Autism Schools – What You Need To Know
Autism Schools, or Schools for Autistic Children, or Schools suitable for ASD kids. Put it how you will, we know from experience that its a touchy subject amongst the Autism community in Australia and most likely the world over. The main problem being that you basically have three choices – Mainstream School, Special Needs School or Home Schooling.
The problem with these choices is that on their own they are not very suitable, an ASD child needs both academic and social tutoring as well as a safe environment and where one choice might exceed the other in the different systems it is very difficult to get a good balance.
- Home schooling can certainly focus on the academic side of things, particularly through ABA and early intervention style tutoring in the early years, however the social aspect of going to school and mixing with other students is lacking in a home school only environment.
- Mainstream schooling can have it’s benefits by introducing the child to children who are not on the Autism spectrum, however like it or not children can be innocently (and not so innocently) cruel and this can have very adverse effects on any child. There is also the security factor, where most mainstream schools don’t have childproof barriers around the school to keep your child in, and if your child is a runner, or even if they just don’t understand the concept of staying put this can be a very dangerous environment for an ASD child.
- Special schools, or schools for children with Autism or Special Needs. These can cover a wide range of disabilities, and they are set up to cater for just that. Most special needs schools are a safe and caring environment usually free of harassing and bullying students, that is not to say however that there are at times children with anti social behaviours, however the school needs to monitor and take action on such cases. Special schools usually have a high teacher and SSO (Special Services Officer, or teachers aid) to student ration, they are usually very secure with childproof (and adult proof) barriers, in many ways they are almost the perfect learning environment for Autistic, ASD, children, however, as hard as they may try it is very difficult to cater for each child’s individual capabilities, and so many of the higher functioning children can often miss out on the necessary academic tuition they are capable of. It’s sad but it’s a truth we have to deal with, most ASD children need the one on one tuition and therapy such as speech and occupational therapies.
For many years now we have been trying to get the perfect balance, we send our child to a special school part time because she is safe there and they have outings, excursions, and a social community associated with the school, Isy has friends there and she socialises with them out of school time as well. For one or two days of the week depending on her schedule we tutor her at home with varying sources of tutors including psychology, occupational and speech therapy Uni students, volunteers and disability students, as well as her professional occupational and speech therapy sessions. It seems to be a good balance, however just when you thought things are going well you get a very blunt surprise by the education authorities saying that she must be enrolled full time at an approved education facility – it is the law!
That is when we went to see the education minister and then our local member of parliament because we were under the impression that a child with special needs should have the flexibility to have their needs met, particularly if the parents or carers are willing to go that extra mile to do so, you would expect support from the already lacking “system”. Even the education minister agreed, there needs to be a compromise, and that there must be an exclusion clause so they can get the best mix for their education needs.
You can’t just throw them into the school system and hope for the best – it doesn’t work that easily!
Currently our local member of parliament is chasing up the legalities of the education system with regard to a child with Autism, ASD or special needs.
So what is the answer! I was hoping someone might be able to tell me. It is a hotpot of what is available to you, what you can afford and what you can put in yourself, and now what is the law!.
Many argue that our government system needs to do more for children with special needs when it comes to education, that will always be the case, but we, the parents and carers need to do something ourselves now! We cannot wait around for someone else to take responsibility.
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