In the past, children with autism were automatically placed into specialized classrooms. However today, more schools are open to an inclusive model of educating students on the autism spectrum. If your child has autism, how can you find out if a mainstream classroom is the best choice for his education?
Let’s discover the pros and cons of inclusion and how to make it work for everyone.
The Benefits of Inclusion for Students With Autism
An autistic support classroom can help students with their challenges, but it lacks one thing: peer modeling by students who do not have autism. Many children with autism learn from the example provided by their peers. Appropriate behaviors, social interaction, and communication skills are just some of the things your child can mimic in a mainstream classroom.
And, inclusion doesn’t just help your child learn proper socialization. Research indicates that learning alongside typically developing peers may improve the IQs of children on the autism spectrum, as well as their social skills.
Other studies also show that inclusion helped preschoolers on the autism spectrum by:
- Reducing problem behaviors
- Improving language and socialization for students with severe disabilities
- Developing empathy and compassion
Your student is not the only one who benefits from inclusion though!
Inclusion Promotes Diversity
Diversity in music, video games, and other streaming services allows our younger generation to be exposed to unique points of view. When diversity in the classroom mimics what they see in the world at large, everyone benefits. People with special needs and on the autism spectrum must be part of that diversity.
Inclusive classrooms benefit all students in this area. This is good news if mainstreaming is the right choice for your child. However, there can be difficulties to overcome.
Challenges Your Child Might Face
An inclusive classroom is not without its challenges. First, mainstream teachers may not be trained to teach students with autism. While your child’s program can be tailored, one teacher must serve all students and your child may not get the attention he needs.
There is also a chance that the other students will not accept your child. This can lead to bullying. This can be avoided if steps are taken to properly include a student with autism.
Best Practices For Inclusion
To help your student succeed in an inclusive classroom, there are several things you should do beforehand.
Your Child’s Team
Teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, and any other staff your child requires all need to meet with you to discuss the possibility of inclusion. If your child has an IEP or other plan, this should be a formal meeting.
It’s best to come prepared for these meetings. You might want to secure an advocate or invite an inclusion expert.
Before attending, find solutions that will help your child adapt. Share any successful inclusion outcomes from nearby schools for children on the autism spectrum. You can also mainstream your child slowly by integrating them one class at a time.
Another strategy is to let the school provide a one-on-one aide for your child if he qualifies. These aides work side-by-side with students to help them through modified school work.
You can request to include your child at any point, but it’s a good idea to start early in their education, even in preschool. This will help your child with autism get ready for kindergarten and grade school.
Prepare your child ahead of time by giving them visuals of what school will be like and what to expect. Consider bringing your child in to meet the teachers and staff when school is out of session. You should also practice your new morning routine to help your child adapt beforehand.
Schools can provide several tools to assist your child once you inform them of his or her needs.
Getting Additional Accommodations
Nearly every school has a budget for students with special needs. To get your child proper accommodations, you should understand what your district can and cannot provide.
For example, it can be difficult to mainstream students with SPD. They may struggle with loud noises or fluorescent lights, which can feel painful to them. A simple solution is for teachers to turn off the overhead lights and replace them with lamps that use soft light bulbs.
Another helpful idea is thoughtfully placing the student’s desk. One child on the autism spectrum kept getting up to leave the classroom. When the teacher turned her desk so she could not see the exit, the student stopped leaving the room.
It’s also very important to make sure there is a way for your child to take part in classroom activities. Technology can make that possible.
Use Technology Wisely
Assistive technology helps children with autism participate at school. Most schools can provide your child with devices or apps for this purpose. These include:
- Augmentative and alternative communication tools (AAC) that help a nonverbal child to speak
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Social skills apps
By implementing the right combination of accommodations and supports, students with autism can thrive in an inclusive classroom. This also helps provide diversity inside the classroom, preparing all students to thrive in a global society. Take the time to discover if inclusion is the best choice for your child.
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