There are three main types of education models used for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. You will find some autistic individuals educated in self-contained classrooms while others are either mainstreamed or educated in an inclusive classroom. These three autism education environments are commonly found in public school districts. Private schools, some dedicated solely to individuals on the autism spectrum, may utilize other educational settings.
Autistic individuals who are taught in a self-contained classroom stay in the same classroom for their entire day. They are taught alongside their peers; in addition to individuals with autism spectrum disorders, the classroom may also contain those with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other developmental disorders.
The self-contained classroom setting is beneficial for individuals who need the most assistance. The student to adult ratio is often small, allowing for more individual attention for the students. In addition to the small classroom size, some rooms dedicated to autistic children are set up with their sensory needs in mind.
It is not uncommon to see a room with no fluorescent lighting, minimal wall decorations, and even soft music playing. These rooms cater to the needs of those that are sensory-sensitive allowing them to focus on the learning experiences presented in the classroom.
Mainstreaming occurs when a student spends part of his day in a self-contained setting and the other part of his day in a regular education classroom. Mainstreaming usually only occurs for extra-curricular and non-academic activities; art, music, and drama are all subjects for which mainstreaming is common.
The main benefit of mainstreaming is that the child receiving special education services is able to receive the support he needs while in the self-contained classroom setting, yet he gets the opportunity to participate with typically-developing peers. Both groups of children can learn from each other while taking part in these extra-curricular activities.
The inclusion model of education is when a child with an autism spectrum disorder is educated in a regular education classroom along with his typically-developing peers. Children educated under this model usually only need minimal support from the special education department and can benefit from grade-level specific academics.
Inclusion is beneficial for individuals on the autism spectrum as they spend their day alongside typically-developing peers who can serve as role models for social interaction.
These three approaches to educating individuals with autism spectrum disorders are quite different. Placing your child in the appropriate classroom setting will directly contribute to his academic success.
Autism and Employment – Choosing a Career Path
Autism can make career prospects seem challenging. Estimates range from about 80% to over 90% unemployment for those with autism spectrum disorders. Often, learning to do a job is not the problem. The real problem is navigating social interactions and following the unwritten rules of job protocol. Even getting through the interview process and actually being hired can be a challenge. Knowing how to choose the right career path can make the difference.
Considerations When Choosing Career Paths for Children With Autism
Consider intellectual capabilities. Children with autism spectrum disorders display a range of intellectual capabilities. The main thing to remember is that it is very common for individuals with Autism or Asperger’s disorder to have great variation within different areas of intelligence. Their higher level skills may well be their golden ticket to employment.
Focus career choices on their preferred interests. Children with autism spectrum disorders often have obsessive interests that can drive parents and teachers crazy. That may be all they will talk about, read about, or do. Often, if the subject is changed or they are directed to another activity, they will go right back to their preferred topic or activity. Gear their career goals to that area they already love and are gifted at.
Children with autism spectrum disorders tend to take things very literally and they have a hard time taking other’s perspective. That may make them more intolerant of others. They may also have problems with specific sensory experiences. Additionally, they often tend to be very visual thinkers and often have a harder time sitting for long periods of time. Choose career goals that emphasize their strengths and have reduced demands in areas that are more problematic.
Setting Career and Employment Goals for Kids With Autism and Asperger’s
Start planning early and follow essential steps to preparing children with autism for careers. It may take many years to work on social communication and other employability skills. Often schools start specific employment planning at around the age of 15. However, for children with autism spectrum disorders, they may need to start earlier.
Select an area of employment that is centered in their area of interest and strength, yet avoids too much dealing with people or too many sensory experiences that they have difficulty with. Generally think of a quiet, calm setting that utilizes their interest, yet where they can work alone or with few people. Also, Temple Grandin recommends career choices that do not require too much of short-term or working memory.
People with autism spectrum disorders are often very detail oriented and perfectionists. They also like repetition. Look for job areas (within their preferred interests and skill sets) that are detail oriented and where they can follow the same routines over and over. Also, if they are a perfectionist who must correct until something is perfect, avoid careers where they will be timed and must produce fast. Look for careers where detail and perfection are assets.
Autism and Career Planning
Children with autism spectrum disorders can have good employment futures. However, laying the foundation for that employment requires career planning that considers their personal strengths and that sets the most appropriate career goals for them.