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There are a lot of good things about home schooling, there are also a lot of difficult things about it. Home schooling a special needs child, especially an autistic one can be particularly difficult. For us however, it was the only real answer as middle school with its overcrowded hallways, noisy lunch rooms, excessive home work and the lack of willingness on the part of the school to even consider any form of accomodations because they "didn't have the money" loomed in our son's future four years ago. I see this turning into a string of diaries if there's interest in the subject, but this one is going to focus on the positives and negatives of home schooling an autistic child.

On the positive side, there is the flexibility of curriculum, no bullies, lack of FCAT testing, one on one attention, fewer distractions, working around his bad days, and the ability to work other things our son needed for success into the day such as sensory integration therapy (which will be another diary), extra breaks, and life skills like cooking and cleaning. The biggest key to success is knowing your child, what they are capable of, what they are not capable of, how they learn best (hands on? video? textbooks? listening? a combination?), and how long they are capable of focusing on any particular task. I can't imagine trying to do this for a classroom of 30 kids, it's hard enough just with our two. One of the best ways I've found with my autistic child is to play to his interests. Mine likes dragons, politics, history, and drawing. These are his primary interests.
    Our social studies project right now is learning about the Bill of Rights. His big project, aside from videos, books, and discussions on the topic is to draw a book about the Bill of Rights that he can use to teach his 8 year old sister about them. His book is titled "The Dragon's Bill of Rights", we've just finished the 2nd Amendment, and let me tell you, dragons with guns.. scary concept. But, he's doing all the drawing, writing up the text (though he's asked me to letter it because he likes my handwriting better) and we're making copies of the pages so he can keep the originals in his portfolio of artwork. And I guarantee when he's done he'll know the Bill of Rights better than Sarah Palin or Christine O`Donnel. He should have learned this, at least some of it in elementary school, but they didn't seem to do much social studies, science or much besides reading and very basic math in his special needs class in public school unfortunately. In a lot of ways we're still playing catch up, but we are making progress.
     We get most of his school work done in about 3 or 4 hours per day, with a few short breaks, though even a lot of those are learning breaks. He may not consider a video about the life and art of Andy Warhol school work, but that's art appreciation. Folding laundry, doing dishes (which he has a step by step list for), cooking, budgeting, shopping, learning how to deal with store clerks, how to take the bus; this is all part of his education. Many kids seem to learn these skills by osmosis through watching their parents do them, in my experience with autistic kids, this doesn't happen    nearly as easily for them, at least not for mine. He can watch me do something 100 times a day, but if he's not doing it, and being explained step by step how to do it forget it, he will get overwhelmed, forget things, and it will be a mess. And so we practice, and I have lists and reminders hung all over the house.
     One of the biggest negatives is the lack of a break from eachother. We offset that by tag team parenting and schooling with the kids. When one of us is getting overwhelmed, the other will take over so the first can have some quiet time, whether that's getting out of the house for a while, going into another room to read, or putting on the headphones and cranking up the music. Another negative is the cost of the materials at times, or not being able to afford a course you really want to do, also the research into the courses, and difficulty figuring out what will work and what will not for our child. I'm also not very good at organizing, so that is also a challenge, keeping all the finished work neat, dated,  and organized can be a problem for me. Notice most of the negatives focus around me and not him?
     This is a LOT of work! I spend a good part of Sunday figuring out vocabulary lists and spelling lists and what we need to accomplish in the coming week, all while keeping it flexible enough to allow for bad days and emergency changes. There are a couple of things that are must do several times a week, reading, math, vocabulary is a big one because of his language delays, it's something we really focus on every week. Luckily our math unit this year is relatively simple from my point of view, we're doing a Dave Ramsey course on personal finance and it's pretty much self contained other than fielding questions and reviewing some concepts (like how to figure out compound interest). Vocabulary I use lists online that are available to high school teachers, SAT lists, and sometimes I take words out of units we're working on or reading (I did this especially when we covered Edgar Allen Poe).This means I write up word lists, analogy or multiple choice questions for the word lists, and the tests as well. But, he's using previous vocabulary words to define new ones, and his speech and understanding of what he's hearing and reading is expanding so I know it's working.
    Another big negative, especially in the beginning is lack of support. My parents and my in-laws were both very wary of the home schooling thing, especially at first. They kept talking about lack of socialization by keeping him home, that he wouldn't develop 'normal' relationships with other kids, that he wouldn't learn what he needed. I think a lot of it came from not understanding what's going on in today's schools and not really understanding his disability.
     In five years in public school never did he have a 'normal' relationship with other kids. There were some kids who tolerated him, and tried to be nice, but he never knew how to deal with it, and those friendships never lasted long. Without being there and being able to see what was happening I didn't know how to help him with those. Also with schools cutting back on recess, on specials, and cracking down on talking in the lunch room, there wasn't a lot of opportunity for socialization, and what did occur mostly seemed to be other kids either bullying him or picking on him. Every day he'd come home angry, in tears, or just completely withdrawn and getting him ready for school was almost always a fight because he never wanted to go. Now he has a few almost normal relationships with peers, mostly online a few in the neighborhood. He's able to talk to other kids his age, at least boys anyway. He has no idea how to handle girls, but I guess that's pretty normal for 15. And when he runs into problems, I can steer him in the right direction because I can see what's going on and explain what he missed, usually in body language, or going on and on about some obscure video game or more commonly, about dragons. He's learning to be a bit more cautious and tolerant during political discussions with adults as well, though he gets angry at the tea party/republican viewpoint sometimes and has trouble staying polite. God help them if they start praising Glenn Beck, we're still working on that filter between brain and mouth. Tact is not something that comes easily to him.
     But, this year, finally we're getting full support from family on our home school endeavors. My mother in law saw him for the first time in four years last month, (she lives several states away and we keep in touch but don't see eachother much) and was just going on about how smart he is and how much he knows and how much better he seems to be doing. He can hold a conversation now, he doesn't have as many melt downs and when he does they're not as severe, he's reading and more interested in other people, he's not as afraid or withdrawn in social situations. Some of it probably has to do with him growing up, but I like to think some of it is because he's in an environment where he's learning rather than memorizing facts. He's learning to think for himself,  to look for answers, and to ask questions (took me two years to get him to ask questions). Sometimes it will take us an extra 20 minutes to get through a video because he'll ask me to stop it so he can ask about a word or concept he didn't understand. Before he would just nod and smile as if he understood and then after you'd ask him about something in the video and he'd have no clue, as if he hadn't watched it at all.
    Overall, as difficult and challenging as home schooling my son is, for us it's the best possible education he can get. He's learning, he's reading, he's making huge advances that he was not making before. There are still a lot of things to work on, and we only have three more years until graduation. We may not be able to get to everything a typical kid in public school would, but he'll know how to find the answers he needs and wants to know. And a lot of that is because of what he didn't learn in the special needs class in public school; honestly he didn't even know fractions or decimals coming out of 5th grade because they only ever did addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. He also emerged from public school hating to read because they told him so often he couldn't ever comprehend it. How they expected him to manage in middle school I have no idea. I can't see him succeeding in the middle school environment I grew up in, and from what I understand it's even more intense now. I loved school, I loved to learn. I still do. I'm glad I was able to pass that love on to my son, even if I had to pull him out of school to do it. In the end, the rewards of home schooling far exceed the difficulties.

Updated by FloridaSNMOM at Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 08:15 PM EDT

Update: I've been rescued! Thank you, and thank you all for your support and comments. I'll definitely be doing another diary in the future about home schooling or about sensory integration, or some other facet of raising an autistic child. Thank you all again.

