Schools for Autism – Mainstream or Special?
We have had quite a lot of exposure lately to the subject of Mainstream Schools and Special Schools for children with Austism.
There are quite a few arguments / opinions for and against both, and a very large factor is the school and staff itself, regardless of whether it is Mainstream or Special Schools for Autism and other disabilities.
There are however a few givens with each system, and how they are geared to cope with disabled children and in particular children with Autism.
Can the School Cope With ASD Children?
The Autism Spectrum Disorder is a very vast and wide spectrum and even though there are some common traits it can effect different children in different ways. One thing is for sure, the teachers and staff of the school whether special or mainstream school need to have exposure and training to deal with children with Autism.
So this brings us to one very obvious conclusion, teachers and staff at a Special School will more than likely be better equipped, trained and exposed to children within the Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is also our opinion and ecperience that teachers and staff at a special school have a more caring and tolerant nature, it goes without saying!
Mainstream Schools are starting to gear up better for children with disabilities, and many have special units within the school to better cope with special students, also the student can be shadowed at school for extra support.
What is Shadowing?
“Shadowing” basically means that a parent or carer can attend the school with child either full time or part time, this is to help with any situations that may arise where the teacgher or SSO may find it difficult to deal with.
We have had first hand experience with shadowing a child with Autism just recently at a Mainstream School and have been extremely disappointed at how the student and shadow have been treated. Some teachers and staff are just not trained or even suitable to deal with children with a condition such as Autism, and have found that some have had no exposure or even understand the Autism Spectrum of Disorders.
It is a sad situation, however this is where Special Schools for Autism have a place in the system. The argument against Special Schools by the parents is usually that they believe the child will get a better academic education and be less influenced by disruptive behaviour at a Mainstream School as opposed to a Special School. This certainly is a debatable opinion, however it may be slightly true.
So much depends on the severity of the Autism Disorder, however for a large percentage of children with Autism they will have difficulty with communication and therefore learning. It has always been our opinion that schooling for a child with Autism is more about learning social skills, and independence skills, and that the academics are learned at home with programs such as Applied Behavior Analysis, Discrete Trial Training and specialised tutoring.
The children at a Special School do receive an academic education, but certainly in most cases not to the level of a Mainstream School. Another advantage of Special Schools for Autism is the extra security within the school grounds and peace of mind that the child is in a safe and caring environment.
This subject is certainly a hot one and we believe there is no right or wrong answer, only what suits your child best. Consider the options, and see for yourself how well the school can cope with your child.
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