4 Reasons Why Home Education (Homeschooling) is a Good Fit for our Autistic Child

I’ve been hesitating somewhat to write this post. I’d really like it to be a positive one, as focusing on the good sides of life is so important to me. It would be quite easy to let myself get dragged down by thoughts about all the difficult and sometimes miserable aspects of our existance. But our boy needs me so I’m choosing positive, as much as I can!

However, sometimes good things need to be contrasted with the bad, in order for us to really see and appreciate them. Even the brightest candle is not very noticable on a sunny day, is it?

I’m aware that many parents see home education as something that they’re more or less forced into, as a last resort, if going to school isn’t working at all for their child. And in a way that’s been the case for us too. On the other hand, it’s a choice that I would have loved to make sooner, if it had been possible for us to do so. But we were living in Sweden, where home education is not an available option, so to make it possible we needed to move back to the UK, which wasn’t an easy decision. And we’re still struggling with some of the strains that the move put us under, mainly financially.

Anyway, we made the move over a year ago now, and the positives this has brought for Penguin definitely overshadows all the practical difficulties. And when things are feeling difficult, I like to have a think about how we’ve ended up where we are and what the advantages are, compared to how things were. I recently read a text written by another home educating mum, which resonated deeply with me. She is doing home education withe her son because school just wasn’t working for him, and you could say it was forced upon them as they’d run out of other choices. But despite this, home education has become a wonderfully positive experience, for both mother and son. You can read the full story here: Life after school breaks down – one mum’s adventure in home-based special education

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So in keeping with the predominantly positive spirit of that text, I’d like to point out a few important reasons why home education is a great fit for our Penguin:

1. Less stress

This is the one thing I feel is making the greatest difference, and it’s also what’s making me feel most guilt, over not having realised sooner HOW big a factor stress has been in Penguin’s life. He’s not a child who has seemed very stressed or anxious in general. And his reaction to stress has more often been one of shutdown rather than meltdown (even though we’ve had our fair share of the latter, too). A shutdown means, in short, that a person internalises the stress and goes kind of numb and unresponsive. In Penguin’s case, there have been many times where I thought he was either extremely relaxed or tired, when in fact he was shutting down due to being overwhelmed, stressed by things like too much sensory input or too many uncertainties.

In a school environment, there are many factors which can create sensory overwhelm for children with autism, as outlined in this post from Starlight and Stories. There are sounds, smells and tastes as well as tactile input, and as being autistic often means that you experience difficulties in processing a multitude of sensory stimulation, this can easily result in a build-up of stress, which may lead to a shutdown or meltdown.

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I’d like to add to the brilliant post from Starlight and Stories by mentioning visual input (which the post only touches on in regards to lighting). To children like Penguin, who rely very heavily on their vision (to explain more about that will have to be a whole other post, I think!), being in a school environment can be a visual onslaught: There are kids moving around all the time and often in unpredictable ways; There’s stuff placed in front of you to focus on, bright paper, pencils, and coloured crayons, but at the same time the teacher is expecting you to pay attention to what’s going on at the front of the class, what is being written on the blackboard etc.; Your one-on-one assistant is asking you to look at her while she tries to explain or show something to you, while in the corner of your eye another child is waving his hand to get the teachers attention to come and look at their work; And there are posters on the walls, little dots in the ceiling panels, and maybe wallpaper or a patterned floor; And there are large windows with trees outside, causing a play of light and shadows, and streaks of sunshine in which you can see little particles of dust dancing joyfully in the air.

It’s rarely ONE thing that causes stress levels to get too high, but rather a build-up of many things on top of each other. In addition to the sensory aspects mentioned above, there are also social interactions to deal with, and the travelling to and from school, and so on. Persons with autism have also been found to often be running on “high idle” in regards to stress levels, meaning that their build-up of stress often starts off from an already higher level than for most of us. (Here’s a short note on that from Autism Discussion Page: Accumulation of Stress Chemicals)

As described in the above mentioned post from Starlight and Stories, there are many ways in which the school setting can be adjusted in order to limit stress. If you work in a school environment, please make sure to check out those suggestions!

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2. More sleep

Another aspect which has been problematic for us, but is much more manageable now that we’re home edding, is sleep. I recently wrote this guest post for Special Educational Needs Resources Blog about our issues with sleep and ways we’ve tried to improve it. As I’ve described there, the amount of hours that Penguin manages to sleep each night is generally quite good at the moment, BUT his rythm is still very problematic, so if he would have had to get up for school early most mornings, sleep would still have been a major issue. Some mornings he’ll wake up early, even though he’s fallen asleep quite late. You’d think that he’d be tired in the evening after that, but no, he may well stay wide awake until 1am or later. The fact the we can follow a flexible rythm now that we’re home edding is invaluable to us, not least to my own health, physically as well as mentally.

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3. Fewer ‘cooks’

When Penguin went to school, and to pre-school before that, there were many hours spent in meetings of various kinds. Meetings with the speech therapist and special ed teacher from the local ‘Autism Team’. Meetings with the headmaster at Penguin’s school, or with the SENCO, or both. Meetings with Penguin’s one-on-one assistant plus various combinations of the previously mentioned roles. Or the occupational therapist. Et cetera.

In these meetings, there were often long discussions about what supports, strategies and adjustments that were needed for Penguin. And most of the meetings ended on a positive note, with great conclusions about things that were going to be applied from now on, to help Penguin. However, after a few weeks, or sometimes sooner and sometimes later, it usually became clear that the strategies agreed on were not being implemented. Most of the time, this was due to someone who’d not been at the meeting in question, but who had strong opinions on what could/should (or couldn’t/shouldn’t) be done and how, why etc.

Just to give a few brief examples: It was agreed that Penguin should get time to work on things one-on-one with his assistant in a separate room, but then no room was actually made available for them, or that room had to be shared with a few others. Another example would be that it had been agreed that he’d be working on certain skills, but then it just didn’t happen because they forgot or didn’t have (make) time or Penguin wasn’t found to be motivated enough. Or, when it had been agreed that he should have access to an AAC app as well as certain visual supports, they were left in his school bag day after day without any use what so ever. And then there was the issue of continuity, which everyone agreed on as being important, but which turned out to be impossible and “unrealistic” to expect much of in reality.

I’m by no means perfect, and it often happens that we do different things than what I’d originally planned. But what we do is always based around what is relevant to him. And there hasn’t been endless hours wasted in meetings for making those plans, or on trying to explain the whys and hows to people who look like they’re listening but in reality take no notice what-so-ever.

Also, he now has a full-time one-on-one who understands him well and loves working with him, and who will never give up on him. (That’s me, in case that wasn’t obvious.) And my position is about as permanent as it gets.

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4. More Learning

This fourth and final point on my list is in many ways a product of the other three:

With less stress comes the ability to learn more, as when you’re highly stressed, you’re not really open to learning. In order to focus and take on board new knowledge and/or skills, you first need to feel at peace in the situation you’re in. Also, when Penguin was attending school, he was so exhausted in the evenings and weekends that it was rarely possible to do any constructive activities together. So in case you were thinking that we could catch up at home on those things he should have done at school but couldn’t manage in that environment, the answer is no. We tried to, but it wasn’t working very well, and certainly wasn’t sustainable.

More sleep helps in making you fit for learning, and while we’re asleep the brain processes what has been going on during the day. Useful brain connections are strengthened, while less successful ones get weeded out.

And having fewer ‘cooks’ means that we can focus our time and energy more constructively, and make all relevant adjustments without constant compromises and people pulling in different directions. It also means that Penguin doesn’t have to spend months building a close relationship with a person only to have it taken away again a few months later when that person moves on with their life, or is moved on by their boss.

All these aspects form a stronger base for development and learning than what we could realistically achieve at school, even with great support and individual adjustments. So, at least for now, we’re very happy to be home edding.

~~~ ♥️ ~~~

You might also like to read: 7 significant (non-academic) steps forward in our first few months of Home Education

4 Reasons Why Home Education (Homeschooling) is a Good Fit for our Autistic Child. Sensory Processing, Special Educational Needs, Learning, Autism Awareness and Acceptance, Sleep issues, Stress Reduction, Social Interactions. Respect, Passion, Motivation.

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Lucy At Home

ethannevelyn.com

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School Runs and Shopping Trolleys
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83 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why Home Education (Homeschooling) is a Good Fit for our Autistic Child

    1. Thank you 😊 I’ve had an interest in learning and teaching for as long as I can remember, which I think has made it an easier step to take. Though I doubt we would have chosen it if we’d had a neurotypical child who coped okay with school. As it is now, I love it 🙂x

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  1. I didn’t know you couldn’t choose home schooling in other countries. I’ve always thought f it as a right of every parent. In your shoes, and knowing what I know about our education system, I would do exactly what you are doing now. Good luck. #blogstravaganza

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your supportive comment! ♥️
      Not many countries have outlawed home education completely, but unfortunately Sweden is one them. A child is seen as belonging to itself and the state there, more than to its parents. And I can see how home ed is sometimes problematic, for sure, but to completely ban it isn’t a good solution, at all 😔x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that does seem weird. I expect it’s to do with the rights of the child? Anyway, I think each child should be treated as an individual. Children with SEN do have different needs that may not be met by a state education; it’s obvious to me! Having taught many children with ASD I have realised that they have all had such differing needs. The fact that you are home schooling must be tricky at times but at least you know how he thinks and will react to certain things. Xx

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As the mum of an autistic child, I get where you are coming from . I think home educating isn’t for all but I can definitely see the benefits – you are awesome to have the balls to do it. Many would shy away from the decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I don’t think it’s balls… It was much more terrifying leaving him at school everyday, constantly worrying about wether he’d wander off, or if people were good to him or not. Very difficult when he can’t communicate, and it’s hard to trust staff when you hear different version of events etc. We’ve chosen home ed for Penguin’s sake, but it’s also been a positive choice for me (and for my husband, too).
      I hope your child feels at home in their educational environment, and is getting adequate support and encouragement xx

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  3. Good for you! It sounds like Penguin is so much more settled by your decision. Homeschooling was the best decision we could ever have made for my son, and now the youngest is on board too 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing with #MMBC x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Hayley, I’m glad it all seems to make good sense to you 🙂 I think home edding can be fantastic for many children, it all depends on what suits the child as well as their family. For me, I think it would have been a much more difficult decision if school had been working pretty okay for Penguin. As it was, it became so very clear that we could offer him something better, by choosing home education. xx

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  4. Great post here, I am really fascinated by other people’s experiences as I come from an education background with an interest in SEN. We’ve done preschool at home but haven’t homeschooled our children beyond that. Having said that, if they needed it, we totally would. You are right to do the best thing for your child and remain positive about your decisions. #thelistlinky

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  5. Yes to all of this, particularly the fewer cooks! Am mentally preparing myself for when we might be back at this stage of home educating if this next placement doesn’t work out…. don’t want to be negative, but for all your reasons above I can’t see it working :/

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    1. Oh Steph… I’m following your journey and have seen how your girl seems keen to go to school despite the many difficulties… So I’m really hoping that the new placement exceeds all expectations and works out wonderfully for you all! At the same time I certainly understand your concerns about how it might not work, even with a lot of great support and adjustments. In our case, I feel that there are some aspects of going to school that we just can’t get around, so this is what works for us (as things are now anyway).
      If indeed you do go back to home ed, I hope that Sasha will grow to love it, eventually! 💗

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  6. Great blog. A year in to home ed that was forced upon me for my autistic son and I am it’s greatest advocate. Life is so much happier. My experience is very much the same as yours in terms of the points you make and i wish I’d started sooner too. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s really wonderful to hear!
      It’s tough on the finances for sure, but life wasn’t really worth living the way things were before… but now it is! So certainly worth it. No money in the world helps when life isn’t working for your child, while to see them happy is priceless 😊💗xx

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  7. I’m so glad home educating has been such a positive force for Penguin! I feel very lucky that Max’s school is very much on the same page as me – we all do our best to make sure he has all the support needed. I do worry a bit about his future in high school though.

    He’s in Primary 5 at the moment so discussions will be starting relatively soon about early transition, but I’m not feeling very confident at our local high school’s ability to give him the best opportunities for him, you know? At the same time I don’t think home educating would work well for us as Max thrives on the structure and routine of the school day – his sleep patterns are much more regular during term time than over the holidays. Eek! Time will tell I suppose.

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    1. Yes, there’s certainly no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to education, and for some children school is great in many ways. (I loved school as a kid, at least most of the time and especially the first few years.) It’s great that you’ve got such a supportive school, and I really hope you find something that works well for Max as he moves up in schooling, too ❤️xx

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  8. This post is so honest and inspiring for me. You’re so fantastically positive, yet reflective about all the different areas. I love the part about needing to have the perhaps less positive things to emphasise how great the good things are, so true in all aspects of life! Also, the description of the kind of sensory overload a classroom can deliver is amazing and really eye opening. I used to work as an INA in a classroom and the way you’ve broken down the endless list of distractions and demands that can be on a child at one time is so important to read and to appreciate how they might be feeling. The ‘less cooks’ point is so interesting, although our children don’t have SEN we too had situations when something may have been agreed together with their teacher, then didn’t happen for a multitude of reasons, mostly the fact that they had many different teachers through job shares or teachers who were also fulfilling other roles as school deputy etc, therefore were regularly not present in the classroom. One example, my daughter became very anxious that she wouldn’t be allowed to go to the toilet if she didn’t need to during break, as some teachers allowed this during class time and some didn’t, she started getting infections as she stopped drinking to avoid needing to go. We spoke at length with the teacher about this who agreed of course she should go when she needs to, but it wasn’t implemented across all staff despite various meetings and phone calls and she became more and more anxious. What was a small issue became a very big one for her. Less cooks is a massive plus for us too. I could write lots more as your post has really resonated but I think this comment is probably long enough now! (sorry!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I’m so glad to hear that my post makes sense to you, including my attempt at describing sensory overload.
      I’m very sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience regarding toilet breaks, that was quite poor of the school I think, to not manage to implement the chance for her to go whenever she needed to. The problem with ‘too many cooks’ can definitely cause a whole range of issues, for both children and parents…
      No need ever to apologise about a comment being long, I very much appreciate the interaction! xx

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  9. I remember when I took my eldest son out of school to home educate him. I had to give up a job that I loved but the stress of school was much worse. It was never easy but it felt like our only option. So I understand the difficulties, but I know there were many positives too, so, I’m so happy that you can focus on the positives too. I eventually found a ‘special’ school for my son which worked out really well and he managed to do his GCSE’s despite his disability.
    #TheMMLinky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! I really appreciate hearing about others experiences of these things. And it’s brilliant to hear that you eventually found an educational solution which worked so well for your son! x

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  10. Thank you for that share. I’m going through this debate in my head constantly at the moment. My son is newly diagnosed and absolutely hates school. It’s so stressful like you’ve said, I think I really need to way up our options. #fortheloveofBLOG

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that your son is unhappy at school the way things are at the moment. It’s tough… Maybe you’ve already done this, but if not, I’d suggest joining a few home ed groups on Facebook, to follow what people are discussing there, and maybe ask for advice too. While checking out what your options are if he stays in school, where he is or elsewhere, what support you can get etc… Wishing you all the best! ♥️xx

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  11. Lovely to read and will revisit when I am more with it. We home educate and although I am convinced that it is right for my daughter who is on the spectrum I think, I wobble a lot and posts like this one help to remind me of the positives all of which I agree with so I think I will return to this post again and again #TheMMLinky

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So interesting, I have never even considered home schooling if I am honest but I can really understand the benefits after reading this post. Thanks for joining in with #BlogCrush xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kel! Yes, I’m finding it very positive despite some difficult aspects. I think ‘my bank manager’ (haven’t really got one lol) would have adviced against it, as would sadly some members of our extended family, but when looking at what is better for Penguin (as well as for us as parents) this is it ♥️
      Wishing you and H all the best on this new path! x

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    1. Thank you, yes the energy levels is a huge thing, at least it has been for us. When Penguin was in school he’d always be too exhausted to do anything constructive. I hope you’ll find a good solution whether in or out of school xx

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  13. As a mom of a teen with Autism I can empathize with your struggles especially during those IEP meetings. I have had a very different experience with my son’s schools from pre-school to high school and I never would have been able to do home education. I don’t have the patience for it for one and both of my boys need their home to be home and school to be school. It has to be separate for them but I also understand that public (or even private) school isn’t for everyone. And given what the education system is these days with all this unnecessary state testing and what-not, I completely understand parents who choose home education over a public education. There is a lot of learning that I still give to my boys outside of school (like using Nature to teach, my favorite technique) that doesn’t require a classroom. We learn and grow throughout our lives and we seem to learn more once we leave the school life behind. I’m glad you have found what helps you and your son:) #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! It sounds really great that you’re learning together in nature. We too like to use experiences out and about for learning, more than classroom type lessons, although sometimes it can be useful to practise basic concepts in a more ‘traditional’ way. It’s also great to hear that your sons seem to have a good experience with their school! 👍x

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  14. A method that treats the child as an individual and meets their needs is essential and our education system cannot cope with that due to budget cuts and the bureaucracy faced by teachers. Home schooling allows freedom of choice to find a routine which is best suited to the child. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed. I was quite happy in school as a child, but also didn’t know of any options, and didn’t have the special needs which my son has. And as you say, it seems to have become increasingly difficult to find enough time and money for the schools to meet all individual children’s needs. I think the option to educate at home is a very important one, and it should be appreciated and protected 👍x

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    1. Thank you! I think there are huge benefits to be had if it’s a good fit for both child(ren) and parent(s) 🙂 There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to education, and many children thrive at school. But there are also many children who for various reasons have much of their life ruined at school, and for many of them, home ed can be a superb option. So I believe it’s very important that the possibility to home educate is preserved and protected, and thet we keep showing positive examples of how and why it’s working well for many kids and their families x

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  15. I personally didnt really like the idea of homeschooling, but over the years I have realised there are certain times when homeschooling is actually better for the child than staying in a school environment. It sounds like this really works for your son and as long as he is still learning and progressing – who gives a crap where he is being schooled???!!!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This is really interesting. My little boy has only just started school, but I’m already wondering if he’d be better being home schooled. Food for thought definitely. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time.

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  17. After homeschooling for eight-plus years now, I have no regrets and have collected many wonderful memories. I too started out homeschooling as a necessity when my 6-year old son absolutely hated school, and we both fell in love with homeschooling from the get-go. It’s the perfect fit for us even now that he’s in high school. He thinks he’s luckier than his public schooled peers because he has so much freedom and a lot less stress as you pointed out.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is a great post!! When I worked at Disneyland, we had a whole group of autistic children that were home schooled by their parents and would make pretty frequent “field trips” to Disneyland to meet up while others were at school and the park was quieter. We saw the transition in quite a few of them from when they went to school to when they were home schooled and the difference it made for them was life changing.
    I’m sure your move was not easy, but I hope the benefits outweigh every thing else and that he thrives!
    #bloggerpinparty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, that’s lovely to hear about!
      And being able to visit places while most children are at school is definitely an advantage, as it often gets overwhelming on busy days.
      We’ve still got a lot to work on, of course, but so far he’s certainly showing a lot of positive effects from being out of the school environment xx

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