The Best Schools for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder
If your child with autism is nearing school age, you’re most likely asking yourself a very important question: Where should I send my child to school? Or, if your child is already school-aged, you may be wondering if your child’s current educational setting is the right fit for them.
Here are some of the options you may encounter when deciding on a school for your child with autism. Each type of school has its own pros and cons, and as always, the best fit for your child will depend on their own unique needs, as well as their current developmental and behavioral levels.
“Mainstreaming” or “inclusion” is when a child with autism is placed in a classroom with neurotypical children. This is usually only a good option for children who require minimal support. In many public schools there are separate, self-contained special needs classrooms, where a child will usually spend the entire day with the same teachers and aides, or they may have the option to spend half the day in the special needs classroom and half the day in a “mainstream” classroom, usually with an aide.
However, there are some drawbacks if a child is “mainstreamed” before they’re ready. They may be self-conscious of having an aide, or it may make them a target for bullying. And the downside of special education classrooms is that they tend to be more general, encompassing a variety of different needs, not just ASD. Luckily, there are a growing number of autism programs in public schools, where the teachers and aides are trained to work with children with autism specifically.
Before deciding to send your child to a public school, make sure you investigate what sort of offerings your school district has for children with autism. In many instances, it’s possible to send children with ASD to a different school district if the programming there is a better fit for their needs.
Private education for kids with autism can be a good match for your child, but finding the right private school can be tricky. Some are very well-suited to teaching children with special needs, or even specialize in teaching kids with ASD utilizing specific programming available to help them succeed. These special schools for kids with autism are also growing in number across the country.
Although private schools generally have smaller classroom sizes and may be able to offer more support, it always depends on the school in question. Even if a private school has programming that focuses specifically on children with special needs, this doesn’t always include ASD, so be sure to do your research and meet with school representatives before deciding if this the right choice for your child.
The truth is that many parents of children with autism find that they have limited options when it comes to educating their child. If you don’t find that any of the above ASD schools meet your child’s needs, there is always homeschooling, which can be a good option for children who require significant support — but also requires the full-time attention of at least one parent, which not every family can manage.
However, homeschooling also grants you immense flexibility, and while you may find support from different organizations that aid families homeschooling children with autism, you’ll also be supported by your child’s therapists at autism centers like The Cardinal Center for Behavior Analysis. For example, if your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) has recommended a significant amount of hours per week of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, the ABA therapy is essentially their schooling, and you can continue to support them at home by reinforcing what they learned in therapy.
This isn’t true for every child, and it also isn’t to say that public or private school will never be an option for your child. But many children with autism thrive in homeschool and even prefer it — it all depends on what works best for them.
Autism and Schooling in Cary, NC
However, not every child with autism is a good fit for this program. For example, if they haven’t hit specific behavioral targets, they may not thrive in a general classroom setting. It’s important to keep in mind this does not mean that your child is not intelligent, or that you (or they) have failed somehow. It simply means that they need different levels of guidance and support to succeed, and that is okay!
If you’re questioning whether your child is ready for a general classroom, or you’re struggling to decide which school setting would be the best fit for your child’s needs, our experts at The Cardinal Center for Behavior Analysis can help.
If you have any questions about ASD schools or wish to schedule an evaluation for your child so we can help advise on which type of education would be best for them, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (919) 822-8802, or fill out our contact form to request a confidential consultation today.
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