Sending your child to school should be just as satisfying for you as it is enriching for your child. And finding a school that meets all of your autistic child’s needs shouldn’t be complicated. But how do you find the right one?
Special education schools, inclusive schools, private schools, and homeschooling are all options that parents of autistic children may consider – it’s all about understanding which works for your child and your family altogether.
In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of the different school types available for autistic children, plus the necessary factors to consider when making your decision. We’ll also discuss the resources and support available to look for outside of the classroom so you can feel comfortable and confident in your child’s education route and personal growth.
With this guide in mind, we hope you can feel empowered to make better-informed decisions for your child’s education and ultimately spearhead a successful learning experience.
Types of Schools for Autistic Children
There are four main types of schools you can consider for your autistic child: a specialized education school, an inclusive school, a private school, or homeschool. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), children with learning disabilities should be placed in the learning environment that’s least restrictive of their needs.
The following are all excellent options, but one may cater to one family over another.
Special Education Schools
Children with learning disabilities are entitled to intervention services or special education, making a learning environment that specializes in special education a worthy option.
Inclusive education may be an intimidating option, but it opens the door for autistic children to reduce the stigma around their developmental condition, increase social collaboration and acceptance, and improve their confidence and self-worth. Inclusive classrooms will have the appropriate support and services needed to fit the individual needs of each child.
Because private schools tend to be smaller than public schools, you may find that this is the most supportive option for your child. A private school may also have a greater opportunity for your child to meet with a specialist regularly to meet their specific educational needs.
Homeschooling your autistic child is an option to consider. Your child may be more inclined to focus on learning with fewer distractions and opportunities for stress, and they may just be more comfortable in general in their natural everyday environment. This option ensures that your child is getting their individual attention and needs met, and it opens up the opportunity for flexibility for taking breaks and getting to appointments
How to Choose the Right School
Finding the right school for your child needs careful consideration. Understanding the size of each classroom and the curriculum design is crucial – but it’s also important to understand if they allow observation and incorporate Individualized Education Programs.
What’s the Location, Size, and Curriculum?
Location is an important factor when determining your ability to transfer your child to and from the school, but size may be more critical. Some parents may prefer a smaller school environment with lower student-to-teacher ratios, while others may be interested in a school that offers more resources and extracurricular activities.
Of these three factors, curriculum may be the most important.
Can You Visit and Observe the Classroom?
When it comes to sitting in to observe the classroom before making your selection, where does the school stand? A visit to the school and observation of classes can also provide valuable insight into the school’s atmosphere and whether it would be a good fit for your child.
Do They Use Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
The best schools for autistic children consider the Individualized Education Program. According to KidsHealth, an information hub by The Nemours Foundation, it is a program for eligible students in need of extra support in school.
An IEP can be a helpful tool in determining the best educational options for your child’s specific needs. The goals and services of an IEP can be presented in any type of school setting. Services that may be included in an IEP include special education, speech therapy, occupational or physical therapy, or counseling.
Finding Other Resources and Support Outside of the Traditional Classroom
Finding the best education services for your autistic child goes beyond the traditional classroom setting. Beyond researching schools for autistic children, it’s important to bring awareness to the other resources and support opportunities available to you and your family.
Take Advantage of Government Resources
Whether you’re searching for resources that can help family members better understand the difficulties faced by autistic children, or you’re searching for additional educational support in general, there are dozens of federal agencies available to assist.
This list of resources created by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists different organizations that provide funding, programs, and support for families in need of assistance.
Consider Therapy Options
If you’re searching for other educational opportunities that can help your child make informed decisions in real-life situations, consider Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy Services.
At Blossom Children’s Center, our ABA therapy services are designed for families navigating autism and similar developmental hurdles. We use different methods to help autistic children feel better equipped to work through social situations. Our ultimate goal is to give your child the tools to improve language and communication, enhance motor and social skills, build independence and academic skills, and decrease inappropriate behaviors.
And ABA therapy isn’t the only early intervention option available. At Blossom Children’s Center, we also offer specialized services like:
- Speech-language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Counseling and support services
This culmination of services allows us to work through various disciplines to meet the needs of your family. We’re dedicated to giving your family all of the tools and resources needed to help your child develop over the years. No matter the support you need, we can assist.