Originally posted to Parenting on the Autism Spectrum on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 09:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Never had any experience with this, (11+ / 0-)

      but your diary is interesting and informative, and it sounds like you are doing a great job with a hard situation.  I think some of these kids (lots?) have so much potential if they have the right parents.   I'm a big Temple Grandin fan.

    •  You need consider getting an advocate (9+ / 0-)

      They are cheaper than lawyers, and if you are not going to due process, they are frequently just as good.

      If you are in Maryland, consider http://mydisabilityresource.com/ they may also have contacts in your area.

      BTW, where is he on the spectrum?  My son is an Aspie who is f%$#ing brilliant.

      6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

      by LunkHead on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 10:34:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  you do realize that (9+ / 0-)

      most kids don't know how to ride public transportation by themselves?  And I'm talking "normal" kids whose parents are scared to death to let them on the bus with all "those" people.

      •  My aspie son rides public :-) (6+ / 0-)

        we worked on it when he was in fourth grade. So he has to learn the routes with someone else before he can go anywhere alone, since changing trains or buses he's not familiar with is WAY too much. But he's not afraid and he knows how to get his ticket, figure stuff out on the map and ask directions.  

        Of course I work on this with my other kids too.  We live in Frankfurt, so public transit is to them what the car is to my suburban nephews and niece. My kids are a lot more mobile than their suburban - especially the American ones - peers, and they love it.

        What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? - Elvis Costello

        by bluesheep on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 03:26:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Public bus (4+ / 0-)

          Mine is comfortable enough on the public bus that it became one of the considerations for home schooling. A bus stop went right by the middle school, and he has a pass. When he became overwhelmed with school in the past he'd left campus and walked home, or to a nearby playground, even as young as kindergarten. They had him in an enclosed classroom with full supervision every time he left, so long as he didn't have a sub who let him sneak out. How often was he going to get overwhelmed in the morass of teens in the hallways, in all the noise, with the bells ringing and just.. take the bus home in the middle of the day?

          Not only was it a discipline risk from the school's perspective, but it was also a safety risk.

    •  Your child has rights (7+ / 0-)

      and the school has to provide for him by law, money or no money.  If he has a diagnosis and has all the testing, then the school by federal law has to meet with you and create an IEP.  If not, it's time to get a lawyer and sue.  Just of threat of that and the school district will fold because no way in hell will they win.

      I've been on a school board and have a child with a learning disability.  Americans with Disabilities Act.  Even universities must provide for physical and learning disabilities.

      •  Just because they have an IEP (7+ / 0-)

        Doesn't mean they'll have a teacher who can do one-on-one for four hours a day like his parents. No, in this instance it sounds like home education is working out extremely well.

        "In theory, "Equal Time for Nutjobs" should be harmless. ...The problem is that a Mass Media mention gives them instant credibility." Drew Curtis

        by SlackwareGrrl on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 03:57:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  ADA (10+ / 0-)

        My other half was the first mainstreamed child in a wheelchair in Atlanta, I understand the ADA and his rights very well. I could have gotten a lawyer or an advocate and really pushed things, but I'm not convinced it would have been the best thing for my son to have done so. Also at the time I was in school full time and working full time and the frequent iep meetings to fight with the school about it were threatening both my degree and my job.

        As a parent of an autistic child you learn how to choose your battles. When everything you want to get a child to do can turn into a battle, (especially when they're younger, the terrible twos last forever), you soon figure out that sometimes it's just not that important to fight. If a public school education has been the only option or the best option we would have continued to fight it, and would have gotten the best that we could for him. As it was, he was so disfranchised with school  and we were so stressed with trying to battle for his rights that we decided home schooling was better, especially as my other half was both home all day and has a BA in Literature. We could have fought it on the principal of the thing, but there were more important things to focus on, like giving him the best possible education we could.

        •  This is so true (6+ / 0-)

          I have a son who experiences auditory processing difficulties. Not nearly as many issues as with autism, but enough to be going on with.

          He is in public school, which right now seems like the best option for him. But keeping up with the 504 meetings/plan/enforcement is a lot of work. And that's with good, hard-working teachers. We did part-time homeschooling for a while, due to problems with a teacher who couldn't or wouldn't make any accommodations for our son. We tried to get her on board, but eventually pulled our son from that section of school.

          It's a catch-22 for a lot of parents. Do you sacrifice your kid in order to save their rights?

          It sounds as if you and your partner are doing a great job with your son. And now you're educating others about autism. Good for you!

          •  I am a parent (6+ / 0-)

            of a child with a learning disability - language and auditory processing issues.  I've been through the process multiple times.  My job was to advocate for my child.  I was called a high maintenance parent (a label I wore proudly).  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

            I would not be very good at home schooling my own child no matter what (and I had a teaching certificate in secondary ed).  I admire people who can teach their own.  But by law, the school has to provide an IEP specifically geared to that child's learning difficulties.

            I found a private school in suburban Philly that deals only with processing disabilities for her high school.  It's worked out well but before that it was public school.  I was also on a school board and saw all the programs we had in place for all the different kinds of disabilities.  All I am saying is the public school must provide an education for your child and you have a right to demand that they do.  It is sometimes a real battle but it's law.

      •  This is not a slam-dunk. (4+ / 0-)

        There are a lot of frustrations and misunderstandings about special needs kids and what school districts are obligated to provide. This often leads people to think that suing is a good idea. By federal law, public schools are required to provide a FAPE (free and appropriate public education) to students who qualify for special education services. FAPE does NOT mean the best or most effective education, or the one that parents would like to have - it means something individualized for the child which allows him/her access to the curriculum.

        For example, for some children with autism, the most effective treatment may be ABA, which is time- and effort-intensive. However, schools are NOT required to provide this. Like it or not, that's the law.

        There certainly are instances in which schools fail to provide what is required by law; I have no idea whether that's the case here. There are also plenty of instances in which the schools are doing what they should, but that those services are still not enough to maximize a kid's potential. It's a difficult road, but I applaud the diarist for putting in the effort to do the very best for her son.

        •  Just threatening to sue or getting a mediator (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angstall, worldlotus, second alto

          can be enough.  Look, if you want to home school, great, but if you don't then there are remedies.  It is exhausting, I know.  But you do have a way to fight to get your child what he/she  needs.  You're right, they don't have to provide the best but they have to provide adequate and good.

        •  Leap Year, I agree & disagree with what you have (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Leap Year, second alto

          written.  Disagree because individual systems do not seem to interpet FAPE the same way nor give consideration to other ACTS that in fact do provide the neccessary accomondations to receive FAPE.

          There are multiple federal laws that can & do provide recourse that does not neccesitate law suits or even filing due process.  And considering the monies that every state has applied for; currently there should be no "financial" excuse being given, IMHO.

          Linky # 1:
          To check for your state's award letter with amounts in bold:
          http://www2.ed.gov/...

          Linky # 2:
          http://www2.ed.gov/...

          •  It is absolutely true (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            second alto

            that different districts (and even different schools within a district) can interpret FAPE in their own way. A lot of this depends on administrators. I have worked for administrators at the middle school level who just don't give a flip about special ed, period, but also for administrators who go well out of their way to support special ed students.

            As a special ed professional, I would advise parents to educate themselves and try to figure out whether their kid's campus is doing a good job providing FAPE. And you're right; the school cannot say "we cannot afford to provide" services that are covered under FAPE and the child's IEP. But at the same time, schools can say "we cannot afford to provide" ABA therapy or a one-on-one assistant or whatever, if those things are not necessary (not just desirable, but necessary) under FAPE/the IEP.

