Tips for Choosing a School for a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

pic-1Whether your child is about to head off to school for the first time next year, or is at the stage where they’re about to start at secondary school, it can be daunting and difficult trying to choose the right facility for their education where they can have a happy and healthy experience. For those parents with children who are on the autism spectrum though, the challenge is even tougher.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (commonly known simply as ASD) refers to a group of disorders. This group includes autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and atypical autism (also known as pervasive development disorder). Children who are on the autism spectrum can present with a number of different symptoms, and can be low-functioning, high-functioning, or anything in between.

Children with ASD can be considered low functioning if they have no spoken language and great difficulty developmentally, or high functioning if they have an above-average intelligence level and/or normal speech. With autism spectrum disorder, there is a myriad number of possible presentations and levels of severity. As such, there is not a single “one size fits all” teaching technique used or recommended.

Due to this fact, it can be very tough for parents of ASD children to identify the right school that will provide the best educational foundation for their child. As well, while the number of identified cases of autism spectrum disorder has been rising quite significantly over recent years, with some reports stating that about one in 68 children has been identified with ASD, schools often find it tough to keep up with the demand for properly trained and ASD-endorsed teaching and support staff.

This means that, if it is time for you to find a school for your child with autism or another disorder on the spectrum, you need to know what to search for to ensure you find the best fit for their needs. Read on for some tips you can follow to select an educational facility for your special needs child today.

Examine the School Faculty

As you would expect, one of the most important aspects of choosing a school, especially for children with ASD, is finding a facility with the most qualified staff, especially principals and administrators  who are trained in specialist education leadership. After all, those who run a school will set the tone for the whole faculty.

Before you choose a school, make sure you pay a visit to each of the places on your shortlist so you can get a better understanding of the educators there. Look for those who are well-trained, positive, and engaged, and teachers who will be most likely to understand Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as the gifts and challenges that typically go along with it.

pic-2Spend time chatting with teachers, the principal, and other staff members to look for an environment that is most likely going to make the life of your special needs child happier and easier. You want to find a place that will enhance their learning, and that has relevant policies and processes in place for children on the autism spectrum.

Keep in mind that it pays to visit a school more than one time. Doing so is more likely to give you a clearer picture of how personnel interact with and teach students, as well as how classmates are taught to settle disagreements, develop relationships, and work together. If possible, try to speak with other parents who have ASD children attending your shortlisted schools, as this will give you some helpful, honest feedback.

Compare Mainstream to Specialist Schools

Apart from comparing educators and their methods, it is also a good idea to compare mainstream schools with specialist ones so you can determine which might provide the best setting for your child. There are pros and cons of each, so you will need to weigh them based on the needs and challenges of your specific child.

For example, many children on the autism spectrum are non-verbal. As such, they often need to attend a special-education school where they can be part of small classes, learn from teachers who have had very specialized training, and be able to utilize a variety of teaching methods and aids designed for children with ASD. These types of schools also tend to be more secure, and can often help children with special needs to feel less “different,” and more included, than mainstream facilities.

On the other hand though, mainstream schools (particularly those which have specific classes and facilities for students with special needs) also provide benefits which are worth considering. For example, if children with ASD are higher functioning and very intelligent, they often find that mainstream schools give them a better chance of enhancing their social skills and providing more healthy competition academically.

Mainstream institutions also typically have a wider area of subjects for children to choose from, which can be of great benefit to those with Asperger’s, for example, who often have a set focus on one particular topic, such as science, engineering, or math.