Should You Home-School Your ASD Child?

"I am considering home schooling for my autistic son (high functioning) starting the next school year due to the multiple issues we have had with school officials. There appears to be a gross lack of awareness of the needs of students on the autism spectrum in this district, and we feel our son is being left to 'die on the vine'. Are you a proponent for this alternative form of education? What factors do I need to consider before making a decision?"

Home-schooling is a popular educational alternative for many moms and dads of kids with ASD or High-Functioning Autism, especially if they are tired of nagging school officials to accommodate their "special needs" son or daughter. However, 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 has come a long way in terms of acceptance by the general public, but home-schooling skeptics still exist. Thick skin, regarding the opinions of others is a helpful attribute of home-schooling moms and dads.

2. Can you afford it? Home-schooling can be done on a shoestring budget when necessary, but there will likely be at least some cost associated with home-schooling. For most families, the decision to home-school also results in limited income potential for the primary home-schooling mother or father.

3. Do you have the disciplinary techniques to home-school? Home-schooling moms and dads aren't perfect, but a certain level of discipline is necessary in order for home-schooling to be successful. It's important to evaluate your current level of discipline, both as an individual and as a parent before making the decision to home-school.

4. How does your husband or wife feel about home-schooling? Although it is possible to home-school if only one of the parents believes in home-schooling, it can be very difficult to home-school on a long-term basis without approval and support from the youngster's other parent.

5. How will you arrange to meet your youngster's socialization needs? Does your youngster have opportunities to play and learn with other kids in the neighborhood and church? Are there opportunities in your area for scouting, sports, and get-togethers with other home-schoolers?

6. What are the home-schooling laws in your state? Home-schooling laws vary from state to state. For example, some states require the home-schooling parent to have a level of education.

7. Why do you want to home-school your child? It's important to know your reasons for deciding to home-school so that when doubts about home-schooling arise, you can remind yourself why you wanted to home-school in the first place. You may even 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.

Another part of the decision-making process would be to look at the advantages and potential disadvantages of home-schooling. Here are just a few:

Advantages of home-schooling:
  1. An autistic youngster's natural thirst for learning is nurtured, not squelched, and learning becomes a lifelong joy. 
  2. Kids are allowed to mature at their own speeds, no "hurried child" syndrome.  
  3. Each youngster's education can be tailored to his or her unique interests, pace, and learning style.
  4. Family life revolves around its own needs and priorities rather than the demands of school. 
  5. Family values and beliefs are central to social, emotional and academic development.
  6. Home-schooled kids are comfortable interacting with people of all ages.
  7. Home-schooled kids are largely free from peer pressure.
  8. Home-schooled kids become independent thinkers who are secure in their own convictions.
  9. Home-schooled kids view adults as an integrated part of their world and as natural partners in learning. 
  10. Home-schoolers enjoy unlimited educational resources; the world is our classroom, and resources abound in the community. 
  11. Home-schooling kids have time to pursue their special interests and talents. 
  12. Home-schooling creates/maintains positive sibling relationships. 
  13. Home-schooling prevents premature parent-child separation, avoiding inappropriate pressure on kids. 
  14. Home-schooling promotes good communication and emotional closeness within a family. 
  15. Home-schooling provides a high teacher-student ratio for the child. 
  16. Home-schooling provides positive and appropriate socialization with peers and adults. 
  17. Moms and dads and other adults are the primary role models for home-schooled kids. 
  18. The parent is with his/her kid all day. 
  19. Moms and dads know and understand their kids, and are influential in their lives, even as they enter the teen years. 
  20. Research shows that the two most important factors in reading and overall educational success are positive home influence and parental involvement; home-schooling provides both.

Potential disadvantages of home-schooling:

1. Parental burn-out: You have to know ahead of time that there will be a lot of frustration coming from the child when you are covering hard subjects, and that when they get flustered, you can't allow yourself to do the same. It is important that you are able to separate at times the role of parent and educator, because you will have to be there for your youngster in a different manner in times like these. 
==> The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism [ASD Level 1]

2. Lacking the knowledge to teach effectively: You can't take it out on yourself if a subject is slightly more difficult to teach than the next one. Textbooks are out there which have been designed to teach straight from them, and acquiring them can remove some of the stigma from difficult subjects like Science or Math. The key is that you have to know that you may need to spend some time with a particular subject so you can get to the point where you can “teach” that subject. Also, you need to know that you will be teaching year-round, and that it really is going to be a full-time job. That means that you need to treat it like one, and not like a free pass from getting a public paid job.