            •  A big part of the problem (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              second alto, worldlotus

              is that it's the school and the people who work for the school who are the ones who ultimately decide what is necessary vs. what is merely 'desirable'. In order to change that decision, you have to hire a lawyer, or an advocate, or take them to court and the schools, not all, but many of them rely on the fact that a lot of parents can't afford that, nor to miss that much work themselves to push for it.

              To take a child out of a special needs, behavioral support fully enclosed class room and throw them into middle school with NO services and without an iep because suddenly they no longer "need" it is, frankly bull pucky. Even between a main stream elementary class room and middle school there are a LOT of new factors for a child to adjust to, and many NT kids don't adjust smoothly. To expect an autistic child or any special needs child to make that adjustment without any supports at all is irresponsible at best. And from what we were getting, this was standard policy at this middle school. "We can always add an iep later on, lets see how they do." was their standard reply. We just refused to fall for it.

              •  I sometimes wonder about the whole (0+ / 0-)

                chicken or the egg thing re special education.  What part does education & the practical application of education play re admins & teachers regarding special education?  What is missing & at what point is it missing that truly prevents some to "not get it"??!!

                When I was still teaching I had student (special ed) teachers over the years ( & nurses doing practicums, sigh) that at some point would inevitably just blurt out "We were never taught this!".  Quite frankly it scared the sh*t out of me then & I never forgot those moments in time.  Never.

                Granted, our school's population was Pre-K age but was reflective of just about every disability/disorder/need known & unknown.  Instead of an "IEP", there was an "IFSP" in place which was (in theory) the only difference between the services we provided & those a student teacher would be providing in public school at the time.

                 Oh yeah, & year round classes & actual developmental/educational programs based on individual strengths & needs & all therapies, etc etc....

                I remember a time when there was no ABA therapy available outside of select areas in the entire country.  In the early 90's parents that I provided private therapies for had no options locally regarding autism.  In fact Dr Lovaas' team flew out of UCLA to provide training & cert in "ABA" to those that could afford it or knew of it.  The parents that I worked with put second mortgages on their homes to bring ABA to them...

                The county is large; lots of money, largest school district in the state.  For years, autism was not really "understood" nor was ABA "accepted" or implemented.  Not many really knew how to teach or deal with ASD.

                It has been at least 20 years give or take ( I am guessing) since those days & I am so happy to see ABA  & other therapies more widely available.

                 So happy to see class rooms designed specifically for those with high functioning ASD (ie "Aspies") at my child's high school.  But I guarantee that one can go down the road to the next county or next school & witness nothing remotely akin to it.  

                It truly boggles my mind that any school anywhere in the USA in 2011 does not implement sensory integration, ABA or assistive technology.  For any disability but especially so for ASD.  That there are those that refuse to even consider it or just do not get it.

                How can this still be all these years later?????  

                •  Sensory Integration (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  worldlotus

                  When I was in school two years ago (AS in OT) we were told that in this county sensory integration was almost never done in the school because it didn't apply to educational goals in the county's opinion. Sensory integration affects everything I never understood how it could be considered outside of educational goals. ABA is sometimes used, though rarely, and assistive technology is fine so long as it isn't too expensive (which limitation varies from school to school and case to case).
                  My son was never even offered OT, it was never even brought up, despite his dysfunctional grip, his painstakingly slow handwriting (and sloppy and without spaces), his multiple sensory issues, and his fine motor troubles. All of the OT he's ever had I've done myself. And when I was in school I wondered frequently why it was never brought up when he was younger. Some things we did when he was younger instinctively on our own (like the eye contact issues), some I didn't realize what exactly it was or how to treat it until I was in college.
                  A lot of it is, I think, if the schools don't tell us, they don't have to pay for it. If we don't know our children qualify for occupational therapy (and I had asked when he was younger and was told he wouldn't qualify), they don't have to fight us on it and they don't have to pay for therapy. Least restrictive environment has come to mean, for a lot of districts, least expensive not what's best for the child. FAPE means the bare minimum they have to provide, not what's best for the child, not even the better way.

                  •  As an FYI (0+ / 0-)

                    For an overview of P.L. 108-364
                    Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988 (the TECH ACT)

                    And the 2004 amendments to the Act

                    And the state by state Assistive Technology Act programs

                    Please go here:
                    http://www.ataporg.org/...

                    If possible read the original act & the amendments.
                    Note especially the front page link regarding ASD.

                    Most do not realize what all can be considered assistive technology.  Some forms are considered "low" tech such as adaptation to a pencil to legibly write or a sensory cushion for those with sensory issues/ASD/tone etal.  (which would require inhouse OT/PT service/ consultation btw)  

                    Other forms are considered high tech; such as the almost $9,000 (for cripes sake) augmentative communication device recently purchased for my child to use across all environs.

                    The point I am trying to illustrate is that the Assistive Technology Act covers just about everything from canes to hearing aids to SI-whatever enables a person of any age to be empowered.

                    I noted years ago that the mere mention of the Tech Act had an instant effect during an IEP.  Consequently, my prominately labeled notebook is on the table if ever needed for reference.

                    I currently live in a very republican state.   Less than two years ago, the feds provided a huge infusion of federal funds to education AND special education, and increased the amount of federal funding long term.  Which my state applied for & received about a bazillion dollars.  

                    There are pockets of wealth scattered around various counties & there have been property tax increases.

                    Despite this, there have been teacher furloughs for the past 2 years.  Despite all this federal $$, there remain vast areas in this state that do not provide AT and/or other educational supports needed.  

                    The disparity I hear about is numbing.

                    How is it justified that one district knows how to access funding for a $9,000 ACD & another district can't or won't flip for a far simpler inexpensive device or whatever.  I can understand differing tax base but I cannot understand nor readily accept why the fed monies are not being utilized uniformly.  Just as I do not understand nor accept blatant disregard or misinterpetation of Federal laws designed to empower & protect those with disability.  (grrrrr)

                  •  FloridaSNMom, you are so correct. SI impacts (0+ / 0-)

                    everything. As an OT you especially must appreciate how it can so effect behavior, attending and even eating.  Same can be said for tone & positioning.  Vision therapy.  Modification to environs, visual aids, social stories-the list goes on.

                     It took years of intensive SI (predominately at home) for my child to tolerate facial touch.  Hair washing. Toothbrushing. Textures.  My child ate (pseudo) meat for the 1st time at age 11.  The years of going to get a haircut shelved until SI combined with incremental steps & positive reinforcers was introduced (out of desperation, heh) about a year ago. Successfully.

                    Years and years and years of SI to address issues that impacted functional being & empowerment.

                    What really gets to me is that SI & so many other modalities would actually make a teacher's job easier in the long run.  And benefit multiple students if incorporated naturally within the classroom....

                    •  Hair cuts (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      worldlotus

                      We had to put those off for years too, another thing the grandparents were up in arms about, his long hair. Now he likes it kept cut short so he doesn't have to worry about brushing it or washing it as often (buzzed), but they can't do the close work still. He has to have a least a 1 on the razor, that plastic piece between him and the metal or he can't handle it. He has a regular hair dresser who works with him, she's really good with him, even when he's being grumpy.

                      Toothbrushing we still have trouble with, he uses the Listerine smart rinse mouthwash and foam headed 'brushes' rather than bristles. It isn't as affective, but it's better than nothing. Textures are an issue, he wont wear "dress" clothes, though I found a silk button down shirt he'll wear now that he's older. He'll wear cargo shorts/pants, that's about as dressy as he gets.

                •  worldlotus, (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  worldlotus, rosabw

                  I think it comes down to a question of money. Conservatives love to complain about what a large percentage of school budgets are already spent on special ed (whether that is true or not) - here's just one example.

