Boarding schools for high functioning autism
High-functioning autism (HFA) is a term that is loosely used to describe people with autism without cognitive challenges, with the ability to speak, read and write. It is not a term formally diagnosed. Children with high functioning autism tend to exhibit high levels of anxiety, may have motor skills difficulties and generally speaking, struggle in social settings with things such as making “small talk” or returning greetings. Boarding schools for high functioning autism have the potential to alleviate or exacerbate some of these skill deficits and excesses.
In a mainstream schooling environment, children with high functioning autism are likely to be regarded as egocentric or “weird” by their peers, whereas in a boarding school for high functioning autism children are presented with an opportunity to interact and form significant relationships with people within their own age group which is beneficial to their development. A child with high functioning autism is likely to recognize that studying, sports and daily tasks are more difficult for them to perform than peers, a boarding school for high functioning autism presents the possibility of an environment where everyone understands the disorder, thus relieving much of these frustrations.
Sending a child to a boarding school for high functioning autism in itself can cause some problems. A child with high functioning autism often regards events in only concrete terms, there is no grey area, therefore they may not understand the reasoning behind placement in a boarding school, the concept may be too abstract and the child may have a difficult time looking past the finer details of the situation. A change of any kind to their regular schedule and environment can cause levels of anxiety to rise, the child could actively resist these changes.
A typical boarding school for high functioning autism will allocate children to classes based on their age and abilities with a high adult-to-child ratio. The high adult-to-child ratio is important as a child with high functioning autism may exhibit splinter skills and may require a low adult-to-child ratio in order for their needs to be adequately catered for. Splinter skills refer to some skills being advanced and others being under-developed for the child’s age. Children will share rooms with other children who are similar in age in the hostels, development of adaptive, organizational and social skills are promoted by assigning chores and providing access to leisure activities.
Children with high functioning autism are able to integrate into the mainstream environment if given specialized teaching and therapy. Specialized teaching and therapy can be provided at a boarding school for high functioning autism but also in the form of a one-to-one aide in a mainstream school. Integration into a mainstream school is definitely possible and the option should always be available. Is it not easier to teach within the environment you want your child to succeed in and fade out an aide than to remove a child from one setting and hoping they have been taught the skills to integrate into a new environment? Perhaps this is something to consider when searching for boarding schools for high functioning autism.