Should You Pull Your ASD Child Out of Public School - and Homeschool Instead?

"I've been thinking about home schooling my 6-year-old (high functioning autistic) son. Are there any critical issues I should examine before making this move? I'm undecided at this point and want to make the right decision."

When faced with questions about how to educate your child, the challenges become all that much more difficult if he has ASD or High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Home schooling is an option for many children, and it could be the best educational choice for a child on the autism spectrum.

The first decision to make is whether or not the family has the resources of time necessary to home school the "special needs" student. Special learning techniques may need to be learned, and parents who home school need lots of patience and a level head.

It may be interesting to try your child out at a private schooling situation before deciding on home schooling. Some HFA kids fit fairly well into the classroom, while others are quickly labeled “freaks” and are shunned by their classmates. Teachers of regular classrooms may not have the time or energy to deal with the intricacies of teaching an HFA student and, by observing what’s happening in the classroom, a parent may find that home schooling is one of the few viable options.

Some challenges of home schooling include dealing with a child that is a visual learner who might not learn as well by listening. Some HFA kids become so obsessed about having everything perfect that they will throw away papers that have mistakes on them. Some kids on the spectrum often have very narrow focuses of interest so that the parent-teacher needs to find ways to tie in other subjects or to teach other subjects in a way that is interesting to the child.

There are always critics who argue that home schooled children lack the necessary social skills that children who go to a regular school get on a daily basis. With HFA children, social skills must often be taught in a structured setting, and parents have the opportunity to do this and to explore putting their child on a sports team or other social organization (e.g., band or music programs), which will give them social skills without overwhelming them.

There are some important issues to consider before making the decision to home-school. If you're considering this option, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Are you ready for the critics (home-schooling skeptics still exist)?
  2.  Can you afford it (the decision to home-school often results in limited income potential for the primary home-schooling parent)?
  3. Do you have the disciplinary techniques to home-school? 
  4. How does your spouse feel about home-schooling (if only one of the parents believes in home-schooling, it can be very difficult to home-school on a long-term basis without support from the child’s other parent)?
  5. How will you arrange to meet your child’s socialization needs? 
  6. Does your child have opportunities to learn with other kids in the neighborhood and church? 
  7. Are there opportunities in your area for scouting, sports, and get-togethers with other home-schoolers?
  8. What are the home-schooling laws in your state (some states require the home-schooling parent to have a level of education)? 
  9. Why do you want to home-school your child (you may find it helpful to write your reasons for home-schooling down, so that on the worst of days, you'll have something to look to for encouragement and motivation)?

Carefully thinking through the above questions will help you determine whether or not home-schooling is right for you.

Other factors to consider:
  • There is usually a state guideline for home-schooling. Some states require home-schoolers to take a standardized test.
  • There is little time for you to “distress” (e.g., there is no such thing as "I'll be there in a minute” as you try to talk on the phone). 
  • Some home-schooled children are not required to work on a time frame (not a good idea with HFA kids since they crave structure). 
  • Just because you take your son out of the current school system does not mean that he is going to immediately change some of his undesirable traits. 
  • If you decide that your main reason for home-schooling is because your son presents a discipline problem for the teacher, don’t necessarily think that his attitude will change when you teach him. 
  • Home-schooling is not free and the government does not provide home-school vouchers.

Some of the benefits of home-schooling include:
  • Your son's education can be tailored to his unique interests, pace, and learning style.
  • Family life revolves around its own needs and priorities rather than the demands of school. 
  • Family values and beliefs are central to social, emotional and academic development.
  • Home-schooled kids are largely free from peer-pressure.
  • Home-schooling provides a high teacher-student ratio for the child. 
  • Students are allowed to mature at their own pace.
  • Research shows that the two most important factors in the overall educational success are positive home influence and parental involvement – home-schooling provides both.

In general, a parent who teaches to the innate interests of their child will not only be successful, but will have succeeded in giving their child a better education than they would get in a noisy chaotic classroom. 

==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with High-Functioning Autism

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