3. Lack of socialization: Not being able to learn with peers, and not being able to associate and congregate with other students the same age can lead to some developmental problems. An inability to socialize well, a shyness that comes with not being around other kids, and a tendency to work better alone rather than in a team stem from this lack of association. These are of course things that could be overcome if the attempt is made to rectify them. By being involved in other activities, by living in a neighborhood with many other children that can be socialized with in free time, or by having siblings or cousins that are in the public system, the social skills can rub off on kids that are home-schooled.

4. Lack of resources: Resources aren't as fluid as they are in a public/private school setting. The theory is that schools will have better books, and the educators will have a better education than a mother or father does, and it could serve as a disadvantage if the parent is not ready and willing to be the go-to person for everything under the sun. The parent must be willing to do the research if a question can't be answered on the spot, which could actually turn into an advantage if he/she is willing to go that extra mile.

5. Cost: The cost of homeschooling can start to come into play when you purchase textbooks and teaching materials, and thus it makes it harder for the family that is doing the home-schooling. Further costs come into play when you consider the opportunity cost of a parent staying home, and not bringing in a second income for the family. This could be the big thing that keeps some families from homeschooling, simply because it costs the family a second source of money.

6. A defiant student at school will likely be a defiant student at home: If you have had frequent power-struggles to get your child to do homework, you need to be prepared for those struggles as a home-schooler. Just because your child can stay home and do his school-work doesn’t mean he is going to become magically compliant when it comes to (a) sitting in YOUR classroom and (b) completing homework assigned by YOU.

So, these are the factors to consider when deciding whether or not home-schooling is right for your child -- and you. Good luck in your decision-making process.


Here's what other parents have had to say about the home-schooling issue:

•    Anonymous said... Absolutely! We've just gone through ur 7yo Aspie son's first term doind distance ed at home. He also has ADHD and is gifted, with major sensory issues, so you can imagine how well he DIDNT cope in a classroom. It's the best thing we ever did for him. He was immediately put up a grade and has aced everything. I can't recommend homeschool enough for our special kids

•    Anonymous said... Actually it is not true that home-schooled kids are under-socialized. I know many home-schooled children who are very well rounded. They are not forced to socialize with same aged peers in a classroom, but parents are free to open a whole world of social experiences for their children, in which they socialize with all different ages and with people from different backgrounds. My son benefited more from the social aspect of homeschooling then he did all this past year in a classroom. There are home-school co-ops, opportunities in church and in the community that provides plenty of social experiences. On any given day my son would socialize with the librarian at the community library, other children from our local co-op, the cashier at the grocery store, his swim instructor...etc., and he was comfortable with it. And lets just face it, most of our kids are not and never will be social butterflies. I encourage my children to interact for what is absolutely necessary, but I refuse to try to put my kid in a box according to what society says is the "norm". My oldest son never attended a school dance, he didn't go to his prom, or even to football games, he has also never partied at some kids house while their parents are out of town. He has a few choice friends and that is all he wants. He would much rather build a computer then be "socialized" He is intelligent and witty and getting ready to start college in the fall. He spent 12 years in public school and it never achieved "socialization" for him, and he was miserable. If I had it to do over he would have been schooled at home. Their are plenty of successful people in this world who are not "social". So it is a total myth that home-schooled children are under-socialized, or that public school children are "properly socialized".... Just do what it best for YOU and your child...and know that the decisions you make for your child is the RIGHT choice!

•    Anonymous said... Basically, you HAVE to be an advocate for your child, his ambassador to the world.

•    Anonymous said... Ditto that homeschooled kids are not under socialised. Unfortunately it is a stereotype that lingers. Anyhow, I am a single lady and homeschool my son as well as work more than full time. My son and I recently looked in to school but public schools in British Columbia cannot meet my son's needs.

•    Anonymous said... home school improves everything, regardless of the learning style of the child! Read John Gatto's indictment of the "system" http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=11375 …The news you're not supposed to know...

