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Home Schooling a child with Autism or other special needs?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Does anyone here home school a child with autism or other special developmental needs? Or know of any websites/ blogs/ resources regarding the subject?


I am just curious, I have been pretty unhappy with the school system since DS started K (a year late) and is now in 1st in a program that is supposed to specialize in autism yet seems to fall short constantly. He did great in the pre-k program, but like most progressive pre-k programs it just cuts off and leaves our kids floundering in the public school system. Sometimes I just feel like it's not the best place for him but I have never met anyone who homes chools a child with autism (DS has a lot of needs, is non verbal). His Developmental therapist and their program that he goes to after school is AMAZING, but he is only budgeted for their program (which he goes to speech and OT through) for 20 hours a week, and it focuses on developmental tasks and therapies. 


When my children were small I envisioned HSing them, and aster a rough start in public K I almost pulled my second oldest out to HS (read: unschool). I have a child development background and my views of learning are in conflict with a lot of public schooling methods and approaches. One thing that held me back from HSing was atm I would only be HSing my middle child (DS2)- My oldest (DS1) is in the program for ASD at school, and my DSS's education is overseen by his mom and he is in public school. My 18 mo won't be school aged for some time :) . So I didn't do it because it was one child out of 4. I couldn't wrap my brain around HSing my son with ASD, yet am constantly frustrated with the system.


I looked into alternative school opportunities for DS1 (and the others), We have a lovely Montessori school here, however not only is it out of our budget, but although they are inclusive a child like my DS1 would have to have a full time aid with him that I would have to provide/pay for on top of tuition. He has ft aid at school, but the state WONT provide financing or support to provide him with an aid if I choose to put him in an alternative program.


It may not become a reality, i am just checking my options. And if I DID choose to HS my son, I would also plan on HSing my DS2 and my toddler when he is school aged, so it would be HSing neurotypical children in tandem as well :)


Thank you!  

post #2 of 9

Yep. I'm homeschooling my 11 yr old Aspie DD and my 9 yr old HFA DS.


I made the decision to homeschool long before I understood that my kids were on the spectrum. In retrospect, however, it was the best decision we could have made for them. I can control the level of "stress", in terms of outings, social groups, activities, etc. so that neither child is pushed too far (which, IME, has led to a noticeable increase is behavioural issues). 


It also helps that we have a fantastic homeschool program that has a Special Ed department, through which we get excellent access to funding. It is the envy of pretty much every schooled child with autism whose parent I have spoken to. In school, the parents barely have any say in which therapies will be prioritized, but I choose each and every one myself, based on what I feel are the most important priorities for my children. 


Although there are private schools around here that might offer a good support system for them, the truth is I believe they are better off at home with their family. We are busy and they have friends and activities, but life is geared to their capabilities and needs rather than the other way around, and when we try something new and it clearly isn't working it can be changed immediately, so I am able to adapt to growing, changing needs and abilities as they mature. 


I guess in your case it would really depend on what resources would be available to you as a homeschooler in your country/region and whether you could afford to pay privately for such therapies and supports if you had to. 

post #3 of 9

Just today my husband and I made the decision to take our son out of first grade and homeschool him.  There are some differences from your situation--one of which is that our son is "high functioning" and in a regular classroom.  He has a 504 plan that is supposed to provide accommodations, but the reality is that the accommodations do not even come close to addressing his learning differences.


Over the summer our son made a huge strides in his ability to engage socially with other kids.  He rarely exhibited typical autistic behaviors.  We were beginning to think perhaps he was misdiagnosed or that he had somehow "grown out" of his ASD diagnosis.  And he did well at the beginning of the school year.  he loves his teacher and was excited about school.  But as the year progressed, he started backsliding.  The stress of being in a classroom with so many other kids was doing a huge number on him.  He started checking out with greater and greater frequency, and eventually was spending more and more time curled up under his desk in a fetal position.  His ability to learn was suffering and his self-esteem took a nosedive when he realized he was not performing as well academically as some of the other kids.  he started telling people that he is stupid, an idiot, or dumb.  He eventually told his teacher (and us) that he wants to kill himself because he is so stupid.  The school's response (not the teacher, who is great and understanding) was to recommend social work to help address his self-esteem issues.  We finally figured out that if he learned at home where he thrives and where we are not forcing him to fit into an environment that isn't made for him that the self-esteem issues would likely disappear.


We currently have our son in speech therapy, and have done OT and social work--all outside of school.  We will continue the speech but will likely drop the OT and social work because those were therapies that he needed solely so he could fit into an environment where he had to sit and pay attention for 7 straight hours.


I don't know how helpful this is given the fact that our son's learning issues are different from the ones you are facing, but I think the common thread is that even though schools are required by law to provide services, the actual delivery of those services is woefully inadequate for many of our kids.

