Public schools are required to provide autism education, and most children with autism do attend public school.  Your child will probably wind up in one or another of these settings, depending on your child's needs and abilities, and the needs and abilities of your public schools - typical public school classroom without special support (mainstreaming) and typical public school classroom with support (1:1 and/or adaptations). For the child on the autism spectrum, there are great advantages to a public education. Though, there's much more to a public education than academics because of the IDEA. That means that your child must receive the right supports to be at least moderately successful in as typical a setting as he can handle. You or your teen members can call a meeting to decide what to do next in case your child isn't moving forward. Of course, public school is also the place where your community meets. It's the central focus of most kids' lives. And public school is a great way to connect more fully will new friends, other parents, and the school community as a whole in case your child does thrive in a general education setting. The above description of public school may sound like heaven on earth. But of course, nothing is as good as it sounds.

 

Public school vs autism education

As you'll hear from every school administrator you'll ever meet – the law requires that we provide your child with a Chevy, not a Cadillac – this is the truth. This means that your child with autism is most likely to get an adequate education based on someone else's vision of what adequate looks like in practice. What looks at first like an adequate educational program really isn't in some cases. A child with huge sensory and behavioral issues is never going to do well in a mainstream setting. A child with Asperger syndrome is often possible to make a case for change on your own or through an advocate or mediator, it is not going to thrive in a classroom filled with profoundly challenged kids.  Frequenty, districts will see the problem and make changes based on your child's individual needs. But what happens when the program is barely adequate but not very good? That's when things get trickier. Every child with autism is different, and every parent with an autistic child has a different vision of what their child needs after all. That means that it's extremely difficult to set up a single, solid autism program that suits the entire autism population. The truth is that your child's physical placement, teacher(s) and therapists will define his public school experience while in theory the IEP does not describe a place for your child but rather a program. So you may have a problem in case your district has an existing autism program that you just happen to feel is wrong for your child. Sure, you can take the district to court but you'll have to prove that your child would NOT do well in their program or that your child WILL succeed in a different setting.