Do you feel like every day is Autism Awareness day in your house? Many parents feel this way. Rebecca Ruiz, past member of the Special Needs Advisory Board for HECOA says, "It feels even more so because we are homeschooling."
When you first take your autistic child out of public school you might feel scared and doubtful as Rebecca did, afraid that you might fail them. "I had to come to the realization that there is no one way to homeschool a child – any child – and there is no right or wrong way either," she says. With children on the autism spectrum though, you may have to think outside the box on how to approach curriculum, support groups, and even how to navigate through a homeschool convention.
Rebecca encourages parents by stating, "Eventually your doubts and fears will fade like mine did. An autistic child may never be fully on grade level, whatever that means, but he or she can learn at their own pace and much more comfortably at home. It’s definitely not easy. We have our bad days, but we have awesome days as well!"
Some of Rebecca's tips:
First, take your time! Read books about homeschooling special needs children, try different approaches and different schedules. Don’t get frustrated if something isn’t working. Eventually your doubts and fears will fade like mine did.
Incorporate sensory activities into your schoolwork and sensory breaks throughout the day. This really does help with focus and attention. My son’s interests are definitely not the same as most kids his age, but we use his interests to help make learning fun. It’s ok to change interests and methods right along with getting older.
Many parents with special needs kids ask about socialization when it comes to homeschooling them. Rebecca says, "That’s one I’ve had to work with in different ways. My son prefers to be alone. He’s ok not having friends. Some parents may or may not be okay with this, and may feel children need good friends in their life." Rebecca and her son started off joining a social skills group, then worked with specific learning materials and social-modeling resources. "I feel he gets more help with social skills in natural settings, than in a group specifically for that," she says, "I also use Michelle Garcia Winner’s books to work with him at home. And also, video modeling is an amazing tool as well!"
Challenge to try at home: I was once told it takes a child with Autism 10 seconds longer than most people to process something that was told to them, or a direction. So this is something we do and something you can try as well. When you tell your child to do something (one step directions are the best), wait 10 seconds (count to 10 slowly in your head), before expecting a response. If no response after 10 seconds, try it again. Sometimes with our son, we have to get eye level with him to make sure he’s listening. But we avoid so many meltdowns both from him and us giving him this extra time to process the information in his head to try and come up with whatever response he should have, whether that’s in words or actions.
Homeschooling with a child on the autism spectrum can be challenging in the beginning, but with the right resources and plenty of support, you can do it!
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Want more help with homeschooling a child on the Autism Spectrum? Attend our Special Needs Conference in December! To attend the upcoming Special Needs Conference, you must be a member of HECOA. Membership is free and only takes a few minutes to complete the request and then confirm your email (to prevent autospamming). Click JOIN now, then login to access the event here: http://hecoa.com/homeschooling-special-needs-conference