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source: Lance Neilson

The Benefits of Homeschooling Your Child with Autism

The following post is from Angie of Many Little Blessings: The Benefits of Homeschooling Your Child with Autism

The first time I became aware of homeschooling was when I was in college studying to be a teacher.  I recall thinking that it was a ridiculous idea.  When I started having children, however, it became a lifestyle choice that I could see merit in.  Still, I knew it just wasn’t something for me or my family.

It wasn’t until our eldest son, who has a form of high-functioning autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, started school that I started seriously considering the option of homeschooling.  As he began second grade in school, it became obvious to me that, for our family, the benefits of homeschooling our child with autism (and our other children as well) far outweighed the cons.

Individualized Pace

While this is really a homeschooling benefit for all children, it is especially welcome for children with autism.  For some children with autism, the inability to keep up with the pace of a classroom or to get too far ahead can become a trigger for anxiety or unwanted behaviors.

The individualized pace was actually one of our deciding factors for homeschooling.  While we were considering the idea, our then second-grade son said, “I just wish I had time to finish my work.  Every time I finally really start working, the teacher says it’s time to put it away so we can start on the next thing.  I just want to finish something.”

I figured that if my eight-year-old son could give me such a concrete reason for wanting to be homeschooled, it would be worth it.

Time for Private (Non-school based) Therapies

In some areas, getting appointments to see therapists for occupational, physical, and speech therapies can be hard.  When you have the flexibility to make daytime appointments without the concern of pulling your child out of school for hours each week, it can make it much more manageable to do multiple private therapies a week.

In addition to the availability of private therapy, when you take your child to private therapy instead of only school-based therapy, the therapist can work with your child on issues that don’t fit under the umbrella of school-based therapy.  This also means that you will be able to decide on the treatment types your child receives in a more active way than when they only receive school-based therapies.

Ability to Control the Environment

At home, you can make sure that your child with autism has an ideal work area for their needs.  This might be a very quiet space, an area with nothing on the walls, or a room free of fluorescent lights (which can be common in classrooms).  Environment makes a huge difference for many children with autism, which will probably positively affect their work and mood.

Since I want my son to be able to work in less-than-ideal conditions as well, we have worked on it being okay for his siblings to be making noise when he is doing work.  However, on a subject like math (which can be especially difficult for him to stay on task for), his siblings know it’s not a time for loud schoolwork or practicing their instruments.

Sleep Schedules Become Less of an Issue

It is not unusual for children with autism to have difficult sleep schedules.  Although we have not gotten to the point where our son sleeps very normal hours, waking up for school early in the morning used to be a challenge every single day.  For some children with autism, this can make them have a great deal of difficulty at school.

Appropriate Challenges

As your child’s parent, you have the privilege of knowing them better than almost anyone else knows them.  Because of this intimate knowledge, you have the unique perspective of being able to pinpoint which challenges to push them on, and which to ease into more gradually.

In our experience with having our son with autism in public school prior to homeschooling, we found that he often wasn’t required to do things that he didn’t want to do while at school.  While this sounds like it could be an ideal situation, it’s not.

Our son learned that all he had to do was politely say, “No, thank you,” and since he was such a likable kid, teachers and aides would allow him to sit out on things like gym class, art projects, and many other experiences.

On the other hand, my husband and I will often use some serious coercion to participate in new experiences that we know won’t hurt him and that he’ll likely enjoy if he just tried them.  He has become more well-rounded for it and has a larger set of life experiences than if he was able to spend his day saying, “No, thank you.”

If you have a child with autism, what benefits would you add to this list?

Angie, a domestically-challenged writer and artist, is a homeschooling mom to three children. She writes about everything that happens in their lives between all the loads of laundry at Many Little Blessings. She is also the founder of The Homeschool Classroom, Catholic Mothers Online, and Just a Tiny Owl.