unschooling kids w/ autism - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 08-03-2008, 02:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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anyone have any hints for me? lol. i know it's sort of a general question. i wasn't sure whether to post this here or on the special needs board. we had been planning to us my dd for quite a while, and now she is in the middle of being assessed for what i think will end up being some mild autism and definitely sensory processing disorder. im actually quite relieved that we won't be dealing with the school system . anyone here btdt who can give me some advice or words of wisdom? i am totally in the dark here and was completely in denial that something could be going on until last week, so i am now trying to change my mindset a little. thanks!

Leah- mama to Audrey born 12/29/03 and Gwyneth born 4/1/2009! Soon to be TTC #3!
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#2 of 16 Old 08-03-2008, 04:25 PM
 
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You can cross post on both boards, usually a good way to get a variety of responses.

My ds isn't dx'ed autistic, but does have TS and sensory processing disorder, and I began hsing because of the incredibly bad experience he had in ps. We both would fall into the mild to moderate Aspergers camp if either of us cared about getting tested at this point. (Not to say that no one should pursue a diagnosis, just not important for us right now.)

My biggest advice would be to relax and ease into the whole hsing process. There are lots of families hsing because of special needs, enough to fill out whole boards online.

There is a lot of info online about specifically hsing and autism, here is A to Z's page on autism. Ann Zeise, the lady who runs A to Z Home's Cool is also autistic.

A nice short article on beginning the hsing journey with an autistic child.

Aut-2B-Home--an email list for parents hsing kids with autism.

I started hsing specifically because of my ds's special needs, and most of the families I started hsing with were also coming from the same place. Pretty well all of us wound up more or less unschooling, as it became obvious that highly structured life suited neither parents nor children. I don't know of any studies or systematic look at unschooling among SN kids, but in my unscientific survey of the hsing families I know, it's by far the most popular choice of styles.
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#3 of 16 Old 08-03-2008, 05:04 PM
 
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Not to be a party pooper, but I found that unschooling did not especially work for my ASD child. The problem is, unschooling supposes that a child will actively seek experiences in the outside world, while most ASD children are very content with their own inner world, and have little motivation to try new things.

My son desperately wanted friends, but had trouble initiating contact. It was much easier for him at school, where he has a built in peer group, shared experiences, and an incredible teacher (he is in a integrated class).

JMO.
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#4 of 16 Old 08-03-2008, 05:09 PM
 
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IMO, a big part of Unschooling is listening to the child. Some kids really do want and need more structure, and you may do better with some sort of formal curriculum rather than being "strict unschoolers."

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 13(homeschooled)
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#5 of 16 Old 08-03-2008, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks everyone for the input! i guess i will have to wait and see what happens. i do agree that she will need help with getting into the outside world, and i can see now that she will possibly have more of a need for being "taught" things like life skills. we will take it day by day. she is in a preschool/ daycare right now and looks overwhelmed by the kids in her class much of the time. at home she is more outgoing and playful and she learns things much better while shes here. i think i am going to have to start doing some more research. i have a bunch of books on the way from amazon that haven't gotten here yet, bah!

Leah- mama to Audrey born 12/29/03 and Gwyneth born 4/1/2009! Soon to be TTC #3!
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#6 of 16 Old 08-03-2008, 08:33 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LookMommy! View Post
Not to be a party pooper, but I found that unschooling did not especially work for my ASD child. The problem is, unschooling supposes that a child will actively seek experiences in the outside world, while most ASD children are very content with their own inner world, and have little motivation to try new things.

My son desperately wanted friends, but had trouble initiating contact. It was much easier for him at school, where he has a built in peer group, shared experiences, and an incredible teacher (he is in a integrated class).

JMO.

My son had a lot of trouble initiating contact with other kids, so I helped him seek out kids with interests in common, and helped to facilitate interactions till he felt more comfortable. Unschooling doesn't mean that you never step in and help your child, or wait until they can verbalize the request for help.

I'm glad your son has an incredible teacher, they are very, very rare, in my experience, in dealing with boys with special needs. My ds's ps's solution to his socialization problems was to punish him with losing recess unless he spoke to other kids. Not helpful.
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#7 of 16 Old 08-04-2008, 02:11 PM
 
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#8 of 16 Old 08-05-2008, 01:53 PM
 
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My son doesn't have any official ASD dx, but it's suspected as he has chronic allergies that also mimic ASD symptoms.

