Choosing the Right School for Your High-Functioning Autistic Child

"We are trying to decide between a traditional school setting and a special school for our 6-year-old son with high functioning autism. What are your thoughts?"

Choosing the right school for any child can be a challenge, but finding one for a son or daughter on the autism spectrum (i.e., high-functioning autism or Asperger's) can create some real anxiety in parents. Every child deserves a good education, and the law provides that children with "disabilities" - including Autism - be educated with teachers trained in handling such challenges in practice; however, finding good teachers isn’t always easy!

Parents must decide whether or not their child will be best managed in a mainstream school with a high rate of contact with "typical" children, or in a special school where the chances of the child coming in contact with mainstream children is considerably less.

Special schools may have better educational programs for children on the autism spectrum, but may not provide enough positive role models of more ‘normal’ behaviors. Some people also feel that special schools can encourage kids to mimic other children with similar problems.

Choosing the right school most definitely involves a visit to the school and a talk with the teachers who will be teaching your child. Here are some questions to get answers to:
  • How integrated will the child be in the classroom?
  • What techniques, such as music therapy, are utilized?
  • What is the plan for reducing arousal if necessary?

Younger high-functioning autistic children will need very small class sizes with early education so that when the child reaches school age, he or she may be more integrated into the classroom. The ‘right’ school understands Autism Spectrum Disorders and has methods in place for teaching special needs children. They carry a positive attitude about the disorder and place expectations on your child for progress, in whatever way it occurs, in the school setting.

The main task is to find a school where your child’s special needs will be addressed and where he will learn important social skills from other children.


•    Anonymous said... A public school can be good if there is a teacher there who understands and knows how to work with high functioning autism kids, otherwise I would wait till the child is a little bit older. At least till the age of 8, it seems like that is when they come into a bit more of their own.
•    Anonymous said... depends on the public school...mine is amazing!
•    Anonymous said... home ed
•    Anonymous said... I agree that it depends on the school system. My child is on the HF end and has done well in public school. It has its challenges. But it was the right decision for our family and his needs.
•    Anonymous said... I found the school system to be quite horrific for my Aspy. I've been homeschooling him for 18 months and the change in him is amazing.
•    Anonymous said... I highly recommend homeschooling.
•    Anonymous said... I would recommend a school that specializes in Autism. My daughter was enrolled in several different public schools and continued to fall behind and had melt downs at least 3 times a week. I enrolled her in a school specializing in Autism and now she's excelling. She has AS. Being most kids enrolled in this school have AS or some other unique trait there are no bullying which my daughter endured daily at public schools. Good luck with figuring out what's best for your child.
•    Anonymous said... It definitely depends on the school district. We do not have a very good school district for special needs kiddos, and I pulled my eldest out to homeschool when he was in preschool. Homeschooling has been amazing for our family.
•    Anonymous said... Mainstream has its own nightmares!My son is struggling to get the right support from his teachers as they think he is perfectly capable of taking instructions as the other 10 pupils in his class.. --They say if he fails ( he is an A student) then its his lesson to learn harder!--actually his work from school is non existant and no communication from his teachers assist with this problem. They leave him to his own choices and it results in CHAOS!--so, special school system where there is ample support sounds more positive to me at this moment. Homeschooling even better as the pressure is less and children can master their own learning methods in a safe environment--according to their learning style.--less headaches!
•    Anonymous said... Make your public school pay for an autism school. Our son was fine in a gifted school program until 5th grade. We had a hard time getting him properly placed, but he's in an appropriate setting now. Private school paid for by the school district. They bus him 20 miles each way, too.
•    Anonymous said... Megan Keller Homeschooling our Aspergers, ADHD, ODD, etc. is a group where many of us got tired of the bad options and are trying it on our own.
•    Anonymous said... mine were all at public/state schools,but all have no learning difficulties,reached mile stones early,try the state school first,
•    Anonymous said... My 14 yr old high functioning son is now in yr 8 in mainstream school. The last 1&1/2 years has been the most frustrating and horrific of my life. School started off great as there were supportive teachers and lots of understanding being offered. But as soon as my sons inability to keep the personal space boundary didn t work or he didn't want to do sport or sit in a chair he felt was wrong, all the understanding went out the window. He looks normal and seems normal until something isn't wright for him and he has a meltdown. The teachers didn't want to understand him then and thought he was being difficult. He's been suspended 3 times and and had numerous pre suspension letters home. If they had true acceptance of him he wouldn't of been suspended once. I recommend putting yr child in a asd school if possible. My son is now in an all boys school as he didn't mix with girls at all. They picked on and bullied him every chance they could. He's not interested in anything sexual at all as you would know but the girls would cry a sexual harassment claim and wed have trouble again. And my poor boy would say "mum I don't understand what they are saying I did. " And then I'd have to explain what some horrible sexual term meant to an innocent mind. Horrible.
•    Anonymous said... my son is at a public school and is doing well, but you would need to look at the specifics for your circumstances - we have no special school here and the public school is a rural school down our street with 130 kids whose families I mostly know and the teachers know us and our circumstances and work together with us...
•    Anonymous said... Steph, that is good to hear, because we are going to begin homeschooling our freshmen this year and we are believing that more opportunities will open up for him. Not a discipline problem, but a too quiet and wont speak out against others who have wronged him. So we think he will really enjoy learning again.
•    Anonymous said... This was our first year trying Connections Academy and it was good. I was able to let my son go at his own pace, which was great because he struggles with reading comprehension but whizzes thru history and math, until the school began the dreaded state testing prepping. Then things quickly became a headache because they added on additional "practice" classes that interfered with his regular courses and we had to hustle at the end to get everything completed on time. We began the school year with smiles and ended in tears. So, after many nights of prayers, we've decided to go with homeschooling and I already feel a weight lifted off my shoulders.
•    Anonymous said... we go the traditional schooo method for our 12 year old with PDDNOS, he has an IEP, and an aide.
•    Anonymous said... We just finished a school year with a K12 online public school. We are doing it again! I think it's a great opportunity for families such as ours. Our soon to be 8 year old can go at his own speed in the subjects he likes and take a bit longer in the ones that he struggles with. We can control the environment, etc. Of course, one must take in consideration of appropriate social skills so our kiddos all participate in extra curricular. Tae Kwon Do has been a particular benefit for our kiddos with poor motor skills, not being able to compete well, low confidence etc. He's around kids and has to cooperate but he's not really competing with them....and boy oh boy his physical activity stamina has really come along in the last 2 years!
•    Anonymous said... We tried public k-1st but unfortunately because of her very bad behavior mostly brought on by sensory issues she just wasn't able to cope. The teachers were doing the best they could but basically she/ they were just trying to make it thru the day with out hurting herself or others. So this year I will try home schooling.
•    Anonymous said... Yep. Depends on the public school - where my son goes is amazing too - the whole staff works together and teams together to make school a good productive experience for my son!

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