Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Homeschool a Child on the Spectrum...Part 2

Last time we talked about how homeschooling lends itself to teaching your child with Autism how to interact with others and learn to be social.

Here's another reason why homeschooling can be a great fit for autistic children:

2. Many times, children with autism have a complex range of abilities, being extremely gifted in some areas and significantly delayed in other areas. Generally speaking, typically developing children are vary fairly minimally in their abilities. They may be really gifted in math, and just "normal" or a little behind in all the other subjects, but your not likely to find a typically developing child who is very gifted in math, but extremely delayed in another area, say in expressive language. Schools are really not designed to handle the unique skill sets that many autistic children display. There are the gifted programs, and there are the remedial programs; what does one do with a child who is both gifted and in need of remediation, and who, on top of that presents sensory, fine and gross motor challenges, and who has problems connecting with people in the social realm?

Homeschool is individualized education at it's best, and that is one of the oft quoted reasons people say they chose homeschooling for their kids. An individualized education is critical to a child on the spectrum. Guess what they call it in public schools? And IEP--aka an Individualized Education Plan. But can a school really individualize your child's education when they most likely have other children in the class with IEPs, plus typically developing children? Hmmm....

My background is in teaching, and I will tell you I learned next to nothing in my college classes on special education and NOTHING at all on autism specifically. When I student taught, I had over 90 children come into my class throughout the day due to block scheduling (4th grade). Over half of them had IEPs, for all kinds of reasons from behavioral issues, to developmental issues, to emotional issues, to cognitive issues. I could not give individualized attention to 50 plus special needs students a day, all with different needs, plus keep my regular students on the ball. I could not.

Now as a mom, I have a vested interest in my kid's well being and education. I know a lot about autism, and I learn more every day because I need to know. It's my kid we're talking about. So I have become the self-educated expert in my kid and his particular issues related to autism. I am the best person to teach him because I know his issues best and I am fully capable of accommodating for him because frankly, I am not overloaded with 30 other kids to take care of each day.

Little Bean is extremely intelligent. When we did IQ testing at age 5, he outscored the test in both verbal and non-verbal. The test only gives questions up to what a typical IQ would be for a 7.5 year old and he got them all right until they ran out of material. So he's gifted. But he's also delayed. Emotionally, he is on par with a three year old (he is 6 and a half-ish). He throws tantrums, he cries easily, he gets frustrated and can't tell me what's wrong. His fine motor skills are delayed too, which means he can't write very well or for very long. He is delayed in imaginative thought so he can't write a story that is made up. He has sensory issues that cause him to lose focus easily, which means that he can't do timed testing or be expected to complete things in a reasonable amount of time for his age and cognitive ability level. I could go on, but I digress.

Children on the autism spectrum are often very tactile or visual learners as well. At home, we have plenty of time to do fun hands-on projects that fit his learning style. I can choose to purchase curriculum that works for him and I can choose to abandon curriculum that brings tears to both of our eyes. ;) In short, I tailor the education to him. Not something that can be done in school when the state is mandating certain things be taught in a certain time frame and in a certain way.

The point is, children with autism need an individualized education. Everyone agrees on that point. But the question is this--where can a child with autism best get an individualized education--at home or at school? I vote at home, just because when it's all laid out, that makes the most sense to me.

What do you think?

More to come in Part 3...

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Natasha said...

I think it's awesome how much you have brought yourself to learn about autism, and about little bean's specific challenges, in such a short time. You've done an amazing job!

Since every child, on the spectrum or not, has individual needs, challenges, and gifts, I would say that where they are best schooled completely depends on the unique set of things you are dealing with. There are probably some kids with autism who would do better in a traditional school setting, others who would do better at home. Some kids not on the spectrum would do better in traditional school, others would do better at home. I think that we all just have to be the "expert" on our own kids so we can be in the best position possible to make the choices that will enrich them the best. It sounds like you have given great thought to little bean's situation and have made the best choice possible for him!

Angela said...

I will say that I could not imagine putting my daughter back in public school. She is also gifted, and most of the gifted programs here are full, and from what I was told (we were going to put here in this year but changed our minds) is that they make little to no effort to accommodate that. She is also delayed in rote memory skills, and cognitive thinking, she can't sit for long periods of time do to physical limitations and that's just a few of her challenges. Over all even with her vast amount of issues, she was denied an IEP based on her IQ. My son on the spectrum was approved, yet little accommodations were offered or agreed on. Given the national budget crisis, and many state budget cuts, I was basically told that they just didn't have the man power to meet my kids needs. I don't think that problem is exclusive to our area. Homeschooling has always seemed like the right option for us,(for many reasons) and that experience gave me even firmer ground to stand on. I feel that I am able to offer them things that they would not get otherwise, and by homeschooling I am taking away a lot of anxiety. Anyways, there are many many reasons that Homeschooling is a great option for special needs families, but I also know that there are some families that could not homeschool for many reasons. I respect that, and will continue to advocate that your child get the best public education possible. :) More to the point, thank you for these posts.

Anonymous said...

Having two on the spectrum that are about as far apart on that spectrum as possible, I agree 100% with you. Our older son was in PPCD for a short time and home is far better. I can read him, help him when he needs less book time and more deep pressure time. I can help him learn how to learn and learn how to communicate what's going on. No matter how great the teacher is, and I know some incredible teachers, she can't do that with 20 students in the room all needing her attention or 15 in the room all on the spectrum or iwth other special needs. I feel a plugged in parent teaching in the home is better than even a very good teacher in the school system for our kids. This is one of the reasons we homeschool our children.

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