Monday, April 4, 2011

Homeschooling with Asperger's Syndrome

Before we married, my husband and I knew we wanted to homeschool any children we may have.  At the time, our reasons were primarily religious.  But now I can see great benefit in homeschooling for other reasons, too.  Particularly if the children are on the autism spectrum!

I certainly do not believe homeschooling is the "only" or even the best option for every family.  Parents who seriously personally struggle with self-discipline, self-control, and with lovingly instructing their own children should probably not homeschool.  But mere "fear" of not knowing enough, not having enough patience, not having the strength . . . those characteristics can, and will, all be developed along the way.  There are many, many step-by-step helps out there for schedules, curriculum and more.  So don't let a feeling of being unqualified stop you from homeschooling.  Reading, Writing, and 'Rithmetic are the basic necessities to focus on in the younger years.  Once you get into higher learning (chemistry, physics, and such), there are often co-ops, tutors, and other classes available outside of the home.  But I digress.

For the family with an autistic child, homeschooling has unparalleled benefits.  These include:
1.  Avoiding bullies and avoiding being made to feel 'stupid', 'weird', or worse, by immature peers.
2.  Time (hours and hours and hours of it) to pursue one's special interest and hobbies.  If desired, all subjects of the school day can be designed to revolve around the child's special interest.  Learning can be fun and interesting.  The child can truly become an expert in his field of interest without the gobs of wasted time involved in the typical school day.
3.  Ability of the family to introduce a wide variety of educational material in many forms.  This includes an incredible opportunity for various educational field trips.  Also enables encouraging the in-depth study of many different subjects, in hopes of the child finding more special interests along the way.
4.  Time for therapies and extra-curricular activities.
5.  Allowing the child to move at his own pace without being held back where they excel, or made to feel stupid in areas where they struggle.  One of my children is three years ahead in reading, and a year behind in math.  And that's totally okay and they are not in a 'special ed' class because of it.
6.  Avoidance of the battles for IEPs, after-school homework (there's plenty of time in a regular day to get all the sit-down schoolwork done, ya know), teacher meetings, school fundraisers, and all the other worries and hassles parents must suffer when their children are in school (glad to say I don't even know all that is involved).
7.  One-on-one instruction in a sensory stable (and diet-controlled) environment.  Less distractions.  Less trauma.  Less pain.  Less frustration.

At a recent live presentation, I heard a mom ask Mr. Robison (author of "Look Me in the Eye") if he was opposed to homeschooling for children on the spectrum.  He responded that he was NOT opposed to it, as long as the child was involved with a 'pack' of children . . . like in extracurricular activities or other homeschool group activities or classes. 

Isolation can be detrimental for a child on the spectrum, as he won't have the opportunity for practicing social skills in a group.  But in today's homeschooling scene, groups are very, very easy to find.  The argument about a lack of socialization holds very little water for the vast majority of the homeschoolers of this decade.  In homeschooling circles, as our packs of children are happily mingling together,  we parents heartily laugh at the absurdity of such an argument.  :)

In an autism parent support group I attended, the conversation revolved around how sullen, sad, lonely, and bullied their children were because of the peers in their schools.  It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear.  I came away more certain than ever that our decision to devote so much hard work, time, energy, and money to homeschooling was the right thing for us to do. 

My homeschooled children are happy.  Seriously happy.  NOT bullied by their peers.  Part of a pack of children.  Enjoying extracurricular activities.  And they have oodles of time to pursue their special interests.  Learning is fun for them and not considered geekish or strange.  It's life.  For our family, homeschooling is a very, very good thing.


  1. I'd love to ask you something. How did you go about finding the right curriculum? I'm an Aspie, and I can follow a curriculum if it's spelled out for me. But actually creating my own is almost impossible....I haven't figured that out yet.

  2. Hi Marisa,

    Honestly there are now countless resources out there. If you google you can find samples of different curriculum.

    If you want everything spelled out for you, make sure the examples they provide are clear and easy to understand. There are also several available that include DVDs where the child learns by watching a TV teacher! Parental supervision can be very minimal if that is what you prefer.

    There are "workbook" curriculum also (like Horizons), where the child's work is 100% going through workbooks for the different subjects and you just read the directions to them and then check their work with the teacher's answer key.

    If you want the year's supplies shipped to you in one box from one company you can go that route. Or you can pick and choose from different groups. Or everything can be done by the child on a computer (Switched on Schoolhouse is one example).

    And you can always change year by year or even mid-year if you find something you think would be a better fit. Some people prefer to have NO structure and they do what is called "Unschooling" where the child studies whatever their special interest is and there is no standardized testing done until pre-college (though some states have requirements for testing to be done at certain set times).

    Be sure to find out the legal requirements for your area and join a support group as you first get started to get advice from others in the local area.

    Homeschooling can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be! We really love it. :)

  3. Do you have any sites for home-schooling mothers that have Aperger's? I'm a high functioning Aspie and I home-school all 4 of my children-only one who seems to have Asperger's. There are no websites for supporting Aspie mothers, only 'regular' mothers with Aspie children. My biggest issues are that I have an IQ of 174, degrees in Physics and Chemistry (and oddly enough, horse science) and while I don't have a degree, I excel in writing/English grammar. But to teach my children, one as I said-has not been professionally diagnosed-Aspie, one a little slow, and two possible gifted students, is terribly hard. I'd just like to know if there are other moms who have Asperger's who home-school their child/ren.

  4. Hi, I know an aspie homeschooling mama who thrived at creating a very strict structured learning for her kids... A set schedule she would rarely deviate from and she loved it. Her aspie kid thrived... her NT kid needed something different though... more social activities, creative outlets (art classes and such). So she eventually learned to flex a bit.

    But if it overwhelms you, I would recommend something like virtual schooling (through your public school system, but all done at home on computer), or buying Switched on Schoolhouse which is all done on computer and the parent is able to go in and see progress/test results.

    The most important thing is to be a cheerful, happy mom who shares a love for learning. Do whatever it takes for that to be the case. Maybe you personally teach just those subjects you are passionate about, and buy a computer program for the other subjects.

    Don't do things that overload you. It's okay to say "This is NOT the best thing for my kids and me!" and admit you aren't made for homeschooling.

    Hope this helps!