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My son is 13 in 6th grade. He repeated kindergarten, then was placed in special ed with a sensory integration disorder diagnosis. He later ended up with an autism diagnosis.

From his second year in kindergarten through 5th grade, he did well mainstreamed with a parapro. He enjoyed going to school and stayed on grade level with a modified curriculum. The school also provided physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

In 6th grade he started middle school but never adjusted. Now at the end of the school year, he still has trouble transitioning between classes and different teachers. His grades are average to below average with a modified curriculum - which is now code for "if he does two problems on a worksheet in the 45 minute class period, we will call it a success". He has frequent meltdowns and has been suspended several times for violent behavior toward other students. He dislikes school to a point that he is frequently late and sometimes I can't get him in the car to go at all.

For the first time, school isn't working for him and I'm considering homeschooling. But here is the problem: the homeschoolers I have met who are successul have children who are self-motivated learners. My son is definately not.

The only subject he likes is science, and occasionally he enjoys math. With anything else, its like pulling teeth to get him to do classwork/homework. I know traditional curriculums do not work for everyone and I am open to alternatives. I don't believe I should decide to homeschool only because he doesn't like school. Unless I know I can help him learn, I don't want to risk him getting further behind.

Ideas?
 

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I can't offer you advice on homeschooling a child with autism. I will have to leave that to others.

I can say something about self-motivated learners. The kids you know that are self-motivated are highly likely to have been homeschooled from the beginning in a way that encouraged their *inherent* motivation. School has a funny way of wiping this motivation out, if only because kids just need to decompress.

Sure, there are kids who have never been to school that are less motivated. Even in my home, I see a huge difference in my two daughters. But after 7 years of school, there is no way to know whether the lack of self-motivation is inherent or caused by the learning environment.

Before you say "he was never self-motivated", many if not most kids have limited ability before the age of 6 to possess a drive to pursue their own interests very far. Society sends these kids off to school just at that age when self-motivation really blossoms. Parents of schooled kids miss out on watching this transformation happen on its own. My girls were moderately dependent on me for their entertainment, etc. But as the years progressed and they had the freedom, their motivation is growing exponentially, especially for my youngest.

I will write you a prescription for some serious deschooling. This can take a long time, several months, a year. Take it. Do interesting things that you decide on together. Start *listening* to him. He might need practice pursuing his own interest. If he mentions a particular interest, bring home some library books, ask him if he wants to attend an interest-based event, travel a little if you can to seek them out. Be careful about creating an impression that you have an agenda here. You are here to support his interests, not to drive them on.

Give him time and space and zero agenda and he will likely find something he wants to spend time on, but here's the thing: there is a high likelihood that what he wants to pursue might not look like something very educational at first glance. Yet everything is connected to other things, and the point is not *what* the point is *how*.

I commend you for not wanting to homeschool just because school is bad. Often well-meaning parents bring home the same problems, made worse because now the parent has taken on an added role that could cause even more tension in both parent and child. (The only scenario I can see really working is if the main problem for the child is lack of one-on-one help and attention.) I would also like to point out that maintaining parity between your son and his schooled peers can also become a source of tension. This is another advantage of homeschooling. My daughters are far ahead of their peers in some areas, a fair bit behind in others. To limit our homeschooling to stay on par of their grade level would take a lot of the momentum out it. They have confidence and a sense of joy about all the work that they do regardless of where they are and that to me is more important.

So, don't limit yourself. If the only subjects he likes to sit down for to do 'schoolwork' for are math and science, then great. Sit down and do those. Better yet, give him some good resources and let him play with them to his heart's content. Let him excel wildly, even at the expense of the other things. Get him-- books!-- on his favorite subjects, both to learn about the thing, and perhaps on the history. Make it hands-on as much as possible (and with homeschooling, the sky's the limit here!) Enlist help of family and neighbors, older children with interesting skills. That is how you can help him learn-- help him learn how to follow along a path that fascinates him.

