An Exclusive Look at AUTISM With Julie Polanco
Encouragement speaker Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM Interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word AUTISM to give readers an insightful perspective from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
Today’s AUTISM Interview is with Julie Polanco who is the author of God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn. In Julie’s new book she tackles homeschooling myths head-on. Do preschoolers need a formal curriculum? How do you get Johnny to do what you ask? What is the best way to get your teen ready for adulthood? Get God Schooling and find out.
Julie is the parent of four children, one with an Asperger’s diagnosis and one with many Aspie traits (diagnosed with sensory, social, and regulation issues). The other two both have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For more information about Julie Polanco, please visit www.juliepolancobooks.com
A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
With my diagnosed daughter, one of the first incidents I remember was when she was about two or three years old. She was playing with her older brother and sister. They were climbing around on top of some tables and boxes, trying to keep their feet off the ground, crying out that boiling lava would burn them.
They were pretending, and anyone could see that there was only the tile below them. But, Elena screamed and cried in fear. After that, I observed that she didn’t play with dolls. She dressed them up and set them in “scenes,” but unless her older sister provided the imaginary play, Elena didn’t seem to know what to do with them.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been Unique for you and your child?
Well, Elena has three siblings, which is unusual. She and her siblings are also homeschooled, which is probably even more unique. The two older siblings have an ADHD diagnosis, so it has been challenging for me and provided me with insight into the differences between the two. Having siblings with ADHD both helps and hurts a child with Asperger’s, but the benefits outweigh the negatives.
The creativity, spontaneity, and activity level of her siblings helped her develop some imagination, learn to be flexible and tolerant, and more. The negative is that, while they provide a lot of social interaction and help with that, kids with ADHD have their own social challenges.
T is for Tools
What tools are there now that were not there in the beginning that could help other parents?
Many tools are designed for children attending school. I have used more generic tools, like magnets for daily routines and checklists and bins for school-related tasks. I have also used sensory-based learning in our homeschool by incorporating many hands-on activities. My daughter loves making her own slime and playing with it. However, I do not use a lot of specific tools and am not really aware of new ones.
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I is for Inspire
As a parent when you look at your child or children what inspires you?
Seeing the person that she has become inspires me. She is now 14 years old and started her own cheesecake business with a friend. She developed a website, business plan, blogs; you name it! She has a group of friends who accept and love her, she exudes confidence and spunk, and believes she can do anything she wants to. I am so proud of her.
S is for Support
Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with and what types of support do you still need?
Being a homeschooling parent of a child with Asperger’s can be lonely. It is a different experience than other homeschooling parents on top of just being different from the norm in general. While most issues are in the past, things still come up, especially with her younger brother. At age 11, he still shows more sensory and anxiety issues than she does, even though he did not receive a diagnosis. It feels like I’m parenting two Aspies and almost no one knows what that’s like.
M is for Manage
What keys to success can you leave with parents so that they can better manage their day to day efforts?
The things that have helped me the most as a homeschooling parent are: Alert the children a day ahead of any trips or appointments and remind them again just before bedtime; respect sensory issues and do not insist on taking them to places they don’t want to go just so they can have an “educational experience” (for example, don’t take a child to the loud theater just to have the cultural experience of seeing a play.
Maybe try outdoor theater instead or just forget it); always allow them to have a say in daily plans; do not force the “friends” thing, just be sure to get them out of the house and the desire for friends often takes care of itself.
This article was featured in Issue 88 – Knowledge is Power