An influx of students with high functioning autism is leading some schools to develop innovative programs to foster academic abilities while addressing social deficits.

This unique crop of students can succeed, or even excel, in grade level academics making them prime candidates for inclusion in mainstream classrooms. But, their social struggles mean they stand out in classroom environments that aren’t set up to teach coping skills.

For many students with high functioning autism one-to-one assistants and other special education support services attempt to fill in this gap, but increasingly parents worry that this approach may merely single out these students as “weird” rather than teach them the skills they need to foster independence.

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As a result, some school districts are introducing new programs for middle and high school students with milder forms of autism to learn grade level academics while focusing intensely on social skills in a segregated classroom. And several private schools cater exclusively to this unique student group.

Other school districts, however, remain committed to inclusion, saying that the new models merely simulate an unrealistic environment. Instead, they say, teens with autism are better off in regular classrooms with the peers they will encounter in their adult lives, reports The Washington Post. To read more click here.