How to Start a School for Autistic Children

by Jennifer Leigh
A school for autistic children provides hands-on learning activities.

Autism is a neurological disorder characterized by social skills impairments, problems with communication and repetitive behavior patterns. Children with autism often have difficulties responding to social cues, showing emotion, relating to others with empathy and communicating basic information to others. Schools for children with autism provide specialized programs to help children improve communication and social skills, while allowing parents and children to share their experiences. Schools without programs for autistic children often have a difficult time placing them in a helpful setting, and the children risk falling further behind.

Check with the Department of Education or Department of Public Instruction in your state. They can provide information on the curriculum requirements for public and private schools for kindergarten through grade 12.

Create a plan for your school. Identify whether it will be public or private, where start-up funds will come from and how you will comply with state laws regulating schools. Include a a clear mission statement, as well as specific plans for facilities, staffing and instructional programs. Dividing these tasks among a group of interested people will make the job easier.

Locate funding sources from state and federal grants, which can be found through your state Department of Education. Contact possible donors in your area or set up a fundraiser. Write a clear plan for how you will finance the school on an ongoing basis. Contact a financial adviser who specializes in school funding issues and education.

Draft the charter for your school. A charter must have certain specific information to be approved. This includes: a mission statement, a three-year financial plan, learning objectives, staffing plans, student assessment methods, and a description of the programs you will have that deal with autism. Further, the plan should outline personnel policies, insurance coverage, compliance with state and local regulations, student enrollment and discipline policies, and facility information. The more complete the charter is, the better chance it has for approval.

Present your charter at your local city council meeting to obtain community support. Next, take the charter to the appropriate state level, which is likely your state Department of Education. Contact the Department of Education in your state to determine the exact procedure for presenting a charter school application.

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