                  As usual, rich people get tax cuts, and kids and the poor get the shaft.

                  With the current Response to Intervention model, special ed professionals (like speech, physical, and occupational therapists; reading and math specialists) are providing more services even to regular ed kids who would not qualify under IDEA for special ed. We are stretched thinner than ever. We need to hire more of these people, not be firing them, but the squeeze is on financially. My district is losing hundreds of positions next year because our governor cut corporate taxes.

              •  FloridaSNMOM, (0+ / 0-)

                I'm sorry you had to go through that. In order to appropriately dismiss your child from services, they would need to do a three-year re-eval (or re-eval as a special request) to show that he no longer qualified. The IEP team could also meet and conclude that services were no longer needed, without an eval, but they should NOT be able to do this without you signing consent.

                In my district, I am thankful that we have a very coordinated Special Ed department in which members at elementary, middle, and high school levels communicate often about our transitioning students. We have had to battle administrators who say "we just don't offer that service at middle school". We say, maybe you didn't offer that, but we have incoming students whose IEPs require those services.

                One example: a middle school only had resource classes for math and language arts. We had students who needed resource also for science and social studies. There was a Life Skills program at another campus, but that was inappropriate for these kids, who were higher-functioning than the Life Skills students. Luckily, our Special Ed director politely but firmly went over all this with the principal, and those classes were added.

        •  Well said (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Leap Year

          Our schools systems are efficient... not always effective for all individuals.

          •  I would love for schools (0+ / 0-)

            to be effective for all kids, but as we know, people don't like to pay taxes. And in many states, like my own, the situation is being actively worsened by governors and legislators who intentionally wreck the budget by giving tax breaks to their corporate sponsors, and then going "golly gee, we don't have enough money... looks like we'll have to cut education and other services for kids and the poor". My district is losing one teacher at every ygrade level at every elementary school for next year - I wonder how all those Republican parents will feel when their kid's class suddenly has 6 more students in it? They'll probably blame Obama.

            •  Choices (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rosabw

              Sure but is money really the answer... I am currently living in a third world country.  My kids attend a private school with great teachers... it costs a fraction of what my public school received for each student.

              Something is deeply wrong with our system.  

              My son is autistic as well.. We have tried homeschool and now the private school here...

              Why don't we have schools that cater to different types of kids?My son is incredibly gifted in math, quiet, can program computers (self taught) at 10.  Why should he be thrown into a factory with 15 talkative girls?  

              Money is not the answer... our system is broken... and I have yet to see a republican or democrat offer one damn good idea for how make it work for different types of kids.

    •  Thank You (11+ / 0-)

      We have a high functioning autistic 6 year old and while the schools are fine now, the idea of middle school terrifies and we've already talked about home schooling.  This is a realistic and reassuring diary.  Thank you.

  •  Very Interesting (16+ / 0-)

    A the father of a 2-year-old diagnosed PDD-NOS I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this series if you keep it up.

    Sounds like you're doing a great job with your son - hopefully other parents here can learn from your experiences.  Best of luck to you and your son!

    •  PPD-NOS (13+ / 0-)

      Just a bit of advice, if you don't agree with the diagnosis or have trouble getting services because of it, push for the high functioning autism or aspergers label. They wanted to diagnose my son as PDD-NOS at that age because "we don't like to label children that young", but until he got the full autism label I was unable to get a lot of the services he needed, and so he missed a lot of years of therapy that would have really helped him later.

      This was in Florida as well, and I was unable to get OT, PT, or behavioral therapy for him when he was younger due to this issue. The only thing they would cover is speech. And now with the 'autism law' on the books to make sure insurance companies can't deny therapies for autism, I'm not sure if that's helping or hurting kids labeled as PDD-NOS.  Honestly, the name of the point on the spectrum is much less important then getting the therapies your child needs. Just don't let them label him as mental retardation unless you're certain that's what it is and not just an inability to communicate or take their tests successfully.

  •  You should really consider trying to recover your (13+ / 0-)

    expenses relating to your efforts from the school district.  The district is required under state and federal law to provide the least restrictive environment to your children and based on your diary they failed.

    I know its a pain and after lawyers, time, and frustration it may not be worth it but give it a shot. Maybe a non-for-profit legal/educational group in your area can help.

    I am a lawyer so when I go after Chicago Public Schools, at least all I am spending is time not money.

    Congrats on making the best of a bad situation. As we all know, one size does not fit all with autism.  What you are doing is unusual but so is this disease. Just remember that what you are doing now may not be the best approach in a few years.  Maybe a high school or specific teacher may connect with your kids so keep all your options open.

  •  Do you know about (11+ / 0-)

    Aut-2b-Home? It's an email list for families homeschooling autistic spectrum children.

    http://www.listserv.icors.org/...

  •  hmmm (18+ / 0-)

    Three years ago at 23 the son of good friends moved from the mountains to Denver and his own apartment..although having the only true photographic memory of anyone I have met the "now" remains a challenge. Social interaction has improved.
    We create written scripts for phone calls. ..other social occasions and make it theater.
       He was able to get a county Recreation pass. I took him 3 times a week via bus. After a series of swimming lessons(he is a big guy, 6'4 290 with some physical challenges that disappear in water) he really started swimming laps.
    Involvement in Special Olympics was life changing culminating in a "gold medal in 50 meter backstroke.
    He later became involved in Winter Olympics..snowshoe stuff.
     We communicate best with humor/exaggeration puns etc..
    On an emotional level he is about 12-13.
    Because of his/my involvement in other things I only see him once a week now..He often takes a bus to our house and we watch videos.. Of course I would not have done this or would do this now if there wasn't mutual benefit..
    He has even done some stand-up comedy..
    an example of Kris Komedy
    "When I came down to the city i was very nervous about riding the bus for the first time with my friend Drew. The night before I was a little manic and walked in circles in my apartment talking to myself. You can imagine my relief when I got on the bus and saw all these people who were talking to themselves too..then I noticed they were bluetoothed up.
    But is their really a difference?"

    Good Luck..and when possible have friends of yours become involved for a couple of hours here and there... all will benefit..

  •  hmmm#2 (8+ / 0-)

    I should note that in his pie of personality he has slices of autism and bi-polar and some other mystery stuff.

  •  Great diary. Thanks (17+ / 0-)

    Our autie kids are about the same age -- ours turns 15 in May.

    We've been really lucky with Denver Public Schools -- only one real disaster of a classroom, a series of exemplary teachers who recognized that autism was only one of our kid's qualities, and the ability to keep him out of stand-alone middle school by enrolling him in k-8 schools.  The K-8 programs had very small classes and a lot less chaos than a normal middle school.

    He's now a freshman in high school and is doing spectacularly well.  He even wants to overcome his bicycle phobia and finish learning to ride (actually he can ride one -- his head just doesn't believe that his body knows how, KWIM?) because he's made a friend who rides his bike to school, and he wants to be able to ride bikes with him.

  •  I understand your challenges (14+ / 0-)

    I have an autistic son, 12.  I wish you luck and never give up.  There are those days that you feel exhausted and crazy, but hang in there all parents.

    Error: Following yourself is a narcissistic act as useful as chasing your own tail.

    by effervescent on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 12:13:28 PM PDT

  •  Best wishes (23+ / 0-)

    to you.  I homeschooled both my kids.  My oldest (now 27) had autism spectrum disorder, auditory processing disorder, receptive / expressive language disorder, etc.  I homeschooled through 12th grade and he graduated with a B.A. in film last year.  My second child was fully homeschooled (k-12) and is a pre-law student (sophomore) in college now.

