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Sending An Autistic Child to Public School: Navigating Challenges And Strategies

Sending an autistic child to public school is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and planning. As parents or guardians, it's crucial to understand the unique challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

mark elias
Mark Elias
October 31, 2023

Sending an Autistic Child to Public School

Sending a child with autism to public school is a complex decision that requires careful consideration of the child's individual needs and challenges. While public schools are required by law to provide accommodations and support for children with disabilities, there are still many factors that parents must take into account when making this choice.

One of the most important factors to consider is the child's level of functioning. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can vary greatly in their abilities and challenges, and some may require more intensive support than others.

For example, a child who is nonverbal or has significant behavioral challenges may require a specialized program or classroom that is not available in a typical public school setting.

Another important consideration is the quality of the public school district. Some school districts have more resources and experience working with children with autism than others, and it's important to research the options in your area before making a decision.

Parents may need to visit schools, speak with teachers and administrators, and review the district's policies and procedures for supporting children with disabilities.

Once a child is enrolled in a public school, it's important for parents to communicate regularly with teachers and other school staff to ensure that the child's needs are being met. This may involve working with the school to develop an individualized education plan (IEP) that outlines the child's accommodations, goals, and progress.

Parents may also need to advocate for their child's needs and address any concerns or challenges that arise during the school year.

One potential benefit of sending a child with autism to public school is the opportunity for socialization and integration with peers.

Many public schools have programs and activities that promote social interaction and inclusion, which can be beneficial for children with autism who may struggle with social skills or making friends.

However, there are also potential downsides to sending a child with autism to public school. Some children may find the sensory stimulation and social demands of a typical classroom overwhelming, leading to stress, anxiety, or behavioral challenges.

In some cases, parents may need to consider alternative options such as homeschooling or specialized private schools.

Challenges of Transitioning from a Specialized Program to Public School

For some children with autism who have been in a specialized program or classroom, transitioning to a public school setting can be challenging. This is because specialized programs often provide more individualized attention and support than what is available in a typical classroom.

One potential challenge is the difference in teaching styles and expectations between the two settings.

Children who are used to a structured and predictable routine may struggle with the more flexible and unpredictable nature of a typical public school classroom. They may also find it difficult to adjust to different teaching methods or expectations.

Another challenge is the social aspect of transitioning to public school. Children who have been in a specialized program may not have had as many opportunities for socialization with peers outside of their program, making it harder for them to make friends and interact with classmates in a larger, more diverse setting.

Finally, some children may experience anxiety or stress related to the transition itself. Moving from one school or program to another can be disruptive and unsettling, especially for children with autism who may struggle with changes in routine or environment.

To help ease this transition, parents and educators can work together to create an individualized plan that takes into account the child's needs and challenges.

This may involve gradually introducing the child to new routines and environments, providing additional support or accommodations as needed, and working closely with teachers and other school staff to ensure that the child feels comfortable and supported during this time of change.

Building Positive Relationships with Teachers and School Staff

Building positive relationships with teachers and school staff is crucial for parents of children with autism who attend public school. These relationships can help ensure that the child's needs are being met, and can also provide a support system for both the child and the family.

One way to build positive relationships is to communicate regularly with teachers and other school staff. This may involve setting up regular meetings or check-ins to discuss the child's progress, concerns, or any changes in their needs.

It's important for parents to be proactive in reaching out to teachers and asking questions or providing feedback.

Another way to build positive relationships is to show appreciation for the hard work that teachers and other school staff do on behalf of the child.

This may involve sending thank-you notes, providing small gifts or treats, or simply expressing gratitude in person. Acknowledging their efforts can go a long way towards building trust and rapport.

Parents should also consider getting involved in school activities or volunteering when possible. This can help them get to know teachers and staff on a personal level, as well as demonstrate their commitment to supporting their child's education.

Ultimately, building positive relationships with teachers and school staff requires open communication, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to ensuring that the child receives the best possible education and support.

By working together towards this common goal, parents, teachers, and school staff can create a supportive environment that benefits everyone involved.

Strategies for Supporting Children With Autism in the Classroom

There are many strategies that teachers and school staff can use to support children with autism in the classroom. These strategies can help create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment, and can also benefit all students by promoting engagement, communication, and collaboration.

One effective strategy is the use of visual aids. Many children with autism are visual learners who benefit from seeing information presented in a clear and organized way.