Eventually-- eventually!-- he will get the idea, but it will probably look very different from what you were expecting so do your best not to expect. Mostly, don't make the mistake of bringing home the same problems that existed in school. And take a vacation!
 

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Society sends these kids off to school just at that age when self-motivation really blossoms.
I agree with SweetSilver's post whole-heartedly, except I take issue with this. I think it's correct if we are talking about "self-motivation in the realm of pre-academic and academic learning." But not in the general sense. I think that most toddlers and preschoolers are incredibly self-motivated. It's just that they're motivated towards goals that don't necessarily align with what is affirming and convenient for their parents.

They're motivated to learn to walk even though they fall on their butts and hurt themselves over and over again. They're motivated to drop peas and carrot-cubes over the edge of their high chair tray to reassure themselves that gravity works just as well the fortieth time. They're motivated to keep banging the Thomas train car onto the front of the glass cabinet because of the awesome clinky sound it makes. They're motivated to climb up and stand on the dining room table and reach for the chandelier.

I know at first these seem like silly things to compare to the motivation to master addition of fractions. But I don't think the comparison is all that far-fetched. What young children are doing when they engage in typical toddler behaviour in such determined ways is to figure out how the world works by engaging with it in ways that are delightful and meaningful to them.

Think about that again, because it's what natural learning is all about, and it's an amazing way to learn. It's a model we should be using as much as possible at all stages of life. The farther academic education strays from that model, the more problematic motivation becomes. And in the grand scheme of things I would have to say that maintaining that natural learning motivation my kids expressed at toddlers was my main reason for homeschooling. I think schools, with the best of intentions and largely through a necessity borne of large-group instruction, stray farther and farther from the conditions that promote self-motivated learning as the years go on.

So I don't think you can say "my son is not a self-motivated learner." I don't think you know anything of the sort at this point. You can only say that under artificial and tightly controlled circumstances where he has little to no freedom or control over his learning, he doesn't seem to be particularly engaged. Give him six months of deschooling, and you may be astonished at what natural learning motivation awakens.

Miranda
 

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The only subject he likes is science, and occasionally he enjoys math. With anything else, its like pulling teeth to get him to do classwork/homework. I know traditional curriculums do not work for everyone and I am open to alternatives. I don't believe I should decide to homeschool only because he doesn't like school. Unless I know I can help him learn, I don't want to risk him getting further behind.

Ideas?

This part in particular gives me hope that you may start seeing some "self motivation" rather sooner than you think in the process of deschooling. Honestly, my kids are not interested in "every subject" in school. Nor are they "self motivated" in areas in which they have zero interest. However, it is funny how just letting them follow their interests and living a normal, engaged lifestyle gives an opportunity to develop interests in various areas. While I do not deal with autism specifically, the thing I notice is that, for me, anyway, self motivation is a bit of a red herring. Curiosity is actually the big trigger to homeschooling. And curiosity isn't about "ticking all the boxes of a school curriculum" - it is about following interests... and it is actually kind of crazy how that works...

The thing that most people refer to as "self motivation" I find - in kids I have known who thrived at correspondence school type homeschooling is actually more about executive function. And that WILL NOT develop over a constant battle of wills. For that, I would say work on your relationship. Executive function is a long process. And your son following his bend will lead him to various twists and turns that eventually lead to goals and thus to a desire to hone the skills of "self motivation" - aka, planning, organization and follow through in regards to his goals.

It is interesting. Deschooling, often is actually more there for the parent than the child. It is there for the parent because there already WAS evidence of things that the child was interested in, but parent led education often means thwarting the child led goals, and thus not actually seeing how much they can grow a child. Pokémon is a distraction to school when there is 6 hours of the day dedicated to it, plus an hour of reading and homework. But, pokemon, surprisingly helps with literacy, working memory, logic, and, depending on how fascinated a child becomes, it can lead to writing stories and books, or to a huge overarching analysis of types of play... But, it is rarely allowed to develop to the point that it becomes a tool of education. It is seen as being at cross purposes with education.

