Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Autism Education 101- Should You Homeschool Your Child with Autism?
You’ve looked all over for ways to improve your child’s autism education. You’ve fought with the school district relentlessly for years, trying to get them to stick to IEPs and add more therapies and pay more attention to your kid. Maybe you need another direction to go in for autism education solutions. Have you thought about homeschooling?
There are many benefits to homeschooling. You can control what your child with autism learns and how. You can fit everything to your child’s individual needs and learning style.
You may think this is a daunting proposition, but there are many resources out there for parents who choose to homeschool. There are websites galore with lessons you can print and a lot of support. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to stay home with their kids to homeschool, but if you are able, consider the benefits of this new way of autism education.
New Autism Education Strategies – The Benefits of Homeschooling
1. You get to customize the education to your child’s interests and needs.
One of the most powerful motivational tools is for it to hold some sort of personal interest or salience to you. Most public schools have to teach to the test and use a one size fits all approach for every child. Some kids, especially those with special needs, are just not going to be motivated or able to learn in that environment.
One common feature of autism is very strong special interests. That’s why this makes homeschooling such a brilliant autism education solution. You can have a math curriculum around bus schedules, going to the grocery store and matchbox cars. You can do a history and geography curriculum on the history and geographical differences of public transit systems, if that’s your child’s interest. Specific factual information can be picked up later, but you’re trying to teach your child to learn how to learn. That’s the most important thing of all.
You can minimize the distractions and noise level so your child can actually concentrate. You can create a positive, reinforcing environment so that your child feels supported in learning.
2. The world is your classroom.
When you’re homeschooling, you’re not restricted to just a classroom in a stuffy building for lessons. You can take field trips to places all over your community, all ripe with learning. A trip to the grocery store teaches math skills and life skills. Museums make history come alive. A road trip will teach more about geography than any textbook ever will. The library is perfect for English lessons. You get to choose what books will best teach reading, what curriculum will help your child grasp math skills.
Autism education needs to be as personal as the person receiving it. Figure out your child’s personal needs. Movement breaks and sensory breaks should be sprinkled liberally into the day. If your child is on a special diet, it is much easier to follow it while at home. Create a schedule of what will be accomplished each day if that works best for your child — or else just follow where the day takes you.
3. Your child will benefit enormously socially.
That’s right, your child will benefit socially. Perhaps you thought that homeschooling a child with autism would stunt their social growth? That autism education needed to take place in a traditional classroom, surrounded by one’s peers? Actually, for many kids the opposite is true.
School can be a place of intense overstimulation for them. Kids with autism are often bullied and left out of all activities. There is often little positive direction about how to engage socially. Kids learn how to be scared of others, be scared of coming to school, and be scared of learning. Being in close proximity to other kids does not equal social growth.
By contrast, most kids with autism blossom once the social pressures of school are removed. Anyone learns better when they’re less stressed, and social stresses are a big one for kids with autism. It is still important to get them involved in some social activities outside the house, but you can pick and choose what works best for you and carefully oversee the activities.
There are often homeschool groups you can become a member of that allow for outside social interaction as well as parental support. There are interest groups and hobbies, as well as programs offered by the town recreation department or even the school district that your child will usually be eligible for. You will not want for opportunities for social interaction in this model of autism and education.
One mother on an autism.about.com message said, “After a year of being away from the stress of school, he was able to actually approach other kids and make friends. He learns better because he’s not stressed about everything else going on.”
How to Get Started Revolutionizing Your Child’s Autism Education
- If both you and your spouse work, decide if it is within your budget for one of you to stop working, even if for a year or two. If not, decide if full-time home-schooling is something you or your spouse can handle. Look at websites dedicated to homeschooling or read books on it to get a better idea.
- Look for local organizations that support home-schooling. They can help you find peer groups to share lessons or social activities with, as well as help you find appropriate curriculum and offer moral support.
- Research the local laws about home-schooling in your area.
- Look into therapies such as speech and occupational therapy that might supplement your child’s education and help with your autism education goals.
- Observe your child and try to figure out what his or her learning style is. Do they need everything hands-on, or do they need to read or write about it to understand it? Is repetition helpful? What are their primary motivating interests?
- Read about learning styles or consult a psychologist, and try to tailor lessons to these needs. Do they need to move around a lot? Can you bring some of the lessons outside? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and what helps them keep focus? Observe and keep a diary of what you notice.
- Take advantage of technology. There are lots of classes and lessons offered online, and lots of educational games available to teach a variety of skills. Kids often are having so much fun playing these educational games that they don’t even realize they’re learning something!
- Break things into small chunks. Kids with autism often will do best with 20 minute blocks of intense learning and then a break — and let your child go at their own pace. This style of autism education lets you gauge your child’s moods and functioning levels to figure out what might work best at any given time.
Homeschooling is not for everyone, but it can work for many. There are many different autism education models out there, but homeschooling is certainly a valid one that can be flexible enough to meet the needs of just about anyone doing it.
For additional information to help your child with school issues, read the Asperger’s Syndrome Guide for Teens and Young Adults.