Many parents of children with spectrum disorders spend years arguing with their local schools to demand a learning environment that will be ideal for their child. They fight, they push, they lobby, and sometimes they even win; but the majority of parents with children on the spectrum soon realize that a public school setting just isn't ideal for their children.
The homeschooling movement has been sweeping the nation, especially in the past 10 years. Parents are tired of the "one size fits all" mentality that most public school systems have to offer. They don't see their children thriving and see our nation's scores as a whole plummeting within our world society. And so, many are turning to homeschooling.
There are many reasons why the average parent may turn to homeschooling for their children. This article's purpose is to focus primarily on the reasons why a parent of a child on the spectrum would homeschool their child.
Distraction and Noise
Let's face it, schools are loud. With anywhere from 20 to 35 children per classroom with the national average for elementary schools being roughly 25-27. For the average kid a class of that size can be distracting at best, for a child on the spectrum just being in the same room as that many people can make it impossible for them to focus. When you add in the noise of 27 pencils scratching, the occasional cough, ceiling fans or that buzzing noise from the florescent lighting, this becomes the grounds for a major sensory overload. Homeschooling parents have the ability to create a peaceful and quiet learning environment, and unless you're the Duggars, chances are you won't have 20 kids in your homeschool classroom. The ability to create an environment that is sensory friendly to a child with sensitivities is a huge bonus to homeschooling.
Movement and Sensory Breaks
Many autistic kids like to move. They don't want to sit at a desk in a classroom and "focus." Even the highest functioning ASD kids, love to fidget. Schools often tend to frown upon walking around the classroom, or taking a "spinning" break. Even with a good IEP, a child with autism may not be getting enough sensory breaks throughout their day. When parents of ASD kids homeschool, they have the ability to work closely with their children's therapists to create a sensory diet that will provide an optimal learning environment for their children. Spelling can be learned at the playground while swinging, Math can be covered while the child is spinning in the backyard, and there are plenty of quiet dark places to get a moment of peace when it is warranted.
The biggest concern many parents and professionals alike bring up when concerned with homeschooling is the socialization question. Often this can be the reason why a parent will choose a public school over homeschooling. They look at their spectrum kid and think, "my child needs so much help socializing, that being in school around that many kids all day must be what is best for him." When it comes to socialization, it's not the quantity that matters, but the quality. Parents of autistic kids know that their child will adapt much better to a one-on-one social experience than one within a group. Homeschooling gives the parent freedom to plan social experiences for their children during times when their child is at his or her best, they have the ability to focus on specific socialization goals in their timing. Children thrive in this environment because they are not bombarded with tons of people around them all day, they are able to adjust to social engagements easier.
Many spectrum kids have their "thing." That one subject that they just love. Then they have those other things that they just hate. You may see an autistic child who thrives in math, but still can't read at age 8. Homeschooling allows the parent to let their children soar in the subjects that they thrive in, while allowing time for extra help in those areas where they struggle. Even neurotypical children tend to excel in certain areas and struggle in others, why just because children are a certain age, must they study what is "age appropriate" for that age, when their understanding may be far beyond that. Homeschooling is one of the only educational choices out there that allows for a truly individualized learning experience.
As seen above, homeschooling offers a plethora of adjustments that can be individualized to meet your spectrum child's needs. This is just the first in a series of articles pertaining to homeschooling, please check back in soon for more posts.