    It was great.  Hard, frustrating at times, expensive, but well worth it.

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 12:33:14 PM PDT

  •  I sorta home-schooled my son: (14+ / 0-)

    he was integrated into the regular high school program, working toward a regular diploma (not a "certificate of completion"), with support (1:1 aide, resource specialist (RS) supervision, etc.), but the curriculum was very difficult for him, so I spent at least 4 hours per day tutoring and helping him with homework.  The aide and RS helped to prevent teasing and bullying, so my son could have a typical high school experience (he even went to the prom!).  It was a lot of work, but worth it, for the experience and for his diploma!

    •  Four hours a day (5+ / 0-)

      I'm really glad it worked out for you, both with the aide, which the school district swore they couldn't afford here and with the whole experience in general. We're doing about 4 hours a day as well, if that of "typical' schoolwork, but that's the entire day's worth of work not just homework. He's a very slow reader, I don't think he could keep up with a homework load. I know I would have trouble keeping him focused on it that long after a full day of school. And with his sensory issues, especially his oversensitivity to noise and light, I think even without the bullying and such public high school would be a torturous experience of my son. I know when we're in stores for more than a half hour he complains that the florescent lights give him headaches, both from the constant humming and the flickering.

      •  Dear Florida SNMOM, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rosabw

        Hats off to you!  I was only able to do 4 hours of homework/tutoring with my son, because he was just "zoning" the 7 hours he was in school!  Between the school and me, we made it happen, but it was never easy.  And I had to fight for the aide and every hour of service.

  •  I read diaries like this (13+ / 0-)

    and I always think how sad it is that public education can't possibly meet the needs of all comers, but must be, to a certain extent, "one-size-fits-all."

    Good for you for pulling him out if that was clearly the right choice.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 12:45:30 PM PDT

  •  My daughter home schools… (15+ / 0-)

    I'm certain there's a world of difference throwing "special needs" into the equation, but I've certainly learned a lot about it from her efforts. For the record, she's HSing an 8, a 7, and a 3 year old. Yes, the 3 year old goes along for almost all of their outside activities, but doesn't participate in all of the home activities. Still, as you may have found out, there's learning going on, no matter what you're doing or with whom.

    Too bad she's no longer in Florida or I could point her to your post and she could help with Florida issues (she's in Georgia, now). I think the first thing she would tell you is to get with other HSers. If you haven't found out already, there are principally two kinds—secular and non-secular. An oversimplification is that non-secular tend to be fundamentalist churchies who HS to keep their kids away from the heathenist teachings of public schools. Those also tend to be the ones who give HSing a bad name.

    The non-secular HSers stay away from the religion (although that's not to say they aren't religious or that they're a bunch of atheists) and focus on substance of the learning process. Guess which group teaches evolution, ha, ha.

    There is a whole world of activities you can count toward school time—I don't think my daughter could cite an average hourly rate per day, because everything is a lesson. Here's her FaceBook post from Wednesday:

    We didn't do a lick of schoolwork today. Unless you count figuring $3 out of change for parking, hiking 3.6 miles, examining a dead shrew with a stick, tossing rocks into a ravine, touring a historic home and 1850's farmstead, talking with an Army recruiter, a Vietnam and a Korean Vet, and 2 World War II Veterans and comparing a long jump done on a zip line to that of an Olympic record holder.

    One day a couple of years ago they had to take their Labrador to the vet due to a case of counter surfing by same involving a silicone muffin cup. The vet, noticing the kids on a weekday, inquired if it was a school holiday. My daughter replied, "no, they're in school now." The vet, not picking up on her meaning asked what they were learning. She replied, "the digestive mechanism of canines." Then the light came on. But that's her philosophy of teaching.

    By the way, that socialization thing? That's the #1 argument against HSing by the lay public. It's also the #1 joke among HSers as they spend hours with other HSers at parks, museums, ice rinks, dance lessons, music lessons, and so on.

    My daughter tells of being at a public park with a group of a half dozen or so moms and probably twice that many kids when a school bus drove up and deposited a load of kids at the park. She observed that they all made a beeline for the monkey bars and teeter/totters while their own kids continued exploring the flora and fauna, setting up exchange "stores" bartering leaves for worms (or whatever) and otherwise entertaining themselves but learning and socializing the whole time. She and the other moms concluded that non-HSed kids just don't know how to actually play—they exercise. Not the same.

    Good luck to you.

  •  Wondering what you're going to do (7+ / 0-)

    about high school and college. Neither is autistic-friendly. My son (Asperger's) made the attempt to go away to school and didn't do well at all. But I give him points for trying. He wants to try again next year (much closer to home), but I'm still worried he won't be able to handle things.

    We're almost to that point with the younger one; he'll be in 5th grade next year and I'm getting nervous.

    Your son sounds really smart, and it also sounds like you're doing a good job with this.

    Does he have any socialization other than online? How do you deal with the potential of him living with someone else he doesn't know well?

    •  High School (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mamamorgaine, worldlotus, second alto

      He's in ninth grade now, we're continuing home school for high school most definitely. As for college, we live in a big town with a lot of choices including some smaller private colleges which I think would be a lot less stressful for him than a big university. I graduated from Keiser University and campus was relatively quiet, there wasn't constant switching between classes, and it wasn't overly crowded. And he'd be able to live here while he goes to school, so he wouldn't be dealing with dorms. Really it's up to him when the time comes. His father went to a mainstream college that had special dorms for disabled, both physical and other disabilities, and that campus would be another option for him that we know and could work with.

      Socialization: Well he does a lot online, but that seems to be easier for him as he's not dealing with body language and expressive language so much. It's there he deals best with kids his own age. We also go to parks, pools, museums, they have community events in the place we live and he does those (but not the dances, they get too loud and overwhelming).

      Right now he's focused on working on things he needs to do to be able to get his driver's permit, that's the big challenge at the moment.

    •  Community college/live at home (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mamamorgaine, worldlotus, second alto

      Then if possible, transfer to regular college for last two years, and your degree will come from the regular college. It's cheaper that way, too!

  •  Thank you so much for educating me as well. I (9+ / 0-)

    have no experience with children on the autistic spectrum nor with home schooling, but I learn something about both from your diary.

    •  Yes... (7+ / 0-)

      I'm happily childfree, so the whole universe of parenting is a mystery to me.  Thanks for helping me understand some of the challenges and joys of your experience ... it really raised my awareness.

      And it sounds like you are doing an amazing job with your son -- what a priceless education you've given him!

      " ...the political narative has been captured by loosers. Liberals. Dems. The left. What ever you want to call them, they are loosers." -- some wingnut blogger

      by SteelerGrrl on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 03:01:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We homeschool our Aspie daughter (11+ / 0-)

    who turned 13 just last week. We've "skipped" her two grades so she's academically doing 9th grade work right now. She takes one class up at the local high school (choir, 'cause you can't sing in an ensemble by yourself...) and gets the heebie-jeebies thinking about being at public school all day.

    When we're asked about "socialization" I reply that the interactions she was having at school were predominantly negative and she has her entire life to learn how to deal with bullies. I'm more interested in her developing confidence and solid self-knowledge that will stand her in good stead for whatever relationship challenges come her way.

    People are amazed at how polite, poised and joyful our daughter is. She presents as more mature than her physical age and I have never had an adult interact with her who was not impressed. Age-peer relationships have been fewer and not as satisfying, but that's slowly changing as she gets older and they mature a bit!