My kids right now are fascinated by the youtube death battles. They are now busy researching insects and other creatures and making their own "death matches"... Another interest is dragons. This has translated into written stories for one of my kids. They do need help with organizing their day and with getting stuff done... but they actually ask for the help - because I am supporting their interests. Not thwarting them.

So. I agree with the posters above. Give a year with zero expectation. I bet that you will see some really interesting youtube searches, have fascinating conversations and see a really different side to your child coming through...
 

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I agree with SweetSilver's post whole-heartedly, except I take issue with this. I think it's correct if we are talking about "self-motivation in the realm of pre-academic and academic learning." But not in the general sense. I think that most toddlers and preschoolers are incredibly self-motivated. It's just that they're motivated towards goals that don't necessarily align with what is affirming and convenient for their parents.

Miranda
I agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote. My statement seemed generalized towards all motivation. You are right.
 

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I haven't posted here for a long time, but thought I would as I have two children with learning problems including a son with autism.
Personally I would never unschool a child with learning issues, if that is what you meant by self motivated. There may certainly be some who do it successfully, but I found learning academics doesn't happen unless I direct it, repeat it and find numerous ways to go over it. Just knowing something won’t be grasped easily does suck the joy out from both myself and my children. My daughter is 13 and she is very aware she is not achieving what her friends do. You can't hide things at that age, and we have always homeschooled. That alone is enough to make her not want to bother because everything is so much hard work for her.

One thing that has helped and I wish I had come to this before she was 12, was to toss out the fluff and extras. For maths I am now focusing more on what she will need in real life like telling the time, money and cooking amounts. I have given up trying to have her memorize things, never going to happen. We now skim over a maths lesson and if she can show me how to do the first sum on paper I then have her do just a couple more with a calculator then move on. I see no point in torturing her by sitting her down to do an entire page, for what end? I would suggest for whatever subjects he needs help on to try and find a way to incorporate hands on or movement, visuals and auditory. If something asks for a lot of writing try and do most of it orally and don't bother with fluff, busy work or anything you don't feel is really needed.
 

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"I don't believe I should decide to homeschool only because he doesn't like school."
Why not
I can hardly think of a better reason to homeschool than a child not liking school. Ever meet people who hate their job, not fun......And they are more or less in control of their destiny if they choose to use it.

"Unless I know I can help him learn, I don't want to risk him getting further behind."
Further behind who? He is on a modified curriculum, he's behind.

We started homeschooling my son this september because of his, well because he has learning disabilities, and ADHD and the school path for kids like him is not pretty. He hadn't been suspended, but if he had of spent 2 more years in school he probably would have been.
Imagine having SPD, and autism and having to spend your day in a classroom, around other people. From a sensory point of view that would be very difficult. Or at least it was for my guy. And it wasn't like he wasn't trying. His hardest. Everyday.
I beleive a lot of special needs kids are treading water, and on the edge of drowning when they are in school. Holding it together is all they can do, and when they are expected to do academics it is their tipping point.

