Homeschooling Autistic Children: Structured But Flexible
Written by Mara Fritts, AWN Secretary, Treasurer and Homeschooling Advocate
When I first started homeschooling my kids, I was trying to do everything by the book. It was an imaginary book that I thought up and created myself. It was full of dreams of possibly creating an Einstein, being able to beat the school system at their own game, and provide a better education for my kids. I also thought that a complete curriculum and a complete syllabus to go along with it was the way to go. Guess what? It didn't work for us. No, it wasn't a Special Ed program but it was supposed to work. Right? We ended up terribly behind and very frustrated.
The next year, I ended up just getting various workbooks and no syllabus. This was going to work! Previously, we had gotten behind on someone else's idea of what we were supposed to be doing. This felt right! Freedom and success at last! By the end of the year, it was another fail for us. We had gotten about the same results -- where I thought we should be was not where we ended up.
I always feel the need to add a disclaimer when writing about why I chose to homeschool and why I think it is better for my family. I do believe that public school is better for some children/families, and I want to be very, very clear that I do not think less of a parent who chooses to send a child to a brick-and-mortar school. That said...
With the start of the school year approaching, this is the first year since my children were born that I have known exactly what I was going to do and felt completely confident in that decision.
Mara Fritts is the mother of four, she is diagnosed AS, and she sits on the AWN Board of Directors.
I started Homeschooling when our oldest son was 7 years old, after fighting a school system that would not listen to my pleas that there was something different about him. I saw it. Why didn't they? Why did they say that our son was normal when his teacher said there was something different with him? I saw him as being alone and not understanding why he was having issues at school. Why didn't all the children throw gravel at other students when they were frustrated ?
When our son was 5 years old, he started Kindergarten in a private school. They said that he was too immature, so they put him into the preschool. Our psychologist at the time said our son has Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and that he needed additional observations. We were told the public school would also do testing on him, so we sent him.
From the beginning, we had issues with getting the school to observe our son. They were supposed to look at him at the beginning of the school year. After several months of not hearing anything and many phone calls, they finally had the Occupational Therapist (OT) and the school psychologist look at him. They said that everything was normal. His homeroom teacher, who was a former resource teacher, disagreed with this. She helped us place him in a behavioral program from the local university. It was the only help she could offer. It was based on rewards, but he wasn't really interested in earning anything. Over that summer, our son went to a private OT to help with the hand weakness and balance issues that his pediatrician diagnosed him with. The balance issues were something else that the school missed.
Dr. Paula Kluth is a consultant, teacher, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities and to create more responsive and engaging schooling experiences for all learners. Her research and professional interests include differentiating instruction, and supporting students with autism and significant disabilities in inclusive classrooms. Paula is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher, consulting teacher, and inclusion facilitator. She works with teachers in K-12 schools, pre-schools, and early intervention programs. She also regularly works with family organizations and disability-rights and advocacy groups.
AWN Radiowelcomes a unique and inspiring group of young students who founded Autism Ambassadors. Their organization teaches students how to reach out and help their peers on the autism spectrum become accustomed to daily classroom experiences. Autism Ambassadors further aims to help children on the spectrum feel socially connected and integrated in their academic environment.
Parent advocate Kristina Chew joined us on AWN Internet Radio to discuss the IEP process. She has been an active participant in her son's IEP meetings for several years, and understands first hand the importance of comprehending your child's rights as it pertains to their IEP.