  •  School socialization- hahahahaha! (14+ / 0-)
    My parents and my in-laws were both very wary of the home schooling thing, especially at first. They kept talking about lack of socialization by keeping him home, that he wouldn't develop 'normal' relationships with other kids, that he wouldn't learn what he needed.

    Hahahahahaha! Yeah, sure. An autistic kid will develop "normal" relationships in school-- if normalcy consists of being alternately bullied and ignored. Does that sound fun? Yeah, I didn't think so.

    We homeschooled our Aspie son as well. Right now, the next frontier for Aspies is college-- many, many Aspies go away to college, but end up crashing and burning, as our son did. Colleges may say they know how to support an Aspie, but typically, they don't. Think very very hard before you send a child with Aspergers away to college.

    As more and more Aspies get to be college age, I believe and hope more colleges will be able to handle their needs.

    •  I am so over the "socialization" comments (9+ / 0-)

      we have heard it constantly since 2nd grade when our son was diagnosed.  He is in 5th grade now and there is a boy in his class that stole money from the teachers' purses during a fire drill. Yeah, I want him to socialize with THAT kid!

      The social interaction of same-aged kids in a confined environment is terribly articifial and not, in my opinion, terribly healthy even in the best of circumstances.

       

    •  I'll disagree with you on this a little. (6+ / 0-)

      When kids are properly educated about their peers with autism or other disabilities, they can sometimes surprise you. My son with autism is 13 and in a public school program (the result of a very difficult mediation process with the district). I wanted him to have more exposure to typical peers and not be segregated in a class that had no access to the general ed curriculum or community.

      Part of this was me doing a presentation to the typical peers (I once worked with a group that did this) on what autism is, what it looks like, and 'demystification' - what 'stims' are and the purposes they serve, his particular gifts as well as his challenges, etc.

      The school has experienced racial issues, standardized testing issues, drug issues, etc. In other words, a pretty typical urban middle school. The kids in his classes, 2 general ed and 2 'resource' or smaller classrooms, have been nothing less than AMAZING to my kid. They are so supportive. The teachers have commented that the kids see working with my son as a 'reward'. I never worry about bullying with him because several of the kids go out of their way to be friendly and helpful to him. I was shocked to be honest.

      Give kids credit. They might just surprise you. Sadly, I can't say the same for administrations.

      •  That sounds like a lot of work (6+ / 0-)

        Angstall, kudos. Sounds like you set up a great situation for your son.

        But, well, my son's Aspergers didn't just fall down on him with the rain-- these tendencies are often inherited. Giving presentations to middle school kids to charm them into being nice to my child is not one of my strengths, to put it mildly. I homeschooled my son in the first place, before I even knew he was an Aspie, because of my own horrible memories of school. I'd stick needles in my eyes before I put a child of mine through the school experiences I had.

        •  My husband is definitely in the same (5+ / 0-)

          category as yourself :) It was a huge fight with the district and stressed me no end, I'll be honest. Someone else here commented about 'choosing battles' and it is so true. The best thing about it was seeing that these kids had the ability to be kind and understanding to my son. I worry about what will happen when my kids are adults and how society will treat them because my husband and I won't live forever. The more kids that have a positive experience with them, the better their chances at productive futures. I hope :)

      •  I'm glad (5+ / 0-)

        You've managed to find a good school environment for your son. Unfortunately, the school district here was much less willing to work with us, and we had issues with teachers bullying him, bus aides, etc. Also every child is different. Every child's needs are different. For our son keeping him in public school was not the best decision. He was already frustrated and angry with the system and he was not learning what he needed to learn.
         As I said, we're still playing catch-up, and some things we may never really get to much at all. We've had to pick and choose curriculum carefully, focusing on what he needs rather than what they teach in public school. I don't know that he'll get to chemistry or physics in any real depth, though we've touched on them, I don't know we'll get beyond basic algebra in math. We decided the personal finance course was infinitely more important than pushing through to Geometry and Trig. If he needs those later, when he decides on a career he can focus on them then. We couldn't go into even pre-algebra in middle school when he'd never done much of the base math he needed to understand it in public school. He also has difficulty with more abstract concepts yet.
        Right now everything almost counts as school work, especially those things he's going to need in daily life, which is a huge benefit for him. He's learned how to comparasin shop at the grocery store, how to budget and plan a meal, he's learning how to cook, how to clean, and how to think and look up answers when he doesn't know them. He's also learning how to compare/contrast/evaluate what he reads and how to apply it.  These are things he wouldn't get in public school, and if he had 4-6 hours of homework a day we wouldn't have nearly as much time to focus on it.

        •  I homeschooled my twins when we lived (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FloridaSNMOM, worldlotus, second alto

          in Florida as well, along with their older brother who has some learning issues. I couldn't even consider the local public school when we lived in Orlando - they had a padded room in their autism program and during my 2-hour visit there a kid was locked in it screaming.

          I enjoyed your diary and the subsequent discussion so much. My twins are different places on the autism spectrum and I question and second-guess myself and my decisions constantly. It is reaffirming to see folks doing something 'out of the box' with so much success.

          •  Second guessing (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            worldlotus, angstall, second alto

            is completely normal for any parent, even more so when a special needs child is involved.  One autistic child is hard enough, I can't imagine having two of them. Luckily my youngest may be a bit hyperactive, but not bad enough to require meds, but she's not autistic, though we watched her very carefully for many years lol. She's my social one, which drives her big brother nuts as he tries to get over protective.

            I'm glad you enjoyed the diary and discussion, there will be more. I actually wrote it last night but wisely waited until today to edit and post it as it was 1:30 in the morning before I was finished LOL.

            Another benefit of home schooling, we can all sleep in a bit!

      •  our son had (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        worldlotus, second alto

        a stellar, if somewhat frustrating, public school career, right up until the last year.

        It doesn't matter if i'm wrong or right--i just love to argue.

        by rosabw on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 05:02:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The students often are more accepting... (5+ / 0-)

        ....than the teachers, administration or environment.

        We, too, did the discussions with the other students and it worked well ONLY when we could impact the teacher's thinking.  If the teacher "got it", the students were wonderful and our son's experience was good.  If the teacher didn't...well, we had meltdowns, refusals to attend or complete the school work, tears, and -- in one memorable case  -- my son did his own sit-in by refusing to get off the floor.  (insert big sigh here)

        Eventually, he was better out of organized education than in it.  

        Keep getting the information out there, Angstall.  You're  not just helping your child; you're helping many others.

  •  Thank You for the Diary (12+ / 0-)

    It is frustrating to see the ingrained thinking, when it comes to education.

    What I've found ironic is that in working with my son (aspie as well), it is clear that his learning issues are mainly an issue with delivery of information and concepts.  Much of the process is teaching him to translate the school's methodology into a form he can consume.

    The irony comes, when I read about extensions of cognitive science.  Even if he didn't have aspergers, as a human being he would still face challenges.

    In truth no teacher is responsible for educating a student.  The great leap is for the student to organize the information in a manner they can educate themselves.

    One size fits all is not just bad for children with autism.  It is bad for any child not fitting the theory of mind the curriculum was designed around.

    In effect we've developed an educational system filled with economic and cultural bias.  We advance students into universities without realizing the methodical segregation occurring.  These students then reproduce that bias as they extend educational theory.

    Special needs children are simply the most obvious victims, as they are the least served by flawed methodology.  Still there are many other students suffering from the same incompatibility.

    The importance of asking "how do we educate a child with autism" is far broader in scope than many people appreciate.  The real question that eventually arises is "how do we educate children without a predisposition for prevailing educational theory".

    If we can answer that second question, we will be able to merge the advancements in cognitive science with education in general.

