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Are Autistic Students Usually in Special Ed Programs at School?

Autism is a condition in some people related to the manner in which they develop. Autism specifically involves the way a child communicates and socializes. Children recognized as having this condition fall on what is called the autism spectrum. Autism affects people if various ways and to different degrees. The nature of this condition results in an important question: Do schools typically place students in autism into special education programs? As with many matters associated with the unique educational needs of individual students, an accurate response to this question necessitates more than just a yes or no answer.

Related resource: Top 25 Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Online

Application of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The starting point to determine where a particular student with autism will be placed in school begins with the application of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. IDEA mandates that a student, including one on the autism spectrum, is to be placed in what legally is known as the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, a student on the autism spectrum is to be “mainstreamed” in school whenever possible. A student on the autism spectrum should be placed in a “general” classroom.

Case-by-Case Determination on Student Placement

Ascertaining into what type of classroom setting a student with autism is placed is undertaken on a case-by-case basis. The decision-making process involves teachers, administrators, parents, and other professionals as needed. The objective is to develop an educational plan specifically designed to optimize the learning and socialization experiences for a child.

There are students on the autism spectrum that can be placed in a mainstream classroom with the need for only minimal supplemental support or accommodation. Again, individuals classified as having autism are on a spectrum with different abilities and needs.

There are also students with autism that can succeed in a mainstream classroom setting with more supplemental support and assistance. For example, the addition of the services and assistance of an educational paraprofessional to work with a student with autism may permit that young person the ability to succeed in a mainstream classroom.

Finally, there are cases in which a student with autism is best served through placement in a classroom that offers specialized support, assistance, and services. These types of classroom settings are what historically has been called “special ed.” This includes the use of online education options, according to Forbes magazine.

Special Ed Classes are Not “One Thing”

In many school districts, special education programs are not “one thing.” In other words, there is not one type of special ed class into which students with all types of unique needs are placed. Rather, some districts have developed what fairly can be called specialized special ed programs. As an aside, the ability of a district to develop a multifaceted special ed program does significantly depend on financial resources. Some school districts in the U.S. are better able to implement a multifaceted special ed program rather than take something of a proverbial “one size fits all” approach.

As research into autism continues, and as a growing number of educators become better informed about the spectrum, students with this condition appear to be better served in schools across the United States. This trend towards better understanding autism and more effectively addressing the needs of students with the condition is expected to continue apace into the future.