Autistic children are different from other children. In the last 20 years, the number of autistic children in schools has been rising like never. Autism is a developmental disorder on a spectrum in which the child suffers problems communicating and interacting with others. Also, they are sensitive to voices and perform repetitive behaviors. The signs of autism in the child become evident to parents in the 3-4 years of life.
As per the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System report (2018), 1 in every 66 Canadian children is diagnosed with autism.
Based on their needs, autistic children rely on parents at home and teachers in an educational environment. Secondly, nearly 40% of autistic children suffer comorbid anxiety disorders and there no interest in social interaction make them a target of bullying, compounding their anxious behavior. Hence, a well supporting educational system is a dare need of an autistic child, especially in the early education years, warranting sympathetic relationships and bolstering them through education. Hence, this article is going to discuss how a parent or guardian could choose a perfect educational setup for an autistic child. This article will also discuss what to look at when choosing a school for an autistic child? And what are the options of schooling available for autistic children?
Autistic children require attention and emotional support at home as well as during their formal education. At the time of school, nearly half of such children are forced and expected to receive general education in the conventional schooling system. As per statistics, around 60 to 80% of students with special needs study in regular classrooms alongside non-disabled children. Studies have shown that autistic child improves in behavior when receiving education with non-disabled students. Also, they experience more progress in education as compared to the one placed in special education classrooms. According to a research, such children showed better cognitive and interactive behaviors when studied in a general education environment than in special education. However, depending upon the spectrum and severity of autism, some autistic children are fine enough to get a blend with other students, and others require parents or adult’s help in their lives. Nevertheless, every autistic child cannot get fit in conventional school-requiring special need schools in severe autism.
Secondly, a supportive relationship between an autistic child and teacher is essential throughout education, especially in the early school years, because encouraging support from a teacher would provoke strong social skills and interacting behaviors in an autistic child. However, teachers in conventional school systems have no specialized training to manage and supervise moderate to severe autistic students, creating problems for both autistic child and teacher. Whether in conventional school or in special education, when an autistic child gets into one system once, he would remain in that setting now throughout his educational years. Therefore, parents should decide beforehand where they want to enroll in the early stages of education.
But how to determine whether to enroll a child in general or special-need education?
As per a study, discussing the characteristics of an autistic child to get enrolled in a public or non-public school, child’s age, financial background, and social skills could predict their placement in the education setting. However, the main predictor is IQ or functioning levels of the child (where IQ levels are associated with the severity of autism). For instance, an older child with a stable financial background and less social skills can be placed in non-public schools. Another research concluded that a child’s early age and good mental functioning could make him an ideal candidate for regular class placement.
Available options for schooling an autistic child
Public schools can be a good option for those children who have less severe autism, who find their behaviors manageable and are not struggling with bullying. The good thing is, these schools are funded, and they provide teacher training, therapists, specialized programs and pay for services and therapies for your child. However, they usually have fewer funds, and sometimes bullying is seen in public schools too.
Charter and magnet schools are also supplied with funds, and they work as a small version of public schools. A little education setup meant, willing more to focus on a student and provide intent and good quality education. However, they are not often available nearby, and you might find these schools at a great distance from home.
Home-schooling has become a comfortable way of educating the younger ones with special needs. This system offers great flexibility and independence to design the educational curriculum based on your child needs. Additionally, you can be helped by your council, who can provide you with technology gadgets, learning tools or tutors to help you with home-schooling. Perhaps, it can be overwhelming for you if you work the whole day. Moreover, your child will learn to study alone, which will not develop socially interactive and communication skills with others which is a big concern in autism.
Special need schools are designed to help educate special children. Moreover, they have offered a specialized educational curriculum, so you do not have to worry if educational programs are available as per your child needs. These schools are instituting more and more due to their demand. However, these schools are more private, charging a hefty amount of school fees. Additionally, these schools might be far from your residence.
Condition-specific schools are the ones that provide the perfect learning environment to your child because they are explicitly trained in the area of your child need. Also, their specialized staff are knowledgeable and well informed to manage and support children with various disabilities and developmental disorders. Furthermore, your child will be more comfortable interacting and studying with similar students in this specialized educational setup. Perhaps, these schools are quite expensive, and it is harder or rare to find these schools near home.
Therapy specific schools are a highly specialized version of schools, that provide education and specific therapies to children with special needs, such as APA schools, floor time schools and SCERTS schools for autistic children. Nevertheless, these schools are quite far from home and more expensive to afford.
Autism is a common developmental disorder that requires help based on their needs. Unlike other children, autistic one hesitates in verbal communication and socially interacting with people. Studying in a conventional school alongside non-disabled peers improves their strength of communication and interaction. However, every autistic child cannot be an ideal candidate for general schooling. Also, general school staff lack specialized training to manage autistic students, creating a barrier in their way. Therefore, disability-specific educational institutions are established now, and they are providing their enhance support to educate autistic children and nourish them based on their needs.