•    Anonymous said... Children who attend school have only short periods of time to socialize, other than being in the classroom, and they spend a full 7 hours each day including travel time there. We have done both public school and homeschool, and I can tell you that the quality of the social interactions matters more than the quantity. My Aspie son is working better in groups now than when he was in school. He has one "best" friend from preK, and two new friends from homeschooling. He plays with other kids several times each week. He takes co-op classes. And most of his peers who homeschool are just as well-socialized.

•    Anonymous said... I am going to be home schooling my son also

•    Anonymous said... I decided that homeschooling wasn't going to give him the social interaction that he needs.

•    Anonymous said... I have done both and their are pro's and cons to both. My Aspie son has a Learning Disability in math and I felt like I wasn't able to teach him that subject. Now he has been in school for almost a year and I feel it has been a wasted year. I hope things get better next year or home schooling is definitely in our future again.

•    Anonymous said... I am of the opinion that the best thing is for my son to be in school in the environment that is most synonymous with the real world which he will face as a legal adult in a few very short years (... now 6). The most important thing is this, though: you have to maintain a POSITIVE, helpful, involved, informed, daily, communicative relationship with your child's school and ALL personnel with which he will come into contact throughout each day. You HAVE to arrange for tutoring sessions (with the right person) as needed. You HAVE to secure appropriate accommodations through 504 or Sped. services as needed (maintaining focus not only on areas in which remediation is necessary but also in areas of personal interest, areas of strength and social goals). You HAVE to assist the teachers in creating tools that will help your child digest all of what he is learning in the classroom (because learning styles are everything). You HAVE to read, read, read so that you can make informed decisions and offer educated insight in various situations. You HAVE to actively help your child navigate the social aspects of their days... This is hard; however, it is one of the most important things you'll need to do for your child.

•    Anonymous said... I homeschool my 11 y/o Aspie and we both love it. He was in a regular classroom in public school until 4th grade (age 9), when school became a nightmare for us: he was becoming angry and violent because of thing that were happening to him at the school, and I had spent years running back and forth to school on an almost daily basis, helping with his "behavior", which was really just him being unable to emotionally handle the demands of sitting in a classroom all day. We really thought it out -- I had to quit my job, and we sold a car to afford it -- and then felt like we had no other choice but to take the plunge. I am so glad we did! Things to consider: 1. Will he listen to and learn from you? 2. Can you handle 24/7 with your kid? (it's not easy); 3. Can you afford it financially long-term? 4. What kind of curriculum does he learn best from? 5. Are there other supports for both of you (co-ops, public school resources you will continue to use, etc). For the most part, I thought it would be a harder decision than it was. We started off with unit studies to get him out of the "schooling" mindset. Then it took about six months of trying curriculum before we found what worked. (Surprisingly, he wanted school books -- work texts -- that he could read from and write in. I think it's very concrete for him, how much he has to do each day, and it works for me too. We supplement with hands-on stuff.) Now, he has his own schedule, which he completes in about 3 hours each day, and he gets to help pick what he studies and learns. He needs a measure of control, and homeschooling gives it to him where school couldn't. We enjoy time with other homeschool kids through play dates and co-op classes. I think he feels much more safe at home, though I make sure to include social skills as a regular part of his curriculum. I firmly believe in homeschooling for kids who are outside of the "average." They learn at their own pace, in their own way, and come out all the better for it. Good luck with your choice!

•    Anonymous said... I just started homeschooling my aspie son as well and he loves it. He likes being able to move onto something new when he wants to and being able to take the day off of he's having an off day. He also likes that I let him have a big say in his curriculum and the extras we do, such as the Lego wedo learning system. This is the best choice I ever could have made.

•    Anonymous said... I started home ed for my aspie son at Easter and his younger brother too. Both are making great academic progress and are happier, loads fewer meltdowns, less medication. There are lots of other home educators out there, we all meet up regularly. Home ed groups for drama, sport, science and french. Its so much less stress than school was means I'm much happier too!

•    Anonymous said... I started home schooling my Aspie son in 4th grade and it was the BEST decision I ever made. He absolutely flourished in that environment. He loved learning so the schooling part was not a problem. And then we chose a few activities to be involved in outside the home. He is 19 years old now, received a scholarship to college and complete his first year of college very successfully with a 3.5 GPA. He lives at home and commutes to college which is about an hour away. He has truly blossomed in college and I believe it's b/c he had all those years at home being built up instead of being torn apart by his peers. He has grown into a confident young man who most of the time you wouldn't even know he has Aspergers!! . He still has some quirks of course, but over all, he's amazing! Follow your heart and do what you think is best for your child.

