?
We narrowed it down to two schools, then a parent told us she was very unhappy with one- fortunately the one DH liked but I had a bad feeling about (we both liked the other one, but first was closer so got points on that IYSWIM)
Work out what you personally value most- ambtion for the future,warmth,etc- and look for that as a key criteria. We chose warmth above all fords3.
BFP - I have recently moved house, so dont really know anyone locally, although one of the schools, the lady who used to live in my house, her son attended.
I have just spoken to her, her son has a dx of ADHD and doesnt use the unit and to be honest, without wanting to sound cruel, she doesnt seem to be too aware of what her sons disorder is. She knows he gets outside help, but doesnt know who from or whats it for iyswim.
How about calling the council to get popped on the disability register- we get newsletters of all manner of sports and other events and have made probably far more friends through that than any other route (SN school esp, aprents seem nice but they are all taxi'd in).
My ds Jack attends an autism resource attached to a mainstream school. Here in Derbyshire you would need an autism diagnosis to secure a place in an autism specific resource mainly because places are few and demand is high. Not sure if there is the same criteria elsewhere though. FWIW the support Jack gets is fantastic and I can't fault it at all. Staff are hugely experienced and dedicated and because of them Jack is able to access a mainstream curricculum when he has very significant difficulties.It is acknowledged at each review that he accesses the curricculum because of the full time specialist support he gets.
my ds attends an asd resource base in bristol and has no diagnosis, he was classed as borderline at his assessment but they will keep reviewing. He only started at the school a few weeks ago but everything is going well so far, the small class sizes i find are really helping and they really understand his anxieties.