Schools for autistic children

school bus

When considering how to educate your autistic child, you only have a few choices: public, private or homeschool. There are some guidelines to help you get started:
- The teaching staff, or the teacher dedicated to the special needs classroom, should have not only experience, but also training. Make sure to find out.
- You may find a great teacher but he is working in a bubble without school support. Make sure the school’s administration backs up the teacher’s work 100% in word, deed and budget.
- Make sure your public school teacher is aware of the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) for your child and is not only using it as a primary guideline, but modifying it as your child achieves goals.
- Look for multiple approaches to educational: sensory integration, ABA type programs, bouncy ball chairs, headphones, visual stimulation. A rich variety of stimulation will increase the odds of finding a technique that clicks with your child.
- All other teachers who work with your child - gym coach or librarian - need to be aware of child’s special needs and able to work with him.
- Supportive therapies should ideally be available onsite. This may include occupational therapists, speech therapists, one-on-one aides, etc.

Once you’ve taken a good inventory of the schools available to you, you need to consider how your child with interact with the other kids there. Academics are important of course, but for the autistic child, school is an important place for learning social behavior and expectations. Can your child be mainstreamed into a typical classroom with or without supports? If not, look at special needs classes. Realize that in that kind of classroom, your child will not get exposure to social norms.

What about the physical structure of the classroom? Fluorescent lights are unbearable for some kids. Sensitivity to noise can also be a consideration. For my son, there could only be one door in and out of the classroom. Every child is different.

Finally, know your state laws and what each school, especially public schools, must provide for students. There are advocates who can help, many are free. Some states also provide private education subsidies if the public schools cannot address the needs of a student.

You know your child best. It takes some personal inventory and research, but there are many schools adapting to the needs to special kids. And if you find nothing built to suit your child, build your own school by doing it at home.

Source: About Autism, K12, Learning Rights


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