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Currently 1 out of every 100 children are affected in some way by autism, according to a study carried out by the National Institute of Mental Health). Children with ASD and special needs require more intense and specialized education than their neurotypical classmates. However, school districts sometimes struggle to develop appropriate curriculums or provide support services for these individuals.
Children with Asperger's syndrome have special needs that may not always be fully met in the public school system. Aspies will likely struggle with social interactions, which could lead to bullying or distraction from their academic studies. For this and other reasons to be discussed, you may consider homeschooling a viable option for your family.
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Why Choose Homeschooling?
Parents may choose to homeschool their Asperger's child for a variety of reasons. They include:
- Bullying in school
- Worried about your child getting enough attention from teachers
- Worried about your child's idiosyncracies or stimming behaviors and how they will be perceived
- Uncertainty over the quality of education your child will receive
- Your child's difficulty with change and transitions
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Pros of Homeschooling
Any homeschooled child benefits from a customized curriculum that works with individual strengths and weaknesses. For a child with autism, the custom design of a homeschool program can meet developmental needs while incorporating therapy into the learning day.
Other benefits to homeschooling Asperger's children include:
- Since you create the schedule, you can tailor it to your child. Some children learn better during the day while others may be more alert in the early evening hours.
- You can focus on helping your child understand every aspect of a subject before moving on to the next.
- You can schedule doctor's appointments, checkups or therapy services without missing any important lessons.
- You can create a lesson at the playground, the grocery store, or the waiting room of the doctor's office. You can practice math, science or other skills almost anywhere, anytime.
- You can incorporate sensory integration into your child's schedule.
- You control meals and snacks, which is important if your child has food allergies, or if you are using a gluten and casein-free diet.
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Cons of Homeschooling
While homeschooling may seem like a wonderful idea for you and your child, there are other points to consider before making the leap. One major problem with homeschooling an Asperger's child is the lack of socialization, which is a key deficit that needs to be worked on for the child to be successful.
Other problems with homeschooling Asperger's children include:
- Loss of income for the parent who needs to stay home and be the educator. This can create financial hardships for your family if you do not budget correctly or cannot afford to lose income.
- Problems with teaching certain subjects, if you are unfamiliar with them or do not understand the teaching methods. Many school districts have particular ways to teach subjects, especially math, and you may not know what those methods are. You might also struggle to teach certain subjects you dislike or did not excel at when you were in school.
- Difficulty keeping up with the demands of daily life and school life. Life won't stop just because you need to homeschool your child. You will need to continue to meet the demands of cooking, cleaning, laundry and other chores, as well as keeping up with preparing lessons and other education-based activities.
- No participation in extracurricular activities, school trips or other fun things. Children who are homeschooled tend to miss out on those leisure and fun actitives that are a part of the public school system.
- Your child may not want you as a teacher. Just as some children behave better when they are with people other than their parents, so might your child learn better when with a teacher rather than with you.
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Tips and Suggestions
Making the decision to homeschool is a personal choice and one that needs to be carefully considered before taking on such a large responsibility. You need to be committed to the process and if you cannot do it, the public school system has done wonders for many children with autism. However, if you decide to take on the task of homeschooling your Asperger's child, here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of the experience:
- Learn about the regulations for homeschooling in your state before beginning a homeschooling program. Violating any homeschooling policies can result in legal action against you.
- Keep a journal of your daily schedule and write down all the work you complete each day. A homeschool daily planner is an excellent organizational tool to consider.
- Don't forget about social activities when you are homeschooling your son or daughter. Be sure your child has interaction with people outside of the home, specifically with children their own age. Consider joining a play group or kiddies club.
- Stay consistent with your daily routine without being too rigid. Try using a picture schedule to help your child anticipate what to expect. Set aside the same block of time each day for learning, for play and for downtime.
- Join an online support network to assist you with developing a curriculum, incorporating therapy into the day and troubleshooting any problems you might encounter.
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CBS News; http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/05/health/main5363192.shtml
National Home Education Research Institute; http://www.nheri.org/