General Special Needs Private Schools: Pros and ConsSpecial needs private school are springing up across the country. The majority of these schools specialize in reading disorders like dyslexia. A few will take on children with diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder. Recently, there has been more acceptance by private schools of children with Asperger syndrome (though this remains rare). Unfortunately, though, general special needs private schools tend to exclude children with autism.
If you can find and fund a non-specialized special needs private school for your child, you may have a terrific experience. Often, children with special needs are more tolerant of differences. And, oftentimes, the same supports that make education easier for a child with ADD are appropriate for a child with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism.
The downside to such a setting is usually location. It's tough to find such a school in any local neighborhood. And, because the school is private, transportation is either nonexistent or high-priced. Parents generally have to find a way to make the school work for them.
Private Schools Specializing in Autism: Pros and ConsMore and more private schools are opening which specialize in serving children on the autism spectrum. These schools are expensive since they build in full-day therapeutic interventions including speech, occupational and physical therapy as well as academics. Tuitions can easily be as high as $75,000 per year. They may also be the ideal choice for your child with autism.
Autism-only schools serve both high and low-functioning children with autism, and can do a great job at both ends of the spectrum. Young people with Asperger syndrome may find themselves at home for the first time in their lives at an Asperger-only school. There, they may find true friends, supportive and understanding teachers, and opportunities to thrive in new ways. Children who are more profoundly autistic will find highly trained specialists with the time, energy and commitment to provide intensive, caring 1:1 interventions.
Autism-only schools are often set up based on a specific therapeutic philosophy. For example, there are private schools which spend the majority of the day implementing behavioral intervention. There are others dedicated to teaching through Floortime, and still others with focus largely on Relationship Development Intervention. If you know what you want, you can find it locally and you can fund it, you're in great shape. If not, you may have to go with the program that's available and fundable.
The down side of a school for children with autism is it is a world unto itself. While at school, children experience ONLY people who understand and care for them. Their peers are all autistic. Even parents of their peers "get" their autism. Even when the school deliberately creates opportunities for inclusion in the typical world, those opportunities are carefully contrived and controlled. That means that your child with autism will have relatively few opportunities to learn the coping skills they're likely to need when they graduate.