Teachers can use visual aids such as pictures, diagrams, or charts to help illustrate concepts and ideas, provide step-by-step instructions for tasks or activities, or create visual schedules that help students understand what will happen throughout the day.

Another strategy is the use of sensory breaks. Many children with autism may become overwhelmed by sensory input such as noises, smells, or bright lights.

Sensory breaks provide an opportunity for these children to take a break from the classroom environment and engage in calming activities such as deep breathing exercises or using sensory tools like stress balls or fidget spinners.

Teachers can also use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage desired behaviors and discourage negative behaviors. This may involve providing verbal praise or rewards for good behavior, or using a token system where students earn points or tokens for positive behaviors that can be exchanged for rewards later on.

Finally, it's important for teachers to create a structured and predictable classroom environment that helps students feel safe and secure. This may involve creating consistent routines and schedules, providing clear expectations for behavior and academic performance, and using social stories to help students understand social situations or expectations.

By using these strategies (and others), teachers can create an inclusive learning environment that supports the needs of all students - including those with autism - while promoting engagement, communication, and academic success.

Strategies for Promoting Social Skills in a Public School Setting

Socialization can be a significant challenge for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, promoting social skills and building peer relationships is an essential part of the school experience. Here are some strategies that can help promote social success in a public school setting:

Social Skills Groups

Many schools offer social skills groups or clubs that focus on teaching children with ASD how to interact with their peers successfully. These groups provide opportunities to practice social skills in a structured environment while receiving feedback from teachers or other professionals.

Peer Mentoring Programs

Peer mentoring programs match students with ASD with neurotypical peers who act as mentors and friends. These mentors can help facilitate social interactions, encourage positive behavior, and provide support during challenging situations.

Inclusion Activities

Inclusion activities are designed to promote understanding and acceptance of students with disabilities among their peers. Participating in these activities can help children with ASD feel more comfortable interacting with their peers while also educating others about the challenges they may face.

Play-Based Interventions

Play-based interventions use games and activities to teach social skills such as turn-taking, sharing, and communication. These interventions can be especially effective for younger children who may struggle to understand more abstract concepts.

By using these strategies (and others), educators can create a supportive environment that promotes socialization and peer relationships among all students - including those with autism - while also helping them develop the skills they need to succeed academically and socially.


What kind of support can my child with autism expect to receive in a public school?

Public schools are required by law to provide accommodations and support for children with disabilities, including autism. Depending on the child's individual needs, this may include specialized programs or classrooms, assistive technology, additional instructional support, or behavioral interventions.

Parents should work closely with teachers and other school staff to develop an individualized education plan (IEP) that outlines the child's specific accommodations and goals.

Will my child be able to participate in extracurricular activities?

Yes! Public schools offer a wide range of extracurricular activities such as sports teams, clubs, music programs, and more. These activities can provide opportunities for socialization and skill-building outside of the classroom.

Parents should work with teachers and administrators to identify activities that would be a good fit for their child's interests and abilities.

What if my child is being bullied or mistreated by classmates?

Bullying or mistreatment of any kind is unacceptable in any school setting. If your child is experiencing bullying or mistreatment from classmates, it's important to report it to the school immediately. Schools have policies and procedures in place to address these issues and protect students from harm.

Parents should also work with teachers and administrators to create a plan for preventing future incidents and ensuring that their child feels safe at school.

Can I request specific accommodations or services for my child?

Yes! As a parent, you have the right to request specific accommodations or services for your child based on their individual needs. This may include assistive technology, extra instructional support, behavioral interventions, or specialized programs or classrooms.

The best way to make these requests is through the IEP process - working collaboratively with teachers and other school staff to develop an individualized plan that meets your child's unique needs.

Is homeschooling a better option for my child with autism?

Homeschooling can be a good option for some children with autism, depending on their individual needs and challenges. However, it's important to carefully consider the pros and cons of homeschooling before making this choice.

Homeschooling can provide a more individualized and flexible learning environment, but it may also limit opportunities for socialization and interaction with peers. Parents should research the options in their area and consult with professionals to determine what would be the best fit for their child.


Ultimately, the decision to send a child with autism to public school should be based on a careful assessment of the child's individual needs and the resources available in the local school district. With the right support and advocacy, many children with autism can thrive in a public school setting and benefit from the social and educational opportunities it provides.