by Dory, Guest Author
I will be beginning this journey of homeschooling in the next few weeks with my precious son who is six and diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. I have a background in psychology and education, so I’m not too worried about how things will turn out. My son is very bright, creative and enthusiastic about learning. He just doesn’t fit in to the mainstream of public schools. His abilities are seen there, not as strengths, but as challenges that thus far, public school has not been able to meet.
As a former public school employee for over 15 years, I never thought I’d be walking down this road, but I’m certain that I made the right choice to do so. I always thought I would teach, and bring my child to work with me so that I could share his day right there in the moment. I have always enjoyed my jobs as teacher assistant and substitute teacher, even feeling a “calling” to be there. At the ripe old age of 35 I decided to pursue a graduate degree in education. Now I know that my experience and studies will only make this adventure that much more fulfilling.
My child is also, (at the moment), an only child. One of the areas of concern for Aspie parents is the socialization of their child. Many Asperger’s kids have difficulty interacting with others, especially same-age peers. We have joined a local homeschooling group to aid us in this area. I feel confident that homeschooling will be the perfect fit for us as we can have better control of the social situations that we will encounter. My son does not have to be bombarded with social interactions that make him uncomfortable. He can determine which activities we participate in and how long we stay. This makes it a much more positive experience for him as we practice those give-and-take relationships in a smaller group setting. We also look forward to meeting children of various ages, something that wouldn’t necessarily occur in public school, where kids are corralled into same-age groupings throughout their day.
Another plus to learning at home for Aspies is the flexibility of schedules and material content. Since my son has an intense interest in construction, I can compose lessons that focus on his area of interest. Instead of relying solely on paper and pencil worksheets, we can incorporate building blocks, pretend play, and real-life field trips to study his favorite subject across the curriculum. He will be able to contribute his ideas about subject matter and all I have to do is figure out how to weave it all together! I can’t imagine the feeling of confidence it will bring him to know that he is creating his own education. With regard to schedules, most Asperger’s kids do better with some sort of routine. In fact, it’s sometimes a coping mechanism, as they need that sense of predictability to feel comfortable. Since we are on our own time clock, I can help him to ease out of some of those rigid ways of thinking and show him that there are other ways to do things. My son is just now coming to the realization that everyone has their own thoughts and ideas, and this is the perfect opportunity to encourage that type of expanded thinking. He knows that it is safe to try things a different way at his own pace. There is so much potential to add these types of “life skills” lessons into our daily routine.
Most children with Asperger’s score above average on IQ tests. My son has been evaluated by a host of so-called “experts” so that the most appropriate placement for him could be found. It’s such a relief to know that I’ve finally found it! He can now work above grade level instead of being bored because he has to do what the other kids are doing. He can think outside the box without being judged. His creativity is an asset, not something to be stifled. He doesn’t require any labels, or “exceptionalities”, as it is euphemistically called. He can just be who he is, all of the time and run with it. I just hope that I can keep up with him!
I look forward to looking back next year at this time and seeing the progress my son has made because he didn’t have to cope with the stress of too many people, too much stimulation and not enough one-on-one attention. The gains will be made in academics, yes, but more importantly; I think he will improve in the areas of social skills, self-confidence and in his already-present love for learning. Homeschooling is such a gift and I am so grateful that my Aspie and I can open it together.
Dory Hubbard is a homeschooling mom (leaning toward unschooling). Her amazing seven-year old boy, Carson, happens to have Asperger's syndrome. She, her husband Kevin and Carson share their home in Central Florida with their pet Betta, Bluey.