Choosing a school for your child is an important decision but choosing a school for your child with autism can be life-changing. In both cases, though, you need preparation and research to help guide the choice for your child, and when making the academic choice for one with special needs, the number of factors involved can be daunting.
Schools that offer support for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) range from public schools and charter schools to private and specialized academies. Current statistics show that one in 68 students test positive for some form of autism, making the need for a good education source in high demand.
Just as autism is based on the spectrum with a wide range of abilities and needs, the schools that are available to these students are diverse . ASD students can vary from extremes of high-functioning to low-functioning, and the needs are quite different for each child.
Getting the correct level of support can be a challenge, but when the right match is made, it is instrumental in supporting the development of the child.
What Are Your Options?
There are two types of school options for children with ASD: traditional options–public and private academies in your area that are not specifically focused on special needs–and specialist schools or schools that specialize in supporting children with variations of ASD. Selecting which route to pursue depends greatly on the type of student you have.
The most important thing to do at the beginning of the process is to define what your child or young adult needs. If your student is highly functioning and showing signs of high intelligence, a public school may be the best fit.
If you are working with a student that is low-functioning, or a student that needs support to communicate and manage the outside world, a specialty school may be the most appropriate.
- Public. Public schools have many benefits to students that are functioning well in social situations and have the need for challenging academic stimulation. Enrolling your child in a school that has typical learners, the child will be able to engage in a bigger variety of social situations, and it would offer better academic stimulation and room for growth.Alternatively, these same factors that may benefit one child with autism could be very harmful to another. The large, mainstream schools may be far too much stimulation and social engagement, and not enough attention and support for some.
Many large schools don’t have the resources and are not as inclusive to students with autism. Research and knowing your child is key to understanding if a mainstream school is a right fit for your needs.
- Specialized. Specialized schools, designed specifically for students with all levels of ASD, can be very beneficial. Many have resources, activities and therapies designed for all levels of autistic students, and offer carefully thought out learning plans to support your student’s needs.Children that have lower-functioning forms of ASD, some that cannot communicate at all verbally or become overstimulated easily, will have the attention and time given to them to promote academic and social growth.
Steps To Take When Visiting Schools
- Research and prepare. Within your area, there will be various options. Take the time to find out what schools are within a reasonable distance from your home, then do some digging in the internet and within your community.Social media and the web are very strong tools that allow you to gather information, reviews and data from all kinds of sources. Think about what comprises your specific hit list of needs; A top-level education? Strong ethics? Supportive personnel? More one-on-one attention? More social stimulation and challenges, or less?
Once you have your list of needs, it will be easier to pinpoint the options in your area that fit the criteria.
- Get to know the staff. Whether private or public, specialized or mainstream, the providers(teachers and staff within the organization) make a big difference to the school. Take the time to interview the team, ask questions and get to know the feel of how the staff is prepared to deal with your student’s needs.Ask questions to the teachers who would be interacting with your student, including information about backgrounds, education, references and how they would handle certain situations.
- Confirm the school’s preparedness for autism and your child’s fit. When interviewing the school, make sure to research the school’s ability to handle children with autism, and specifically your students’ level of ASD. This task may be simpler with a specialized school, as all the data surrounding how they handle autism will be more readily available.With mainstream schools, it may take additional focused research. Typically, most mainstream schools have a special education department you can talk to. Bring your child with you and see how he or she reacts to the environment, the halls, noise and stimulation.
Does it seem positive during the visit? The feedback you get from your student during these moments can be very helpful in making your final choice.
There is not one simple solution that easily fits for all families with an ASD learner, as each student will have very different needs. Being prepared and doing solid research will ultimately result in several positive options for your student.
The hope is to find an academic atmosphere that fits well with your needs, offers the level of support and resources desired, feels comfortable and safe to your child or young adult learner, and feels good to you as the caregiver or parent.
Luckily, there are many options available to support all levels of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and each one can offer different types of academic and social challenges.
Lexington Life Academy is an appropriate school for children across the spectrum. Through evidence-based practices and standards based curriculum, our staff makes sure that every student harnesses their potential so they can have a grand future. Contact Lexington today for more information.
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