Autism in the Classroom
WebMD talks to parents, therapists, and educators for advice on how to help children with autism thrive in the classroom.
When your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), for example Asperger's syndrome, school can be difficult. Autism in the classroom is something that’s hard for teachers, parents, and the child with the ASD to deal with.
“My school just doesn’t get it,” one parent who didn’t want to be identified told WebMD.
Another said “My child is developing behavioral problems. That’s because he can’t communicate well at school.”
Some parents say that sometimes private schools won’t take a child with ASD. The reason they give is that they aren’t equipped to deal with autism in the classroom. The few schools that do take kids with autism, according to one parent, cost a fortune. And, she adds, they only accept a handful of children.
What’s the best way to help your child with an ASD learn? And how do traditional schools adapt to help children with autism do well in a classroom so they can grow and thrive?
WebMD asked for advice from parents and educators and therapists who work with children who have an ASD. They drew on their own experience to offer tips on how to help children with autism thrive in the classroom.
Autism in the classroom: One size doesn’t fit all
The parents and the professionals all agree that it takes lots of hard work to help a child with autism get the most out of the classroom experience. It also takes, they say, a good dose of structure and the understanding that every child with an autism spectrum disorder is unique. That means each child has different symptoms as well as styles of learning.
"Autism isn’t like diabetes,” psychologist Kathleen Platzman tells WebMD. “With diabetes, we have two or three things that we absolutely know about every kid who has it. But since it’s not that way with autism, we need an educational model wide enough to take in the whole spectrum. That means it’s going to have to be a fairly broad model.”
Platzman works with autistic children and their families in Atlanta. She says every child with an ASD needs individual attention.
Autism in the classroom: Tips from a parent
Atlanta resident Leslie Wolfe and her husband, Alan, struggle with whether to tell people their son Joshua has autism. The bright 7-year-old did so well in his public school's first-grade class that many of his classmates’ parents didn’t know Joshua needed extra help.
Wolfe says one reason Joshua is thriving in public school is that the family got started early to help him get ready.
Joshua attended Emory University’s Walden School. Walden School is a preschool for children with autism. Each classroom has up to 18 children. There are two “typical” children in the classroom for every one child with autism. The idea is to help the children with autism learn from the behavior of their classmates. Another aim of the Walden School is to help families learn how to deal with autism spectrum disorders.