•    Anonymous said... I started homeschooling my son with HFA after about two months of misery in a private school for kindergarten. Finding that private school was very hard, and I really hoped that it would be good for him, because it had a smaller class, a great student/teacher ratio, and seemed to value a love of learning (rather than feeling pressured to teach to a test). But the two months he spent in that school were awful for all of us - despite a lot of hard work. Homeschooling my son is one of the BEST decisions I have ever made in my life. It is much better for both of us. I used to spend hours and hours commuting to that school, writing and reading emails to the teachers, and wracking my brain trying to think of strategies to make the situation work for my child and the rest of the people in his class. I actually spend LESS time now investing in homeschooling, and it is far more happy time, and instead of it being time spent trying to make something tolerable, it's time spent making something wonderful.

•    Anonymous said... i think it is a personal decision you know your child best just remember they need to learn how to interact and socialize appropriately

•    Anonymous said... I would consider the social aspect - not just the "socializing" time like at recess - but how to cope around other people. My daughter never had a problem with the academic part - it was the dealing with the other people part that always got her in trouble. How much time is your aspie going to have around other children or other authority figures? You need to consider how much they will get and how much they will need before you make a final decision.

•    Anonymous said... I'd love to, in theory, but I'm a single mother (only "breadwinner") and my parental burnout levels are high enough already. School is my only respite.

•    Anonymous said... it has pros and cons, depending on where you live, because they need to interact with their peers..

•    Anonymous said... My son is overly attached to me and learning to be independent and able to cope with the world without my running interference has been a years long goal. Homeschooling would just exacerbate that problem. It's been a long fight, but we finally have he school district paying for a proper school. Having a chance to interact with other kids who are very intelligent but with social/emotional issues is a blessing. He's had peers tell him that taking space to prevent a meltdown is fine and he won't get in trouble.

•    Anonymous said... Our kids need MORE socializing, not less... homeschooled kids in general are under socialized. Though there ARE ways that you can get around this... planned participation in group activities, for instance.

•    Anonymous said... The main reason I didn't consider homeschooling sooner is that I had the mistaken idea that I wouldn't be able to offer my child an opportunity to learn social skills and build friendships if he wasn't in school. But actually, homeschooling gives me an opportunity to help him do those things in ways that work far better. Rather than being dropped on a playground for twenty minutes with more than a hundred kids, he can go on playdates with a small group of children who are also homeschooled. Rather than having to adjust to a new group of 20+ kids with each year's class, he is able to form close friendships with a core group of kids that he is likely to continue playing with for years to come.

•    Anonymous said... They need the social interaction. If you did home school, you would have to be vigilant in your efforts to socialize him. Scouts, karate, theatre, find as many ways as possible to get him with other children. I am hoping my nephew can make it through middle school. I'm going to get him to take the SAT (they can take it in 7th grade) and if he blows those scores out of the water, like he does everything else, there is a chance he could be offered some really great educational opportunities. I already know public school is not the best fit for him but in his case home schooling is really not an option.

•    Anonymous said... This will be our first year homeschooling. I must have heard "I don't want to go to school today" about one million times in the past two years. He would come home with food stains on his clothes because kids were smearing food on him in the cafeteria. He also had bruises numerous times that he refused to talk about. We decided enough is enough. The principal said no special accommodation would be made for him, socially or academically. Ever since we made the decision to homeschool grade two his anxiety levels dropped by 90% even though he still had a couple of months of school left. I am looking forward to the journey. It will be tricky since I am keeping his younger brother in school for now. I know it will be stressful but I doubt it could get any worse than what the past year has been.

•    Anonymous said... Since home schooling his stress levels have decreased so much that he is now able to cope with joining in group activities. His is far more social than before. There is so many home ed groups out there so as long as you as a parent aren't socially isolated neither will they be.

