The public school hasn't worked for my Aspergers daughter because she wasn't diagnosed until recently, and they didn't know how to work with her. Consequently, her needs weren't met, and their ignorance resulted in what I would call 'abuse'. The school refused to allow her to call home last Monday, and they put her into a room to allow her to compose herself, which terrified her.
Now my daughter has a very bad feeling about this school. Intuitively, she believes something terrible is going to happen to her physically if she attends school there. She expressed it was not anxiety like she normally feels ... just her intuition. However, the school is pushing for her to attend and therefore anxiety has kicked in. We attempted yesterday, but when we arrived, she went into meltdown form. She refused to leave the car.
She has lost any trust they had previously built with her. She was traumatized and they didn't get it. She feels unheard and disrespected. Also, the event was a trigger from the past school district. Based on their reaction Monday, she feels confident they don't get it and therefore she isn't safe in that environment. She fears she won't be able to protect herself in an environment if she doesn't feel heard. Now she is convinced if she feels unsafe and needs to call home, they will deny her. So, I'm struggling with this issue. I honestly don't know if she has the ability to overcome her fears and do the work required to work through this challenge.
We're supposed to meet at the school tomorrow. I doubt I will be able to get my daughter to go with me. Our plan is to sit down and outline our concerns. Honestly, based on their reaction and response to the situation Monday, I don't think they understand the diagnoses and how to deal with her effectively. However, my daughter wants me to withdraw her and home-school. I surrender ... if that is a part of my journey then I'll take it on. However, I just want to be sure that I have exhausted all possibilities and know that this is the right path for her.
Any feedback you have would be greatly appreciated.
This may not be the answer you were hoping for, but given all that you’ve said, I can say without a doubt that there would not be a better candidate for home-schooling than your daughter. However, you are certainly not alone on this.
Growing numbers of parents of children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism are citing dissatisfaction with the level of their child's education as the primary reason for homeschooling. Most mothers and fathers in this group have had a child in public and/or private schools, but decided to home-school because of the lack of individual attention, inadequate teaching methods, and declining academic standards, as well as poor school performance by children that excel at home. Also, concerns about school safety have increased in recent years, resulting in an increase in the number of kids who begin home-schooling during the middle and high school years.
Having said this, I’m going to shift the conversation over to talking about the pros and cons of home-schooling so that, in case you decide to go this route, you can at least make an informed decision. Let’s look at the cons first…
Cons of home-schooling—
Home-schooling does not produce angels. Just because you take your daughter out of the current school system does not mean that she is going to immediately change some of her undesirable traits. If you decide that your main reason for home-schooling is because she presents a discipline problem for the teacher, don’t necessarily think that her attitude will change when you teach her. If, for example, she is accustomed to whining and getting her way on the little things around the home, she will not do an about-face just because you are the teacher.
You simply may not be able to gain enough control to be able to home-school. Please be realistic about this reality of home-schooling. I know of one mother who was angry with the school because the school always seems to think that her Aspie was involved in any unfortunate incident. The mother, without trying to get to the root of the problem, jerked the youngster out of the school and decided to home-school. There was little if any teaching that took place. The child rode his bicycle seemingly all day while the regular students were in school. The mother was simply too busy with the other kids to make him do his lessons. I tried very hard to help this particular Aspergers child the following year when his mother put him back in public school, but he was not willing to give up the previous freedom that he had enjoyed. His attendance was very sporadic. So, do NOT take on the task of home-schooling as a last resort because you are angry with some teacher or the school system!
Home-schooling is not free and the government does not provide home-school vouchers. The cost varies with each program. In some programs you purchase workbooks and teacher's editions for each subject (call around and find other parents that are home-schooling because they may be ready to sell you their teacher's edition or the text at a reduced rate.)
If you decide to do home-schooling, you need to reduce the amount of time watching TV. This does not mean that the TV must stay off entirely, but you can use some of the evening TV time to enrich your daughter’s reading. It is very healthy for a child to see parents reading at night. Television does not stimulate good reading habits. The youngster needs to see that movies are seldom as good as the book. Former “television time” may be the time that some of the household duties can be done.