To answer you original worry. My guy is not self motivated. He struggles with Executive Functioning. He has trouble generating ideas, and can't organize his thoughts, or often his speech. He can't sustain his attention, stick with challenging or frustrating tasks, and things need to be new and novel, just to interest him. He needs support to do things even if it's something he wants to do. He can't read, or, he is still preliterate.
All that said I hope he never chooses to go back to school. A bad day at homeschool is better than a good day at school. By a mile.
Homeschool is a million times easier than homework.
It took my guy 8 months before I saw curiosity, and twice this week he went to his room, and was playing with his Pokemon card. He is 9.5 and I don't remeber him ever deciding to play by himself without a screen, and on a separate floor of the house than me. Self motivational learning. My best friend is the ASD itinerant for a local school board, She has said a few heart stopping things to me. One, " I don't think you have any idea who he really is, he has been in a state of overwhelm since he was one and a half"
two: " he needs a million compliments to undo the correcting he experienced in school," A Million!!
I'm not an expert and I try not to be contrary, but I do beleive in unschooling special needs kids. I don't beleive academics are the answer. There is technology, he may never need to read or write. I have been scribing a story for him, we're on page 40!! If someone had of told me that a year ago, I would have laughed at them.
Our success criteria are happiness. And relationship. Always relationship.
I recently blurted to my older daughter (who then of course had to tweet it to all her friends) " don't think your kid's smart? Give them a Go Pro and a skateboard and you'll see how (insert bad word) smart they are!"
I grew up an athlete in an academic family. I understand the academic path. But there are so many roads a person can take, school is only one, it just happens to be the one most people are on.
I'm going to publish this because there is no preview button, but I may decide it's over the top ranty and take it down
Okay I read it and I think it's okay. I will close out this novella( sorry) by saying good luck
Your son is really lucky to have a mom who is even considering an alternative for him. I beleive you won't regret it, try for a year, middle school is terrible for some special kids, in a way that even high school is better.
Good luck
Anna
 

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"I don't believe I should decide to homeschool only because he doesn't like school."
Why not
I can hardly think of a better reason to homeschool than a child not liking school. Ever meet people who hate their job, not fun......And they are more or less in control of their destiny if they choose to use it.

"Unless I know I can help him learn, I don't want to risk him getting further behind."
Further behind who? He is on a modified curriculum, he's behind.

We started homeschooling my son this september because of his, well because he has learning disabilities, and ADHD and the school path for kids like him is not pretty. He hadn't been suspended, but if he had of spent 2 more years in school he probably would have been.
Imagine having SPD, and autism and having to spend your day in a classroom, around other people. From a sensory point of view that would be very difficult. Or at least it was for my guy. And it wasn't like he wasn't trying. His hardest. Everyday.
I beleive a lot of special needs kids are treading water, and on the edge of drowning when they are in school. Holding it together is all they can do, and when they are expected to do academics it is their tipping point.

To answer you original worry. My guy is not self motivated. He struggles with Executive Functioning. He has trouble generating ideas, and can't organize his thoughts, or often his speech. He can't sustain his attention, stick with challenging or frustrating tasks, and things need to be new and novel, just to interest him. He needs support to do things even if it's something he wants to do. He can't read, or, he is still preliterate.
All that said I hope he never chooses to go back to school. A bad day at homeschool is better than a good day at school. By a mile.
Homeschool is a million times easier than homework.
It took my guy 8 months before I saw curiosity, and twice this week he went to his room, and was playing with his Pokemon card. He is 9.5 and I don't remeber him ever deciding to play by himself without a screen, and on a separate floor of the house than me. Self motivational learning. My best friend is the ASD itinerant for a local school board, She has said a few heart stopping things to me. One, " I don't think you have any idea who he really is, he has been Ina state of overwhelm since he was one and a half" two: " he need a million compliments to undo the correcting he experienced in school," A Million!!
I'm not an expert and I try not to be contrary, but I do beleive in unschooling special needs kids.
Our success criteria are happiness. And relationship. Always relationship.
I recently blurted to my older daughter (who then of course had to tweet it to all her friends) " don't think your kid's smart? Give them a Go Pro and a skateboard and you'll see how (insert bad word) smart they are!"
I'm going to publish this because there is no preview button, but I may decide it's over the top ranty and take it down
Anna
Don't you dare. And there, I just quoted the whole thing, so it's going to stay. :) I think it's a wonderful post, "(insert bad word)" and all.

Miranda
 

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Home school is the best alternative to be chosen. These days almost 70% of kids are not willing to attend the public schools and they are looking for a change and stress-free environment. Home school is the best stress- free environment.

If your child is not self-motivated. Then you daily make a habit of saying good about education and tell about the career in the future. As you make everyday his brain to train these things. Surely he can pick up himself and start studying by his own without any pressure at the back.

