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to homeschool or not homeschool a child with Asperger Syndrome

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Ok Mamas I really want to hear what you all have to say about homeschooling or not homeschooling a child with Asperger Syndrome.

My son just got DX, he is 4.5 we attempted preschool last year (before we new about our dx). He hated it. He is so socially awkward,  but really enjoys the outdoors, has tons of motivation for hard pyscial work. We are just getting started with some therapies but We were planning on homeschooling  I'm hearing so many different things.

For those of you that homeschool... what are your days like?

For those of you sending your kid to school are they mainstream or in special school?

post #2 of 13

I am planning on homeschooling my child with classic autism. He was in a preschool last year and had a lot of similar struggles that your son dealt with. NO one played with him. He got pushed around. It was in our church, and he was literally the favorite kid because of his sweet and kind nature, so his teacher never stood for it, but it just hurts me to know how his days were. 


I can't give advice as I obviously haven't done it yet, but DH is on the fence about possibly sending him to a private school for kids with autism. There are 2 in our immediate area and 8 in a city we are considering moving to. But I feel insanely over protective and don't really trust anyone but us with him. I can't describe it. I feel like I know what's best for him, how he learns and picks up information best all while keeping him happy and comfortable. 

post #3 of 13

My DS is 9 with HFA. He attended a Montessori school for 4 years and switched to public school this year. He is mainstreamed in a regular class with an IEP. He gets speech 2X per week and has an understanding teacher.


We did not home school him. He would be an excellent candidate for it. He likes to learn and is self-motivated and works above grade level... BUT he needs the social practice. He needs the day-to-day practice in interacting with lots of people. Socials skills are hard for him, but he has to learn them in order to get through college, and he is not going to learn to interact with strangers by learning at home with me.


I might keep him home if he was placed a sped classroom, though. I'd probably put him in Catholic school, though.  (Montessori didn't go well last year.)

post #4 of 13
I have a 5 year old (will be 6 next month), and he has Aspergers. He's been homeschooled all along, for various reasons. I can't really say what true "grade level" he's at because he's all over the board. I say we are working on first grade to have some kind of a reference. And we did the Sonlight Core K curriculum last year; we are working on the Sonlight Core 1 curriculum this year. In a school, age-wise, he'd be put in Kindergarten this year. He would definitely be bored with Kindergarten at a school of any kind, so I could see him causing trouble to keep his mind entertained and occupied. I saw this with my brother, so gifted ... but bored, so basically he just "checked out" during school when he wasn't creating trouble. He now says he wishes he would have applied himself more and gone on to college. I don't want to see that kind of a waste going on with my DS.

Ironically, I think my DS is doing better socially being homeschooled, where the interactions don't involve a whole class of kids his age. Generally our social interactions are with fewer kids at one time. I can also guide him when he doesn't know what to do socially. If he was at school, he wouldn't get that one on one help. He also gets along very well with adults. Generally, kids his age and younger threaten him (from his perspective), as they are unpredictable and unforgiving of his quirks. He also speaks in a manner unusual for his age, so the NT kids just generally don't "get" him. Usually they avoid him if they don't like him, but I would be concerned to send him to a school where he could easily be the subject of bullying as he doesn't understand the social rules. In any case, with my help he's now able to interact with other kids his age. He's getting better at it.

He also probably couldn't sit still in a classroom for any length of time. Here, I can educate him as he moves around the room. It's not always easy - he's very stubborn and strong-willed. So I try to give him a lot of choice in what we do and when we do it, but we do have a curriculum and a schedule. Unschooling would be a disaster for him, but early on (from ages 2-4) it's what we did, more or less. It worked okay then, but as he got older I could see he was needing more structure and guidance. Having a curriculum and schedule is also easier on me.

He also has allergy issues and serious texture aversion and some sound aversion. He would have problems eating at school. It seems so much easier for him to eat at home than I could ever imagine him doing at school. He probably wouldn't/couldn't eat at school because of all the distractions and sensory overload - sounds, smells, chaos.

