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Homeschooling your child with autism

Homeschooling your child with autism

Every child with autism has different needs that are unique to them and their families. This is often why the school system and educators have a difficult time creating programs for children with autism that are fit to each child’s needs. 

If your school district is unable to meet your child’s individual needs, you may be considering whether or not you should homeschool your child, even if it isn’t for the duration of their full schooling. 

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide about homeschooling your child with autism, and hope you find it useful for deciding if it is a good option for your family.

The public and private school setting

Ideally, every child should receive an individualized education plan and experience. 

However, while schools are required to provide free education that is appropriate for and designed around children’s needs at different ages and stages of development, public and private schools alike have limited resources.

There are several factors that contribute to why the traditional school classroom may not be the best setting for children with autism:

  • For some children, no school setting may be ideal. Children in school are expected to act differently at different times throughout the school day, like in the classroom or during recess. Teachers in each classroom have different sets of rules, expectations, and schedules for their classes. Additionally, social expectations and environments change over the course of the day. All of these factors may be overwhelming for children with autism as the school setting can be loud and feel crowded. 
  • Different learning styles are not adjusted to or catered towards children with autism in the school setting. Most classrooms use a verbal learning style while many children with autism tend to be spatial, mathematical, and visual learners. 
  • Children with autism are more likely to be bullied in a school setting. Children who experience bullying can have their confidence affected as well as their experience in school. 
  • Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) should consider your child’s strengths, your concerns regarding your child’s education, the results of their most recent evaluation, academic, developmental, and functional needs, and special accommodations based on your child’s needs. However, children sometimes are not able to dive into their areas of interest or build on their current strengths due to the classroom setting and environment.  

Benefits of homeschooling

Homeschooling costs time and energy. If you are a parent or guardian of a child with autism in a home-school permitted state and have the necessary resources like: time, money, and energy, homeschooling can be a great option for your family.

Here are a few of the main benefits of homeschooling your child with autism:

  • Personalized Experience  - Parents are able to tailor their children’s experiences with different activities, based on their needs and interests. This can mean taking sports lessons at your local YMCA, educational museum trips, and time for outdoor activities.
  • Tailored Learning - Being able to personalize learning for your child is a big benefit that comes from homeschooling - one not found in the traditional classroom setting. Parents are able to tailor lessons around their child’s strengths and interests. For example, parents can use their child’s favorite toy or activity to assist them in learning how to count, read, or draw, etc.
  • Added Support - Parents can help children through difficult episodes and are able to provide support in different community settings. For example, a child may enjoy putting a puzzle together if their parent is present and able to help them pick one out.
  • Skill Development - Many children with autism are extremely skilled in certain areas. Sometimes, schools are not able to support skill and talent development due to limited resources. Parents are able to foster their children’s interests and talents with dance lessons, computer classes, art activities, etc.
  • Community Support - Parents can seek out support from local disability groups, locally or online. Additionally, families can meet other families with children with autism through local organizations. Children are able to socialize with other children with autism through these groups.
  • Holistic Learning Environment - Parents and caregivers who homeschool their children are able to create an autism-friendly learning environment with lower noise levels, a personalized, steady pace, and shorter learning sessions, instead of longer classes.

Homeschooling challenges

The traditional school setting may be stressful and overwhelming for some children with autism. Every child with autism is different, and the homeschool setting may pose its own different challenges from the traditional school setting, depending on your child’s and your family’s needs. 

  • Many children with autism require additional support in learning to socialize with other people and in completing their work.
  • Children with autism will need additional therapy outside of homeschooling. These should be tracked and managed appropriately by parents.
  • Children with autism may have difficulty learning and developing skills without the direct ability to learn through imitation. 
  • Parents may find it difficult to garner support through their community and in finding organizations or groups that are willing to help your family or befriend your child.

Moreover, your child may find the transition to homeschooling much easier and may feel an immediate lift after being used to the sensory overload and minimal attention and support in the traditional classroom setting.

You may be surprised by your child’s progress in a short period of time, especially after personalizing their homeschooling experience and lessons through their interests and skills.

How to make a decision

Many families choose to homeschool their child with autism, even if not for the full duration of their school career. Homeschooling children with autism isn’t the right choice for everyone, however it can be a great option for families. 

We’ve put together a quick checklist below to see if homeschooling your child is the right choice for your family:

  • There is at least one parent in your family who is able to dedicate their time daily to homeschooling your child.
  • The parent of your child genuinely wants to build a homeschooling lesson plan and program that supports your child’s needs.
  • Your child and you or their caregiver enjoy spending long hours with one another.
  • Your family has the allocated finances to support homeschooling your child with autism. Dwindling funds can put a strain on the family.
  • Your child is very excited to start homeschooling or is unhappy with the traditional school setting, thus being open to changes in their learning environment.
  • You feel confident that your child can excel in a homeschool setting.
  • Local and district regulations make homeschooling an option for you. Please note that some regulations are highly restrictive.

Said yes to most of the statements above? Then, it sounds like homeschooling can be a great option for your child and family!

Getting started

To best support your child with autism, making a clear, actionable plan that includes the right tools and support team is important. 

Some parents and guardians who homeschool their children advocate for a loose structure for homeschooling in order to foster their childrens’ interests and independence. Please note that this type of environment may be difficult for children with autism, especially for learning.

Children with autism often thrive on routine and need structure to support their growth and skill development. 

Below are a few of our tips for getting started on homeschooling your child with autism. 

  • Make organization a priority - It’s important to keep in mind that children with autism often need structure and routine. Write down your homeschooling schedule to stay on top of your child’s day-to-day activities, and plan in advance for when you need outside support from your community or your child’s care team. 
  • Factor in your child’s preferred learning style - Prior to homeschooling your child, take time to observe your child in a learning environment to best understand their learning style. Often, children with autism prefer direct instruction and hands-on learning and also require repetition and practice in order to effectively learn a new skill or concept. 
  • Be patient with your child and yourself - Make sure to set realistic expectations for your family when homeschooling your child. When working one on one with your child, remember that this hands-on, personalized learning approach goes a long way. Start by sticking to what works for your child and then slowly introduce other activities or lessons.
  • Take a well-rounded approach - Oftentimes, the traditional classroom setting only addresses academic or social needs of children. Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to have a more well-rounded approach. Including both academic and social programs for your child that can help with specific skill development and can help foster your child’s interests.

Helpful resources

  • School district help - Even if a child is being homeschooled, their district is still responsible for them, especially when there is a good chance the child will be returning to the district in-person after being homeschooled. Districts can help provide support to therapists, after school programs, or specific classes.
  • Online help - You can search “homeschooling autism” to get access to several books and blogs that cover teaching styles, ideas for socialization and programs, and more. 
  • Local community programs - As your child’s advocate and homeschooler, you’ll be able to participate in other programs that your child may not have had the access or time for previously. This includes programs at your local YMCA which are known to be inclusive, as well as local programs and museum trips. This opens up opportunities for your child to learn and interact with others, more so than in a traditional school setting.

Homeschooling can be emotional, costly, and time consuming. As your child’s parent or caregiver, your child’s growth and development is also dependent upon the types of programs you have laid out for them as well as patience. 

Make sure to get the whole family’s input before pulling your child out of the classroom and starting homeschooling. 

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