Types of Schools for Autistic Kids

Parents and caregivers have several options to consider when choosing the right educational setting for autistic children. These options aim to provide a supportive and inclusive environment that caters to the unique needs of children with autism. Two common school options for autistic kids are Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and mainstream classroom integration.

types of Schools for Autistic Kids

Individualized Education Plans (IEP)

Public schools are required by law to create individualized educational programs for every child with autism through IEP. The process begins with an evaluation to assess the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. Based on the evaluation results, an individualized plan is created to address the child’s unique needs. 

The plan may include modifications to the curriculum, specialized instruction, assistive technology, and related services such as speech therapy or occupational therapy. Through an IEP, children with autism can receive the necessary support and accommodations to thrive in a general education classroom. 

This approach promotes inclusion and ensures that the child has access to the same educational opportunities as their peers, while still receiving the individualized support they require. The plan may include modifications to the curriculum, specialized instruction, assistive technology, and related services.

Mainstream Classroom Integration

Depending on the child’s abilities and needs, mainstream classroom integration can be an effective school option for autistic children. In this setting, the child with autism is included in a general education classroom alongside their typically developing peers. The amount of time spent in the mainstream classroom, however, can vary.

Mainstream classroom integration provides opportunities for inclusion and fosters a sense of belonging within the school community. However, the success of mainstream integration depends on factors such as the child’s level of independence, social skills, and ability to handle the academic demands of a typical classroom environment.

To support the successful integration of a child with autism into a mainstream classroom, additional support may be provided. This can include the presence of a support person who assists the child in navigating the classroom environment, providing individualized instruction, and helping to manage any challenges that may arise.

When considering mainstream classroom integration, it’s important to work closely with the school to develop a plan that ensures a positive and inclusive learning experience. It’s also essential to consider the unique strengths, challenges, and learning styles to provide an educational environment that promotes growth and success.

Homeschooling for Autistic Children

For parents of autistic children, homeschooling provides a customized approach to education that can be tailored to their child’s unique needs. It allows parents to have full control over their child’s education. They also have the freedom to choose how, when, where, and what to teach their child. 

This flexibility is especially valuable for children with autism, as their learning styles and needs can vary greatly. Parents can adapt the curriculum, teaching methods, pacing, and materials based on their child’s individual learning preferences, allowing for a more effective and engaging learning experience.

It’s important to note that homeschooling may not be feasible for every family. It requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and resources. Before deciding to homeschool, it’s essential to consider the child’s needs and availability of support systems and consult with professionals specializing in autism education.

Benefits of Homeschooling

Homeschooling offers several benefits for autistic children and their families. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Individualized Attention: In a homeschooling setting, the child receives one-on-one attention from their parent or caregiver. This personalized attention allows for a deep understanding of the child’s learning style and enables targeted instruction to address their specific needs.
  2. Flexible Schedule: Homeschooling provides the flexibility to create a schedule that works best for the child. This can be particularly beneficial for autistic children who may thrive in a structured routine or require additional breaks and sensory regulation throughout the day.
  3. Reduced Sensory Overload: Traditional school settings can be overwhelming for some autistic children due to sensory stimuli. Homeschooling allows parents to create a sensory-friendly learning environment that minimizes sensory overload and promotes a calm and focused atmosphere.
  4. Tailored Social Interactions: Homeschooled children with autism can still engage in social interactions through structured activities and community programs. Parents can design social opportunities that suit their child’s comfort level and focus on building social skills in a supportive environment.
  5. Access to Specialized Resources: Homeschooling parents have access to a wide range of resources, including online educational platforms specifically designed for children with special needs. For example, the Time4Learning educational learning system offers an interactive online environment that can be used as a core curriculum or supplement for traditional and special needs students.

Educational Settings for Autistic Students

When it comes to providing education for autistic students, various settings can be considered based on their individual needs and abilities. Two common options are general education classrooms and inclusion classrooms.

General Education Classroom

In a general education classroom, autistic students are included alongside their neurotypical peers. This setting allows for interaction and socialization with typically developing children. Depending on the student’s abilities and needs, the amount of time they spend in a general education classroom can vary. It may range from part-time inclusion to full-time integration.

