The short answer is YES!
When it comes to educating your autistic child, you possess a unique advantage that can truly unlock their potential. As a parent, you understand your child like no one else, and this insight can be harnessed to create a personalized educational journey that caters to their unique learning style, surpassing what traditional schooling can offer.
What Homeschooling Neurodivergent Kids Looks Like For Us:
We aren’t your average wild + free unschooling family…
I see all these unschooling, RV and travel schooling, wild + free, relaxed homeschooling families that prioritize real-life experience, field trips, and traveling all over the world.
I see you… and I envy you.
While we do everything we can to prioritize natural, interest-led learning in our homeschool, we aren’t the type of homeschoolers that are constantly visiting the zoo, aquariums, national parks, and more and that’s because of our neurodivergent kiddos.
THREE out of my five kids have sensory processing disorder in addition to being on the autistic spectrum. They get extremely overstimulated as soon as we leave our driveway, even if it’s just going to Mass. (And we go to Saturday Mass because it’s more sensory friendly – they turn down the music and have a sign language interpreter)
Despite what people have tried to convince me to do, the more often we go out, the worse they gets. They aren’t overstimulated because they aren’t used to the stimulation, like you might assume. Trust me, 15+ years of parenting special needs kids, I don’t need suggestions like changing their diet (they eat better and cleaner than you do, I promise) or exposing them to more stimuli in order to basically “break them in”.
While personally, I would love to travel and do all kinds of fun, out-of-house activities every other day, trying to do that made our regular daily life absolutely miserable and chaotic. Every time we left the house, it would take 2-3 days (sometimes more!) to get everyone regulated again.
Last year, I decided no more play dates, I removed people from our life that were clearly not good for our children or family, and I prioritized peace.
The change was immeasurable.
The main thing I have learned is that in order to actually have a daily rhythm and a schedule of any sort so that our life isn’t a total train wreck, is to stay home and keep things consistent and CALM.
Autism Sensory Overload
Autistic sensory overload refers to an overwhelming and intense reaction to sensory stimuli that is experienced by individuals on the autism spectrum. This phenomenon occurs when the brain struggles to process and regulate sensory information from the environment, leading to a heightened and often distressing response.
Imagine being in a situation where the world around you becomes an unrelenting onslaught of sensory information – the flickering lights, the cacophony of voices, the texture of fabrics against your skin, a lingering taste in your mouth, all blending into a disorienting symphony of chaos.
For people on the spectrum, these stimuli aren’t just background noise; they’re like a tidal wave threatening to engulf us. Depending on the severity of the stimuli, it can even cause anxiety or panic attacks and a range of other unwanted symptoms.
These overwhelming feelings can quickly and suddenly trigger intense anxiety, frustration, or a desperate urge to escape to a quieter, calmer space. It’s not that your child is being difficult or overly sensitive; their brains process sensory input differently.
Recognizing and respecting this struggle is vital in creating an inclusive and understanding environment for individuals dealing with sensory overload and other symptoms of autism.
What ASD Looks Like In Real Life
When you have a kid that totally tweaks out if they hear music in a store, that doesn’t exactly entice you to go grocery shopping. We use Instacart, Hannaford Pickup and Whole Foods delivery for all our groceries.
When you have a kid that tweaks out as soon as they are around loud noises and big crowds, that doesn’t motivate you to go on a field trip every week. We watch videos of other people taking field trips, documentaries, etc with the volume low and closed captions on.
When you have a kid that tweaks out as soon as they are presented with new foods, textures, or smells, that doesn’t make you real excited to try new restaurants or eat out in public spaces.
There are so many things that we just have to choose to miss out on or limit in general because of the majority of our children’s special needs.
Homeschooling means having the freedom to do what’s BEST for our kids, even if it’s not what we want for them, even if it’s not what everyone else is doing, and even if it’s not what we would personally prefer to do ourselves.
Parenting is all about sacrificing whatever we need to for our children’s sake. 🙌🏻
Here’s a few reasons why homeschooling could be the ideal choice for your neurodivergent child:
1. Individualized Learning: The Key to Success
Imagine a classroom where the curriculum is designed specifically for your child’s strengths, interests, and pace of learning. Homeschooling provides the canvas upon which you can paint a vibrant educational experience tailored to your child’s unique needs. Unlike traditional schools, where a one-size-fits-all approach prevails, you have the freedom to adapt teaching methods, materials, and schedules to suit your child’s learning style.
2. Nurturing Strengths and Passions
Autistic children often have distinctive talents and passions that may not receive ample attention in a conventional classroom setting. Homeschooling empowers you to nurture these strengths, allowing your child to delve deep into subjects that truly captivate them. Whether it’s art, science, music, or technology, you can craft a curriculum that fosters their interests, providing them with a well-rounded education while enhancing their self-esteem.
3. Tailored Support for Challenges
Autism comes with its own set of challenges, but with homeschooling, you’re equipped to provide the support your child needs to overcome them. You can introduce coping strategies, sensory-friendly environments, and breaks as needed. Individual attention enables you to tackle hurdles in a manner that’s comfortable and effective for your child, promoting a positive learning experience.
