Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction skills. The world of an autistic child can be overwhelming, and parents are often faced with the decision of whether to send their child to a mainstream school or a specialized school.
While specialized schools can provide individualized attention and an environment tailored to the needs of autistic children, many parents believe that mainstream schools offer greater benefits for their child’s long-term development. But can autistic children thrive in mainstream schools?
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Before we can answer that question, it is important to understand what autism spectrum disorder entails. ASD is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction and behavior. According to research studies, one in every 54 children in the United States falls on the autism spectrum.
In addition, ASD is wide-ranging in terms of its impact, with some children experiencing mild social communication challenges, while others may experience significant impairments that severely limit their ability to communicate, interact socially and complete daily tasks independently.
What Causes Autism?
The exact cause of autism spectrum disorder is not known. Research has shown that genetic factors likely play a role in the development of the disorder. Environmental factors and brain abnormalities may also contribute to ASD.
What are the Symptoms of Autism?
The symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can vary widely from child to child. However, some common symptoms include:
- Difficulty in communication, including delayed speech development and trouble forming sentences
- Lack of social interaction, including difficulty in establishing friendships and difficulty in understanding social cues and norms
- Repetitive behaviors or obsessive interests, such as spinning objects, lining up toys or focusing on specific topics without regard to other subjects
Can Autistic Children Thrive in Mainstream Schools?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Autistic children can absolutely thrive in mainstream schools. In fact, research suggests that inclusive education – where neuro-diverse students learn alongside their non-neurodiverse peers – can lead to improved academic, social and behavioral outcomes for autistic children.
Of course, in order for autistic children to thrive in mainstream schools, they need support and accommodations that are tailored to their specific needs. This can include interventions such as:
- Use of visual aids, such as pictures or visual schedules, to help children understand tasks and routines
- Individualized education plans (IEPs) that outline goals and support services that help children achieve those goals
- Support from paraprofessionals or trained assistants, who can help autistic children navigate social situations, stay on task and manage their emotions
- Reduced distractions, such as the use of headphones or a quiet workspace, to help children concentrate and focus on their work
- Positive Reinforcement methods to encourage positive behavior
What are the Advantages of Mainstream Schools for Autistic Children?
Mainstream schools offer several advantages that can be beneficial for autistic children, including:
- Access to a wider range of academic and extracurricular opportunities that can enhance children’s learning experience and foster independence
- Opportunities for socialization and integration with neuro-typical peers, which can promote social skills and enhance self-esteem
- The chance to develop advocacy and self-advocacy skills, which can help autistic children learn how to advocate for themselves and communicate their needs confidently
What are the Challenges of Mainstream Schools for Autistic Children?
While mainstream schools can be beneficial, they also present some unique challenges for autistic children, including:
- Over-stimulation that may cause sensory overload, which can lead to melt-downs or other behavioral issues
- Difficulty understanding social norms and cues, which can lead to social isolation or conflict with peers or teachers
- The need for access to accommodations and support services, which may not be available at mainstream schools
- Rejection or Bullying by fellow students
Autistic children can thrive in mainstream schools, but it depends on the support and accommodations they receive. With the right tools and assistance, autistic children can benefit not just from individualized attention but also from exposure to a neuro-diverse environment where they can learn and develop alongside their non-autistic peers.
FAQs About Can Autistic Child Go To Mainstream School
Q: Can autistic children be included in mainstream classrooms?
A: Yes, autistic children can be and should be included in mainstream classrooms. Inclusive education has been shown to offer benefits for autistic children in terms of academic, social and behavioral outcomes.
Q: What kind of support do autistic children need in mainstream schools?
A: Autistic children may need support such as individualized education plans (IEPs), visual aids and cue cards, trained assistants or paraprofessionals, and a quiet space when over-stimulated. Positive reinforcement methods can also be helpful to encourage positive behavior.
Q: What are the benefits of inclusive education for autistic children?
A: Inclusive education can be beneficial for autistic children in terms of enhancing social skills, promoting self-esteem, and providing exposure to diverse academic and extra-curricular opportunities
Q: Are there any downsides of mainstream education for autistic children?
A: Autistic children may sometimes face challenges when in a mainstream classroom, including sensory overload and difficulty understanding social norms and cues. Moreover, mainstream schools may not have access to specialized support services that autistic children may require.
Q: Can autistic children benefit from attending secondary schools?
A: Yes, autistic children can benefit from attending secondary schools. With the right supports, accommodations and interventions, autistic children can thrive at all levels of mainstream education.
- Autism Speaks. (2020). What Is Autism? Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2020). Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5.
- De Boer, A., Pijl, S. J., & Minnaert, A. (2013). Inclusive Education: The Benefits and the Obstacles. British Journal of Special Education, 40(3), 170-176.