If you have a child with autism, you might be wondering if you should enroll them in a special school or send them to a public school with the rest of their peers. While many parents choose the latter, there are benefits to sending your child to an autism-specific school.
Most parents are already doing what they can to help their child, like getting them ABA therapy, sticking to dependable routines, and learning how to pick up their child’s cues for interaction.
Finding an autism-centered school is just one more way to ensure their child’s success.
1. Special schools give parents a choice
Most of the time, parents don’t have a choice where their kids go to school – the district determines the residential boundaries for attendance. Children are required to attend the school assigned to their residence. Sometimes exceptions are made, but it’s rare, especially when a school is already full.
When parents want to put their kids in a school that has a better reputation for supporting kids with autism, they don’t always have a choice; those schools are often outside of their district. However, the existence of autism schools gives parents a choice about where their kids attend school, and provides the peace of mind knowing their children will be supported.
2. Autism-specific schools can be highly beneficial
Special autism schools offer the following benefits not found in standard schools:
- Smaller class sizes. This makes it easier for kids with autism to focus on their specific interests and abilities. Teachers can support their kids better and encourage their strengths. Also, smaller classes tend to reduce anxiety and the overstimulation that comes with larger classrooms.
- Qualified administrators. Good autism-specific schools have specialists on staff that have the training necessary to help kids with autism overcome challenges and prepare them for the real world.
- More access to resources. At standard schools, kids with autism often have their needs overlooked. At special autism schools, their needs will be prioritized and they will have access to the resources they need to thrive.
- Less pressure to socialize. Although it’s important for kids with autism to learn how to socialize, the pressure to do so at a regular school can be detrimental. Peer pressure is much lower at autism-specific schools.
- Specialized learning. Many kids on the autism spectrum are advanced in certain areas and want to pursue those talents. At a special school, they are given the tools to pursue their passions.
- Appropriate gifted programs. At traditional schools, kids are often placed into gifted programs, but the curriculum doesn’t actually match their level. For instance, one mother’s five-year-old child was reading at an eighth-grade level and the school put him into a gifted program. However, there was no gifted reading program. The school acknowledged her child’s abilities, but wasn’t prepared to support and encourage them. So, she sent him to a school for kids with autism where he had access to the right programs.
- More patience and understanding. One of the biggest praises parents sing for autism-specific schools is the high level of patience and understanding kids get from their teachers. Empathy and patience are critical for kids with autism to feel safe in a school environment.
These are just some of the benefits of schools created just for kids with autism, but there are drawbacks as well. For instance, sometimes kids can become isolated from their peers and won’t be forced to socialize because nobody is pulling them into social situations. This can work against kids who don’t socialize outside of school. Although, with other strategies in place, parents can ensure their children get all of their needs met.
3. Public schools don’t have sufficient autism programs
Even though public schools offer special programs for kids with autism, their needs are not always met. Intentions are good, but many parents struggle to get their kids what they need. These programs are individualized, but only within the boundaries of the school’s existing resources. This works well for kids with mild autism. Unfortunately, many schools don’t have the resources required to support kids with more severe autism.
Are autism-specific schools right for all kids?
There isn’t a single solution for all kids with autism. Some children do well in public and private schools, while others need the attention provided by autism-specific schools. Parents should look at all of their options before making a choice and embrace the opportunity they think will help their child the most.
I’m a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze