One of the hardest parts about parenting an autistic child is that there is no one with all the answers for you. The spectrum is broad and each child is unique. This makes getting advice and plotting the best course for your child’s education unique and difficult. Many families find homeschooling a good fit for their child’s needs while others find success in the public school. The flexibility of the homeschool environment can be suited to educating a differently wired kid. I know for a fact that my child is the brave, confident, child he is because we gave him a safe and supportive environment for the last 3 years to learn at home.
Homeschool Burnout can come with Special Needs
What often isn’t mentioned is the isolation that occurs for the parent when teaching at home. When the child’s needs begin to limit your interactions with others it can be very lonely. Homeschool Co-ops have been a great place for us to find a supportive community, but they do not solve all problems. You may have to take him out of the co-op classes once a week because he’s being a disruption. Co-op field trips can be an ordeal if the special needs child is having a bad day, and this can cause the siblings to miss a fun adventure.
Providing Special Education services at home can be exhausting and it affects the whole family. Facilitating therapies and adapting curriculum can be time consuming. Also, the needs of the child are constantly changing, which requires constant tweaking to the routine for everyone. I have witnessed growing anxiety in our other kids as they struggle to make sense of it. Unhealthy burdens can also be placed on the siblings as they have to (or feel like they have to) act as mini caretakers or guardians.
Trying Something New
For some of these reasons, we made the tough decision late this summer to enroll him in the local public school district this year. At the end of his first day at his new school, we had an IEP meeting. His new teacher prefaced her first comments with concerns for not hurting our feelings as the parents. She shared with the others at the meeting that she needs help in the classroom immediately because of the multiple verbal outbursts that disrupted her class that day from our new student.
It was hard to hear another educator describe what had been such a part of our normal for awhile. She was able to ask a team for help while I had very few people to turn to to help in the same way. Most suggestions around me were to just “send him to school”. Our previous experience with a local school (in another part of the country) had been very negative, so we were resistant to that suggestion for a long time.
Summer Growth prepares for New Experiences
However, last year I started to dream of other options for school for him. I never pursued it because I didn’t want to be doing it for selfish reasons. At times I felt like it would be choosing favorites. Over the summer I started asking him what he thought about going to school, and (to my surprise), he liked the idea. Recently he has made huge leaps in maturity and social interest. He became comfortable at our city pool and could navigate the lazy river completely independently, even asking on multiple visits to go by himself. He went to a day camp and took needed sensory breaks on his own initiative. For the first time, he was eager to rejoin the activities instead of wanting to quit and go home when he was overwhelmed. His desire to try out school made it feel to me like this was no longer me considering sending him away to school. It was part of his desire. As a mom it made all the difference in my motivation to pursue this different education path for him.
So here’s to a new year and a brave boy! We will all be adjusting to a different rhythm and school routine. Now we have 2 students at home and one who rides the bus. Those of us at home will be adjust to a missing playmate, and an empty desk. We can’t wait to hear about his new friends and favorite activities. I guess you could say we made already made some changes to those 3rd Grade Curriculum Choices.
Linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers