Mainstream or special school for a child with autism

When your child comes of age, a question that many parents struggle with is: would your child be better off in a mainstream school or a special school? In this article, we’ll go through some of the advantages and disadvantages of the mainstream school environment for a child with autism.


1. Creates a real-world setting for your child to learn the essential social skills needed for them to ease more comfortably into mainstream society when they becomes an adult.

2. It gives the child an opportunity to make friends with the other students. This has immeasurable benefits for their ability to learn the nuances of socialisation in mainstream society.

3. To learn to fit into the routines and norms of mainstream society, which would prepare the child better when they transition into the life of a working adult.




1. Increased stress due to higher academic demands compared to a special school.

2. Teachers in a mainstream school might not be equipped with the necessary skills to handle children with special needs

3. Poor language skills may lead to rejection and loneliness. This may push the child inward into further isolation.

4. The possibility of peer hostility. Unfortunately, children can be ignorant and mean, which might lead to bullying.



Ultimately, as the child’s parents and primary caregivers, it’s up to you to decide what you want for your child. Our experience though has led us to believe that mainstream schooling can be highly beneficial, especially for a child’s preparation into mainstream society as a working adult.

However, and this is important, the benefits of mainstream schooling is highly dependent on

• How prepared the child is
• The level of support the child receives

How Prepared is Your Child?

The level of preparation your child receives prior to starting mainstream schooling can make a world of difference for the child. In fact, the disadvantages of mainstream schooling are risks that can be lessened and ameliorated by preparing your child well with the skills he needs to navigate their life in a mainstream school. Skills and knowledge such as:

• Being polite and courteous
• Learning through observation
• Initiating play
• Taking turns
• Practicing personal hygiene (for instance, toilet-training and good table manners)
• Identifying emotions
• Staying focus
• Responding to group instructions consistently
• Following routines

can really go a long way in helping a child to socialize and assimilate well into the mainstream
school environment.


Quality Support

In addition to a child’s level of preparation, available support for the child is also important. This is where school shadowing comes in. School shadowing allows a child to learn to mingle and grow, while at the same time, being assured of the emotional and mental support that a shadowing teacher provides.

If you’re still uncertain about whether or not your child is ready for mainstream schools, do feel free to contact us at info@autismstep.com to answer your questions or to find out if we can help you in any way.

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