Autism has been on the rise in the last two decades. There is a higher incidence in boys than girls, and it is not entirely clear what actually causes this disorder aside from genetics. Autism often impairs social interaction, and causes repetitive, restrictive, or atypical behavior in children and adults. Much of the research in autism has pointed toward genetics as they key factor for its transference to a child, but the cause of mutations in the genes has been the subject of dispute. There are studies that indicate child vaccinations could be the cause, or pesticides, but these have been inconclusive.
When diagnosing autism in a young child, doctors consider how long the child has displayed symptoms of the disorder. One of the criteria for diagnosis is that the child must have shown signs before he or she reached the age of three. Other children born with complicated medical histories can easily be identified as candidates for special needs. Once this diagnosis has been made by a medical doctor, parents can search for ways to help their child cope with their cognitive and behavioral difficulties. Often times, an autistic child excels in academic subjects. With additional support like differentiated instruction to match their pace of learning, assistive technology, and resource rooms, an autistic child can succeed in a school setting.
There are also schools for learning disabilities that cater specifically to children with special needs. These teachers are trained in working with special needs students, and create classroom environments that foster creative and academic learning. They have programs that include cognitive and behavioral intervention that can help students gain social skills. These schools offer many resources for children with autism and other learning disabilities, such as vocational classes, and hands on, practical lessons. Access to assistive technology can help children who are non-verbal learn to communicate with their peers and adults. These schools work well for children who are unable to cope with the social interaction a mainstream school requires.
But schools for learning disabilities are not the only way autistic children can succeed. Many mainstream schools offer inclusive classroom settings, where the lead teacher is dual-certified in general and special education, and will be able to differentiate the lesson plans to fit the needs of a student with a disability. The same schools often have self-contained classrooms that offer special education programs for children with similar diagnoses. These children are all in one classroom, with a typical room containing no more than 12 students, a teacher, and an aid. Some classrooms can be as small as 8 students, and also include both a teacher and an aid. These smaller settings are for children with more severe behavioral problems.
The school system offers many ways to help for children with autism. One of the most important things for parents to do is to be informed about both their child’s disorder, and also the services that are afforded their child by law. Advocating and pushing for these services will get parents the support they need. By talking to teachers and working with a school’s administration, parents can get the best education for their child. Whether they send their children to schools for learning disabilities or mainstream schools, parents should know that they have options.