Does the mention of high-functioning autism ring a bell? Many famous individuals have it, three-time Oscar winner Woody Allen and even Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. A mild form of autism, patients of high functioning autism exhibit no intellectual disability, except difficulty in social and emotional interaction with others. For many parents, choosing to homeschool such children is something that they are reluctant to do. So, high functioning autism and homeschooling.. Should you or should you not? We’ll cover the pros and cons in this post.
Getting started: should you homeschool your child if they have high-functioning autism?
If you decide to homeschool, how do you start? As the first step is often the hardest, begin by researching. There are plenty of options for you to do your research like reading books, surfing websites for homeschoolers or children with special needs, and contacting local homeschoolers to check which one suits your child’s condition the best.
The best way to kickstart your child’s educational journey is to let them learn on their own. For instance, you can start your child’s homeschooling journey by providing a comfortable classroom setting for him or her. Also, you can decorate the classroom with colorful posters and pictures to lighten up the learning atmosphere. Putting them in a class full of rowdy kids is totally out of the question since most high functioning autistic children relapse and become socially inept at the sight of people.
As high functioning autistic children learn best through personal interest and hobbies, parents can devise a customized curriculum for the child. For example, a child is interested in music and wants to play the piano. If buying a piano is too costly, start with a class on music appreciation, where they’ll learn things like who recently won the Grammy’s or which classical music composer composed The Moonlight Sonata.
It is also crucial for parents to seek the best therapists and work closely with them. The best therapists are available in the right places if you know where to look. These people are a crucial part of your child’s learning journey as they have the credentials and skills to assess your child’s learning situation. A qualified therapist can help your child in their speech, social skills, and fine motor skills. These should be the main focus early on since they are the basis towards achieving optimum learning.
Parents can attend workshops about autism that provide them an insight into the different learning styles like Applied Behaviour Analysis, or exchange knowledge with other like-minded parents to help improve their child’s behavior and development.
Sometimes, public education is given priority over homeschooling due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, parents want their children to socialize with peers of their similar age. Knowing how socially inept their children are in social situations, parents think that public schools will provide their children with a good teacher who can guide and nurture them. Many parents assume that public school teachers will be partial and treat their children well just because of their special needs. However, the reality is that most teachers in public schools do not have the time to do so due to overcrowding in class.
Due to that, your child will not receive the right amount of attention that he or she needs. Imagine being in a rowdy class of 40 students, with the poor teacher screaming at the top of her lungs trying to get the class under control. And this is before they even get to teach anything. Also, the poor ventilation in an overcrowded classroom can increase the likelihood of triggering your child and stress him out. But most importantly, most public school teachers do not have special training to handle an autistic child. It takes years of training to be qualified to teach children with autism spectrum disorders.
Is homeschooling for autism even a legal option?
Homeschooling for a child with autism is legal in most states; as long it complies with procedures. Due to loopholes in the public education system, more parents choose homeschooling as a second option. Studies have shown that homeschooling is one of the best ways to nurture your child’s education since no one knows your child better than you do. The deep bond and understanding between parent and child have made homeschooling a hit and success among the special needs community.
Renowned advocate for autism Temple Grandin said that growing up as an autistic child has taught her to understand the disability even more. According to Grandin, she thinks in terms of visuals instead of languages. Just like a videotape, her thoughts keep on running in her mind.
Since autistic people such as Grandin learn through visuals, parents who homeschool can utilize this concept in their children’s learning process. For example, physical demonstration such as taking a toy airplane and having it taken off the desk when teaching the word “up”.
A homeschool program is flexible, less rigid, and lets your child do things at his or her own pace. Also, your child will fit in well doing what he or she likes best at the comforts of their own home.
There are many benefits of homeschooling a child with autism. The most obvious one is that the learning environment has fewer distractions and fewer stressors. These distractions may come in the form of a noisy classroom full of children or even something as simple as the school bell ringing. Homeschooling also means that your child can study at his or her own pace, away from the monotonous and rigid curriculum in public schools. Due to that, the child is less stressed out and has more time to concentrate on other fun sensory activities such as art and music.
One of the issues faced by autistic children at school is none other than being bullied. If a child was bullied at school, homeschooling provides a safe haven since parents can watch over and protect their child. Since the learning process of homeschooling is between parent to child, the child does not have to worry about having bullies lurking around which is obvious as there is no socialization among peers.
Most autistic children do not fit well to the standard curriculum as opposed to regular kids. The benefits of homeschooling is that all aspects of education can be individualized to fit the child’s needs. For example, a musically inclined child will rather participate in a music appreciation class than follow along with wacky science experiments.
Besides that, appropriate socialization can be modeled by parents and taught as part of the curriculum. Parents can teach their children how to interact and communicate with others. For example, how to break away from stereotypes despite being a special needs child. Homeschooling doesn’t mean a child is a social nerd who stays and sits at home all day. For that, parents can try role-playing to help their children gain confidence in difficult social situations such as speaking to a bunch of friends or delivering a speech in front of a crowd.
Homeschooling also allows a child plenty of time to go for therapies and take frequent breaks. Due to the flexible nature of homeschooling, a child can time off whenever they need to see their therapist or doctor. Besides that, a child can take frequent breaks just to let off steam or unwind themselves after a long day of studying.
The Disadvantages Of Homeschooling
There are a few disadvantages of homeschooling a child.
- Not every family has the availability or financial ability to homeschool. For example, busy families who need to work and do not have time to take off for their child. Also, not every parent can afford to quit their job full time, especially cash-strapped families who have many mouths to feed. In certain cases, homeschooling results in failed marriages among couples as either parent cannot cope with the frustrations of teaching a special needs child.
- Not every parent is trained to homeschool a special needs child. In reality, most parents are only equipped to teach basic stuff such as Maths, English, and Science which beats the purpose of the homeschooling system. For example, do you know the right way to placate a stubborn child? Are you in tune with his or her moods, temperaments, and random tantrums? Teaching itself is very emotionally taxing, and trying to juggle that and being a parent can be too much for most people.
- Homeschooling does not encourage socialization among peers since most of the time, a child is only alone with their parent cum teacher. Due to that, this will lead to isolation where a child will feel left out because he or she does not have any friends to talk to.
In a nutshell, homeschooling for high functioning autism could work well provided that it is done the right way. First through proper research, second through proper background checking, and third through connections with the right people. The most important thing when it comes to homeschooling is for parents to strike a balance between work and play. If successful people such as Bill Gates can make it in life with their disability, this shows that your child is no different either. After all, autism doesn’t define a person, but it’s the character of a person that defines them.