    If autistic children are the tip of the iceberg, one should remember that only 1/9th of an iceberg is above water.  Those other 8/9ths represent all of the other students ill served by our present system.

  •  We've been down this road... (7+ / 0-)

    ...with our  now-19 year old PDD/autistic (take your doc and take your pick!) son.

    You will get exhausted from the lesson planning and the lesson "adjusting" but as you learn his style it will become easier, though still time-consuming.   He probably does better with structured and fact-based subjects, like science and math, than "opinion-based" subjects like literature and it's very tempting to substitute non-fiction for all his reading and composition work.  But we found that much literature does lend itself to a boy obsessed with structure and reason:  novels with an historical foundation, for instance, or plays read out loud worked very well.

    We also found that the life lessons-- how to ask questions in the public library, how to make a return at the department store, etc. -- were easier to teach if the time came out of his "school time" and not his free time!

    Homeschooling will be an exciting, frustrating, time-consuming, beautiful, awful, awe-ful, rewarding adventure.  I wish you the best!

  •  We're counting down the days to the end of 5th! (6+ / 0-)

    Because we have enrolled our AS son in a small home-school co-op. It's a big leap to leave the "mainstream" and do your own thing, but now that we've made the decision, we feel nothing but relief!

    We both work, so traditional homeschool was not an option.  Instead we found a co-op program run by two certified teachers and moms. One mom's daughter is a gymnast and the other has an AS son! Our son will go to school from 8:30-1:30 on M,W,F with a grand total of 15 middle school kids.  The other two day we plan to find him "extracurricular" activities like art lessons or he will come to work with myself or my husband.

    I know the schedule will be challengingg (we have to other kids as well in two other schools) but I feel like this is the right choice.  We would have been setting him to fail if we hads sent our son to the public middle school.

  •  I've homeschooled two very social boys (6+ / 0-)

    and never worried about the dreaded socialization. One of the  benefits of homeschooling is that kids learn how to get along with people of all ages, not just their own peers.

    I'm adding myself to your list of followers so that I can see future diaries. Homeschooling is a valid solution and we need to see more stories out there about progressive, secular homeschoolers.

  •  Thanks for sharing this! (5+ / 0-)

    I'm considering my options for my 12 yr. old Aspie son. He has been very lucky with the social interactions he's had at school, thanks to incredibly supportive teachers. But a classroom full of other kids is NOT his way to learn. Everything he's learned so far has been despite going to school.

    Please share more! I salute your efforts and wish you all the best.

    What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? - Elvis Costello

    by bluesheep on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 03:43:57 PM PDT

  •  As a parent, I commend your courage.... (5+ / 0-)

    I am the parent of two adult children.  A 25 y.o. daughter with her doctorate in physical therapy and a 29 y.o. son with two master's degrees, one in criminal justice and his second in counselling.

    My wife and I homeschooled both of our children.  My daughter would have done well in public school, but she did better as a home schooler.  She had performed professionally with her violin and acheived her DPT degree by the time that she was 23 years old.

    My son who was an active child would surely have been diagnosed ADDHD and had his senses dulled with drugs had we allowed him to attend a public school.  He is now a fine young man, a veteran who served his country well and a former VA policeman who has evolved into being a counsellor.

    Obviously, I have concerns about our public education system as it exists today.  Our public education system works well for the mythically average child that it is geared towards.  It works less well for gifted students who become bored with the slowness of the presentation.  It also works less well for the less gifted who are constantly behind.

    Every child can learn anything.  Who cares whether it takes a child 5 minutes or 5 hours to learn a concept, as long as they learn the concept.  Unfortunately, our public education system does care about speed of learning and penalizes the brightest along with the less bright through the tyranny of grades.

    This is a quick synopsis that requires thoughtful people to fill in the blanks.  I wish every child and every family in our great country well.

    After all, for progressives, taking one for the team is desirable, but all too often at present, we are taking one from the team.

    by El Tomaso on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 03:51:08 PM PDT

  •  Homeschooling (7+ / 0-)

    can be difficult, and certainly has problems, but...I was homeschooled K-12, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

  •  A fascinating blog - thank you (4+ / 0-)

    My sister has a daughter who is autistic (I'm not sure of the proper term, but she seems to be more severely autistic than your son and has a number of behavioral issues that my sister is constantly working to ease).  I read any diary that involves an autistic child with a lot of interest.  I'm glad you have found a way to homeschool that works for you and your child.  My niece goes to middle school and is in a classroom dedicated to autistic children.   She has good days and bad days.  

  •  Thanks for sharing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mamamorgaine, worldlotus, second alto

    your story, FloridaSNMOM. I hope you do post more about your hsing adventure.

    We are unschoolers (after trying ps with an already-reading K student . . . never mind. . .) in FL.

    As for doing everything a ps student does, don't sweat it! Your son is doing great and don't ever think that including something in a Sunshine State Standard means anybody is learning it. They're too busy prepping for the FCAT.

    And it's only getting worse -- http://www2.tbo.com/...

    Happy homeschooling! :)

    Nance

  •  FloridaSNMom, bravo; just bravo! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foufou, second alto

    I have a great deal of respect for those who choose to home-school; especially so for those with kiddos with needs.

    Do you mind if I share your diary with other parents considering and/or just starting out?  

    I considered home-schooling early on, however my child  critically needed (& continues to need) the socialization & exposure to varied environs found within the public school system.  So, I basically use the system in place and provide both focused & incidental teaching as soon as my child enters our home.  For the past 14 years, my child has been surrounded-unless asleep or ill. (Heh, should be a genius any day now...)

    I am so glad that you have a workable system in place to prevent burn-out!

    Curious about something.  Do you not get any suport from the LSD?  Does your child have an IEP or 504 in place?  Reason I ask about the IEP; your child would not have to graduate from the LSD until age 22, which gives  more time for education & other supports.

    My state (GA) implemented a program that coincided with my child entering high school (yay!) whereby those with moderate to severe needs could take typical high school courses that are individually modified for their needs, receive HS credits and take as long as is necessary past age 18. Caveat is that they must be enrolled in the program (ACCESS) when entering high school & stay in the program through out.

     This is huge considering in the past at age 18 the focus was solely on vocational from 18 to 22.  Plus, regular course work was just never offered let alone kiddos in this range be given credits for same.

    Teeny tiny steps in the right direction.  Sadly, I wonder how many parents even know of this program as I found out about it while doing advocacy research....Ahem..I sure did not hear about it from the 8th grade teachers or system.

    For us it was serendipity in that energies did not have to be wasted getting same implemented for my child's high school experience.  One less soul wearing battle.  

    My child happens to have Down Syndrome, severe expressive language & hearing problems & other health issues that cropped up in recent years.  

    And is on the spectrum (yes, there is dual dx of ASD within the DS community & for some reason seemingly growing in prevalence).

    Of course, this referenced program does not apply to your child, but I wonder if something that would better fit the type of needs your child has could be implemented in your state?  It infuriates me that FAPE and "individualized" is still only given lip service in far too many instances across these united states.

    I look forward to your other diaries.  All the best to you & yours as you provide what is needed!

    •  Access (3+ / 0-)

      My other half is familiar with Access, but we don't have it in Florida, and with Rick Scott in office the chances of getting it are in the negative numbers LOL. Our son started school a year late because what should have been his kindergarten year he was in a full time behavioral therapy program, so he'll already only be a senior at 18.

      He did have an IEP when he was in elementary school, and some of it worked, but a lot of it was just carried over from the previous year with only incremental progress. Now that I've got a degree in occupational therapy I understand better about long term vs. short term goals then I did, but the goals they set were all wrong for him, and I didn't understand it enough to set better ones. Usually they had the thing filled out before we even got into the meeting.

