Home Schooling a child with Autism

Home Schooling a child with Autism – I’m often asked the question “what is the best thing about home schooling a child with autism?” It’s a hard one to answer because for us, the advantages of home schooling are huge. There were many and varied reasons as to why we embarked on the home schooling journey almost 3 years ago. That perhaps is a story for another day. But to answer the question I thought I’d put into categories the top 3 advantages we find to home schooling a child on the spectrum. There are a lot more than 3 but we have to start somewhere! Here we go…

Advantage #1- Moving to Learn

Like many children on the spectrum, my son needs to constantly move. Movement helps him to organise thoughts and assists in communication. According to my son it just plain old helps him think. Sadly but completely understandably there never seemed enough opportunities for movement within a classroom setting. Without that movement my son couldn’t organise his thoughts and would become fidgety and lose concentration. Not ideal when you’re trying to learn.

However in the home school environment he can move as much as required. Many of our most successful learning moments have taken place on the trampoline or on the bungee swing. We use items such as the scooter board for when concentration is poor as this heavy work revs up the vestibular system. My son will often pace backwards and forwards while trying to plan narratives or recall historical events. Like he said, it just plain old helps him think.
The sky’s the limit in terms of how much movement you want to bring into your home school day and how you want to implement it. Developing new ways to move and learn also greatly improves my own creativity and breaks the potential monotony of teaching day in day out.

Advantage #2- Capitalising on Their Learning Style

Our son is the quintessential kinaesthetic learner. In other words learns best through hands-on activities and movement. A tactile learner if you will. Home school provides endless opportunities to support his particular learning style. Rather than listening to information or reading information the kinaesthetic learner wants to actually “do” what’s being talked about or learned.

This is marvellous when it comes to science experiments and art projects but becomes a little trickier when trying to teach maths and literacy. Like most school classrooms we too have invested in a lot of educational games and devices. The use of dinosaur counters, weighing scales, fraction boards, moveable clocks and Cuisenaire rods play a vital role in cementing basic maths principals. Numbers start to mean something when you can physically add and subtract them. When it comes to handwriting and spelling we take opportunities to write in sand and shaving cream or make letters out of plasticine. A great set of magnetic alphabet tiles is also worth its weight in gold.
Once again the opportunities are endless in the home school environment to really support the kinaesthetic learner in all areas of the curriculum.

Advantage #3- Reducing Sensory Overload

The busy, modern classroom was just too overloading for our boy. Many children thrive in big group learning situations with plenty of productive noise and visual stimulation. Our son was not one of those kids. The majority of his classroom meltdowns could usually be traced back to sensory overload.

Home schooling gave us some control over his environment and gave us the flexibility to choose which days we could push him and which days to wrap him in cotton wool. Well, actually we’d wrap him in a weighted blanket but you know what I mean. It’s important that our kids are given opportunities to challenge themselves socially and environmentally but it’s hugely important to pick those times appropriately otherwise the opportunity becomes counterproductive. As the saying goes, “Don’t teach a child to swim when they are drowning.”

Some mornings our son needs to nestle into his orange cocoon after undergoing another manic morning trying to get his sister to the bus on time. Missing shoes, forgotten library books and shrill cries of “you’ll be late!” Thankfully in the home school environment he can take a moment to decompress rather than join in the madness and escalate to the point of explosion like he previously used to. Aarrghhh, I shudder at the memories.
So all in all, I guess they are our top 3 home schooling reasons in a nut shell. The decision to home school was not taken lightly and there are a myriad of pros and cons to work through before embarking on such a mammoth undertaking.But with the right educational resources and plenty of support it certainly can be a successful journey.

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