What to look for in a special education program for your child with autism

Lisa Jo Rudy

Question: What should I look for in a special education setting for my child with autism?

Answer: As with so much in the world of autism, the definition of a good educational program depends upon the needs of the individual child. While certain elements are likely to be positive for any child with autism, the bottom line is about your child's individual strengths and challenges and if they "click" with their teacher and setting. Different families may also have specific preferences about therapeutic and teaching approaches, which vary amongst districts and regions.

All this said, here are some elements critical to successful educational program for autistic students:

+ Your child's teacher (whether a special ed teacher or a typical classroom teacher) should have both training and experience working with autistic children.

+ Your child's teacher should have both implicit and explicit support from the school administration. She should be able to access resources, training and materials as needed.

+ Your child's teacher should be able (based on her abilities and resources, and on the school's policies) to modify program and curriculum to your child's needs and strengths based on your child's IEP (Individualized Educational Program).

+ You should be able to see evidence of different teaching styles in your child's classroom.

+ Other teachers, including gym, library and other specials teachers, should be able to access resources and supports as they work with your child.

+ You should see evidence that learners are challenged and supported both academically and socially.

+ Supportive therapies, such as speech, physical and occupational therapy, should all be available on site and free.

Courtesy of About a NY Times Company

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