Autism is a neuro-developmental condition that affects how autistic people perceive the world around them, and it manifests itself in a variety of manners, which is why autism is known as a spectrum disorder. When discussing matters regarding autism it is important to remember what applies for one autistic person does not necessarily apply for another and that information from autistic people themselves should take precedence over information from organizations without autistic representation.
Because autistic people experience the world differently than their neurotypical counterparts, it makes sense that some learn best in environments and under techniques different from ones used for educating those without autism. Autistic people deserve to have their needs respected and met, which is why when it comes to schooling it is important for caretakers to find autism schools that provide a welcoming, supportive environment for their children. In some cases, this may mean homeschooling, but in others this might mean enrolling an autistic child in public or an autism-only private school. Important points of consideration for caretakers searching for an ideal school include understanding that autistic children may prefer non-traditional ways of communication, that autistic children process senses differently, and that autistic children generally think differently than neurotypical children. If a school cannot understand or accommodate these, it might not be the right place for an autistic child.
Homeschooling vs. Public Schools vs. Private Schools
One of the first challenges caretakers must face when deciding where to enroll their child is deciding whether they want their child homeschooled or in a public school or in an autism-only private schools. There is no one right answer and each has their own benefits, but ultimately the matter depends on what is best for the child. Homeschooling is an ideal option for guardians who have the time and financial ability for it if their child is especially high need and would not benefit from an environment with many potential stressors. Public schooling is an ideal option for autistic children who are willing and ready to practice early integration into neurotypical society. Autism-only schools are an ideal option for students who would benefit from group learning surround by peers similar to them with guidance from professionals who are trained to help them.
Homeschooling allows parents to create an educational program that is completely customized for their child to a degree that public and private schools can’t provide. This method of education allows caretakers to teach their children curriculum at a pace that best works for them that isn’t overwhelming. Having home as the center of education means that the child will be in an environment familiar to them, making the process as a whole relatively less stressful. In this environment guardians are also able to reduce the stressors and possible distractions that would impede learning. One reason why some would advise against homeschooling would be because of the reduced social interaction that comes with it, but there are other ways for autistic children to interact with their peers besides traditional schooling. Also, homeschooling protects autistic children from potential school bullies, and guardians should be able to demonstrate what proper social interaction looks like. Homeschooling is the most accommodating option schedule wise, so if flexibility is needed in an education plan and the funds to support it are there, guardians should look into homeschooling.
- Public Schooling
Autism is not uncommon in children, which is why public schools have taken steps to implement programs to help autistic students. Depending on the area of living, there are laws dictating that public schools must create individualized plans for their autistic students. This includes the mandatory IEP, Individualized Educational Plans, which are written documents usually put together by educational specialists, educators, and parents outlining a tailored learning program for an autistic student. Studies have shown, though, that students with mild autism can benefit from being placed in “normal” schools as it enables them to get hands on practice interacting with neurotypical members of society.
- Private Schooling
In recent years some private schools have been formed specifically for autistic children. There are numerous benefits to this, including but not limited to students having qualified, trained instructors who are able to support them and autistic students being able to interact with others like them. Schools designed for those on the spectrum such as these provide a safe environment for autistic students who may have struggled in public schools and for whom homeschooling is not an ideal option. Private schools tend to be smaller than their public counterparts, meaning that they are generally less overwhelming and that teachers can spend more one-on-one time with their students. For students who require more attention, this is a huge plus. Being in a community of others like them benefits autistic students in the sense that they know they aren’t alone with what they’re experiencing, and it might be easier for them to make friends.