The parents of children with autism share a common goal: ensuring their child gets the support they need to be happy and healthy. For many parents, this leads to questions about homeschooling children with autism and whether this is the right choice for their child.
Here are some questions parents should ask regarding their local schools and which will best support their child’s unique needs.
What Support is Available?
One blessing for parents facing a diagnosis for their child is that there are numerous supports available, through the health care system and the school system (especially here in Canada). It is worth talking to your desired school about what supports they have in place for children with autism. Is the school board familiar with your child’s needs and with accessing available funding to provide supports for your children?
According to abacentersfl.com, there are options for parents to get extra support. It’s worth exploring all options available to ensure that your child has the best support possible, whether that is accessed through your local school, health care system, or other organizations.
Who is Best Qualified to Teach Your Child?
One of the advantages of homeschooling is that most parents are the experts on their child. You have been with your child since his birth and know his unique strengths, struggles, and quirks.
You have likely fought to have your child diagnosed so you can better understand her behaviours and needs. In many ways, then, you are the best person to teach your child.
While it may be daunting to think about teaching a child with autism their numbers and letters, remember that you have already taught your child so many things. How to go potty. How to get ready for bed. How to tie their shoes. Teaching them academics can fit neatly into their day just as their other learning has.
While a school teacher may have a degree in teaching, most teachers do not have any training for kids with special needs and they don’t know your child. It will take them some time to get to know your child and to understand what they can do to help your child. Your child may struggle during that transition time. It is worth asking yourself what the qualifications of the teacher are and whether that teacher is able to help your child (amidst a busy classroom setting), or whether you can offer your child more support through your one-on-one presence at home.
One of the challenges underfunded public schools face is finding skilled, experienced autism support workers. When support workers are in place, they’re often juggling several children with special needs. Homeschooling allows for a customized learning environment adapted to meet the specific needs and strengths of a child with autism. The one-on-one attention and interaction with the parent also contribute to their success and well-being.
How Does Your Child Make Friends?
Many children with autism struggle with socialization. It’s common for children with ASD to misinterpret body language or struggle with social cues. Social situations can also trigger anxiety and panic, making it difficult to focus and learn. In his autobiography Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic, comedian Michael McCreary talks honestly about various times he misinterpreted social situations and how that affected him.
As parents, we often worry about how and where our children will make friends. We may think that school provides the best opportunity for them to meet numerous kids their age and form good friendships. However, the opposite can also be true. In a large group of children, kids who are different are often subjected to bullying (as Michael McCreary also notes).
Homeschooling may allow you to tailor your child’s social interactions to their needs. For example, if your child is overwhelmed by busy, crowded places, you can plan one-on-one playdates with a child whom your child plays well with. From there, you could invite one or two more children to join the playdates and slowly help your child learn different social cues and interactions in a safe setting.
As a homeschool mom, you may also be able to access community programs geared towards children with diverse abilities. More and more organizations are offering inclusive programs that support children with autism, ADHD, and other diagnoses, and allow them to be themselves. Your child may thrive by meeting other children with autism and finding out she has things in common with those children, rather than feeling like she’s always the odd one out in gatherings geared towards neurotypical children.
Does Your Child Need Flexibility?
Another benefit of homeschooling is the flexible schedule. This aspect is ideal when the child has advanced care needs, such as therapy or medical appointments. You can plan your child’s routine around these needs, rather than having to plan those needs around school.
The flexibility of a homeschooling schedule also supports children who need extra breaks or time to recuperate throughout the day. While many schools will accommodate these needs, they add extra complexity for the parents trying to plan the logistics of appointment transportation. With this approach, parents can minimize change, disruption, and stress to their child.
Do You Have Supports as a Caregiver?
Being the parent of a child with autism is rewarding, but it can be a lot of work. School is often a break for caregivers to handle other responsibilities and make time for self-care. Taking on the homeschooling effort adds responsibility to the primary caregiver and may not be conducive to a healthy, happy home life.
Before you begin homeschooling, ensure that you have supports in place for yourself. This may include a supportive community of other moms who have children on the spectrum. It may include juggling childcare with your spouse so that you have one or two nights off per week to go for coffee by yourself, take a walk, and otherwise recharge. It could mean finding the right program for your child so that he has time to have fun and learn with other caregivers while you have a break.
Again, finding other support services and leaning on your community can help with this aspect of the journey.
Deciding whether or not to homeschool is a personal choice, unique to the individual with autism and the family or caregiver situation. The key things to remember when homeschooling are to make time for caregiver self-care and to find external support resources.
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