Autism and the Right Classroom Setting

Parents often have the following concern:

Do you think my child is in the right classroom setting?

The answer to this question can be tricky, but here are a few important factors to look at when considering classroom placement.

  1. This is a team decision.

Your team consists of several people and it varies from family to family. If your child has an IEP, your team includes the people who attend his IEP meeting. Some common team members often include: the parents, general education teacher, special education teacher, speech and language pathologist, and occupational therapist. I have even seen some teams consist of older siblings or cousins, so that everyone in the family is aware of the educational plan. Together this team works together to determine the appropriate classroom setting for your child.

Now, as a parent, you have every right to disagree with the team decision. However, in the best-case scenario this team is looking at a variety of factors, including your child’s Least Restrictive Environment.

  1. Your child should be placed in his Least Restrictive Environment.

A Least Restrictive Environment is a legal term that you will hear time and time again. It refers to “the requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” [20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Sec. 1412(a)(5)(A); 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 300.114.]

So, all in all, your child should be placed in the setting that is most appropriate for him, with as few interventions as possible for him to be successful, so that he can thrive and be part of his general education community.

  1. In order for your child with special needs to be successful, there needs to be collaboration between the home and school environments.

 You and your child’s teacher should have regular communication with each other so that you know how your child is doing in his classroom. You want to work on skills at home that he is learning in school, so he has tons of opportunities to be successful.

You also want your child’s teacher to support any efforts that you are focusing on at home, so that your child can practice new skills across environments. If your child is receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), or another in-home educational service, feel free to share what strategies are working with your child’s teacher. Of course, in order for the teacher to work on certain skills, those skills have to be educationally relevant.

Your child’s education also has endless possibilities when you work with the school team, support them in their efforts, volunteer, and do your best to be patient as they practice various strategies. I know this can be challenging, as your child’s happiness is paramount. However, sometimes success takes time, trial and error, patience, perseverance, and faith in the system.

There are those situations where your child’s school may be unsupportive of his needs, and you feel like you are going up against a wall. If this is the case, there is no reason to feel stuck. There are always other options out there. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that they know what is best for your child, if in your gut you feel like that person actually has no earthly idea. You are the parent, you are your child’s voice, and you have the right to fight for your child’s rights.

  1. Your child with autism should be safe and feel safe in his classroom. If your child is a runner or eloper, has meltdowns where he physically harms himself or others, or has major sensory challenges that impede his learning, you need to make sure that there are specific steps in place to ensure his safety in school.

Please keep in mind that sensory challenges are FOR REAL and need to be respected. If you feel that the classroom environment is harmful, rather than helpful, and your child is too overwhelmed to learn and access the curriculum, please bring this to your team’s attention.

Many parents want to jump ship and choose another school when the going gets tough. No matter where I have lived, or where you live, school can be challenging everywhere around the world for students with autism. Your child’s likelihood of success increases when he has a teacher who is willing to be creative, put the time and energy into working WITH you and your family, and understands the importance of teamwork.

Hang in there. I know there are days when you have your heart in your throat and you don’t know what you are going to do if you get one more phone call from your child’s school. In most cases it will get better, and if it doesn’t you always have options.

May peace prevail at home and in your child’s school.

Please answer the following question so that we can support other families in our community. Are you happy with your child’s current classroom placement?

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  • Marietta Walker
    Posted at 13:26h, 06 January Reply

    when the team all works together success is made by all , our main team with the addition of whom ever his teacher is each year sometimes has to remind teacher you need to follow IEP .. but if something not right speak up it is your right you are your childs advocate!

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 13:52h, 07 January Reply

      Thank you for your comment. I agree (as you know), teamwork is very important!

  • Dawn
    Posted at 01:17h, 07 January Reply

    Right now I’m not. There isn’t enough support for my child to be able to be in the gen ed classroom nd I feel the SSN room is creating habits/behaviors in them that are causing some stress at home

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 13:52h, 07 January Reply

      I am sorry to hear that. Is the school doing their best to work with you? Are there other programs in your area? Where do you live?

  • Nora
    Posted at 19:23h, 07 January Reply

    You need to pay a visit to our school. Presently the school my child is attending knows it has problems in my kids classroom and they’ve had to call in main dist employees just this week to try to make needed changes. El Paso needs someone like you to pay a visit.

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 20:03h, 07 January Reply

      I would love to help you. Why don’t you email me at so we can brainstorm some ways that I can help your child’s school?

  • Brenda
    Posted at 09:54h, 08 December Reply

    My daughter’s school has been incredible to work with her and figuring out how to help her be successful. Can’t say enough about their willingness to try new ideas, make changes, and just work to figure it out. I appreciate them all so much! It’s a great team!

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