An important decision that all parents must one day make is how to educate their child. For the majority of neurotypical children, this decision doesn’t require too much consideration: public school is easy and available. However, for a child with autism, this decision becomes much more complicated and weighs heavily on their success not only in academics, but life.
The very first decision is both the simplest and the most difficult: whether to send your child to a public school, elect for homeschooling, or choose a private school. All of these options have advantages and disadvantages, depending on where your child falls along the spectrum as well as your own resources.
Public school is the easiest option to choose, yet may also be the least recommended of the three for a child with autism. As long as your child has an Individualized Education Plan, public schools can tailor their courses towards your child’s needs, yet those options may not yield the best results. If your child is high-functioning, they can benefit the greatest from public school as they may find the more challenging coursework rewarding and establish friendships with neurotypical students. However, this “mainstream” option does not always supply the tools necessary for lower functioning autistic children to succeed. They will have to endure larger classes sizes or, even worse, bullying.
Homeschooling is a second option parents may choose. This option requires much more of your free time as a parent, but also offers the most flexibility in terms of your child’s education. If you have the opportunity to devote most of your day to educating your child, you can specialize instruction to your child’s individual learning style. This option can also be chosen if the public schools in your area are inadequate, and private schooling is not an option. Regardless, it is suggested you still pursue therapy such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) for your child in conjunction with homeschooling to make sure they have the most well-rounded growth.
The last option may be the most difficult to find based on your location, but can also be the most rewarding. Private schools are possibly the best fit for your child, especially ones that specialize in students with special needs like The Broach School. These schools can employ instruction specifically curated towards your child’s needs and surround them with peers like them, a way to both avoid bullying while also enriching your child’s social life. Many of these schools charge tuition, but if you are in need of financial assistance, scholarships such as The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities are readily available!
Choosing one of these three options is just one step in deciding which school is right for your child. If you elect for public or private schooling, there are some other factors you should consider. Number one should be the training of the school’s teachers and faculty. Not just any teacher may be good enough to educate your child, look for a school that has teachers with experience in special needs education.
Different activities and programs offered on campus should also be considered. Specialized tutoring or a variety of programs curated to your child’s needs can play an important role in academic success. Therapies such as ABA or family therapy can also be useful tools found in some private schools.
The most important factor to consider is something simple, yet overlooked: what does your child want? A successful education requires a student who feels comfortable and happy in their environment, otherwise they may be resistant to learning. Lay out options for your child and let them have a hand in choosing. Take them to tour campuses and meet the teachers & staff so they can warm up to and get a feel for their school.
Taking the time out to pick the best school for your child with autism is a commendable act, and not one to be taken lightly. It is best to research all your options, weigh what benefits your child with what you can sacrifice, and come to a conclusion together with your child.