For autistic children who possess age-appropriate independence and social skills, a general education classroom can be a suitable option. They are able to learn alongside their peers and benefit from the academic curriculum. However, it’s important to note that some autistic students who are non-verbal, experience high levels of anxiety, or are prone to meltdowns may find this setting challenging.

Inclusion Classrooms

Inclusion classrooms can be beneficial for autistic children who demonstrate moderate social skills and whose level of independence matches or exceeds their age group. In these classrooms, autistic students are part of a typical classroom environment with minimal extra support. This setting allows for social interaction and integration while still providing some level of support.

For autistic students who perform at an average level or better, inclusion classrooms with additional support can be considered. This support may include a one-on-one aide and an adapted curriculum. With these accommodations, autistic students can receive the necessary assistance while still participating in the general education curriculum.

It’s worth noting that there may be challenges associated with inclusion classrooms, such as an increased risk of bullying and the potential for teachers to focus more on other students if the autistic child has a one-on-one aide. And, when deciding on an educational setting for an autistic student, it is crucial to consider their individual needs, abilities, and preferences. 

Special Education Classrooms

Special education classrooms are designed specifically for students with disabilities, including autism. These classrooms offer a structured and supportive environment where students receive individualized attention. Here, teachers and support staff also have training and expertise in working with students on the autism spectrum.

One of the key advantages of special education classrooms is the small class size, allowing for a lower student-to-teacher ratio. This allows teachers to address the specific learning needs of each student. Additionally, special education classrooms often provide access to additional resources and support services.

Still, it’s important to note that these classrooms may be segregated from the rest of the school. This separation may limit social interactions with peers who are not on the spectrum. However, it’s worth mentioning that inclusion in general education settings can vary based on the needs of each individual student.

Autistic Support Classrooms

Autistic support classrooms, also known as autism support classrooms or self-contained classrooms, are specifically designed to meet the needs of students with autism. These classrooms offer a structured and supportive environment that focuses on addressing the unique challenges associated with autism.

Such classrooms provide a range of advantages for students with autism. These classrooms typically have a small student-to-teacher ratio, allowing for increased individualized attention and support. The specialized curriculum and teaching strategies are tailored to the specific needs of students on the autism spectrum.

In addition to academic instruction, autistic support classrooms often incorporate therapeutic resources and interventions within the classroom setting. These can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. The presence of these services can help address challenges associated with autism.

Private School Alternatives

When exploring school options for autistic children, private schools that are specifically dedicated to helping children with autism can be a viable alternative. These schools offer strong therapeutic interventions tailored to meet the unique needs of children with autism. However, it’s important to consider the financial considerations associated with these private school alternatives.

Therapeutic Interventions

Private schools for autistic children often provide a range of therapeutic interventions designed to support their educational and developmental needs. These interventions may include:

  • ABA Therapy: It focuses on using positive reinforcement and behavior modification techniques to teach new skills and reduce challenging behaviors. ABA has been endorsed by The National Institutes of Health, the Surgeon General, and the Association for Science in Autism Research.
  • DIRFloortime Approach: The DIRFloortime approach emphasizes engaging children in interactive play to promote emotional and cognitive development. This approach focuses on building relationships, understanding emotions, and supporting the child’s individual developmental profile.

Private schools also often have specialized staff trained in these therapeutic interventions, ensuring that children with autism receive the support they need to thrive academically and socially.

Financial Considerations

While private schools for autistic children offer specialized programs and resources, it’s important to consider the financial implications. Tuition for these schools can be high, often reaching as high as $75,000 per year. This cost can vary depending on the location and the specific services provided by the school.

Parents may be able to secure partial funding but they are usually required to provide evidence that no available public school can adequately meet their child’s needs. It’s important to consult with local education authorities and understand the eligibility criteria and processes for obtaining financial assistance.

The Takeaway

For children with autism, specialized school programs can provide tailored support and interventions to promote their learning and development. Two common specialized school programs for autistic children are Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the DIRFloortime approach.

Both ABA and the DIRFloortime approach can be implemented in specialized school programs to provide comprehensive support for autistic children. It’s important to note that the specific strategies and techniques used may vary depending on the program and the needs of each child.

By incorporating specialized school programs, educators can create an environment that fosters the unique learning and developmental needs of autistic children. These programs aim to promote social, emotional, and cognitive growth, empowering children with autism to reach their fullest potential.


Scroll to Top