After-school programs have grown in demand as more households have shifted into a dual-income environment. While most children adapt to an after-school program fairly quickly, if you have a child on the autism spectrum, it can be a unique challenge. Here are some things you should know and some options to consider if you're looking for an after-school program for your child on the spectrum.
What Makes Programs for Kids with Autism Unique?
Children on the autism spectrum need varying degrees of education, support and enrichment for both social and behavioral skills. Some after-school programs may require that kid be at a specific level of autonomous functioning before they can be enrolled based on the support staff availability. There are options for kids across the spectrum, so you don't have to settle for a program that doesn't have all of the support your child relies on.
There are many different types of after-school programs available, and the right choice will depend on what kind of environment you want for your child. Here's a look at some of the options you can consider.
Mainstream After-School Programs
Like a mainstream school environment, most mainstream after-school programs will have children on the spectrum as well as those without autism in the same program. This can be beneficial if your child is high functioning. Mainstream programs are a popular choice for kids who are struggling socially but don't have a lot of other sensory, developmental or processing problems. The integrated environment gives kids the opportunity to interact with people of all kinds, just as they will have to in a real-world environment.
Most cities have autism organizations that have developed support groups and programs specifically for children on the spectrum. These organizations often provide spectrum-focused after-school programs that highlight therapeutic play, skill refinement and behavioral therapy.
These programs usually have an onsite treatment team that evaluates your child in the admission stages to determine exactly what he or she needs. Then, a personalized treatment plan is established so that your child's after school hours are spent working specifically in areas that are needed.
The cohesive nature of these groups provide kids on the spectrum with a support team not only of care providers, but also of peers who are also on the spectrum. For children who often feel out of place in a mainstream atmosphere, this can be a welcome change and a respite from the outside world.
When you are looking for a program for your child, keep in mind that autism is called a spectrum disorder for a reason. Kids with autism may be at any place on that spectrum and exhibit a variety of different symptoms. This also means that kid on the spectrum will be at various levels with behavior regulation, social interaction and motor skills. Understanding your child's abilities in each of these areas is the first place to start, because it allows you to find a group with services that meet your child's unique needs.
When you have a child on the autism spectrum, finding quality care and integrating them into the school environment can be difficult. With the tips presented here, you'll be better prepared to find a supportive group like The Winner School Preschool that will help your child thrive.