He was unschooled for K and half of 1st, then he begged to try PS, so I hesitantly put him in (he's the kid who has life threatening food allergies and requires a special table and nut free classroom, not a good time for either of us) anyway, he was being pegged as 'extremely hyper' and not processing (read: he didn't listen to the teacher) he went in far ahead in reading and the teacher loved that, but by the end of the year, she had enough of him I think and graded him BELOW grade level in reading "because Cal doesn't comprehend." (this with a standardized test score of 96% in reading)..

I know I'm all over the board with this, but what I'm trying to get at is my son did far better unschooling than trying to fit into the mold of public school. He wanted to try, but he wants to be home again and will be unschooled again. He does have some special needs and rigid ways, he doesn't do well with change and gets set into things and cannot move (ideas/notions) so he does much better with 'free range learning'

That said, when he seems to need structure, I will pull out activities or things for him to do if he's interested.

Sorry so long.

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#9 of 16 Old 08-06-2008, 08:12 PM
 
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We just started unschooling our son who was diagnosed with autism but recently they think it might be a mild form of aspergers syndrom (he was re-evaluated before we took him out).

In any case, he isn't in his own world most of the time and has many interests. He also learns very quickly when he is interested in something. I have been amazed in all the things he has absorbed since we have been home where his stress level has been relieved considerably.

My main advice would be to always be aware of his cues of being overwhelmed. I think that not overdoing it is the main thing at least for us. Also, to make sure you be as connected as possible....taking time to really talk a lot and show interest in your child's interests. I also expose them to interesting things (like buy chapter books to read, offer educational computer games & tv programs, encourage as much outdoor play as possible). We also schedule playdates with kids that he feels comfortable with and keep them very small (usually 1:1). I don't force anything and give him the choice to not do something. At the same time, I am always giving him options that he might not have come up with on his own.

I also have to be sure to explain situations a bit before hand (what is expected in a particular enviornment)...this usually helps him regulate himself and avoids him getting upset or acting "inappropriately." Social stories help a lot and reading about everything under the sun! The biggest issue is that he doesn't necessarily feel compeled to behave as modeled to him, lol. He beats to his own drum! At the same time, he really appreciates the reasoning behind behavior so he really responds to me taking the time to prepare and explain when he is calm (and I am calm and respectful).

We have found that structure is not important for our son. Our connectedness has become the constant that he needs. We are also open to any routine that he feels comfortable with....mostly that means eating breakfast together and reading books after bathing at night. Otherwise we are pretty free all day long!

Overall, unschooling has made me understand that it is ok that he is who he is! I don't need to run myself ragged just trying to train him into being "normal." On the other hand, I do want him to be comfortable and happy. I have no concerns at all that he will learn naturally with his persistance and drive. The worst thing about intervention was that everyone was always trying to get him to do "unprefered tasks." I prefer now to reach him within his interests....then he trusts me and when I offer options that are new to him, he is more likely to give it a try.
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#10 of 16 Old 08-06-2008, 09:54 PM
 
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I unschool three kids on the spectrum...two with aspergers and one with severe autism. It has been a lifesaver for our family and our kids. Public school was failing them big time, even with all the resources they were supposed to have.

Not only are they learning more academically (and as an unschooler I feel a little wrong saying that) but social skills and life skills are much stronger as well. Obviously, they are spending more time with me, and so they have constant input on how to cook, clean, shop. We have repetition. And the socialization in smaller groups, with more compassionate children, has helped them all as well.

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#11 of 16 Old 08-09-2008, 05:47 PM
 
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My daughters both have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and SID.

We have always home schooled, but are now very interested in unschooling ( think we have done this naturally all long to our facilitators annoyance lol)
Iam looking forward to this new road that is really not all that new to us.

I know we feel that hs is the way to go for our children, and I could net be more grateful for the opportunity.

For us, as long as they have time to run and play for the majority of the day, and for a large chunk to also dedicate to drawing, then they are happy campers and I can then fit in whatever else I need to.

We wish you all success and joy!:
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#12 of 16 Old 08-10-2008, 12:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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great info everyone , thanks!