Oh, and I do feel that I have to make extra effort to get him out, take classes, meet other kids here and there. He's an only child too, so I do try to make the extra effort to get him out and about. We do classes with our county recreation center, and I've been trying to get him out to the kids' board game nights. So far, the slow, cumulative approach to socialization seems to be working. I also have a book for him to read on socializing - that helps, as he now understands some of the rules. He might benefit from a social skills class, but so far I've had no luck getting him into a local class.

Keep evaluating your situation and making that decision fresh all the time. I am always reevaluating our situation. There may be a time in the future when my DS will have to go to a school, and he may be more ready by then.

Anyway, every child is different, so YMMV (your mileage may vary).
HTH (hope that helps)!
Edited by KimPM - 11/2/11 at 3:01pm
post #5 of 13

My ten year old aspie has been homeschooled the entire time. We definitely have struggles but also a lot of triumphs. I do worry about the social aspect of things though.Yesterday we took another girl in our neighbourhood to the community Halloween parade thingy. She is autistic(same age) and goes to the local elementary school... she said hello to absolutely everybody from here school... not one person even acknowledged her. Her mother told me that she spent the entire year with her desk out in the hallway, alone. They just don't have the resources here. So as much as I worry about my sons development , I still think that he is better off at home.

post #6 of 13

There is a recent thread on a very similar topic:




My DD is 15 and has Asperger's. We have homeschooled, used traditional public school, and she currently attends a fabulous private alternative school. There are pros and cons to everything, and deciding what to do NOW isn't deciding what you will do for the next 13 years.


The public school my DD attended was really wonderful in many ways. The teachers and staff tried really hard to reach her. She was mainstreamed except for one period a day, which worked well for her. It was far better for her than homeschooling because she had an entire team of people working on interacting with her, rather than just me.


The alternative school she attends now is about perfect for her. It's isn't specifically for kids with special needs, and a wide variety of students go there. There is a 6 to 1 student teacher ratio and every child is treated as an individual. She loves working in the green house and in the art center, where there is a pottery center. She does most of her course work in group classes, but had history as an independence study last year (with a retired constitutional lawyer) and had Spanish one- on-one for a bit when she was having trouble speaking in class, but she was gradually re-integrated into a class.


Looking back at our homeschooling time, I thought that things were going better than they actually were. Homeschooling masked the severity of my DDs SNs. Academics went overall OK, but those were never going to be the problem for her anyway. The problem is The Rest of the World and The People In It. Homeschooling groups were not helpful for us. The other moms were busy with their own kids (most homeschooling moms are already trying to do WAY more than they can reasonable do) and my child is one who is invisible in a group. The other children don't see her. Homeschooling was very isolating for her, in spite of my efforts to have her around other people a lot.


The subjects that didn't go well -- math and handwriting -- are part of her DX. Most kids with Asperger's have processing speed issues when it comes to math and have fine motor issues. My DD has done much, much better with the subjects with teachers trained to teach kids who have a hard time learning. There are several myths in the homeschooling community, and one of them is that teachers just aren't that special and parents can teach their own kids just fine. It has been our experience that people who have devoted their lives to teaching child who have a hard time learning specific sorts of things, and have years of education and experience, actually ARE better at teaching.


None of that is to say that school is always better for every kid with Asperger's. I'm no longer of fan of homeschooling for kids on the spectrum, but for some kids, there isn't a better option.

post #7 of 13

We started in a private school, then homeschooled, then regular public school.  The initial private school wasn't the right fit.  It was Waldorf-y and appealed to us over sensory issues, but the teachers didn't verbalize expectations, and reading nonverbal cues is definitely not a forte for DS (like most kids with Asperger's). Homeschooling worked quite well academically with the reading, science and math in particular.  DS's handwriting (like Linda's DD) was (and still is) an enormous issue.  We were really lost as to what to do to help him with it.  Socially, we took him to lots of group activities, but it just wasn't enough.  He just wasn't meeting the range of different types of people that he now meets in a school.  Also, we were getting really tired trying to figure it all out alone.  Most of the homeschoolers we knew were in such a different situation with their child. 


