Autism-Only School Environments
Yet another article has inspired me to blog about a new topic.
Is an autism-only schooling environment better or worse for a child on the autism spectrum?
What a great discussion topic.
My son was in a typical high school general education environment (a large school).
He had two accommodations (down from six or so).
In high school, he had the option to accept those accommodations or opt out. One he kept was his resource lab, a (more or less) study hall for special needs kids. He declined to have an aide.
My son wanted to fit in with his typical peers. He liked his school. It was a good fit for him. He graduated with As and Bs. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
Additionally, he walked a short distance (by himself) to and from school.
Our son was “mainstreamed.”
For “higher functioning” kids on the spectrum, it is typically the goal of parents to attempt to mainstream their kids. My son’s school did a decent job with supports, plus there was an atmosphere of acceptance.
But, could an autism-only school have been better for our child?
I felt most of my son’s teachers liked him, and “got him.” More so, I felt they helped him to a minimal level of “disturbance” in the classroom.
For example, my son is fidgety. In addition, he has a tendency to ask too many questions.
These “little things” were worked out in the beginning of the year, which led me to believe that, generally, high school was a success.
But, could we have gone in a different direction?
A different direction for us would have probably been a private school. And, a bus ride in LA traffic.
I know of families who do it, because their child needs it.
A different situation is better for their child.
I simply never felt my child needed that situation. (I’m also sure he didn’t want to change schools, either.)
In other words, my son had already overcome many school-related challenges when he was younger.
Many times, I felt high school was easier for him than, say, second grade. I struggled more when he was in elementary school.
Above all, he had to put in a lot of extra time and energy (with a lot of support) to figure out how to be successful in a typical school setting.
All of it coming when he was much younger.
How do I feel about autism-only schools?
They have advantages:
#1) Peers will be more similar.
#2) A student may have less anxiety.
#3) All of the teachers and administrators would “know” about autism.
For instance, I remember once when I had to work with a school counselor to find the “right match” of teacher. (Side note: We were lucky. Most of my son’s teacher were good fits. However, I can think of two teachers that weren’t a good fit. They were less tolerant. In an autism-only school, I would think you’d be fairly confident the teachers would fit well.)
#4) The classrooms will be smaller and less “loud,” thus less of a sensory overload.
#5) There might be less anxiety about bullying.
Okay, who’s to say there is no bullying in an autism-only environment. I get it.
However, I feel the recipe for bullying should be somewhat diminished if all of the kids around you have some form of autism and all of the teachers and staff are specially trained.
A child with autism could present a stim or two and might not get mocked for it. They might not get singled out as “weird” and get bullied as a result.
Overall, my thoughts…
I believe each situation is different.
Our child did great for a child with autism who was included in a large high school with (mostly) typical kids. The school district did well with communication and accommodations.
As parents, we worked well with this school district. We picked our battles, but didn’t feel every little thing was a battle. We communicated with the teachers and the counselor.
Mostly, we communicated with our kid.
How are you doing in school? Are you getting your work done? Do you feel safe? Do you need more time to get dressed after PE? We like that you don’t have any “tardies” on your record. Finally, do you have any worries?
The bottom line…
In conclusion, all options are on the table.
Keep in mind, our situation may not work for you.
If a situation isn’t working, do some homework, talk to people, and visit other schools.
Make a change if you feel it will benefit your child.
Hopefully, you’ll find what works best for your child, whether it’s a typical environment or an autism-only environment.
That’s the best any of us can hope for.
Autism-Only School Environments
Here’s an article that might help with your decision:
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