Some home-schooled children are not required to work on a time frame (not a good idea with Aspergers kids since they crave structure). If your daughter should return to a regular classroom at some point in the future, that teacher does not have "all day" for her to work 5 math problems. (If you home-school, it will be foolish to allow unlimited time - or no time frame - to complete a task. This habit will be carried into the work force when she becomes an adult). Many times the home-schooler can’t cope with the 50-minute class frames that are prevalent in a regular classroom.
Another "con" concerning home-schooling is the fact that there is usually a state guideline for home-schooling. Some states require home-schoolers to take a standardized test.
Also, your daughter will suffer academically if your commitment is only to teach the subjects that she has an interest in.
You must carefully weigh the challenge of time. You may barely have enough time to do what you are already obligated to do. There are going to be days that you are going to feel overwhelmed and wonder if life is passing you by. Home-schooling is a job.
The largest "con" for home-schooling is the fact that there is little time for you to “distress.” For example, there is no such thing as "I'll be there in a minute” as you try to talk on the phone. Answering the phone devalues the importance of home-schooling. It is an open invitation to losing control because of the interruption. For many moms and dads, phone calls control their day. Not answering the phone requires a special kind of discipline. It is necessary for the home to have an answering machine (however, the answering machine will not help your school day if you are constantly running to the machine to see who called.) Thus, turn the ringer off if possible during the school day. A fax or an email may work better in some cases. You must be serious about your new job of teaching if you decide to home-school. Once you establish this rule, calls will diminish during school hours.
Pros of home-schooling—
Many Aspergers families enjoy the flexibility that home-schooling provides. The child can learn about things she is interested in and at a time in her life when she is ready to learn (i.e., no preconceived schedule forces her ahead or holds her back).
Your daughter will learn about the 'real world' by being a part of it (no artificial settings are needed to 'provide exposure'). She can receive a superior education attuned specifically to her own needs, learning style, personality, and interests (at far less cost than that of a private school). Being allowed to learn at her desired pace with a minimum of stress, your daughter will have the time and space to internalize and use what she learns.
Some home-school programs offer classroom videos that the youngster uses and actually sees a classroom teacher teaching the lesson. This is especially good for Jr. High and High School and for technical subjects such as advanced math. To offset the cost, you may want to consider the fact that your youngster does not need to have such an extensive wardrobe. These savings could apply toward some of the school supplies. You will save money on school clothes, gym clothes, uniforms, or unnecessary school fees.
Also, home-schooling families spend a lot amount of time together living, learning and playing. They have the opportunity to develop a depth of understanding and a commitment to the family that is difficult to attain when family members spend their days going in separate directions.
Lastly, another nice side benefit to home-schooling is that vacations and other outings can be planned for times when the family is ready - and often when the crowds are smaller or the costs are lower.
Good luck in your decision making process!
More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:
==> Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's Children
==> Discipline for Defiant Asperger's Teens
==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management
==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's: How to Promote Self-Reliance
==> Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About Parenting Asperger's Children
==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism
==> AudioBook: Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism
* Anonymous said... I've got two boys with aspergers and have had serious problems with my eldests school he's nearly 16 and they have never helped him in any way with his autism yet my five year olds school has been fantastic in every way both schools are next to each other yet seem so far apart in their actions
* Anonymous said... We are in our third year of homeschooling our 11 year old son. Our only regret is that we allowed him to be abused and ignored by the school system as long as we did. Homeschooling is not for everyone and it is not easy, but I can honestly say that the worst day homeschooling is better than our best day in public school. My son thanks me quite frequently for homeschooling him and tells me now how horrible his experience in school was. I decided I could waste all of my energy and resources on fighting an educational system that was not trustworthy and did not really care for my child and ultimately get no where, or I could take that energy and passion for helping my child succeed and put it into homeschooling. We knew what our son needed and were weary of trying to force the school to provide that. The improvements we have seen in our lives are nothing short of miraculous. We are so grateful we took the road less traveled, it has made all the difference in our lives. Best of wishes to you and your family for better days ahead.
Please post your comment below...