Many of us imagine our children as being capable of remarkable things; they themselves represent untapped potential — the future leaders of our world are being born even as we speak. It was only recently that modern psychology began to understand the way that children learn; although we still have a ways to go, it is now accepted that every child learns differently. For this reason, some children with special needs are said to have learning disabilities; in truth many of these children have difficulty responding to traditional education and instead require a special education program tailored to their own unique needs.
The Face of Autism
At this time roughly one out of every 68 children born in the United States are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), representing a 30% increase in statistics from just two years ago. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs the individual’s social interaction and communicative skills while also demonstrating restricted and repetitive behavior. Similar disorders include Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and pervasive developmental disorder, which is diagnosed with the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met. It is not fully known what causes ASD but it is believed that these disorders have a strong genetic basis.
Overcoming Learning Disabilities
In order for a child to be diagnosed with an ASD the symptoms must become apparent before the age of three. Autistic infants typically show less attention to social stimuli and tend to smile and look at others less frequently than other infants. Toddlers with autism likewise have less eye contact and lack the ability to use simple movements to express themselves like the ability to point at objects. By the ages of three to five, autistic children are less likely to exhibit social understanding, imitate and respond to emotions, approach others spontaneously, communicate nonverbally, and take turns with other children. In addition to these obstacles, roughly 75% of children with ASD exhibit some kind of unusual eating behavior to the extent that it was one time believed to actually be a diagnostic indicator for autism.
The Benefit of Schools for Children with Learning Disabilities
The challenges and limitations posed by autism and school based programing respectively restrict learning opportunities to a point where children with ASD may not be able to thrive. While many public schools have programs for students with special needs, in many cases the funding or skill needed to allow ASD students to thrive is simply not present. Instead, many parents are opting to enroll their children in a special education school where students with autism and school staff work together on individual projects as well as with their peers in group activities. In this environment, students with autism and school professionals with experience working with students with special needs are able to adapt to each other with different approaches to teaching, use of technology, specially adapted learning areas, and resource rooms to emphasize each student’s unique skillset; to meet this, each student receives an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to outline the learning process. Every student has potential, they need only the right support to overcome lives challenges and thrive.