Just train his brain to work then you can really find a fruitful results.

My child is being home schooled from last 4 years and he and myself feel awesome about the online school. Earlier he use to regret to go to school because of bullying in the public school. When i have home schooled him, the situation is being changed and he is working with an interest.
 

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One thing about special needs kids is they have a different set of needs than neurotypical kids. They often require different parenting strategies, and definitely need different academic strategies. Try really hard not to compare yourself, your child, your experience with families, homeschooling or otherwise, that have neurotypical kids. It's not the same.
I love the book Project Based Homeschool, but I customize it to my guys needs. There is no way (currently) he can execute that level of independence. Also the scale of project other kids achieve is unrealistic for him. And at the start if he could focus, with support, for 20 minutes, I considered it successful.
Now six months later my support is more in the form of partnership, and doing what he says. Ie, scribing, reading, yesterday I was his camera woman. Now, we are starting to dig deeper, but it took a long time, and I'm sure if we continue with homeschooling, a year from now I will be in as much wonder as I am now, at how far he has come. Honestly I never thought he would ever be capable of doing some of the things he can do now.
Anna
 

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I actually have 2 special needs kids. One who is currently (by choice) in the school system and is thriving, and one who is currently out of the schooling system (by choice) doing a sort of mixed unschooling (child led, but parent supported/enhanced)... both my kids benefitted strongly from coming away from the school system.

One extremely interesting thing that came up when my oldest was assessed, which Anna touched on in her post, was the enormous amount of negative feedback special needs kids get - and the psychologically damaging impact of this negative feedback. Neurotypical kids tend to get more positive interactions than negative interactions in a day. From their peers, from teachers, from their parents. Some psychologists theorize that the "trigger" for a lot of psychological disorders (like depression, bipolar, anxiety etc) actually is from getting more negative feedback than positive feedback on a regular basis. That many psychological disorders are, in fact, defense mechanisms against the negative assessments of community. Thus, pulling a child out of a negative environment actually can change basic brain chemistry. My kids will always have their atypicalities... but they do not show the enormous levels of anxiety nor the various coping mechanisms that were masking who they were, or, more, who they could be.
 

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My oldest, who is doing very well in the schooling system, was not always doing so well. We pulled him out in Grade 2, homeschooled him for two years and built him back up before he returned to school. Being out of a non supportive environment is essential, in my view, for growth.
 

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WHen you pulled him out did you think he would go back and thrive?
Honestly it seems .... Well I can't see a place where Little would go back to school and thrive, but as I said earlier I'm sure 'a year from now I will be in as much wonder as I am now, at how far he has come. Honestly I never thought he would ever be capable of doing some of the things he can do now'
Did you know your little would return to school and thrive when he first came home?
#littleblackdress ?
Anna
 

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Some psychologists theorize that the "trigger" for a lot of psychological disorders (like depression, bipolar, anxiety etc) actually is from getting more negative feedback than positive feedback on a regular basis. That many psychological disorders are, in fact, defense mechanisms against the negative assessments of community. Thus, pulling a child out of a negative environment actually can change basic brain chemistry.
Depression and anxiety are often co-morbid with autism, whether or not the person is in school. This is true for adults on the spectrum as well. Many adults with autism (including Temple Grandin) take anti-depressants in order to be functional.


My DD's diagnosis is PDD-NOS. We homeschooled in a relaxed way until she was 12. (I don't use the term "unschooled" because she was happier and more settled with gentle structure, but I started out with an unschooling philosophy). She was diagnosed with clinical depression and a social anxiety disorder at 12, before starting school. Starting school was yet another effort to figure out what would work for her.


Whether homeschooling or attending school is the right choice for a specific child at a specific point in their life depends on many, many factors. But helping a child with autism get through adolescence is tremendously difficult, far more so than I suspect many of the people posting on this thread realize. There are no easy answers. Pulling a student with a pervasive developmental disability out of a school isn't going to solve their pervasive developmental disability.


