Autism Education: Home Schooling Vs. Private Schools

Autism Education: Home School Vs. Private Schools

Autism is a common developmental disability. Also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), people with the condition have differences in how their brains develop and process information.

As a result of differentiated growth, children with ASD face significant social, communication, and behaviour challenges.

Symptoms of the disorder vary on the level of the condition. The disorder's symptoms also interfere with regular tasks if severe or may cause only a few problems to people with the mild disorder. This range of symptoms makes it a "spectrum" disorder.

Although there's no cure for the disorder, early intervention and therapy can help kids in skill development and realise & achieve their potential best. Therapy tailored to each child's individual needs can help kids with the disorder. Various therapies that may be required include behavioural, educational, speech, and occupational therapies.

Education for children with autism can be challenging. It requires special attention to their individual needs and a plan that fits their needs. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, there can't be one approach that fits all with the condition. Understanding individual needs are prime to pick the right fit. Parents can choose either homeschooling or private schooling, including special schools that seem the best fit for the child. 

Picking the right education fit for the child must start with an analysis of the child's individual needs and the key elements of schooling required to provide adequate education to the child with autism. Parents must look into all the aspects of the education and the disorder severity of the child to pick the best fit for their child with varied needs. For instance, a child with severe anxiety concerns may find it challenging to study in a school setting, and a child with mild symptoms can function in the classroom with little help from the experts. 

The following points can help you make the right choice by giving you a clear picture of which environment fits you and your child for autism education.

Educational Needs

Children with autism have varied needs that entirely depends on their disorder and individual pace and comfort. Since the condition makes it a must to provide the learner with personalised plans, all aspects of education must be customised to fit students' needs.

Homeschooling and private schooling can cater to personalised education needs. However, to what degree is where the difference lies. Technology assistance, qualified professionals, educational aids are a few components that make education for children with autism whole.

In homeschooling, education can be customised to meet a student's needs. However, one may lack in the richness of resources that can help the student learn better. It is ideal for students with severe symptoms of the disorder or who may face significant anxiety issues. These students can benefit from individual learning and may not benefit from the classroom settings. 

In homeschooling, parents can make lesson plans out of anything, including raising animals, gardening, heading to the museum, or shopping for groceries. Eventually, they can make every day a learning day without creating any pressure to learn like classrooms.

On the other hand, private schools can be ideal for students who are comfortable in a classroom or group earning setting. Also, schools can help students better as they have qualified professionals taking care of children with special needs. In terms of resources, private schools offer various learning aids to ensure students can learn from what fits their needs. Schools may also adopt extracurricular activities such as music, theatre and sports to enable students of all abilities to participate.

Learning Environment

The learning environment can largely affect or improve students' learning. Similarly, for children with autism, a healthy learning environment makes them feel safe and allows them to be in the right frame of mind helping them in their learning journey. The learning environment at private schools and home differs greatly and can benefit students in their respective manner.  

A home learning environment has lesser distractions and is less stressful. Homeschooling provides a haven. Especially for students with severe symptoms, homeschooling can benefit as the child may feel safe at home and removes the possibility of facing unnecessary social challenges of schools that can harm the autistic child. Kids at home do not have to deal with bullies, which can be the case at schools. In homeschooling, adequate socialisation that won't overwhelm or disturb the child can be modelled by parents and taught within the curriculum. Homeschooling allows for a flexible schedule that can help students get plenty of time to go to therapies and take frequent breaks if that's what they need.

The learning environment at schools is customised as per the students' disorder. Depending on where the autistic student is on the spectrum, the amount of regular class time they receive may vary. Some may be assigned part-time to a conventional classroom and part-time to a specialised classroom. Some may be assigned full-time to a traditional classroom with support. At the same time, some may be dedicated full-time to special needs. Schools designed for autistic children can be of great help if the child is either suffering from high functioning autism or unlikely to do well in a less restrictive setting—or profoundly unhappy in a typical environment.

Schools also provide a social learning environment where children learn about peer interaction, communication, and standing in a queue or forming a group. There's a set regular schedule for students at schools that can help children with autism as it keeps them calm and organised, knowing what's coming next. Schools may make some therapies for students meeting the criteria for them. These private schools can also make social skills training available, and autistic students may have many opportunities to practice with peers. Also, give access to specialised software and other supports for learning, if available. Private schools can benefit autistic children only if they feel safe in the outside environment, and it doesn't aggravate anxiety or any other behavioural symptoms in the student.

Cost Involved

Unfortunately, education for students with special needs is expensive. Be it schools or homeschooling; it could be difficult for some people to provide an education with trained experts and aids that can benefit the child. Private schools can be costly. On an average autism-focused school charges about $30,000 to $50,000 in tuition per year. So, parents with low-income may find it difficult to afford.

Similarly, some families may find homeschooling for their autistic child with special needs becomes overwhelming or emotionally draining. They may require additional support systems to alleviate this stress. Not all families are able or financially able to arrange school at home. On average, home tuition costs between $50 and $500 per student for one year. The higher prices include options such as tutors, online classes and extracurricular courses. Students who function well and those who function poorly may need these benefits to learn, and these supplements can significantly increase the overall budget.

Children of all walks of life can benefit from homeschooling. However, parents must be mindful of the time and costs associated with this option.

Support, Community and Sense of Belongingness 

A private school with special needs can work very well for them socially since children with special needs are often more tolerant of differences between their peers. The same support that makes it easier to educate a child with ADHD can also be suitable for a child with high functioning autism. Students, when they meet and spend time with their peers who seem familiar to them, provides them with a sense of community, familiarity and belongingness. It can be difficult for children with autism to be vocal among peers who do not have the disorder. Hence, in special schools, they find their community and support that will help them in education and life at large.

All in all, homeschooling and private schooling both can benefit children with the disorder. There is no one approach that is ahead of the other. The best fit for your child totally depends on your child's needs and your capability to take up the responsibility of homeschooling along with other responsibilities that come up with having a child with special needs. To provide the best education to your kid, picking a "better mode of education" should not be the goal. Instead, it's crucial to understand the behaviour and needs of the child and choose "the right option" for the child.

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About the Author
Author: Priyanka Gupta
Priyanka is a blogger by profession and has an increasing interest to write about the edtech space. While writing she keeps in mind the educators to come up with right resources and ideas which might be relevant for them in relation to effective use of technology in their profession and institutions/classrooms.
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