When we switched to a brick and mortar school, it really helped.  He only made one friend at first, but it's all he wanted.  Often, he didn't play with anyone, but really he didn't care.  But he was still getting practice with people even if it wasn't how everyone else interacted.  Academically, we had to really work hard at home to reinforce the reading, he's very wired for math and science (Like the above poster's child, he also has a slow processing speed, but not particularly to math in his case.  He's very fast at oral/mental math, it's reading the numbers and especially word problems on the paper that's a little slow) so it wouldn't be an issue anywhere.  His handwriting has really improved and I never could have afforded the amount of help the school gave him privately.  He likes having an audience to show his ideas to.  He really shines at science fair and heritage fair projects, and I'm glad he has a public forum to feel some pride about his work.  Now, at age 11, he has two school friends.  He gets to enjoy sports (he's very uncoordinated, like many kids with Asperger's, but loves sports anyway), especially cross country running and swimming (which he excels at) through school involvement as well as at home, and it helps him have a structured venue to socialize.


Public school (he's in a regular program with some adaptations for the social skills) has worked best for us so far.  Like anything, we can re-evaluate as we go and adjust to the situation at hand at any given time.

post #8 of 13

I've always homeschooled by now 15 yo son with Asperger's and Tourette's. He loves it and I don't think he'd have done well in school. I don't exactly agree with above comments that it masks special needs and delays. I think it allows kiddos to develop at their own pace and excel where they want and take extra time where they need to. My son has done so well that to most, they'd never know (other than the tics!) that he is on the spectrum. We found hs groups to be wonderful because he could interact with kids of multiple ages and not be tied into just his same age social group as in school.

post #9 of 13


Originally Posted by CrunchyClark View Post

I don't exactly agree with above comments that it masks special needs and delays. I think it allows kiddos to develop at their own pace and excel where they want and take extra time where they need to. My son has done so well that to most, they'd never know (other than the tics!) that he is on the spectrum.


After reading your post, I went back and checked mine to see exactly what I said. Here is what you are referring to:



Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post


 Homeschooling masked the severity of my DDs SNs.

It was a statement about my child, not a blanket statement about ALL special needs kids. And it's true. There's nothing there for you or anyone else to agree or disagree with. It was OUR experience.


Second, it is true that homeschooling allows kiddos to develop at their own pace, however, with a special needs kid, esp one who is truly on the spectrum, it isn't that they just need more time  to catch up. Their brain is wired in different ways that effect a variety of systems and will impact their lives forever. In order to reach their full potential, they need more HELP, not just more TIME. This isn't about some crazy hung up I have in my child doing what other humans her age do, but about how much control she will ultimately have to make her life how she wants it to be.


When dealing with a child with special needs, gambling that TIME is the issue *can* mean not getting kids the extra help they need. Take the hand writing issue for example. Let's say that most kids the same age can hold a pencil correctly and write the alphabet, and a kid on the spectrum can't. If the parent assumes that they need more time to develop at their own pace, they'll respond one way. If the parent assumes the child needs something different and extra, and sits down to figure out what it is with the help of their classroom teacher, special education teacher, physical therapists, etc. and then comes up with a real plan with measurable results that then the whole team is working toward (i.e., they have an IEP meeting) that's going to have a different impact on the child.


Part of how HS masked the severity of my DDs special needs was that I didn't have it in my face everyday the myriad of ways her development was off. If you don't even realize something is a problem, then why would you address it? It wasn't until she started school that I realized that homeschooling had been masking things.


My DD can pass as NT in a wide variety of situations. School ain't one of them. She is college bound but will required accommodations for college, which her school will help us put into place (as they have done for other SN students).  The jury is still out on whether or not she'll be able to live independently from us. If she weren't spending time in places and ways that push her buttons a little, I believe she would be less likely to be independent as an adult. She is forced to work on her weaknesses, which in the long run I believe will help her be a stronger adult.


