Considerations before selecting a school for your autistic or special needs child
Your child spends most of their time in school, surrounded by individuals who directly influence their well-being – teachers and fellow students alike. That is why it’s incredibly important to choose the right school for your child. You know that it is essential that your child with autism or other special needs receives a comprehensive education, hones their social skills, and are given the opportunity to thrive, but how do you find the right school that can bring all of these aspects together?
We believe the answer is alignment. Alignment between your expectations and our values.
An important part of what makes us who we are is our general philosophy and approach. We believe that Autism (or ADHD, or Anxiety Disorders, etc) is only a part of who our students are – it does not define them. At our schools, students are discouraged from using their “diagnosis” as a crutch or a free pass to not work to their full potential. We challenge our students each day but also support them so that they are not overwhelmed.
Here are a few key points which are important for parents to understand before beginning the application process for their student.
Attendance at school is crucial. We encourage families to schedule outside therapies in such a way that students will not miss school on a regular basis. Students are given the best chance at success if they are in attendance every day.
We embed social skills support into every class throughout the day. Our teachers are trained to use real-life scenarios to teach students strategies to navigate social interactions throughout the school day. The Student Council plays a huge role at the school. With over 30 students participating from all of our different programs, they plan and run events, propose changes to school administrators, and mentor other students.
We offer many opportunities for students to socialize both in and out of the school day. We have dances throughout the school year, Talent Shows, spirit weeks, Student Council events such as “Family Movie Night Under the Stars”, breakfast fundraisers, field trips and community outings. This year we hosted “Kick-Off” events before students were released for breaks and the last day of school. We had an industrial slip and slide, water balloons, served Bahama Breezes and (virgin, lol) pina coladas. Elementary students enjoy parties on Halloween (Trunk or Treat), Valentine’s Day, and birthdays. Students at PS work very hard but have a lot of fun as well!
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A Tight-Knit Group
Every staff member at each campus knows every student at the school. We are all available if any student is having a rough day or needs support. Our teachers email throughout the day updating everyone if they see that a student is struggling with something.
When Students Act Out
Of course, there are times when bullying takes place. Many of our students have been bullied in public schools before and some end up repeating the same behavior. We do not promote ourselves as being a Bullying Free school but rather that if an incident of bullying occurs, we immediately deal with the situation and whoever is involved is dealt with. This way students are not in a “bubble” at Pieceful Solutions where nothing negative ever occurs, but rather they learn strategies and are given tools to use so that when they venture out into the real world they are able to rely on these skills if they are faced with such a situation.
At the junior/ senior high level, students may make a choice that is not the best one. We do not necessarily contact parents every time a student might have a consequence. Students might receive a lunch detention for offenses such as being rude or disrespectful to a teacher or other student, using an electronic device when they are not supposed to, or damaging another student’s personal property. We allow students to make mistakes and have consequences. If it starts to become a pattern we will then bring in the parents to discuss. This makes us a more typical junior high/ high school.
We accommodate students on all areas of the autism spectrum. We have non-verbal students who require significant supports, some students who are academic but need extra support throughout the school day, and academic students who are on grade level with minimal accommodations. Some have their driver’s license, many of our students have jobs, and many are going on to college or vocational training. The bottom line is that we do everything we can to create an environment where all students feel welcome, respect one another, and get a great education from caring teachers in a structured and inclusive environment.