•    Anonymous said... I have been homeschooling my 6th grader for only 4 months, after pulling him out of the public school for a variety of reasons. It's been quite a challenge! LOL. He will be starting a private school after spring break, and it will be a much better fit. We really wanted to find a good school for him before the end of this school year bc the social aspect is so important, not to mention it really changed family dynamics for him to be home. I also have. 4th grade daughter with different challenges. I know that private school can be daunting, but we were very happy with the financial aid offered, as we never thought we could make it work. It's been a long 4 months for all of us, but it was worth it. On a positive note, I LOVED getting to really know him one on one, which can be a challenge with a normal school/family schedule. I know we have a closer relationship now.

•    Anonymous said... I was actually able to get the school to provide a home tutor because I got a dr. Note saying he needed to be out of the classroom for x amount of time due to the stress and lack of meeting his needs in the classroom. We made a big stink about that.

•    Anonymous said... In BC in the fraser valley I just found out there is a school for kids with autism and such, I don't know if this is something other communities are trying to incorporate and I only found out about it from a friend of a friend who has kids there. I had no clue otherwise it even existed!

•    Anonymous said... My son survived middle school by attending a school for children with learning differences. The student-teacher ratio was 5:1. Unfortunately, that school does not have high school classes. He attended a small private school for two years where he made a couple of really good friends, but academically it was disastrous. He completed 11th and 12th grades online with great success.

•    Anonymous said... This is definitely something to think about. It has crossed my mind a couple times this year because my daughter had struggled so much at school. My main concern is cost. Are there any programs that can help with the costs of home schooling?

•    Anonymous said... We currently school at home with Michigan Virtual Charter Academy at K12. It has allowed our kiddo with Asperger tendencies to really flourish! It's lovely to be able to provide a controlled environment for him but also have the support of teachers!

•    Anonymous said... I am doing it.....home school...that way we know how to correct his negative behaviors....

•    Anonymous said... I am not in favor with a child like this . They need socialization and a lot of structure which I feel the home environment can't provide

•    Anonymous said... We use a K12.com school and it's been wonderful! We get the same services and even get full time in home IBI support while we're doing her work. Yes it's hard but worth it, my child and many others have blossomed at home and now she's getting straight A's, the school bent over backwards giving us an IEP that we couldn't get at a B&M school and it allows my child to move at her place, in 7th grade she's already earning high school credit. She will enter high school as a sophomore and will start earning college credit in high school. This from a child who was a mess and failing all her classes in "regular" school.

•    Anonymous said... I have homeschooled my aspie for the last two years. It wasn't too hard for him to be in elementary school, but he found middle school very painful. He was misunderstood and didn't understand them either. His frustration levels stayed very high, he starting feeling awful about himself, his thoughts became suicidal...I can go on. Socialising him was no longer a relevant argument when it is that very socialisation that is tearing him up. It has taken almost all of these last two years our me to get my son back. He has decided to try high school at the end of this year. We will support him in this decision, and we will be ready to catch him if he falls...then we will try again and again. There are so many great homeschooling coops where you can socialize. It doesn't only happen in a classroom.

•    Anonymous said... K12 is the number one choice in K-12 online education programs in America. K12 is the trusted provider of... 

*    Unknown said... I homeschooled my HFA son from halfway through first grade until he graduated from high school. I made that choice because it was the best thing I could do for my son, and I've never once regretted it. The school system told me that autism limited him and that he belonged in a self-contained classroom and eventually in a group home. They told me all he could NOT do, but I saw all he COULD do. I don't believe any child should have limits imposed on him in regard to potential, so I took the reins and taught him myself. And it was wonderful!! Yes, there were challenges along the way, and yes, there were sacrifices we made in order to do it, but I wouldn't change one thing. It was much less expensive than buying scads of school supplies for a large classroom and participating in annual fund-raisers. The wide variety of excellent curriculum choices available from multiple publishers made finding a right fit for his learning style and interests very, very easy. Year after year, I continued to teach him, tailoring his education to his specific needs, teaching to his strengths, encouraging his development in every essential area, and providing opportunities for personal growth through youth groups, art classes, etiquette class, sleep-away camps, field trips, public speaking engagements, and (in high school) volunteer hours at the local library. He not only did well with homeschooling; he flourished! When he was 18, he finished high school as a National Merit Scholar, went off to college on the other side of the country, and in spring of 2019, graduated from a tier-one university with a BS in meteorology with a physic minor. Homeschooling was not only excellent preparation for college and real life, but it was the MAKING of him.

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