Autism can be difficult to diagnose because it’s often a challenge to define. For example, just two years ago in May 2013, “All Autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder,” reports autismspeaks.org.
The keyword is spectrum. Autism takes many distinct forms, including Autistic Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-not otherwise specified and Asperger syndrome. Every child with Autism is different, and each requires individualized training and treatment to learn to function in society.
For parents, one of the biggest challenges is finding a school that can adequately meet student needs. In an article for The Atlantic, Amy Mackin, whose son has Autism, described the frustrations and problems she encountered when her son attended traditional public schools.
“The Autism spectrum is wide and varied, and every person is unique,” she said. “People like Henry need someone looking out for them, particularly in overwhelming environments like school.”
She explained that specialized programs in most schools focus on helping students with learning disabilities. Many children with Autism are highly intelligent and don’t need academic support. In fact, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46 percent of children with Autism have average to above average intellectual ability. Yet, they often struggle with basic social skills and interactions with people.
An article for the American Psychological Association Monitor by Lea Winerman explains the most effective treatment for Autism is early and ongoing educational intervention.
The most commonly prescribed therapy is applied behavioral analysis, usually referred to as ABA therapy. The practice can require 40 hours per week of one-on-one instruction. In most cases, traditional public schools simply don’t have the trained personnel or the resources to provide the necessary program.
While public schools struggle to handle the needs of children with Autism, in the Phoenix area, there is another option. The Autism Academy for Education & Development launched in 2013 to specifically help students and their parents. Today there are campuses in Gilbert, Tempe and Peoria.
Specialized Autism schools are often private, but public money is sometimes available to pay some or all tuition costs. In Arizona, individuals and corporations can divert tax money to qualifying, low-income students attending private schools.
In addition, many public schools recognize they do not have adequate programs to meet the needs of students with Autism. Because federal law requires them to provide the opportunity for free public education, these schools can opt to send students to a private school better equipped to manage their educational program. In these cases, the student’s public school district pays the tuition from funds it receives from the state.
Choosing the right school for children with Autism is a major challenge. Fortunately, the growth of schools dedicated to educating students with Autism means parents today have options that did not previously exist.
About Autism Academy for Education and Development
Autism Academy for Education and Development specializes in providing education to students with Autism, grades Kindergarten to 12th grade, by adapting the educational curriculum with teaching strategies that facilitate learning for the students in specially designed classrooms. Low teacher/student ratios are maintained to maximize individual attention and to address each student’s needs. Therapies and curriculum are provided in the classrooms for every child.