Leah- mama to Audrey born 12/29/03 and Gwyneth born 4/1/2009! Soon to be TTC #3!
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#13 of 16 Old 08-10-2008, 10:03 AM
 
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Clarification, regarding teachers - yes, we have a great one now, but his 1st grade teacher (last year of school before dropping out to us for 3 years) was not so great. She was very big on tokens and points and all that, which was positive, but ds really didn't understand what he was doing to deserve the prizes. Also, the class was too low level for him socially, and the "big class" was not a great fit either. Currently, he has a best friend plus many good friends in the "big class" and the other kids in the "small class" are very bright and "high level".

His teacher had him fill in a chart last year about what he did in recess each day - invite a friend, join in a game, or play by himself. None of the options were "better" or "worse", but it was something to talk about with him and with us. There is a lot of peer pressure to achieve, which is great for my kid, because he doesn't feel much internal pressure to achieve (academically, socially, etc.). He likes the competition (fairly low level) about sports, grades, etc. which I think is totally normal for this age (he is 12 now). He is thrilled to be the best speller in the class.

I noticed that by the time boys are 10 or so, they really want more independence in play, and don't want mommy involved in their playdates. In the homeschool group, the kids lived out of town, so it wasn't like ds could drive himself over. Nowadays, he just informs me where he'll be after school and with whom. He also gets invited to 10 x as many birthday parties, just because he's one of the boys, not necessarily best friends. He likes being part of a group, and identifies strongly with his "5-A" class (tells his sister that if she is lucky, in 4 years, she'll get to be in 5-A because that is the best). Again, this is great for him - he's noticing others and wanting to be a part of the wider world - because this wasn't always the case.

Academically, when we unschooled, he had no interest in doing things that the school kids did (learning prayers by rote, learning math algorithms, writing stories and poems, etc) and I didn't feel it was respectful to "make" him do that. By he does it in school now, and although he complains a bit, he also feels really proud of himself when he masters a skill, or gets complimented on his story, or keeps up with the others. He has to work hard at things which others may find easy (and the opposite, as well) but I'm glad he is "taking his place in the world" and not just retreating more and more to his obsessions and fantasies.

Again, I think the nature of autism (inner directed) means that these children don't always "know what is best for them" so unschooling is not necessarily appropriate at all times, at all ages, for many children like my son.
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#14 of 16 Old 08-12-2008, 11:52 AM
 
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We're unschooling and spectrummy here, too. I really, truly believe that it's the best thing for ASD kids. but I think, just like everything with an asd kid, it takes more planning and a pretty creative, resourceful mama. (Not to say that people who don't/can't are not that!)

I'm not scheduley by nature, and for my NT dd it's better that way, but for my ASD ds it's pretty essential to have a rhythm so he knows what to expect. Not that I'm imposing the schedule on him, I mean he doesn't have to do the things if he doesn't want to, but if I'm not suggesting things he'll be stuck in his slump. I have to guide him through his day a lot more than I do with a NT child.

I don't even know if I'm making sense here. I'm a little distracted by having to guide my son through his day.
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#15 of 16 Old 10-04-2013, 11:56 AM
 
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It is 5 years after this original post, but thank you so much for it as I am just entering this. My son will start kindergarten next year and while he has a dx of mild autism/ gifted, he probably isn't as it seems to be more food related then anything.  I will be reading this in detail later and am wondering if anyone is following this thread... if anyone has links on how to get started??  I feel so unprepared to homeschool my son!!!

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#16 of 16 Old 10-07-2013, 06:26 PM
 
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Hi samhope. I am homeschooling my two kids on the spectrum. DD has Aspergers and DS is high functioning autistic.

 

We purely unschooled up until about a year ago. They were diagnosed two years ago. 

 

One thing I had noticed, and it made more sense when we understood what we were dealing with, is that although they were self-motivated learners they had pretty limited interests. They would focus on one or two things and that was it. They also actively avoided things if they either couldn't grasp the concept immediately, or had some preconceived notion about what was involved. There is a lot of anxiety based behaviours in autism, and anxiety is often centred around the unknown or the unfamiliar. In the unschooling philosophy, kids will eventually encounter a need for certain skills, like math for example, and when it becomes relevant and/or necessary to them they will pursue that learning. But my kids will actively avoid instead, to a degree beyond what neurotypical kids would do.

 

So we've changed things up a bit and so far I'm happy with how it is going. We're still mostly unschoolers, but I do have mandatory math work now. 


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