Why I chose to homeschool my child with high functioning Autism
When your child isn’t average, their schooling might not look very average either. Aging out of Early Intervention, at age 3, meant we would need to be included in public pre-k, or wait 2 more years (without services) hoping there were no regressions. Being accepted into special education was a hard-fought battle. When you have a child with High Functioning Autism, they tend to not qualify academically, or even under the autism diagnosis.
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This is our homeschooling story
My son was unable to remain qualified for SPED pre-k, as his only major deficits were social-emotional. The problem here is that most pre-schools will not accept these “problem behaviors” from students for long. I was fortunate enough to have a great pre-k that worked with us on managing Kekito’s anti-social outbursts and reactions. He remained there for their private kindergarten as well.
After moving back to Hawaii, I called the Student Services Coordinator and explained my son’s predicament: He was in kindergarten on the mainland, but in here, he was a 1st grader. I told him that I knew he was academically prepared for 1st grade, but probably not emotionally. He talked me through it all with a brief assessment of his skills and assured me that 1st grade was the right fit.
I anxiously, and excitedly dropped him off for his first day…. not even 2 hours my phone rang. He needed picking up. They decided to put him in special education full time while they re-evaluated. He flourished emotionally in there, while he was also somewhat alone socially.
IEPs and 504s
After re-evaluation, they found Keko to be ineligible for an IEP (that’s another long story of its own). They assured me a 504 was going to be just as effective at meeting his needs. Epic fail. Thinking the low-enrollment/underfunded school simply couldn’t support us, we moved homes to find a school with better funding and staffing. However, we never got back on an IEP; which meant we couldn’t access more than 6 hours of monthly ABA through insurance either.
Anger, frustration, and bullies, oh my!
Kekito experienced bullying frequently at the previous school, and the second wasn’t much better. I actively worked with the teachers, trying to figure out what we could do to alleviate the problem. I’m sure some situations resulted in over-reactions, but I witnessed much of the bullying. One kid even after got after me. The teacher was as stunned at the boldness of that particular kid as I was. The most frustrating part? My child was typically the one to receive consequences and yet classroom help remained withheld.
Deciding to homeschool
One day at church, my son drew a picture of himself acting out violently against his classmates. I can’t tell you how scarred he was becoming. I had been looking into homeschooling for a while and was so afraid to try it out. We found out we were moving to Las Vegas, so we finished the last month of school and kept looking into homeschool.
When we arrived at our new home, I asked the school whether I could volunteer full time in the classroom since we couldn’t have an aide. A district-wide policy mandated that parents couldn’t volunteer full time in the classroom.😞 I asked about ABA therapists sitting in. Hard noon that one too!
Specialists determined he had the social skills of a toddler. His last teacher believed he was academically accelerated even beyond his older peers (He was a year ahead because of the cutoff). He was, in some ways, both a kindergartener and a 3rd grader all at once… So we pushed forward with homeschool. I am so very glad that we did.
What about socialization?
This was my initial worry and continues to be everyone else’s. “Doesn’t he need to be around peers to practice his social skills? Isn’t that the problem; he isn’t social enough? When will he get practice?“
Short answer: No.
Long Answer: He still needs some opportunities to practice his social skills, and we give him those opportunities through church and playground time. We focus on quality over quantity.
Children with Autism have gaps in their developmental abilities. So, if you imagine their overall skills as a block of cheese, the social-emotional deficits make it Swiss. If this is the foundation you are trying to build on, it’s not going to be solid and strong. We are taking our time to fill in the foundational holes with smaller, lower stress, less frequent social gatherings. In our race to obtain social-emotional proficiency, we are the tortoise and we will get there eventually! We practice our social strategies daily, planning for success when we have a “real-life” opportunity to practice.
Jill is a Christian, homeschooler, "boy mom", and special needs parent. Jill, herself, has ADHD and has learned firsthand how adapting environments can be key to finding success! Her current mission is to empower parents whose desire is to homeschool their special needs children and helping them squash their self-doubt!
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