It’s time to think about school and autism when a child with autism turns five (or in some states six). Most parents can simply enroll their child in the local kindergarten and put their child on the bus in the fall. Parents of children with autism do have the option of allowing their school district to make decisions on their child's behalf -- based on evaluations, tests, and most likely a combination of available resources and finances. Many parents, however, want to take an active role in determining their child's school placement. That's not always the case for children with autism while it may seem obvious that the ideal setting for any child is a typical classroom with typical peers. And there are quite a few options available that range from highly specialized classrooms and private schools to full mainstreaming or inclusion. Each child with autism is unique. So...which setting is best for your individual child? The answer is – it all depends. Interestingly, the choice of smaller/larger, mainstream/specialized isn't always based on a child's intellectual ability: typical school settings can be tough on even the brightest, most articulate children with autism as always when it comes to autism.

How to make good choices about school and autism

And there may be serve limits to the resources of teachers, time and support when a district works on accommodations. Some questions to consider as you begin thinking about your options are, for example: Is your autistic child verbal and engaged? If he is, he may be more likely to do well in a typical setting (though social, sensory and emotional issues may get in his way if they aren't specifically addressed). How are her academic skills? Some children with autism are advanced well beyond their typical peers, while others are far behind. If your child is already reading and doing math, it will be important to find a setting that accommodates her gifts as well as her challenges. Can he handle large groups? A typical classroom or school could be a disaster -- even if your child is bright and verbal in case loud noise and large groups are likely to cause your child to "melt down”. Does she do well with a lot of sensory input? Bright lights, loud noise, stiff uniforms and other factors can sabotage even the most capable child with autism. It may be possible to minimize these issues, but if your child is very sensitive she may need a smaller, quieter setting. Has she had a tough time in typical classrooms in the past? She's much more likely to do well in a typical kindergarten in case your child has found typical preschool easy to manage. What kinds of programs can your public school offer? Some districts have classrooms and programs specifically set up for kids with autism. Integrate all children into typical classes although others have general purpose special needs classes.  Find out what's available, and ask other parents how well each setting seems to be managed and supported.