Choosing the Right School for a High Functioning Child with Autism

playground alone autism

With the turn of a new year, many parents are already looking into enrollment options for the fall of 2011, and one of the most common questions parents of children with autism will ask during this process is: “What school is best for my child?”

The answer is not an easy one. Each child is different and a school that may be suitable for one may not work for another. However, one of the most important things to consider is creating a balance between socialization and academics. A school that provides good socialization opportunities is just as important (if not more important) as a school that provides a solid academic foundation.

As a parent of a child with autism, it is heartbreaking to watch them from afar on a playground while other children play around them – all alone in their own little world, unable to break free. 

Children with high functioning autism who are mainstreamed into a neurotypical school will almost always struggle in these situations. They often desire to play with other children, but because of their condition and inability to connect with others, they won’t know how. Instead, they will be content going up and down a slide over and over again to satisfy their repetitive and self stimulatory tendencies.

The best recommendation for a child who is struggling making friends is to focus on one or two kids in their class who share common interests. Our son has found a wonderful friend at school and this friendship developed because they both had a strong interest in the same video games. During playground time, our son would approach this child and talk about defeating the latest “Boss” in Super Mario Galaxy. These types of conversations helped open the door to a great relationship.

If you do choose to mainstream your child in the coming 2011-2012 school year, it is extremely important to help them establish meaningful friendships and relationships with these "typical" kids.  Find the one who has the same interests. If they both like animals, offer to take them to the zoo on a play date. If they like video games, invite him or her over to play on your Nintendo Wii or PlayStation.  This will make things exciting for the "typical" child and offer an opportunity to get to know yours when he or she is most comfortable and can be themselves.  It is early enough now in your school search to test the waters as much as possible. Some schools may even let the child sit in for a half day to get an idea of how he or she interacts with the other kids.  Look around as much as possible, with socialization issues being a primary concern.

Understandably, the above scenarios are not always possible, particularly with lower functioning children.  However, at an early age, the efforts to focus on socialization skills and building meaningful friendships are vital for the success of your child later in life. When choosing to enroll in a school this year, make sure you find one that will provide a healthy balance between academics and socialization and you will potentially see your child make incredible progress.

One Response to Choosing the Right School for a High Functioning Child with Autism

  1. Atia says:

    My son will go in a high school next year,he has a autism but not serious only focus problem,please guide me some thing for his education,

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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