Educating Students on the Autism Spectrum: Approaches to Education (page 2)

— Autism Society
Updated on Jul 28, 2009

Special Education Settings for Students with Autism

The more severe challenges of some children with autism may be best addressed by a special education setting that is highly structured with a low student-to-teacher ratio and ample accommodations to address core deficits.
Such accommodations may include extensive use of visual “cueing” or augmentative communication devices to address communication difficulties, as well as supportive therapies to address sensory processing impairments. Most special education curricula employ individualized behavioral interventions to help the child establish appropriate life skills.

Some special school settings provide opportunities for reverse  mainstreaming. In this instance, a few children from other classes within the school are brought into the special education setting for a portion of the day. Interactions between these students and the students with autism are facilitated to promote modeling for communicative and social development. Another method used to provide age-appropriate models in the special education setting is to set up opportunities for peer tutoring. Children with autism are paired with “buddies” to help
learn a particular subject or to perform a task.

Students benefit from a low teacher-student ratio. Professionals specifically trained in the unique learning styles of their students and who are proficient in accommodating the needs of each individual can help all students reach their highest potential. Many  special education schools have on site special equipment and services that would not usually be found in most other schools. Also, schools for children with special needs usually employ a family  support coordinator who is available to provide families with resources for additional information, services, financial assistance programs, and more. Many such coordinators also conduct monthly parent meetings to help families support one another and to share experiences. Finally, schools for children with special needs generally provide
respite services, emergency care, parent/guardian home training services, and sibling services (Harris, 1994 ).


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Gray, C. (1995). Teaching Children with Autism to “Read” Social Situations. In K.A. Quill (Ed.), Teaching Children with Autism: Strategies to Enhance Communication and Socialization (pp. 219-241). Albany, NY:Delmar Publishers.

Gray, C., & Garand, J. (1993). Social stories: Improving responses of students with autism with accurate social information. Focus on Autistic Behavior; 8, 1-10.

Gresham, F. (1982). Misguided mainstreaming: The case for social skills training with handicapped children [abstract]. Exceptional Children, 48.

Harris, S.l. (1994). Siblings of Children with Autism: A Guide for Families. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

Hodgdon, L.A. (1995). Visual Strategies for Improving J Communication. Troy, MI: QuirkRoberts Publishing.

Siegel, B. (1996). The World of the Autistic Child: Understanding and Treating Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Wagner, S. (1998). Inclusive Programming for Elementary Students with Autism. Atlanta: Emory Autism Resource Center.

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