Why I'm Glad We Homeschool Our Autistic Son

We are starting our 3rd year of homeschooling our 12 year old son.  My husband is the primary instructor.  Nathan is minimally verbal, with bipolar and associated irritability, and has self-injurious behaviors.  Many parents I hear say "I love those hours someone else is in charge."  But we are glad we homeschool.

Here is why.

1.  He wasn't learning.  The people in charge of him, in general, underestimated him.  They changed over frequently and each new one would assume that his IQ measure of 46 was accurate and start at the beginning.  Again.  For some he was even doing ABCs.  Many of them he apparently held in contempt because he would act like he couldn't while his TSS snorted with laughter when the teacher would say "the poor dear doesn't understand."  Even if they did believe in his intelligence, the load on their time kept them from pursuing what had to be done.  He's reading now on a third/fourth grade level and doing triple digit addition and subtraction.

2.  We can customize.  The first year we just winged it, reading, doing some math, and reading a whole lot more.  Also lots of community trips, bike rides on the tandem and walks.  And working on leisure time activities.  Which sounds lame, until you realize that he NEVER had any.  He was in constant motion and never settled down to any interest, ever.  Except breaking things.  Now he likes to play Wii U, look at videos on YouTube and swing outside.  I can finally buy him presents, because I know things he likes.  Before it was always food items, because that's all he could show interest in.

The second year, on the advice of a special ed teacher, we started a curriculum that was actually developed for classrooms with multi-level learners.  But it works great for him and we can choose middle school or high school curriculums.  If it starts NOT working for him, we can change it midstride and not worry about having already used up our budget, or getting school board approval.

3.  Observers are limited.  By that I mean, he is not being passed from person to person throughout the day.  And winding up/melting down without anyone knowing why.  We know how he feels from the time he wakes up.  If he is particularly slow that day, dad works on revving him up.  This is how his bipolar was finally diagnosed - we saw him irritable from morning through night, crying with no outward reason, severely self-abusive.  And we knew that nothing external was triggering it.

4.  We are flexible.  If he is tired, dad walks and does wake up exercises (cross-body, high/low).  If he is grouchy or irritable, we relax the requirements.  If he is sick, he practices leisure time activities!  I had an extra long lunch break today and came home and walked the dog with two leashes with him.  He loves the feedback he gets through the leash and we are practicing for getting his service dog next May.  Some days he sleeps late and some days he wakes up early.  We can accommodate either one, because, in general, he needs a LOT of sleep.

5.  He gets loads of life skills.  At school they had started folding towels for the cafeteria.  But they never moved on to anything else once he had that skill.  At home he can now load the wash, transfer it to the dryer under (usually) minimal supervision.  He can hang it up on the line with one assist.  He can unload the dishwasher with sometimes minimal supervision, but occasionally gets distracted and needs to remember to get back on task.  He goes to the store ALL the time.  He is still working on toothbrushing, but does it with supervision in the morning.  So he gets life skills, and I get my laundry done!

6.  We have freedom to go to appointments.  When he was in school we had trouble with taking them out for therapy.  We got letters for missed days.  Now?  Have your mom tell your teacher when your appointment is and don't let him forget!

7.  We get all the good parts of his day.  All the bad parts, too.  But at school his energy was sucked up and he would get home to his little brother, who is the biggest pain in his ass and be horribly irritable.  Now little brother is in school, and we get the best parts of his day.

Would we like to have him in school?  Sure.  More than that we want him learning.  I would love for my husband to have more leisure time.  But he couldn't get a job outside the house anyway.  Because someone has to be home when Nathan gets off the van.  And there is no one else.


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