This article seeks to answer the question: what is the best placement for my child with special needs: a clinic, school, clinic school, or psychiatric institution. The first order of business is to define these concepts. Although there is much overlap, the following definitions will be used for the purposes of this article.
A clinic can be defined as any centre that provides clinical support to an individual, in the form of out patient therapy. When it comes to Autism, what has been proven to be most effective is ABA treatment within a centre. Often, the intervention will later be expanded to the more natural environment.
A clinic school is also known as a hospital school. A clinic school is a school operated in a hospital, generally a children’s hospital which provides instruction to all primary and secondary grade levels. These schools help children regain academic progress during periods of hospitalization or rehabilitation.
A school is defined, here, as a place that attempts to model mainstream learning as closely as possible. In the case of children with special needs, this often means small classrooms with teachers (someone with a degree in teaching) managing the classroom and teaching.
A psychiatric institute is, here, defined as a place an individual is sent where they no longer live at home and in which intensive intervention is required for the treatment of intense behaviours. They become in-patients of the institution.
From the start we can say that sending a child away from home to an institution that will likely limit freedom, is a situation to be avoided if possible, although it may sometimes be necessary. However, this option should be left to extreme situations, including extreme behaviours and extreme circumstances, where other aid is rendered ineffective. On the other end of the spectrum is a school setting, which is where most children end up and provides them with many opportunities to learn the skills they need to be successful in life.
Somewhere in the middle you can find a clinic, or therapy centre. For those children that have developmental delays and cannot mainstream this is the ideal situation. When it comes to Autism, a good centre provides individual attention, follows Applied Behavioural Analytic principles, provides an intensive approach, one on one therapy, takes into account the specific needs of the individual, works with the family and looks ahead to moving a child back into a more mainstream environment, whenever possible. It is possible for an institution to also provide many of these aspects, but separation from the natural environment and family is not ideal. In fact, in many cases, an effective and intensive ABA intervention can take the place of an in-patient institution and can often be more effective in teaching because of a focus on teaching within the natural environment. At the same time, the clinical centre based approached provides a controlled environment to teach difficult skills which can then later be taught within other environments.