Finding the Right Fit: Boarding or Day School?

For some families, especially families with a child with autism, the thought of enrolling a son or daughter in a boarding school can be scary. But in reality, the benefits of a boarding program – particularly a leading-edge program such as Shrub Oak’s – are extraordinary, not only for the students, but for the family as well.

Even so, we realize that a boarding school may not be the right choice at the right time for every child on the spectrum. In order to meet each family’s unique needs, we offer options designed to meet each family and child where they will be most comfortable in continuing their educational journey:

  • 7-day/week boarding program
  • 5-day/week boarding program, with the student returning home on the weekends
  • Day program where the student lives at home while attending school

Concerns vs. Realities

To help parents decide which option will be most comfortable, we’ve compiled some of the primary concerns we’ve heard from parents, along with how Shrub Oak addresses each of these. Though this is not an exhaustive list, it is helpful to start the conversation about whether a boarding option is right for your family and your student.

Concern: Being away from the familiarity of home might be too dramatic a change.

Reality: The structured setting of our boarding program helps young adults foster new relationships and offers exceptional potential for additional growth and development. To guide families through the transition, Shrub Oak provides a thoughtful orientation program that guides students and families in becoming comfortable with the boarding school setting.

There is a lot to be gained from the structured boarding setting with a dynamic and energized residence life program. Shrub Oak’s comprehensive living and learning environment is customized for each student’s interests and seamlessly integrates classroom experiences into everyday life. Each student is unique in their passions and needs, and the programs we provide are as unique as they are.

Concern: Some families may think they will not see their child often enough if they go away to school.

Reality: We make it easy for families to stay closely involved and connected with their students, and we provide a high level of support for families once the child is living with us.

Working with a child with autism is a 24/7/365 job. With a boarding program like Shrub Oak’s, we provide resources and activities tailored to the needs of each student, no matter the day or time. Consider a late night, 2:00 a.m., and your child is unable to sleep. Staying up with your student on a consistent basis takes a toll on all areas of family life. Our boarding program ensures that staff and activities are available to meet our students’ demanding needs, even in the late night and early morning hours.

Concern: Sending a child to a boarding program might inhibit integration into mainstream society.

Reality: Shrub Oak’s comprehensive program is designed to integrate into every aspect of a child’s success and is carefully planned and executed by a team of specialists dedicated to helping each child reach their developmental goals. Our teams carefully, patiently, and empathetically plan each part of each student’s program. As the student progresses, our goal is that the student is included in the planning process to take ownership of their own educational plan and self-advocacy. This method helps students build necessary life-skills in a structured, supportive, and nurturing environment.

All of Shrub Oak’s program options focus first on developing the students’ skill sets in a safe, educational setting. We then help students employ those skills to develop their own goals, self-author their experiences on campus, and have numerous opportunities for internships, experiential learning, field trips, and an array of exciting and fun experiences off campus. We are anxious to work closely with you to address your own family’s concerns to help determine the best fit for your child and for your entire family.


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