I have no idea whether or not homeschooling is the right choice for the OPer's child. But I do know that helping a teen with autism reach their potential, which includes learning to live in the world, is far more challenging that some of the posters are letting on.


My DD attended a traditional public school for 1 year. She then attended a private progress school for 2 1/2 years. (a bit like unschooling, but in a group situation with many chances to interact with other people). After that she started attending community college. She'll graduate with her associates in Dec. She drives, and she volunteers at a used book store. She is doing GREAT. But it wasn't easy, and it only happened because we continually pushed her past her comfort zone in her teen years.


I suspect that few (if any) teens with autism will learn to be functional, autonomous adults if allowed to only engage with things that are delightful and meaningful to them.



So, while I still don't know if homeschooling is the best option for the OPer, I strongly disagree with some of the advice on this thread that isn't based on a knowledge of autism. Because it really, really, really does make things different. The OPer needs to be concerned not just with academics, but with social skills and life skills, and developing independence and autonomy. They don't "just happen" for people with autism.
 

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It is very interesting that anxiety and depression are actually comorbid with ADHD, high IQ, Autism, DCD, Dyslexia... the list goes on and on and on. The theory that I was discussing was actually that the negative interactions are actually what cause the anxiety and depression in people who are "exceptional" - and yes - people with any sort of exceptionality will still be more likely to have more negative interactions even when away from school. But school is often one major source of negative interactions....
 

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The theory that I was discussing was actually that the negative interactions are actually what cause the anxiety and depression in people who are "exceptional" - and yes - people with any sort of exceptionality will still be more likely to have more negative interactions even when away from school. But school is often one major source of negative interactions....


While the idea that people who have a lot of negative interactions with others are more likely to experience anxiety and depression makes sense, I think applying to people with autism shows a gross misunderstanding of autism.


Many people with autism show signs of anxiety long before they are even diagnosed. They are fearful as babies, freak out as toddlers, and are frightened by every day things that most of us don't consider threatening. The notion that the anxiety starts later as a response to how they are treated shows a lack of understanding of what young children with autism are like. Anxiety is just a part of the package, not something that develops later.


(How intense my DD's anxiety is has ebbed and flowed over the years, but has been most intense during periods of intense growth and development, such a puberty).


Also, people with autism miss many social cues, which means that they actual miss a great deal of the societal disapproval sent their way. (Their siblings and parents aren't immune, though, so one could make a case that autism can lead to anxiety and depression in the immediate family members of the person with autism).


Last, people with autism have a lessened need for friends and reciprocal relationships than those without autism (almost by definition). Many people with autism really don't care what others think, at all. To a point that is almost disconcerting. The idea that they develop anxiety and depression because they are so hung on what other's think of them is really quite absurd. I'd go so far as to say that people who become anxious and depressed based on what others think of them DEFINATLY don't have autism.


I'm not discounting the idea that if a educational situation isn't working for a child, removing them from it is a good thing. I'm just saying that if they have autism, they will still have autism. Homeschooling doesn't cure autism.


And there are a whole lot of things that a teen with autism needs to learn step by step that most kids don't ever have to be taught. Some of those things mom cannot teach, because at this stage, they gotta learn independence and autonomy. Because if they don't, it isn't magically going to happen when they turn 18.
 

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for the op. What you might consider is joining some homeschooling and some unschooling groups specifically for kids with autism. I searched Facebook and found a few. I am actually a member of some Facebook groups for my kids' specific diagnoses, and, specifically for both homeschooling and unschooling. I love that I can learn from other parents who are ahead in the journey. I can also see what mistakes/progresses people have made, and where to go from there.

Linda is exactly right that this is your decision to make. One thing that helped me with my decision was knowing people who unschool their kids, some of whom had issues similar to my boys. In my city's homeschooling community, there are a lot of homeschooled kids with autism. I access them through Facebook closed homeschooling groups. During the summer you can meet up with people who are in a similar boat.
 
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