At home in Howard County, Ms. Zanoni’s daughter did well pursuing math through videos from Khan Academy, a not-for-profit provider of online educational videos and activities, and working on her social skills using an online role-playing game, but she faltered taking French and then Italian online. Ms. Zanoni said she had to work hard to keep her daughter on task online and felt she needed additional face-to-face support. Ms. Zanoni eventually found a private school that specialized in working with students like her daughter.
“There’s a huge value to online education [for students with autism], but it depends on how it’s introduced and the nature of the person,” Ms. Zanoni said.
There are some aspects about a “bricks and mortar” school that can be especially helpful for autistic students to learn to make their way in the world. One can’t be — well, one shouldn’t be — online forever; what’s needed is for schools to help create environments in which students with sensory sensitivities, learning disabilities and more can feel safe and supported.
Of course, that’s easy to say, but it can be challenging for school districts and for colleges — at a time of budget cuts, no less — to achieve. Half of colleges say that “financial barriers” prevent them from training faculty and staff to accommodate students disabilities and purchasing “appropriate technology.” At my own college, professors — myself included — with children with learning disabilities and on the autism spectrum — have done some informal outreach to other faculty members and certainly always try to give extra support to students in our classes. But more comprehensive training and educating of faculty and staff about the challenges and strengths of students with disabilities is still called for.
Other college options for students on the autism spectrum include College Living Experience, a privately operated and for-profit company that operates residential programs to assist students with special needs in attending college; more information about this program can be found here and here.
If you’re a post-secondary student with disabilities, I’d also like to recommend DREAM, which stands for Disability Rights, Education, Activism and which is a “genuinely cross-disabilities effort” that “aims to fully include students with the full range of disabilities–psychiatric, cognitive, developmental, mental, physical, intellectual, sensory, and psychological.” The group also has a Facebook page and the website has some great information about students’ rights, education and advocacy.
Photo by bradleygee
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