There’s a saying I’ve heard many times that goes “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met ONE person with Autism.” Autism is a Spectrum Disorder meaning that there is a wide range of abilities and needs. Individuals on the spectrum vary greatly in their cognitive functioning, language abilities, social skills, sensory needs, behavior and more.

With that understanding in mind, education for children with Autism may look different from one child to the next. Some children on the spectrum may function fine in a general education setting with minimal support. Other children may need more support from a special education program and others may need full support in a self-contained classroom for children with Autism that includes a low student-teacher ratio. Special Education offers a wide range of services and this varies from state to state based on education laws. Any child who qualifies for special education services will have an Individualized Education Plan that will document short and long term goals, services and accommodations each year. It is likely that no two child’s IEPs will look the same.

Many programs for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder focus on communication skills, social skills and life skills. Structure and routine, paired with visual strategies are very helpful in a classroom for children with ASD. Students with Autism often receive support from speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavior specialists, social workers. Other supports include adaptive physical education, music therapy, peer groups and community based instruction.

While there is no known cause or cure for Autism, there is a great deal of evidence that supports Early Intervention. Children should be screened by their pediatricians at an early age. Being aware of the early signs can help parents present their concerns to their child’s doctor and receive the support their child can benefit from. Birth to age 3 is critical time in a child’s development. With a system of support and early intervention, some children make many positive gains. Some helpful resources to learn about your child’s development, early indicators of Autism and more about Autism Spectrum Disorder can be found at First Signs and The Autism Society of America.

Barb is a special education teacher for children with ASD. She has taught for 12 years in a center-based program for kids on the spectrum with moderate to severe impairments. Her classroom is in a general education building so that her students can have exposure to non-disabled peers. Their day to day routine is structured and consistent. Visual cues are present for everything from classroom rules, behavior expectations, school supplies, lunch and leisure choices. They focus on communication skills, appropriate behavior, life skills and basic functional academics. Barb has a Master’s Degree in Special Education with endorsements in Autism and Emotional Impairments. Barb blogs about her children, her classroom and life at My Sweet Life.