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HomeEducation8 Types of Schools for Autistic Kids

8 Types of Schools for Autistic Kids

When it comes to autism and education, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. As with so much in the world of autism, the definition of a good educational program depends upon the individual child.

Autism spectrum disorder has two core features doctors use to make a diagnosis: social communication and restricted, repetitive, and/or sensory behaviors or interests. Among people on the spectrum, there is a wide variation of functioning levels.

Most autistic children need some degree of classroom support, but the needs will vary greatly from child to child. Like neurotypical children, some autistic children have more intellectual challenges than others. Some people with autism are able to hold a conversation, while others are non-verbal or suffer from mutism in certain situations.

This article discusses the different challenges children with autism face in a school setting and the various educational options available. It will also provide tips for advocating for your child within the school system and factors to take into consideration as you enroll your autistic child in school.

Challenges

Each child with autism is unique, but there are some common areas where many people with autism struggle. Sensory challenges, getliker emotional regulation, executive functioning, and social skills are factors to consider when determining the best school setting for a child.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Schools can be a hotbed of sensory processing problems for people with autism. Loud noises like rowdy kids in the ventsmagazine hallways, echoing gymnasiums, class bells, and fire alarms can be jarring. Various strong smells—from the classic musty, old school building smell that greets you at the door to mysterious food smells wafting from the cafeteria and odorous locker rooms—can irritate autistic children.

Add in humming fluorescent lights, uncomfortable clothing, and having to sit still when your legs want to run, and traditional school settings can be a real challenge for some people with autism.

Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation does not come naturally for many people with autism. Anxiety, anger, excitement, sadness, and other emotions can feel overwhelming. Some people with autism will react in ways that do not conform to traditional classroom settings.

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Some examples:

  • Running out of the classroom and possibly even the building, known as eloping
  • Shutting down and putting their head on the desk or hiding under the desk
  • Having loud, emotional outbursts, such as screaming, crying, or sobbing loudly where other students can hear

A child with autism who struggles with emotional regulation will need emotional support in the classroom. This is often a classroom aide who your child considers a safe person.

Intellectual Capabilities

Autistic students have a wide range of intellectual capabilities. Some children have very high IQs while others have learning disabilities. A child’s ability to learn can help determine the type of classroom or school best suits each child.

Some autistic students require special education classes, while others do better with advanced learning opportunities that keep them engaged in the classroom.

Social Skills

Social skills that come naturally to neurotypicals may confuse people with autism. This can affect a child’s ability to participate in the classroom fully. As a result, autistic students face some social challenges.

It can also impact making friends on the playground and other social aspects of school. Research shows children with autism are at an increased risk of bullying from other students.1

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