Public schools often do an excellent job of providing special education for kids on the spectrum; however, in some instances, a regular school may not be the best environment to take advantage of this important learning period in your child's life. There are a number of respected treatment programs and boarding schools that can provide intensive therapy, behavior modification, and emotional and educational support to meet the special needs of children on the autism spectrum.
Nationally-Recognized Boarding Schools for Autism
For some children, live-in intensive treatment may be the best option. There are several well-respected boarding schools for older elementary students, middle school kids, high school students, and young adults around the country. Consider some of these options.
The Camelot Schools
- Located in Cook County, Illinois, as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Texas
- Serving children age seven through 21
Recommended by the Rush University Medical Center, the Camelot Schools are a group of intensive treatment programs for children with special needs. They serve all disorders on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS), and autism.
Each child receives an assessment and a customized plan to accommodate their needs and enable them to make progress on areas of challenge. This program uses applied behavior analysis (ABA), as well as a variety of other treatment methods.
Bradley Hospital Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities
- Located in North Providence, Rhode Island
- Serving children age eight to 21
The Bradley Hospital Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities received accreditation from The Joint Commission and is nationally-recognized for its work in the field of autism. They have several levels of residential treatment centers, devoted to providing care and education for severe, moderate, and mild autism, as well as Asperger's Syndrome. Those children with severe autism receive the services of a one-on-one adult aide to help further their individual goals and protect their safety.
May Center for Child Development
- Located in Randolf, Massachusetts
- Serving children age 2.9 through 22 years
Recommended by Autism Speaks, the May Center for Child Development has day programs, as well as intensive residential treatment programs for autism. The programs are year-round and offer ABA therapy, individualized plans, and vocational training for children with autism. The residential program offers adult supervision 24 hours per day. There is also a program for young adults, designed to help them learn life skills they will need in the regular world.
Cardinal Cushing Centers
- Located in Hanover, Massachusetts
- Serving children age six through 22
Also recommended by the Rush University Medical Center, the Cardinal Cushing Center is a non-profit boarding school for children on the autism spectrum with all levels of functioning. In their program for school-aged kids and young adults, they use positive behavior intervention support (PBIS) to encourage adaptive behaviors in children. They also offer a vocational program and transition planning services to help young adults as they leave the treatment program.
Nationally-Recognized Autism Day Programs
Day school treatment programs are specifically designed to provide education and therapy for children on the autism spectrum. These schools provide more individualized attention than your child might typically receive in the public school setting, as well as a high level of structure that can be very reassuring for children with autism. You'll find these programs in Ohio, California, Minnesota, Florida, and many other states.
Tips for Choosing Programs and Schools
It's not easy -practically or emotionally- to choose the program that is right for your child. Keep these tips in mind as you make this decision:
- Identify what you and your child hope to gain from this treatment program. If you clarify your needs, it will be easier to see if a program meets them.
- Decide if your child will benefit from the 24-hour structure of an autism boarding school or if he or she would be better served by a day program.
- Ask for recommendations in your area. Your child's special education teacher, pediatrician, occupational and speech therapists, psychologists, and other team members can help. You may also learn of a great program from local autism support groups.
- Tour the programs available in your area, and be sure to ask lots of questions. If possible, bring your child with you to gauge his or her impressions of the new school.
- Talk to the professionals who will be interacting with your child, and share any concerns you or your family may have about the transition.
- Communicate with your child and your family throughout this process. Open communication can help make the transition to a boarding school or day program easier for everyone involved.
The Perfect Fit
It can be challenging to find the right program for your child, but don't become overwhelmed. If you do your homework and give some serious thought to your needs, you'll find a program that's a perfect fit.