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Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once said, "Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible to accomplish."
If you're considering homeschooling your autistic child, realize that while it may seem difficult if not impossible, there are parents who have done it, and continue to do it, successfully.
If you choose this path, you will join many other parents of children with autism who have pursued this alternative educational option. In 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) cited "a physical or mental problem" or "special needs" as among the top five reasons for homeschooling a child.
There is, simply, no "right" or "wrong" way to homeschool your child, basically because what works for one child or adult may not work for another. Your child, for instance, may respond best in a structured program, while another might do best with more freedom or flexibility. It really comes down to trial and error, at first, and what turns out working for you and your child.
Thus, this article will focus less on how to homeschool your autistic child and more so on whether or not you should, or shouldn't, do so.
Homeschooling: Benefits for your Child and You
Okay, so you've decided to go ahead and take the plunge: rearrange your schedule, maybe even quit a full-time job, and stay home to school your child. Have you made the right choice?
Certainly, your child would say yes. For the child, learning at home can be a huge benefit. They will likely feel more relaxed and it can bring you and your child closer.
You can feel more relaxed, too, despite the pressure you might feel that you are now responsible for your child's education. You get to feed your child at lunchtime. You know that your child is safe at home, free from possible bullying or the unease of being in a classroom. You likely know better than any teacher what your child needs and when he or she needs it, and you are there to respond.
Why else might this arrangement not only work but possibly be more beneficial to a child with autism?
Well, in some cases an autistic child can have difficulty maintaining the type of schedule or feel comfortable in the structure a school dictates.
Homeschooling allows for the type of flexibility in which some autistic children thrive.
Homeschooling also allows for the personal one-on-one time that can be crucial for a child with autism. While school programs can be and in many cases are effective, they cannot provide the same personalized attention that a parent can bring to a homeschool program.
And the biggest plus of all? That one-on-one time is with you. Spending the day with your child, watching him or her grow and learn, is an advantage which cannot be overstated.
There's really no more of a downside to homeschooling a child with autism than there would be for homeschooling any child.
Disadvantages (or maybe a better word is hurdles or obstacles) include:
Finances: if you're leaving a job to handle homeschooling duties, can you afford to do so?
Self-doubt: Can I actually be a teacher to my child? Will he or she learn as much as they would outside of a traditional classroom?
Siblings: will this arrangement affect any non-autistic children in the house?
Other responsibilities: can I fit in homeschooling with other responsibilities, such as housecleaning or grocery shopping?
All of these are challenges, true, but they can for the most part be overcome. For instance, homeschooling can become a family affair, with siblings and other family members contributing rather than being left out.
And you don't have to go it alone. Reach out to other professionals, such as therapists and behavior specialists, to assist you on your homeschooling journey.
Use appointments with these individuals to tend to other responsibilities, if possible. There are even homeschooling you can turn to when you're feeling overburdened!
Certain kinds of assistive technology can also be a great help when you feel like you might need a way to keep your child’s interest.
So is homeschooling a child with autism difficult? Yes. Is it rewarding for the parent? Good for the child? Yes and yes. If you can make it work, it can certainly be the most enriching and rewarding experience of your life. And most of all, you just might have fun doing it. To close on another quote, this one from Walt Disney: "It's kind of fun to do the impossible."