Are you considering homeschooling a child with Asperger’s?
Never in a million years did I expect to be a homeschooler, let alone homeschooling a child with Asperger’s. But isn’t life just full of incredible surprises? If you asked me in high school, I thought homeschoolers were weird and unsocialized.
My uneducated, teenage-self used the term “homeschool kid” as a label for anyone socially awkward. How awful, right? I mean, no, I was never mean to any of these people; I just thought the parents of these children were doing them a massive disservice keeping them home. Knowing nothing about PDD-NOS, Autism, Asperger’s, etc. . . I thought homeschooling was to blame.
Homeschooling a Child with Asperger’s
Fast forward many years later, and I’m a homeschooling mother of a child with Asperger’s (Cue Alanis Morrisette here). Despite never having actually said anything mean to anyone, I wish I could go back and apologize for even thinking the way that I did.
Now I realize it’s more likely homeschool didn’t cause their awkwardness! Kids with a high IQ, great verbal skills, and underdeveloped social-emotional skills fall into a gap. Big time. They can’t thrive in SPED classrooms or survive in mainstream ones without adequate support. Back when he first received his diagnosis, homeschooling a child with Asperger’s was certainly never anything I saw coming.
The reason why we’d homeschool was even less expected.
Homeschooling a child with Asperger’s may be easier than dealing with IEPs
We were warned by our Early Intervention providers that our son may struggle to qualify for an IEP when he aged out of early intervention. Completely shocked, I wondered, “How a child could have autism, qualify for early intervention, but not qualify for an IEP?” Turns out they were right. The school said my sons IQ and verbal skills were too high.
My son started out being nonverbal. He was on the severe end of the spectrum and responded very well to Early Intervention. I felt like he was being punished for making so much improvement. My Early Intervention caseworker emphatically agreed.
I argued that having no support from the school while losing Early Intervention was like begging for a regression. At that point, we had no option for ABA, and this was my hope for my son’s continued growth. Eventually, I broke down in mortifying tears and insisted that learning how to function in a classroom should qualify as an “academic need.” Suddenly they agreed, and we had an IEP under “academic need.”
But that wasn’t the end of our IEP problems. Not even close.
Our second evaluation
Due to personal circumstances at home, my son attended a private kindergarten. When he went back to public school, in the first grade, he was sent to the office on the first day. Not even an hour passed before the first meltdown and “come pick him up” phone call occurred.
After failing to self-regulate in the mainstream class, he ended up being put in the SPED classroom temporarily while they figured out what to do. He was happy, cheerful, and every aide adored him. He got along great with the other kids in there, but none of them were verbal, so he was somewhat alone. In addition, all academic challenge went out the window.
They decided, as his IEP was lapsing, that it was time for a new evaluation so we could make a new plan. Rejected again. No one relented. As far as they were concerned, he was, essentially, not “Autistic enough.” Granted, these weren’t their words, but that was the underlying tone that shone through.
In addition to all of his anxiety and meltdowns, bullies laid into him daily. Feeling horribly stuck, we went to the extreme of moving from one home to another. I was hopeful that having a better school would mean real help, real change, for my son.
I was wrong again.
An aide was exactly what he needed
I knew the answer. Being successful in a mainstream class and academically challenged required more individual support. For my son to be in the “least restrictive environment,” he needed an aide. At the very least, a part-time aide.
He was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher who could handle his meltdowns that year, but would the next teacher be able to handle them? How about the one after that? Not to mention, the bullying continued, and he was falling apart emotionally.
But aides are expensive and only for kids with IEPs.
Was fighting for an IEP worth it at the new school?
When we moved, I wondered if it was worth trying to fight for a new IEP. I had anguished over the idea of homeschooling for months. I felt horribly unqualified. Was I really cut out for homeschooling a child with Asperger’s?
I was afraid he’d fight me tooth and nail on doing work. Would we ruin our relationship with homeschooling? Yes, homeschooling a child with Asperger’s was definitely the last thing on my dream sheet.
Still unable to convince myself that I was “teacher enough” to homeschool a child with Asperger’s, I asked the new school if I could volunteer in my son’s classroom if I enrolled him. Could I volunteer every day for at least half the day so that I could be there to offer support as needed? Nope.
Considering we couldn’t get much ABA time, with our insurance, unless we had an IEP or homeschooled, I began thinking, “Is sending him back into that nightmare really the answer to helping him heal?” It looked like the reality of homeschooling a child with Asperger’s was most certainly in my future.
With all my heart, I believe homeschooling was the right choice
In the end, no matter what we did, or where we went, my son would always be “too Autistic” to fit in, and never “Autistic enough” to receive the support he needed in a public school setting. Aspies often teeter on this precarious perch. But now . . . that honestly doesn’t even matter.
No, I don’t think what happened is okay. I know not everyone’s in a situation where they can homeschool. It’s definitely not right that we were denied simply because whoever is writing these laws don’t understand autism.
It was for the best though. I regret that we didn’t find and try homeschooling sooner. If I had a time machine, I’d homeschool from day one . . .
I’d let myself know that I could absolutely do this . . .
. . . that it would all be okay.
I’d let myself know that homeschooling a child with Asperger’s was entirely possible . . .
. . . that I was qualified enough, and he’d do better emotionally.
I’d let myself know that there would be hard days, but we would get through them all . . .
. . . and what a blessing it would become for our family.
Now that we homeschool, we’re able to work on social skills in addition to all of his academic learning. He’s able to relax and be a little less anxious and a little happier each day. I’ve learned, since bringing him home, that the quality of social interaction is so much more important than the quantity of social interaction.
Knowing what I now know, would I recommend it to anyone considering homeschooling a child with Asperger’s?
Jill Camacho blogs at Autism Homeschool Mama.com She is a Christian, veteran, mom to two boys, and creator of social skills & homeschooling resources.[/three-fifths]
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.