3 Things to Consider When School Hunting for a Child With Autism

Good parents know they want the best for their children, especially if they have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Parents take on tremendous responsibility for their child’s well-being. The role becomes more challenging if the child has special needs. But with or without disability needs, you want them to achieve great things in life.

The advocacy organization Autism Speaks upholds that proper early intervention may improve the learning, communication, and social skills of children with autism. You may consider a private school for special-needs students as an academic option. What’s most important is that you find a school that offers exceptional programs aimed at helping your child.

Just the same, you shouldn’t entrust your kid’s education to the first school you find. Make sure that whatever academic institution you choose best suits you and your child’s unique situation.

What makes autism-specialized schools different?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) warrants all children with special needs to have access to “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE). But not all public schools have systems and services adequate for children with autism. It is why parents often look for autism-specialized schools tailored to support the needs of their children.

Autism-specialized schools are designed with focused services for autistic students. These schools are sensitive to the unique challenges and strengths that come with ASD. The atmosphere is also quite different than in public schools, for instance:

  • With core curriculum classes, students receive therapies and treatments for their specific conditions.
  • The smaller class sizes grant for more one-on-one interaction between teachers and students.
  • Educators are specially trained to handle children with ASD.

But ultimately, there are still pros and cons to autism-specialized schools. It’s up to you, the parent, to choose an ideal environment that will benefit your child. You can also let your child’s therapists and doctors weigh in and make sound decisions.

Tips to Finding a Good School

Your child deserves the best school, and it’s your job to find one to help them succeed. But where do you start?

Take note of these three simple but essential tips before making a decision.

1) Gather Options

Make a list of things that you want your potential school to have. After that, you’ll have to get busy with research by doing the following:

  • Get a referral from each preferred school.
  • Contact your child’s doctor or therapists for referrals.
  • Ask close friends or relatives for recommendations.
  • Do online searches for schools near your location that offer what your child needs.

Make time to visit potential schools, talk to teachers, and observe classes (if allowed). You can do this alone or bring your child with you if you want to see their reaction.

2) Ask Important Questions

After you’ve compiled a list of potential schools, contact each to ask bottom-line questions. You’ll need to get all the facts about the school to make an informed decision. What questions should you ask? Here are five of the most outstanding.

  • Do educators and staff have experience teaching students with ASD? Every person your child will be interacting with in school should be able to understand his condition. It is only possible if they have prior experience working with children with ASD.
  • Can you support my child’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP)? An IEP details your child’s specific developmental and educational rights. You can change this as needed to ensure that all your child’s needs are met in school.
  • What teaching methods do you use? Children with ASD have distinct ways of processing information and developing skills. Review the techniques used by your preferred school to ensure that the environment promotes eagerness to learn.
  • How can you determine that the child is learning? Therapeutic interventions and multidisciplinary teaching methods are effective only if your child is learning. You’ll need to see evidence, like progress reports, that your child is getting something from attending classes.
  • How many students will comprise a class? The smaller the class size, the better. This way, your child can get undivided attention, essential supervision, and care to thrive.

The more information you know by asking these questions, the less likely you’ll make the wrong choice. Then, you can compare schools to determine the most beneficial for your child.

3) Acknowledge That School Will Be Different

It would help if you remembered that school would look different than when you were still studying. And if you have a child with ASD, it will be unlike traditional schools for other children. You have to accept that while there are children who thrive in a mainstream school, others can do better in an adapted school environment.

Also, it would help if you were open-minded, as it may take several trials and errors to find the right school. Let go of trying to make the school fit for your child. Instead, accept that whatever will be will be.

Hope for the Best

Regardless of the tips mentioned in this article, you, as a parent, know what your child needs best. But remember, not everything is within your control. If the current school isn’t fit for your child, don’t be afraid to switch until you find the right one.

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