In my last post we talked about public school as one option of educating your child or teen on the autism spectrum. There are some advantages to utilizing public school services as they are free and your child will have access to a team of school personnel (aides, teachers, and possibly speech and occupational therapists) all working to help your child. Yet some parents find that the disadvantages of the public school experience outweigh the positives and end up searching for an alternative. One alternative is to teach your autistic child or teen at home. This is not a decision for the faint hearted. Homeschooling takes a lot of time and commitment and you want to make sure this is the right decision for both you and your child. This was the educational choice I made for my son when he was of school age and I have no regrets. In this post we are going to discuss some of the pros and cons to homeschooling a child with an autism spectrum disorder. I will also be sharing some homeschooling resources to help you research this educational option.
The following are some of the possible advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling your child who has special needs:
Pros of homeschooling your child with special needs:
• Your child is guaranteed one on one instruction.
• Homeschooling minimizes the chance for your child to be bullied.
• You can tailor your instruction to your child's unique learning needs. For example, if your child is a visual learner you can use more pictures and visual cues than would normally be used in a typical classroom.
• The time spent on task can be maximized as there are fewer transitions such as getting to and from school, waiting for other children to finish, moving from class to class, etc.
• In the home setting you can teach real world skills. For example, I have more opportunities to take my son out into the community or to teach skills of daily living which occur at home.
• For children who have food allergies or special dietary needs such as my son, these can be better monitored at home.
• You can take more time to do projects based upon your child's special interests.
• You can lessen the amount of busy work and make learning time more pertinent and more productive.
• You can focus your energies on your child instead of going to countless meetings and fighting for services which may or may not help your child.
• You have more time to devote to the prevention of behavioral problems than a teacher who has many children in a classroom.
• You can more easily tend to your child's sensory needs. My child does best with breaks in between lessons. We have both a mini trampoline and a therapy ball for him to jump and bounce. Most typical classrooms are not going to accommodate these types of needs.
The cons of homeschooling your child with special needs
• Teaching your child at home is pretty much a full time job with no pay. One parent will have to be the major breadwinner for the family and for many families this simply isn't an option.
• You will be spending lots of time with your child. If your child has difficult or challenging behaviors this can be stressful for both you and your child.
• Depending upon how long you wish to homeschool, and what level your child is at academically, you may be responsible for providing instruction for a wide variety of subjects. For example, would you feel competent teaching high school algebra?
• Homeschooling isn't cheap. You will need to buy school supplies, books, a curriculum, and other materials.
• Depending on your financial situation, you may or may not be able to afford the adaptive or computer assistive technology your public school system provides for free.
• You will need to find adequate space in your home for your child to learn and to store all the school supplies. I was once asked by a UPS man whether or not I was running a daycare when he peered into my living room and saw all the school items.
• You will be responsible for helping your child to get his or her socialization needs met. Most homeschooled children I know have more than ample opportunities for meeting other children through homeschool groups and co-ops, clubs, church, community organizations and so forth. This isn't necessarily a con to homeschooling, but it is an area where you will have to put forth a special effort of time and energy.
• There is a chance for burn out with homeschooling as with any job but the primary risk is that this job involves your child. There is no going home from work because you work from home. It is therefore imperative that you get some respite and have your spouse or other caregivers spend time with your child after home school hours.
Homeschooling is a viable option for educating your child who has special needs. It isn't for everyone, however, and special consideration needs to be taken before embarking on this adventure. Trust your gut and do what is right for you, your family, and primarily for your child.
Published On: August 08, 2011