Many parents prefer inclusion as a compromise between a special needs classroom and unsupported mainstreaming. And, indeed, inclusion can be a terrific option in the right setting.
There are, however, a few potential down sides to inclusion. For example, autistic children in a typical classroom may suffer from bullying and teasing. If the child has a 1:1 aide, the teacher may see the autistic child as "taken care of," and focus their attention on other students. If the child has an adapted curriculum, it may actually be taught to him by the aide and not the trained, credentialed teacher.
The Special Needs ClassroomOften, autistic children are placed in a general special needs classroom in the local public school. This option may work well if the teacher is highly trained and experienced in teaching autistic children. The groups are usually smaller, there is more opportunity to work on social skills, and special needs classes are generally included in all school activities and events.
Special needs classrooms, however, are generally intended for children with typical social development who have a tough time with academics. Autistic children often have precisely the opposite problem: they're relatively comfortable with academics, but have a tough time with social skills. As a result, the program offered in the special needs classroom may be completely wrong for your child.