Opinion: School is not designed for students with autism spectrum disorder in mind


Not everyone likes school. Long hours, lots of work, frustration and burnout. For some, it feels stressful and unnecessary, a social mess. However, how do people with autism spectrum disorder feel about it? 

The author of this article has autism, and in their experience, thinks that school is especially difficult for anyone with ASD, due to the stress and awkwardness of having to work through a system not designed with anyone on the spectrum in mind. 

First and foremost, diagnoses are an issue. Expensive, difficult to get ahold of and finicky, diagnoses are one of the major barriers to qualifying; they shouldn’t be. It takes multiple phone calls, complex layers of dead ends and insurance not covering what it should be covering just to get an appointment and it’s rarely cheap. Even if one is lucky enough to get an appointment, and one can pay for it, costs begin in the hundreds of dollars and only increase, which may or may not be covered by insurance. 

However, that’s hardly the final step: misdiagnoses are quite common, especially for women. According to the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the ratio of diagnosis is 4 males for every 1 female. A diagnosis is required for any sort of formal accommodation. 

Secondly, even with an accommodation, getting a 504 plan respected is another process in itself. While rarely do teachers intentionally or maliciously ignore requests, sometimes it’s just a matter of being difficult to work with. For example, a student with accommodations to type being required by a teacher to print things out would be within the bounds of a 504, but frustrating to do. Another example is that people with ASD do not typically like social interactions like public speaking or group work, but it’s impossible to have a single kid graded entirely differently, so it simply ends up as an annoyance. It is rarely malicious, but always annoying to the student. 

Thirdly, it’s an issue of school overall. Any game or event requiring to sit in an uncomfortable, loud environment is difficult, so being encouraged to do such always is met with a groan. Frankly, it makes school spirit more of an annoying obligation rather than a memorable point in time. At high school campuses specifically, it’s horrible for anyone with ASD to navigate in certain spots. 

Overall, school could be better for those with ASD. Even with a diagnosis and a 504, it’s difficult to adapt and this should be changed for the better. More formal accommodations and separate spaces, like at lunch or during passing periods, for people with 504s would be nice.

FEATURE IMAGE: Ribbon representing autism with black background from Canva.com

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