The following post about homeschool and autism is by guest writer, Annabelle.
Once I found out my son placed on the autism spectrum, I set to making changes to help him succeed. I set up routines that he could depend on and I even bought products such as autism toys, sensory integration products, supplements, weighted blankets to help him with sensory overload.
I even spoke to his teacher when he started school to make sure he was getting the most effective education possible. After his kindergarten year, though, it became clear that traditional schooling wasn’t working for him. That’s when I decided to start homeschooling him and I immediately noticed a positive difference. So, I wanted to take the chance to share what led me to my decision and what might help you if you want to homeschool your child with ASD as well.
Control of the Environment
My son, like many children with autism, has a significant amount of trouble in situations that have a lot of sensory input. As such, when he was put in a class full of 5 and 6-year-olds, it was hard for him. It wasn’t any fault of the teacher or the kids around him, they were just rambunctious as many young children are.
When homeschooling him, though, I was able to control the environment he learned in. When it’s just the two of us, I can make sure it stays quiet enough for him to focus and even control other aspects such as making sure it isn’t too bright as well.
A Truly Individualized Learning Program
If you’ve ever worked with a child with autism, you know it can be difficult for them to concentrate on activities and topics they aren’t interested in. On the other hand, they do have interests that they fixate on. When you ask them about these interests, they can typically tell you everything about it.
I’ve learned that it’s better not to dissuade these interests. After all, he and many other children on the spectrum use these interests to alleviate anxiety and it gives them something to depend on. What I did (and what I would suggest other homeschooling parents do) was to incorporate these interests into his curriculum. When I could, I related his school learning to his interests.
Handling Meltdowns with Homeschool and Autism
Even in the most controlled environment, children with autism will eventually have a meltdown or tantrum. While he was at school, it was hard to handle because I had to relay to his teacher how to handle them and sometimes it simply didn’t work.
When he’s at home, though, I had the chance to help him in the ways I knew how. The best advice I can give is to not take these meltdowns personally and make sure to stay calm. If you freak out, their anxiety and overwhelmed feelings will only escalate.
Whenever my son has a meltdown, I’ve learned to speak to him calmly and in short phrases. Due to sensory sensitivity, raising your voice can typically also escalate their feelings. He also has trouble with language processing like many other children with ASD, so I make sure to use short phrasing as to not overwhelm him.
I also give him choices when he has a meltdown; I avoid giving him any strict orders. Would he like some juice? Would he like to watch cartoons? Once he’s calmed down and taken a break, we’ll give schoolwork another try or sometimes we just call it a day and resume work tomorrow.
What I make sure to do every time is to take note of what happened. Specifically, I try to see what happened that triggered him. Did I make him sit in one place and work too long? Did he get frustrated by what he was doing? Maybe he was even tired or hungry. I use this information to tailor his learning in the future.
Controlled Socialization in Homeschool and Autism
I have also found that being able to control how my child is socialized is another benefit of homeschooling. While dropping him into a classroom full of his peers was simply too much, controlled “field trips” are great ways to carefully tailor his socialization to something effective that he is comfortable with.
Once again, I used my child’s interests to socialize him. For instance, I’d take him to a museum rather than just taking him to the park.
Have these tips about how to manage homeschool and autism been helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below!