When my son was three-and-a-half, I took him for an evaluation through the local school district. The social worker said to me, “I understand why you’re concerned, but I can’t check off enough boxes for autism. His coping skills are good enough for now. My recommendation is to put him in a regular preschool room. Either they’ll never know he’s in the building, or his world will fall apart.”
His world fell apart.
It was probably the worst six weeks of our lives. Too much noise and too many kids overwhelmed my son’s system, turning him into someone else. I made the tough decision to put him into the developmental delay prechool room in the district.
It worked. A smaller class with a higher adult-to-child ratio provided my son with a better setting. BUT
But as is common with many kids on the autism spectrum, the teacher got the great kid and I dealt with the fallout. The second year was rough. Getting him onto the bus–a one-hour ride for a few miles–and dealing with him after school challenged me. I basically had to leave him alone for an hour after school to let him decompress. He eventually started bring home regressive behaviors.
I never intended to homeschool my children, despite my experience as an elementary classroom teacher. That year, when the regressive behaviors became too much, we pulled my son.
This is why I homeschool my son with special needs…
- To reduce regressive behaviors–The behavior of special needs kiddos often ebbs and flows. One month your child may be making fantastic progress in a specific area, and then the next you wonder where the progress went. In my son’s case, he was a big mimicker at the time and I’m guessing a little bored. He was reading small words and the class was learning colors. Thus he started mimicking other children and regressing in his behavior. He’d never been a rocker (using rocking as a self-stimulatory behavior to deal with excitement or for calming), but I remember distinctly one day he sat on the couch and started rocking, “Look, Mom! Look what so-and-so taught me to do.”
- To give him a better sensory environment–Many things in a regular classroom overwhelm children with sensory needs. My son’s ears hear things better than most people. Currently, his brother’s humming or tapping drives him crazy, even in another room. I cannot imagine him in a regular classroom with twenty to thirty other children, flourescent lights humming, posters to distract lining the walls, etc. He also went through two to three years of a crashing phase. He needed to crash on the couch or jump into a pile of blankets. You can’t really do that in a typical classroom.
- To give him a safe place to practice skills–Life often overwhelms children with special needs. When I homeschool, my son can practice new skills at home first. After he gains confidence, he can use those skills with a small set of people, perhaps even just one. Again, as he gains more confidence, I can expand the number of people he interacts with as he uses his new skill.
- To be able to move at his pace and modify–Homeschooling allows children of any ability to move at their own pace. You’ll often find students using materials in a variety of grade levels. When my son hits a roadblock like multiple-digit multiplication, I can step back. We can do fewer problems at a time. I can put one problem on a note card if I want. We can take a break from that topic and do some other kind of math. Likewise, when he is ahead in an area, that’s ok, too.
- To lower potential for bullying–Notice I did not say eliminate bullying. Bullies are everywhere, not just school. I know my son will face mean kids. Bullies often target kids with special needs, and by homeschooling him I reduce the amount of bullying he has to face.
- To utilize his interests–Kids on the autism spectrum often hone in on one or two special interests. Another great thing about homeschooling is that I can use my son’s interests across most subjects. If he’s stalling in math, I can create Minecraft math problems. He’ll easily sit down on his own to write a new Minecraft story. I’ve assigned Minecraft challenges to get him to illustrate something he’s learned or incorporate multiple skills in building something. Once he read a book on the Bismarck (a German ship during World War II) and I had him do a Venn diagram.
- To reduce anxiety–Anxiety runs high in kids with autism. In addition to the overwhelming sensory issues they deal with, they may have anxiety over social interaction, racing thoughts, and much more. Homeschooling offers him the ability to go in a different room and calm down, to get some essential oils or relax with Minecraft. I can help him work through anxiety throughout the day and teach him coping skills, such as deep breathing, prayer, and talking to himself about his anxiety. I can also stretch him when it’s appropriate. Be watching for an upcoming review of Dr. Temple Grandin’s new book The Loving Push (affiliate link).
I truly believe homeschooling is the best option for my son with autism. Teaching him at home provides me with opportunities to stretch and help him. I am able to utilize his interests. I can create an effective learning environment and reduce stress. My homeschool world is not perfect, but it is definitely a great way to educate my son.
If you’d like to read more about special needs homeschooling, check out these posts from my autism mom friends:
- Penny shares why she homeschools her son with autism.
- Jennifer shares the difference between special needs school-at-home and homeschooling.
- Shawna answers the question, “You homeschool?!”
- Jeri explains why she homeschools her son with severe autism.
Click on over to read expert Gabriella Volpe’s guest post to help you as you start homeschooling your child with special needs!
Why do you homeschool your child with special needs or why are you considering it? Tell me in the comments!
Need some help with special needs homeschooling? I’ve got some resources for you. If you choose to purchase, I make a small commision at no cost to you.
I recommend you grab a copy of Homeschool Made Easy by Lea Ann Garfias and The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles by Carol Barnier. The first is a developmental approach to homeschooling and will reduce your anxiety. The second gives you an abundance of ideas for out-of-the-box teaching, sorted by subject. Even if you homeschool, you will find The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities & More! extremely helpful. Another book I expect to be great but have not read is Special Education At Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-the-Box Learners by Shawna Wingert.
I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents! Just click the picture below and I’ll send it to you for FREE!
Save your sanity!
Make your life easier with this FREE survival guide for special needs parents!