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Ah- thank you both! One of my thoughts is I do have a support system out of school- because my DS has high needs, he is budgeted a certain amount of hours and funding outside of school for speech, OT, and developmental therapy (unfortunately on his birthday it's going to go down- next April). It still will be some though, and his developmental therapist is AMAZING. She runs a child-centered inclusive preK program as well as being an IBI and Dev therapist. It is such a huge contrast to public school! Unfortunately it IS a pre-K and while she is devoted to being my son's dev therapist part time for a few years into the future, it won't last forever. But with 20 hours a week of therapy, that's a good opportunity for him and gives me some time. That's another thing- it kind of breaks my heart to see him shuttled onto the bus at 8:15 in the morning, then gets picked up by his therapist at 3:15, then usually comes home around 5! That's as long as a 40 hour work week!! He's 7! Being in f/t dev preK was different when I was working/ in school- it was way more open ended and accommodating with lower ratios etc. I imagine if he were home, "school" would be naturally woven into a lot of daily life and experiencial vs. sitting in a classroom doing paperwork.


I notice a lot of what i am reading about homeschooling on the spectrum is about HF autism/aspergers, but I actually think a child like my son would hugely benefit from having more of an unschooling approach- It's just how he learns, he needs help with "academic" stuff but I come from a background in child development where learning is integrated into play, environment, daily life,  and other activities, not worksheets, rigid schedules, drills, and uniformity. At this point public school feels like babysitting. At first i needed the break- when he was younger I was going through a lot, dealing with long term depression and stress, being a single mom, trying to get on my feet and find my way. Many years have passed since then, and I have a good support system, I'm a SAHM, I'm married to an amazing man, and our values are in line more or less. I try to imagine what DS would be like if he wasn't struggling with school and aides and transitioning all the time. I just can't imagine him ever- at least in the next several years- happily sitting at a desk and doing school work for hours on end.


Ha, then I think of DS2! I just had his conference- (I almost pulled him out halfway through his K year because I was not happy with the system. He's in 1st now as well). The teachers always LOVE him, he does so well, it's really encouraging as a parent, but then they go over the learning objectives and I'm just like... Oh my god. WHY is this important? Lists, numbers, drills, meeting quota. None of it's personalized. Almost none of it is relevant. None of it honors nature or the rhythm of life for a well rounded child. My child just happens to be a good worker, and likes to please. yet there is nothing inspiring about the public school curriculum. 


I think I really want to do this, and I have until next fall (I would love to pull him now but this would take some major adjusting really fast)- I know I as a parent and SAHM have some things to take care of and 'prove' before attempting it- right now I struggle to keep the house together and keep track of everything as it is, and I want to get a better system down. It would also be nice to see what the dynamic is like over the summer, and to read/ research more about homeschooing/unschooling a child with ASD and prepare well for it. I also am worried about any objections- I think i may be able to win over DH, but I'm worried family might look disapprovingly/ doubt me. i guess that's why I want to wait until next fall- So I can get my ish together!



Thank you again- Piglet what sort of homeschooling do you do? and your footer says you're homesteading- it's my dream to do more homesteading or urban farming (moving next summer too, no sure if we'll end up in town or our on the fringes)- Do your daughters help out with that? How is it going? :)

post #5 of 9

I have a Master's in Teaching with extra grad credits in SpEd plus one specific to teaching children with autism and between that and my brief time teaching in public school (all of which validated what I suspected while doing my Master's)... I do not connect well with the public system's way of "educating" either.


Mine is now about to be 10yo but when we pulled him it was just before Kindy.  He was too young for an Aspie dx but had at least "graduated" to a PDD-NOS dx thanks to years of therapies and interventions.  He was just really bright and really a challenge and I felt that the schools could not discipline or reprimand him (legally) in a way that would help him understand how classrooms worked.  They couldn't hug him or hold him and rock him to calm him down.  I would flip if they presumed to know when it was okay to let him scream and cry.  I loved the preschool disabled teacher but even she agreed with my issues.


When they tested him for his "entering Kindy" IEP changes (he'd been part of the SpEd program since transitioning in at 3yo) he was pretty much off the charts ahead and the district refused to let him skip even though their psych said he could handle it emotionally.  It was a recipe for disaster.  I spoke with a 1st grade teacher that I had a great deal of respect for (she had an awesome classroom--I was parked outside of it for almost an hour 3x/week).  She actually told me to keep mine home if I could.  So we did.  And really, we just haven't looked back.


I don't have any blogs to share.  I keep mine MAYBE once/twice per year.  I've written two articles on homeschooling and socialization but one of them is specific to kids in the spectrum.  Otherwise, I got nothin' (and it doesn't sound like you are worried about the socialization/learning social skills side of it)


I'm definitely not sorry we took this road.  He is performing far better than we imagined he would... in all ways.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

heather- THANK YOU. Hearing that you have a Masters in teaching and an educational background in special ed. really gives me insight- I notice a lot of teachers have chosen to HS their children- on the spectrum or not- and although my background is only in ECE/ child dev., It hugely influenced the way I see the PS system- The high quality child-centered/led programs my children attended/ I worked at are absolutely nothing like PS. 