And although all of this sounds negative about homeschooling, I'm quite sure that there are times when homeschooling is the best choice for a specific child on the spectrum. I do think that parents and students would be better served by the homeschooling movement being more honest about some of the downsides of homeschooling so that parents could steer around them. My advice to a parent homeschooling a sn kid would be:


1. Create a very solid paper trail. Evaluations, letters from specialist, etc. Pretend that you are going to have a crises that requires your child to be enrolled in school and then get the paper work together than you would need to do so. It's a bit like buying life insurance, no one wants to think about needing it, but things beyond our control happen. Getting an eval can take a year in many places. If you have an emergency and your child HAS to enroll in school, they need real documentation to get any accommodations. Besides, the process may help you better meet your child's needs by better understanding them.


2. Figure out ways to take care of yourself. Most likely, your child will be with you more of the time for a long period of their life than most kids. The little breaks that become more often for *most* parents (drop off activities, birthday parties, sleepovers, camp) may not be on the horizon for you. This is a marathon, not sprint. Take care of yourself, or you can't take  care of anyone else. (not doing this is ultimately a big piece of why my child ended up in school)


3. Enlist a team, don't try to do this alone.


4. Attempt to be as realistic as possible with yourself about your child's strengths and weakness so that homeschooling doesn't mask things to the extent that it did in our family, because when that masking ended, it was brutal for all of us.


5. Don't assume that any of the rhetoric in the HS community about how kids just catch on when they are ready applies to your child. It might. It might not.



post #10 of 13

Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

It has been our experience that people who have devoted their lives to teaching child who have a hard time learning specific sorts of things, and have years of education and experience, actually ARE better at teaching.


An education major is really an applied psychology degree. Having trained teachers with an education degree makes a huge difference for my son. I know that he will do well with a trained teacher, but I can count on him having problems with many untrained paraprofessionals in pretty much any setting. That's not him. It's not because he behaves more badly for them. It's because they are not trained to cope with kids like him.


We're lucky to have access to a very good public school that works hard to integrate my son into the social environment at school. He says all the time that he loves school.



post #11 of 13

My 5 (almost 6) year old DD has HFA and is in a private independent school that is special needs oriented. They started as a school for the deaf and have expanded their services to include all special needs. DD is in kindergarten/grade 1 mixed class with an EA that she shares with another high-functioning child. She's performing well at school so far and is meeting their expectations for class participation. She struggles with recess and unstructured play. But is being coached and supported through that piece right now. She'll be in this same class room for 2 years with the same teacher as the school is small and they combine grades. Her class size is small - 14 kids. There are 5 kids with SN in the class and 4 EAs and the teacher, so the adult to kid ratio is high. Another thing I like about the school.


I did seriously consider homeschooling her. She struggled in a small co-op preschool of only 6 or 7 more kids than her in a class. When we did finally get her an Aide for preschool she flourished. It told me she really needs that adult support and gentle pushing to keep her engaging. Her tendency is to not engage and not participate at all, just watch. So, homeschooling would be something SHE would definitely prefer. But for the reasons River Tam stated:


We did not home school him. He would be an excellent candidate for it. He likes to learn and is self-motivated and works above grade level... BUT he needs the social practice. He needs the day-to-day practice in interacting with lots of people. Socials skills are hard for him, but he has to learn them in order to get through college, and he is not going to learn to interact with strangers by learning at home with me.


I felt it was really important to keep her in an environment where she'd be exposed to and have to interact with other kids. Much as I want to protect my sweet DD from the potential cruelty of other kids, I know she needs social skills to survive in society. She needs to learn what kids do, how to deal with her feelings around that, how to navigate the quagmire of social relationships and so on. So, I've looked for (and hopefully found) the best environment for her to do that.


It's my belief that kids on the Spectrum can achieve so many things. They can be doctors, professors, research scientists, industry leaders, computing experts, neurosurgeons, ... The list of possibilities, especially for HFA, is endless. But they need to learn how to navigate society. As parents, we must help them learn those very difficult social relationships or they'll never ever be able to integrate successfully. And we all know that society isn't going to change for them, so they need the tools to adapt.

post #12 of 13

I have homeschooled my little boy for two years now. He has Aspergers. It took about a year for his full on rage to disappear lol 

Seriously though, he found school incredibly rough and used to come home like a tornado of hatred. Now though, he is no angel, but he is no longer aggressive which is wondrous :D

If you can deal with the frustration of keeping their attention you will ace it my friend. 

