Six Tips for Homeschooling Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder
If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you know that there is no cut-and-dried picture of what you can expect when it comes to behavior, learning, and social and language skills. But a diagnosis of ASD does not mean that your child cannot have a full, fun, joyful life and grow to be a productive member of your family and society. The key is to work with your child and individualize your approach to parenting and education to set your loved one up for success. Homeschooling your child could be the key to unlocking his or her full potential.
Your child perceives and interacts with the world uniquely and, as a result, needs a unique approach to education. Many families have found the individualized approach of homeschooling to be the right choice for their autistic child.
Advantages of Homeschooling a Child with ASD
No one solution is right for every child and family. However, homeschooling has advantages that may be particularly useful for students with ASD. Homeschooling:
- Gives parents total and complete control over their child’s environment, education, and social experiences.
- Provides a truly individualized program tailored to the child’s unique needs, abilities, and interests.
- Allows the child to take breaks, avoid sensory triggers, and sidestep social frustrations, making it easier to learn.
- Removes social pressures and struggles and provides a safe, loving environment.
- Enables parents to spend more time watching their child learn and grow.
- Removes the pressures of academic advocating and IEP meetings.
Tips for Homeschooling Your Child with ASD
1. Work with topic fixations.
Children with ASD often become fixated on a specific interest, such as trains, dinosaurs, or sports. As a parent and teacher, you can use these fixations to engage your child. They don’t have to be a hindrance, a distraction, or something that distances you from your child. Fixations are a window into your child’s mind. Find an aspect of your child’s current favorite topic that can relate to your lessons.
2. Share your power as the authority figure with your child.
Help increase your child’s confidence and decision-making skills by empowering him or her to participate in educational decisions. Let your child select curriculum that includes topics of interest, appeals to visual strengths, and provides the kind of structure that works for him or her. Putting your child in this natural position of leadership also helps to develop critical thinking skills. It can keep you both focused and motivated to push through setbacks.
3. Encourage real-world socialization.
The question that often weighs heaviest on the minds of parents of autistic children is: Will my child be able to function in the real world? Real-world socialization is another area where you can use your child’s topic-based fixations to make connections and enhance development. If your child is fixated on cars, take him or her to see a local mechanic; if the fixation is on a time period in history, visit a museum. Your child will stay interested in learning and receive the socialization needed to integrate into the real world when the time comes.
4. Incorporate physical exercise.
Physical movement is crucial for kids with autism and should be done daily during your homeschool routine. Repetitive physical movements like jumping, pedaling a bicycle, or swinging can soothe your child while providing the sensory input needed to sit still and learn.
5. Stick to your schedule, but take frequent breaks.
Children with ASD often thrive on routine and structure. Having a daily schedule that is visually posted for your child to reference will be helpful. Keep in mind that your child will need frequent breaks to decompress, find sensory input, or simply take a break from learning. Create a “safe spot” filled with soothing items like books and music that your child can use just for these times. You can also use this spot as a reward or if your child is having a meltdown or struggling to transition from one task to another.
6. Know when to ask for help.
This is perhaps the most important thing to remember. Undertaking the challenge of homeschooling a child with autism is a huge task, and it is important that you are never alone throughout the process. You will likely need help choosing curriculum, classes, and record-keeping when your child reaches high school. Be sure to find an accredited learning partner that can not only guide you through these important years and course requirements, but is also a curriculum expert, understands the unique needs of children with ASD, and can point you in the right direction toward classes and curriculums that will work for your unique learner.
Homeschooling your child with ASD can increase family time, help prepare your child for the real world, give you the flexibility you need to focus on therapies and provide a safe, loving, exciting school experience. To get more tips for homeschooling a student with autism, download this free resource.