ASD Support Basics: Special Educational Needs

Dr. Amber Perymon advises on personalized education for children with ASD, emphasizing individualized approaches.


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Although her studies began at the College of Computer Science and Engineering, Dr. Amber Perymon’s journey would take a sudden shift after volunteering to work with a child diagnosed with autism. 

The two-year-old’s parents had been told that he would never lead a normal life or earn education, but Dr. Perymon watched him develop over the years to gain a doctorate degree in biochemical engineering and marry the love of his life. The experience inspired her to commit herself to helping other families unlock the potentials of their neurodiverse children, as well as helping these children realize that potential. 

My child has just been diagnosed on the spectrum, how should I proceed with our school search?

The optimal educational approach for a child with ASD largely depends on their age and specific needs.  For children under the age of five, early intervention programs that incorporate applied behavior analysis (ABA) are commonly recommended.  These programs typically offer a more beneficial alternative to conventional educational settings.  A mix of ABA therapy and preparation for mainstream education can be most effective.

For children over the age of five, there are four prevalent educational paths:

  1. Inclusion in a mainstream classroom, supplemented with social skills training.
  2. Placement in special education units within traditional schools.
  3. Enrollment in specialty schools tailored for students with ASD.
  4. Home schooling, providing a personalized and controlled learning environment.

The best option is often a school that has the capability and flexibility to design a program specific to an individual student's needs, offering opportunities to incorporate inclusion and/or the ability to pull out a student to work on their particular goals when inclusion is disruptive to their learning needs.

Such a school would be able to seamlessly integrate inclusive education while also having the flexibility to provide individual attention and address specific goals, especially when a full-inclusion model does not serve the student's learning needs effectively.


Would delaying kindergarten or repeating a grade be as effective as enrolling my child in an special educational needs (SEN) program?

Delaying kindergarten entry or opting for grade repetition is generally considered beneficial only under specific circumstances. 

This decision may be appropriate if it is established that a student has missed a considerable amount of school time, has previously received education that was not suited to their learning needs, or if they are assessed to be less mature compared to their peers, which is often the case for students who are young for their grade. 

Such measures should be taken with the intention of providing the student with a solid foundation for future academic success.

Is there a difference between having special educational needs and a learning disability?

A person is considered to have special educational needs if they possess a learning difficulty that necessitates specific educational provisions to ensure their academic success. 

It's important to note that while a child may have a learning disability, it does not automatically mean they require special or different educational measures.  Each child's needs must be individually assessed to determine if adjustments in their educational program are required for them to thrive academically.

What is the fundamental difference between SEN schools and integrated programs?

Special educational needs schools are designed to cater specifically to the requirements of children who may not thrive in a mainstream classroom setting.  These institutions provide tailored educational programs that address the unique challenges faced by each student.

Integrated programs allow for various opportunities for students with differing needs to learn alongside their typical peers. These programs offer diverse opportunities for students with varying needs to be educated alongside their neurotypical peers.  This inclusive approach not only supports the learning and development of students with SEN but also promotes a culture of understanding and acceptance within the school community.

How can parents and teachers best support a child’s learning and development at home and in school?

There is an African proverb that says "it takes a village to raise a child."  It conveys the message that it takes many people to create the environment necessary for a child to flourish and grow to their potential.  I believe this to be especially true of children diagnosed with ASD.  Families, teachers, and therapists should work together as a team with regular communication to provide the foundation and increase continuity, thereby decreasing missed opportunities for success.


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