If you are the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you probably already know that certain environments can create additional strife or challenges for your child. As a parent, there's much that you can do right at home to help your child feel safe, loved, and confident, but what happens when it's time to send your little one to school? Choosing the right educational environment is the key to your child's overall academic success, regardless of where he or she falls on the spectrum. If you've considered private school, but still aren't sure if it's really right for your little one, learn why it makes sense for kids with ASD in this short guide.
Better Support and Less Overcrowding
It's no secret that American public schools can be very overcrowded, regardless of whether the education provided is exemplary or not. And when it comes to classrooms, size does matter.
Consider that research has identified, in many cases, that children with ASD often require unique, individualized support. This may include visual aids, more rigid or customized scheduling throughout the day, and direct assistance with socializing or working in groups. All of this, as deserved as it is, takes time--and that's something public school teachers don't often have.
When classroom numbers rise beyond the comfortable capacity of any given school, students with special needs may lose the one-on-one, individualistic support they may need to excel. This is very common in high-density neighborhoods and inner-city classrooms, where the teacher-to-student ratio may be as high as 40:1. Teachers may become so swamped that they have little time to make room for individualized learning styles within the classroom.
A teacher who is busy tending to 40 students on her own isn't likely to have the budget or capability to put customizations or on-the-fly support into place for the average student, much less a student with ASD-related needs.
In contrast, many private schools place restrictions on the number of students brought in. The majority aren't required by the state or law to take on a certain number of children each year, and that can translate into a better teacher-to-student ratio. A teacher with fewer students has more time--and that's time that can be used to provide your child with the specialized support he or she needs to learn and grow.
Private schools may not be granted government funding, but that doesn't mean they don't bring in money. Most private learning institutions have access to a much wider range of fundraising resources. Some schools may actually end up with more funding because of this, rather than less.
The average private school raises funds through a long list of sources. Tuition, of course, is first. Private schools also ask for contributions from alumni and parents and may receive endowments, memorial payments, charity fundraising assistance, or even large sum payments from philanthropists
This multi-faceted approach to fundraising protects the school from state budget cuts and ensures that supportive programs for children with ASD remain in place at all times. It also provides schools with the ability to hire specialized teachers who are specifically knowledgeable in dealing with kids who have ASD.
In contrast, public schools are at risk for budget cuts that may render these positions and programs ineffective or even non-existent.
A survey given by the The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) identified that a whopping 82 percent of respondents felt that federal and state-level budget cuts directly impacted their school's ability to provide appropriate services to children with disabilities. Nearly a third reported that specialized education supports were one of the first areas to receive cuts, leaving roles unfilled.
Choosing a well-funded private school is a bit like creating a varied stock portfolio--it's lower risk than choosing a school with funding from the government alone. By diversifying where their money comes from, private schools create a cushion that can carry special needs services through economic hardships and difficult times.
More Curricular and Environmental Freedom
Third and final on this list is the question of curricular freedom. Public schools that receive funding from the government are required to adhere to strict guidelines on curriculum. Conversely, private schools do not receive funding from the same government sources and are therefore not held to the same set of guidelines. Instead, they must only adhere to basic educational requirements that focus on issues like health and overall safety.
Research supports customized curricula for students on the spectrum, whether for assessment or teaching purposes. Teachers must recognize that children with ASD can vary greatly in developmental progress and may have difficulty with any of the following:
A good, supportive private learning environment will have both the ability and willingness to modify and customize your child's curriculum in a wide range of areas, including learning approach, topics chosen, classroom environment, and even attendance or progression requirements. With regard to public schools, there's only so much leeway possible, but this is not the case for privatized learning environments.
Certain types of private institutions may also be inherently more suitable for kids with ASD. For example, kids who need rigid structure throughout their day may benefit from a strict military or Catholic school environment. Children who need a looser schedule, a bit more patience, or even just the freedom to move around and express tics or self-soothing behaviors may benefit more from the much-more-relaxed Montessori approach instead.
Still others may do best in a learning environment that blends multiple learning approaches and styles to create something entirely new and well-suited to the individual student.
Whichever private learning environment you choose, the most important takeaway here is that more curricular freedom helps to ensure that your little one isn't held to standardized testing or a pace that's unrealistic for their current developmental level. A well-matched private placement will ensure that children are able to learn and grow to become their best selves within the academic environment, even if what that looks like changes as they develop and grow.
Finding a learning style that works for your little one isn't always easy when dealing with ASD, but it is possible. If you've been exploring your options, you should know that many private schools are uniquely equipped to deal with special needs children, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum. For more information, or to inquire about whether a private education is right for for your child, contact a private school, such as Saint Thomas Academy, today.
Kids develop at their own pace. Some kids are ready to learn at a very early age while some require more time to be prepared to take in information. My blog will help you identify the learning pace in which your child is ready to perform. You will learn signs to watch for so that you know what your child can handle and signs that could tell you that you are pushing a little too hard. I hope that my own personal experiences can help you and your child begin on the path of learning at a pace that you are both comfortable with.