4. Flexible Pace, Reduced Stress
In traditional classrooms, the pace of learning might be too fast or too slow for autistic students, causing unnecessary stress. Homeschooling eradicates this concern by enabling you to adjust the pace to match your child’s comfort level. If a concept requires more time for understanding, you can provide it without the pressure of keeping up with a predefined schedule.
5. Holistic Approach to Socialization
Homeschooling doesn’t isolate your child; it opens doors to a diverse range of socialization opportunities. You can orchestrate playdates, group activities, and community involvement, ensuring that your child learns to interact in various settings. By being involved in these interactions, you can guide your child’s social development and teach them valuable life skills.
6. Building Strong Bonds
Homeschooling strengthens the parent-child bond as you navigate the educational journey together. Your involvement in your child’s learning fosters a deep sense of trust, communication, and collaboration. As a mom, you are uniquely positioned to create a nurturing and supportive environment that promotes not only academic growth but also emotional well-being.
In the realm of homeschooling, you are both educator and advocate, championing your child’s education in a way that no one else can. The beauty lies in your ability to tailor learning experiences to suit your child’s needs, passions, and learning style. Homeschooling your autistic child isn’t just about education; it’s about embracing their individuality and fostering an environment where they can thrive. So, dear moms, take the plunge, embrace the journey, and watch your child flourish beyond expectations.
Common Question about Homeschooling & Autism
1. Can I effectively homeschool my autistic child, even if I’m not a trained educator?
Absolutely. One of the primary advantages of homeschooling is the ability to tailor the curriculum to your child’s specific needs and learning style. While you might not be a trained educator, you are your child’s foremost advocate and ally and YOU know your child better than anyone else. Leverage your understanding of your child’s interests, triggers, and communication style to create a customized learning path.
Consider utilizing resources designed for homeschooling children with autism, such as specialized curricula, online courses, and educational apps. Collaborate with therapists, if applicable, to integrate therapies seamlessly into your child’s daily routine. Flexibility is key, as it allows you to adapt your teaching methods to suit your child’s changing needs.
2. How can I provide socialization opportunities for my child with autism while homeschooling?
Socialization is a common concern, but homeschooling does not mean isolation. Seek out local homeschooling groups, autism support networks, and community organizations that offer inclusive activities. These environments provide safe spaces for your child to interact with peers, practice social skills, and build friendships.
Keep in mind that most children on the spectrum are either shy or find no use in social interactions. Never pressure an autistic child to “socialize” if they don’t want to or don’t get along with other children very well.
If your child is amendable to the idea, consider involving them in extracurricular activities aligned with their interests. Art classes, sports teams, music lessons, and hobby clubs can foster social interactions in contexts that resonate with your child’s interests. Virtual platforms like Outschool can also facilitate connections with other neurodiverse students globally, broadening their social horizons.
3. How can I homeschool multiple neurodivergent children at once?
Homeschooling multiple neurodivergent kids can present unique challenges, but with careful planning, patience, and flexibility, it can also be a rewarding experience. Check out this blog post for tips to help you navigate homeschooling for multiple neurodivergent children.
Homeschooling is a great alternative to traditional education, particularly for children with unique learning needs. While it can seem daunting at first glance, parents of autistic children can give their child a personalized and supportive approach to education that caters to their child’s individual strengths and challenges.
Where can I find resources and support for homeschooling my autistic child?
1. Online Communities: Join online communities and forums dedicated to homeschooling autistic children. Facebook groups can connect you with experienced homeschooling parents who can offer advice, resources, and emotional support. It’s also encouraging to follow accounts on Instagram of other autism parents who are experiencing similar things as you.
Here are a few of my favorites:
2. Local Resources: Investigate local resources, such as autism centers, special education departments, and libraries. You can find things like workshops, materials, and contacts for connecting with professionals who specialize in educating neurodivergent learners if you really feel like you aren’t able to do enough for your child and want extra support.
3. Professional Guidance: You can always seek professional guidance and collaborate with educational therapists, behavior analysts, and special educators if you feel totally lost. Their expertise can help you develop tailored strategies and identify areas that require additional attention.
4. Curriculum Providers: Many companies offer homeschooling curricula designed for autistic learners. Look into options like “The Autism Oasis“, “Time4Learning“, “Bridge Academy“, or “Nessy” that offer customizable materials catering to diverse learning needs.
5. Books For Parents: Reading books about parenting children with autism or neurodivergence can be the most helpful in your new journey. Stay tuned for my next blog post with a list of all my favorite books for parents of neurodivergent children.
Homeschooling autistic children is a unique journey. As long as you can be flexible, provide customization, and devote individualized attention to your neurodivergent child, you will have success in homeschooling.
By embracing your role as your child’s advocate and realizing that YOU know your child better than anyone else, you can create a nurturing environment where learning can thrive. Remember, the journey may have its challenges, but the rewards of witnessing your child’s growth and development are immeasurable.