Autism Schools – Special Schools

view of a special school classroom

Special Schools For Children With Autism

Special schools are another choice we have to educate our children with “Special Needs” such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). There are a variety of Special Schools, some are Government run and some are Privately operated. Both get funding from Government agencies and they all fall under the laws under the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS in South Australia).

Basically Special Schools usually have a higher Teacher / Student ratio than mainstream schools, and also they employ SSO’s or School Support Officers which are alike to a teachers aide. They mainly specialise in teaching the students social interaction skills and life skills so they have a better chance of independence when they leave school. Some Special Schools have programs with various agencies where the student may get a placing in a sheltered workshop or employment which is suitable for adults with limited skills and or special needs such as filing and photocopying in a hospital for example.

Special Schools Safe For Child With Autism

In a nutshell Special Schools usually cater for children with varying degrees of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD as well as other special needs. They are secure with adult-proof type barriers around the school perimeter, and if nothing else you can rest assured your child will be physically safe (or should be!). Most have buses donated by various charity organisations and operated by volunteers or staff, they can pick the child up and drop them off after school which can be a real time saver in many circumstances.

Special Schools certainly sound like the answer to your ASD child’s education – or are they? I guess like everything there is always the pro’s and cons. For some higher functioning Autistic and Asperger’s children Special Schools can be a distraction and they may not get the academic education they are capable of.

Why? Because once again most Special Schools only have a limited amount of resources, and they need to cater for a very wide and broad range of special needs students with different capabilities, skills and needs. There is really little doubt that for most ASD children a one on one tuition system is by far the best for their academic needs, and although the Special Schools are more appropriately geared up for a higher teacher / student ratio it would be very rare for them to be able to provide one on one tutoring.

Do Special Schools Encourage Behavior?

Most parents that choose to take the “Mainstream unit” road as opposed to the Special School road feel that the majority of students in a Special School can be a distraction and actually encourage and pass on inappropriate behavior, and that at a Mainstream School they will exposed to “normal” children as role models.

This is a beckoning question, do they actually pick up other children’s behaviours? And on the other scale, what is “normal” anyway – is being teased and left out “normal” behaviour?

Right from the beginning we chose a Special School for our daughter, this was our choice. We are not here to say that it is the right choice, just our choice! We chose to take the Special School road because her safety was one of our primary considerations. When she first started school she had little or no concept of what staying put was and could have easily wandered. Also we found that the teachers were very caring and the students in general were very accepting and non judgemental of her, they were all pretty much in the same circumstances! We felt happy and safe that she was attending school in a caring friendly and non judging environment.

As for her academic education, we took that on ourselves with a rigorous but fun home tutoring program using a variety of tutor sources including University Psychology, Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy students and mum and dad.

More on that to come…

Agree? Disagree? leave a comment!

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