What is an Autism School and How Can it Help My Child?

Home Autism What is an Autism School and How Can it Help My Child?

Research has indicated that students with autism can make progress on educational and social goals within inclusion classrooms. While both public and autism-focused schools can provide assistance for your child, there are a few important things to consider prior to making the decision of where to enroll your child. According to the National Research Council on Autism (2001), the following three points are recommended for the most effective educational and behavioral interventions with regard to preparing your child for success in and outside of the classroom: (1) Parents should be actively involved in their child’s educational process, (2) Children with should attend a full school day with full-year programming, and (3) Intervention should be provided at the minimum of 25 hours per week. Each child with autism has their own specific educational, personal, and behavioral needs that differ individually, given the fact that autism impacts each child differently. In other words, two children with autism have the same needs. With that, considering a school for autism, or an “autism school” may be a better-suited option for your child.

What is an Autism school?

An autism school is characterized by eight specific features that – while present in public schools – are much more individualized for the specific needs of each student. By law, special education services are required in both public and autism schools to include an Individual Education Plan (IEP). This includes the evaluation of each student’s plan on a regular and annual basis to ensure that needs are being met, that each student is attaining specific milestones and that each student is receiving the proper amount of assistance. Although different interventional components may be involved that differ on a student-to-student basis, all are designed to prepare the student for academic and future success. Autism schools – by design – provide the best possible IEPs for students, given that staff members are trained specifically in learning behaviors associated with ASD.

Trained teachers and staff is another component of autism schools, given that most hire staff with specific autism training in applied behavioral analysis (ABA), errorless learning, and other specific techniques. Through ongoing education and existing skills, the skillset of each staff member helps to better prepare students for academic success and future independence, which (among other things), are two key goals of ASD intervention. Classroom size and environment are important in successful and effective education for students with ASD, thus autism schools offer a small student-to-teacher ratio. This helps to ensure that students are receiving individualized attention and instruction that is needed to help retain information, develop new skills, and live more independent, well-rounded lives beyond the classroom into their adulthood. An additional asset to the classroom size is the curriculum and resources that are available, as each autism school provides a uniquely tailored curriculum with personalized instruction that maximizes student success, both in academic and social environments.

Autism challenges in a school setting

Children with autism exhibit a diverse range of behaviors that may be challenging, some of which include verbal and/or physical outbursts, difficulty focusing, inclination to self-harm, and difficulties with speech. At autism schools, students have a specific behavior plan in order to address these needs. Behavior plans are designed to implement a daily routine within a structured environment paralleled with individualized care from trained staff in order to help address behavioral challenges, whilst still working to improve the functional skills necessary for success. Many autism schools also employ at least one certified behavior analyst (CBA) to observe the childrens’ behavior patterns, address setbacks, and encourage growth along their academic and personal journey. Recognizing that the inability to communicate may be frustrating, lead to negative behaviors, and/or affect learning and social development, speech services are also available and implemented at autism schools due to the fact that up to half of children with ASD require speech assistance. Speech-language pathologists are employed at autism schools to collaborate with parents and teachers in developing the most reasonable and efficate speech therapy plan. Following daily observation of students in academic, social, and leisure activities, these therapists work to assist each student in verbal communication, sign language, or another proven technique in order to mitigate the possible hindrances of speech difficulty. These speech sessions usually take place in a classroom environment, ensuring full participation from teachers and aides towards improving children’s communication skills over time. 

Community involvement is a key component in successfully building a foundation for future independence, facilitating self-confidence, making connections, building social skills, and helping the development of healthy habits. Most autism schools place a strong emphasis on this sense of community both on and off-campus, which allows students to practice social and educational skills that will further help prepare them for life beyond school. While programs offered may differ, participation in community events is a commonality among most programs at schools for ASD. While there are other elements of autism schools that differentiate and distinguish them from a standard public school special education program, transition services are the eight components that characterize schools for ASD. Students receive coaching and job training that cater to their individual needs and strengths, which provides opportunities to help prepare them to lead productive, stimulating, and independent lives beyond the classroom. Similar to community involvement events, transition services occur both on and off-site (i.e., in forms of internships), that provide the basis for developing key life skills that will build the platform for future success.

How New Focus Academy Gives Students the Extra Support They Need

New Focus Academy prepares struggling teens for a purpose-filled, independent life. We create an environment of success when most of our students are used to failing. Our positive reinforcement approach empowers students to take small steps leading to big changes and overall wellness. Contact us today to learn how we can help your family. For more information, please call (435) 740-8599.