I think watching my children transition from early childhood to middle childhood has been a wake up call to me. The Special ed. classroom my son is in really pushed academics, and even though they are puttling my DS in the lowest rung of it (they group them by ability vs actual grade), they are still expecting tons of desk work from him. I KNOW DS doesn't enjoy school. 


I'm not concerned about the socialization aspect of it because he has a long way to go with that realm- I don't think school is the best place for him to work on it. His dev. therapy program (that he would still attend if he were HS'd) is in a preschool environment with a few older children like DS. I would also take him out into the community more, and he has three brothers and several cousins! We visit with family often and they all have good relationships with DS. I guess I'm trying to say that we are not very isolated :)


For me, it's been a struggle to really open my eyes and look at the situation plainly: I have always entertained the idea of HSing my DS2, and possibly DS3, and would do a project-approach/unschooly/waldorf-ish sort of approach with them- basically, child centered and interest-infused. I would NOT be imitating PS academics. And then I look how I doubted myself at being able to HS DS1, when HE is the one in the most need of getting out of a system that isn't working for him! The one who could most benefit at having a HSing approach centered around his personal needs, strengths, and interests.


Heather, are you a WAHM?

post #7 of 9

I AM a WAHM (self-employed) and dh is a WAHD (employed by a big bank).  It's interesting!


And I was less talking isolation and more about how socialization happens--but yeah, you seem to have that.  I will pm you a link to the article for talking points in case you get hammered for this since the education community takes a pretty firm stance on socialization only happening (or happening best or happening with the most intensity and therefore most abundant opportunity to learn) in the schools.  Ironically, the NEA's lobbying list of "things to lobby for" often includes removing homeschoolers from extracurriculars at the pub schools.  Hmmm... so much for having the interest of the children at heart.  And hey--let's forget that they're still paying taxes to fund the school even if they're not there all day.  :eyesroll  (I have actually had people tell me that hs'd kids shouldn't be allowed to use school resources and I've had to point out that we pay every dime as much as they do for said resources)


Even neurotypical kids are slammed with academics.  I once took one of my classes and we spent it talking about how being a "C" student in school didn't make them a "C" person in life because we only grade them on this very narrow set of things and they may not even be relevant to what these kids go on to do.  Twenty four kids--they were mesmerized by this possibility. One of them left that class and went on a very different course, and now succeeds (in a well-known 4-year university) at audiovisual stuff or film of some sort.  I don't know.  But I didn't even know that school had such a program as it's a traditional university.  Needless to say--even if he could take those kinds of courses at high school, his success there wouldn't have gained him any kind of notoriety or praise among the administration or the masses.  These are skills that aren't valued.  Oddly, they don't realize that those are the skills that make the blockbuster movies they will stand in line to see on a bitter December night.  Just crazy.  For them, it's less likely that this kid would be that filmmaker than the rest of them being billionaire CEOs.  :/



post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Heather- As much as I dislike a lot of things about my state- The one upside is that there is basically zero regulation on HSing! Ther eis a firm stance that families have the right to HS, and there is actually a large HS community, activities and groups for HSers, and luckily 9for us) the secular HSing community is growing. My SIL recently began HSing her 2 so I feel like the family would be accepting of it, although they are doing traditional academic-based HSing. 


As far as regular kids go- totally! I actually want to HS DS2 (and eventually DS3 who is 18 mos), DS2 is exceptionally bright and creative, I feel like he would thrive with a child-led HSing approach. the issue is, when I ask him He says he really loves school. He got a glowing report, but I KNOW it's nothing personalized or important to him-I even asked "what if you got to choose what you learned about? OR, we could pick something that gave you ideas about what to learn about (like using OM curriculum etc) and he STILL said "I want to go to school". I think he can't quite wrap his brain around it yet, and I'm  planning on letting him finish the year out before making a move. He loves his teacher but that won't be his teacher next year.  Just trying to decide home much "say" a 6.5/7 yo should have in the matter...


DS1 is totally nonverbal and has high needs. I would say probably 95% of his school day is a struggle to get him to "work". I'm not impressed with the schools's speech or OT programs (but love the ones he sees outside of school). It is very hard to see into his future- Will he be verbal? will he ever leave home? Right now that's hard to imagine. I think he's more in need of cultivating life skills and being happy. And learning 'academics" in ways that are meaningful to him. I can absolutely see this happening at home, but not at all in PS.


Another stumbling block is I havn't discussed this with DH yet. DH is D1 and D2's stepdad. (D3's and DSS's Biodad).I think it's going to be unexpected. He was supportive of the idea of me HSing DH2, and he also very much dislikes how PS had been going for DH1 the last 2 years. He sees the problem, however I would need him on board to support me, you know? Not just to be a SAHM indefinitely, but to also believe I can make this work. I do have the option to be a WAHM too, DH is a web/marketing/graphic/design specialist and that opens a lot of doors to web-based work etc.

post #9 of 9

it can be done I am homeschooling my three daughters who all have Autism two are high functioning and my youngest daughter is non verbal.

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