I keep lessons short, ensure as I teach I involve his special interest of that time to keep him with me. When he is reading or I am talking I allow him to have something to twiddle with, a small toy or something and if he wants to roll on the floor whilst we recite our times tables, then so be it.

If you believe you can handle it, then you can...have every faith and listen to your inner you...she knows best.

Good luck either way.

post #13 of 13

I have home schooled my two kids all along. DD is 9 and we're pretty sure she has Asperger's (difficultly in some social situations and also has anxiety issues). DS has high functioning autism: he loves to socialize but has real issues with emotion regulation so he can get physical and hurt other kids or just be really rude and hurtful with his language. He can only really handle socializing in small doses - he would be a disaster in school and I can't help but believe that this would really affect his self-esteem and confidence in himself, not to mention I don't want him getting caught up in the dysfunctional social dynamics of school, with bullying and cliques etc that is just so far above his or DD's head that they would be walking targets for that sort of thing. No matter how good a school is, there is no way the teachers can monitor each and every social interaction between all the kids and it takes only a few seconds of quiet talking to do damage. It's hard enough for NT kids to deal with this but for ASD kids it can be particularly devastating. 


I don't believe that overexposing kids to something is the way to get them to learn how to handle it. Instead, I believe that it's best to start out small, on a level the child can handle, and then slowly increase as the child gains confidence. The best thing about homeschooling is I can choose how much social interaction my child has, and what it looks like. There is tons of opportunity for socializing and I can basically adjust it to my child's needs. I can't do that in school. For my kids sending them to school would be the equivalent of teaching them to swim by tossing them in the deep end.


I know that if my kids were in school they may have been diagnosed earlier. However, from what I've learned of the treatment options out there many of them seem to be geared towards making your kid fit in with the school dynamics (sit still, organize homework, etc) and for me that is so not a priority for them, so I also think that it would have been difficult to be constantly advocating against the "experts" about what our children need. As homeschoolers we manage our own funding and have far greater choice over what treatment options our kids will have. As someone said you (parents) know your child best and the school's idea of what they need may not be consistent with your own philosophies or knowledge of your own child. Remember their primary job (not their only job, to be sure) is to get your kid to fit in to that institution and help it run smoother (e.g. less class disruptions). I'm looking for something with a bigger picture than just helping my kid sit quietly through a class that holds zero interest for him or bores him to tears.


I also want to say to the OP that there are so many different ways to homeschool; I personally cannot relate to some of the descriptors here of homeschooling, so know that before you make a decision. Homeschooling ranges from "school at home" where you are basically taking the place of teachers to total freedom and child-led learning (unschooling), and everything in between. I identify as an unschooling family. Here is an example of our days. We get up when we are well rested. Nothing like a bad night's sleep to make everyone's issues worse. After breakfast we sometimes sit down for "project time". I do this individually with the kids and together I facilitate them working on something, whether its a craft or reading a story together or whatever they are interested in at the time (right now I'm helping DD with a movie project: we've just about finished with the script, have started making props etc and will soon start filming the first episode). I have also just gotten some books for ASD kids that I'll be working through them with. I spend about an hour with each kid, once or twice a week depending on our schedule for that week. Outside of project time the kids are free to do what they want and they engage in a variety of creative activities around the home. They also take classes sometimes which are once or twice a week for a few weeks, like DD just finished a clay class, they've done swimming lessons, etc. We always do stuff during weekdays, which is nice. We go on field trips, like last week we went to an indoor climbing gym - DS climbed a bit but DD didn't want to so she brought her drawing materials (she's an avid artist) instead. We visit nature centres, now that its getting cold we have started skating (there is a daytime public skate for homeschoolers at our local rec centre). Spring and summer are full of park days and beach visits. Basically I try to have 2 or 3 days during the weekdays where we don't have anything scheduled, and two or three days where we have something going on but it's always a half day at the most b/c my kids can't handle much more than that. Honestly it's a lovely life, full of freedom and spontaneity and the kids are thriving. 


Geez, sorry this was so long, HTH!

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