6 Things to Look for When Choosing a Boarding School for Your Teen with Autism Spectrum Disorder
It can be extremely therapeutic for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to interact with other people like themselves. Autism Spectrum Disorder can be incredibly isolating, and individuals with ASD may connect more easily with each other than with “outsiders.” Reputable boarding schools tailored to students with Autism Spectrum Disorder offer all of the clinical benefits of residential treatment, without sacrificing social and academic development. If you are considering enrolling your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a specialized boarding school, look for a program that offers these 6 components:
- Full clinical intervention; a boarding school designed for Autism Spectrum Disorder students should be able to provide sophisticated therapeutic treatment for its students. Look for a program that is overseen by a doctor, and that offers full-time clinical support from specialists. This type of program should develop an individualized treatment plan for your child, with regularly scheduled individual and group therapy.
- 24/7 access to medical care; outside of a home or hospital setting, your child still needs to be kept healthy and comfortable. He or she will need the proper supervision to ensure that his or her medications are working effectively, if applicable. Additionally, your child’s physical health and wellbeing are essential to their ability to develop emotionally and socially. They need to be in a setting where their needs are promptly addressed and any distracting health issues are mitigated.
- A tailored academic program; your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder process information very differently from most people. Even individuals with ASD who are high-functioning academically may experience ADHD-like symptoms. Look for a boarding school which offers a thoughtfully designed academic program; one that offers accommodations and modifications for your child’s special needs. The academic program should be overseen by a clinical specialist.
- An emphasis on social development; since even high-functioning individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder have difficulty interpreting social cues, lack an innate understanding of social nuance, and are most uncomfortable dealing with social interaction, it is important to seek a boarding school that emphasizes a focus on growth in this area. A well-established boarding school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder will likely have a community outreach program, providing opportunities for their students to practice interacting with both known people and strangers in a safe and productive way. Additionally, part of the school’s curriculum, and each student’s treatment plan, should focus on learning and practicing social skills in both structured and unstructured situations.
- Fostering independence; many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle with life skills such as preparing food, cleaning, doing laundry, and personal hygiene. A goal for the families of these individuals is often that they may someday live on their own, enjoying a high quality of life with their own income. A boarding school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder should gently push students to develop the skills to live independently, with the desired outcome that graduates may be able to participate in normal life by working, living on their own, and caring for themselves.
- A high quality of life for students; children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder are some of the most challenging people, but also some of the brightest, dearest, most observant and most curious. They can benefit greatly from the proper behavioral and clinical therapeutic interventions, but like all of us they also require love, understanding, and belonging. Seek a program that feeds their students good food, takes them off campus for adventures and learning opportunities, and fosters compassion toward the self and others.
Placing a child or adolescent in a boarding school not only moves his or her stress on the family out of the home, but it also offers the child all of the clinical benefits of residential treatment, without sacrificing social and academic development. While child with Autism Spectrum Disorder will certainly need the support and involvement of their entire family to attain the highest level of functioning possible, their family may find it more achievable to provide this with a higher degree of external support.