Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a former elementary school teacher who had no desire to homeschool. However, the six weeks my son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) spent in a regular preschool were the worst six weeks of our lives. He became a completely different child. Moving to a developmental delay preschool room helped, but when he started bringing home regressive behaviors, we decided it was time to pull him out and start homeschooling.
I’m so thankful we did.
Sometimes spectrum parents are afraid to pull their child from brick-and-mortar educational institutions. That is understandable. Let me share the benefits of homeschooling with you to help you make an informed decision.
1. Reduction in sensory stimuli
When you homeschool, you can create a calmer environment for your child. You can also incorporate sensory coping mechanisms, such as using a yoga ball instead of a desk chair, reading upside down, or studying while covered in blankets.
2. Smaller class size
For many ASD kids, the larger the class size, the greater the anxiety.
3. Food and medical issues can be monitored more effectively
This sounds obvious, but it does help. You can know what foods your child has eaten and can see if there are any reactions. Medical challenges can be watched constantly. When a child feels better, he/she can learn better.
4. Opportunity to practice life skills at home and in real situations
Life skills are a big part of homeschooling for children on the spectrum. Neurotypical people don’t realize how many steps it takes to accomplish what appears to be a simple task. Your ASD child doesn’t think of all of those steps. So, you get to teach him how to work through each step of taking a shower from beginning to end. She learns at home which adults are safe, how to introduce herself to a grownup helper, and how to ask for help. Then, she can practice her new skills at the museum you frequent.
5. Less bullying and peer pressure
We can’t keep our kids away from all bullying since it happens in all places, not just school. But homeschooling drastically reduces the amount of peer pressure and bullying your child will experience. You can also walk him through interactions at the playground, for example, to help him learn when to stand up for himself and when to let things go.
6. Work on weaknesses at your child’s pace
Is your child behind in reading or math? Does he have low muscle tone? The beauty of homeschooling is working at your child’s pace. If you need to spend more time on occupational therapy instead of academic work, or vice versa, that’s ok.
7. Move ahead in strong areas
On the flip side, working at your child’s pace will improve his/her strengths. Does your daughter already know all her multiplication facts? Skip ahead! Is your son a zoology expert? Move on to a different science.
8. Teach to learning style and interests
When you teach your child at home, you have more freedom to incorporate activities that don’t work in a typical classroom with a group of children. You can do much more hands-on learning. Additionally, you can incorporate your child’s special interests into all content areas. Use Lego bricks to make models of body parts or illustrate historical events. Build an entire unit around airplanes or doll making, adding in math, science, history, reading, and writing.
9. More movement
Most autism spectrum kids are not going to sit at a desk most of the day without issue. Teaching at home allows your child to work on the floor instead of sitting in a chair, to bury under a pile of blankets for sensory input while using a clipboard for a workspace, or to jump on a trampoline while reviewing math facts. You can take lessons outside and use sidewalk chalk or sticks in the mud.
10. Ability to learn social skills in a safe place
Homeschooling offers your child more success in social situations. That sounds counter-intuitive, right? Here’s why it’s true: your child can learn a new social skill with you at home. Then she can practice with siblings. Next she can practice with a neighbor or a librarian. Finally, she can use her skills in a larger group, at a library story time with other children, or on the playground. Starting small offers your child more success and less frustration.
As you can see, homeschooling offers a variety of benefits for your child. A calmer, customized setting where your child can move faster or slower through material helps him/her succeed. Practicing numerous skills at home in a safe environment boosts confidence and increases chances of success when out in the “real world.” May this list help you as you weigh the pros and cons of homeschooling for your family!
Jenny Herman is a special needs homeschool mom, author, and social media freelancer. She writes from the trenches, hoping to give encouragement and practical ideas. Though she would not have chosen to be an autism mom, Jenny is thankful to be able to use her experience to help other families. Her motto is “just keep swimming.”
This article was featured in Issue 50 – The Homeschooling Revolution