      I remember one IEP meeting where my other half was so fed up he banged on his hand on the table and demanded they stop telling us what they can't do for him and tell us what they can do. I believe that was one of the last ones. Their answer was "That's not the focus of this meeting, we just need you to sign these forms." I believe that's when the home school discussions began to get serious, as the forms were supposed to dissolve the iep entirely and put him purely in mainstream with no supports. His fifth grade teacher took us aside after and told us that home schooling is likely our best option, as he hadn't seen any kids that year get any accommodations for middle school out of the 12 kids in his class special needs class.

      Yes, we could have sued and pushed the issue, but by the time that was finished the next school year would have started and the damage to our son already begun. We'd already been considering home schooling, that was just the final straw.
      I've had administrators tell me they wouldn't transfer him to a different school with a better class for him because they didn't want to lose the funds of a special needs child. I've had teachers ask for documentation that had been provided in kindergarten about his disability and allergies. I've sent letters, visited schools, talked to teachers and been the squeaky wheel. I've had administrators threaten to call dcf over autistic symptoms in an effort to get me to shut up. Sometimes you have to pick your battles. Why fight for services in an environment that he didn't want to be in, that he wasn't learning in and wasn't prepared for by his previous years in public school, when we had the capability of home schooling him? Yes it's his right to a FAPE. It's also our right as parents to choose to home school him, to do what is best for him. We chose to utilize the second right rather than argue for the first which would not have been as good.

      •  FloridaSNMom, I am appalled at your (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM

        experiences with the system.-no infuriated is a better word than appalled.

         BTW, I was not suggesting you do otherwise than what is working for you.  I just wondered if there were programs in your state or the desire in your state to implement a program similar to ACCESS.  The ACCESS program that I am referencing was implemented in 2009 here in GA; so it is very new.  I am "watching" it with interest....

        I tend to believe that the only reason that my child has received the services & supports that he has over the past 14 years is because before I became his mama, I both taught (birth to 5, non profit school) & was a state level advocate & parent "advisor" long before it was common.   I knew & studied  federal disability laws, etc etc, which later helped me navigate the maze as a parent.  No doubt his files were red flagged long ago...

        Not everyone has the same opportunity or background.  And my heart says that a parent should not have to in order to obtain services for their child with any special need.  I certainly did not have to know these things for my "typical" children nor have to fight any entity as they grew to successful & well educated adulthood.

        Despite over 30 years of advocay "experience" & hands on teaching experience, it is still at times, an anger filled & painful experience for me when dealing with systems and/or admins that work with any special needs children.

         Fortunately, for all involved, I  managed to channel that anger & heart break into positive action and/or outcomes.  Most of the time.  (Sometimes I do my own major meltdown in private)

        It makes my heartsmile that you have found the best solution for your child & family.  I just wish that educators were given the freedom in PS to think outside the box & implement truly individualized teaching.

  •  some practical advice (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, worldlotus, second alto

    Generalization is one of the most difficult challenges for someone who's autistic.  They have skills in a familiar setting and then seem utterly incapable in an unfamiliar one.  It's important for autistic people to use their skills with different people and in different settings.  Incrementally change the environment of the lesson and give your son the opportunity to use his skills and display his knowledge with different people.  Skype can be very useful for some of this.

    I highly recommend the textbook Applied Behavior Analysis by Cooper, Heron, and Heward.  Reading that book cover to cover is the next best thing to having an ABA specialist work with someone.  It's been referred to as the bible of ABA and is a standard textbook for people who are being trained to provide it.  It will give you many ideas.

    Good luck with everything

    •  Generalization (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      second alto, worldlotus, think blue

      is a concept I know well, and something we work on. We do change the environment as we can, and we do put him in a new environment and talk him through it when we need to. He's even spoken in front of my pediatrics class when I was in college about his disability and how things appear to him.

      ABA I do use some with him, though much of it he's too far advanced for and just doesn't have patience for at this point. I wish I'd known about it when he was a toddler. Sensory Integration therapy and Interactive metronome (well Guitar Hero, same concept really) therapy have been a HUGE help for him, and I intend to address that in detail in another diary.

      We also spent years doing the sign for "look at me" and saying it over and over and now, he makes eye contact. He doesn't always hold it with someone he doesn't know, but he does make it. And the more comfortable he is in a conversation the better his eye contact is.

      •  ABA (0+ / 0-)

        It sounds like you're extremely informed and doing a great job together.  I just want to say that my understanding of ABA is helpful to me in terms of understanding my own behavior as communication.  ABA can be as advanced as its application needs to be.  All of us everyday practice it and respond to it, though usually instinctively and without knowing it.

        Anyway, best wishes.

  •  HEY, y'all (0+ / 0-)

    For those who can't afford to send their kids to private schools where their differences are seen as normal, ie, where they teach the way kids learn...

    I really like ALEKS.com for math.  My son finally "gets" Algebra, and he taught himself.  He's now working on Chemistry, which isn't going so well, but he needs it for his dream of building a hydrogen powered steam engine for future railways. $20 a month for Aleks, per class.

    Also, Dr. Fred Lybrand has a good English program that teaches grammar and spelling in "our" way. $99 for download.

    Anybody got any other good ones???

    It doesn't matter if i'm wrong or right--i just love to argue.

    by rosabw on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 04:36:58 AM PDT

    •  Math U See (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rosabw

      is a good hands on approach to math, uses manipulatives, video lessons, and workbooks even for algebra/geometry/trig.  

      We're very eclectic with our curriculum. I use my kindle for reading for my son because he panics at seeing the thickness of some books, but on Kindle he doesn't 'see' the length.  We also use a lot of online resources, youtube video, google, hulu. I'm thinking about getting netflix just for the access to educational content.

      We're planning a project for the near future with Sim Cities 3000. He's going to run two cities, one with the Republican budget values, and one with how he(much more progressive) would do it. He's pretty sure how it's going to turn out, but he wants to test the theory scientifically.

      We're intending to get him a course on programming in windows next year. He also does a photoshop course from the public library, has a deviantart page, does internet research, reads DKos articles, news articles, and Rachel Maddow (He was very upset at the loss of Countdown), as well as Jon Stewart (He's learning about humor too, though we watch the clips online so I can skip some of the raunchier ones). We've gotten really good at finding resources that don't cost a lot.

      •  That is SO COOL, (0+ / 0-)

        I'd LOVE to see his sim cities project when he's done...keep in touch, if it doesn't make him nervous!!!  Ben's kinda picky about what he shares.

        My son found deviant art on his own. I didn't know what to make of it, the name and all.  He used to draw the damn cutest little vignettes when he was little, like for projects and stuff.  Kinda like cartoons.  He has a wonderful sense of humor!

        Math-u-see didn't work for us, I'm not sure why.

        I used to be real "by the book", standards met and all the first year, relaxed a little the next, and don't give a shit this year. I talked him in to getting his GED so he could go to tech school next year. He's always been technically oriented, machine wise.

        I share a lot of Dkos with him, and he loves John Stewart, also.

        You know, the public schools get up to $50,000 a kid to educate our little princes.  Big-ass joke, isn't it?  Gotta pay all those psych's salaries. And all they do is make them feel like losers...

        It doesn't matter if i'm wrong or right--i just love to argue.

        by rosabw on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 11:02:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hey... (0+ / 0-)

          Miss FloridaSNMOm...have you tried http://www.khanacademy.org/

          I was told about it awhile back, but I just started looking at it today.  I know a few people who use it, and it is free...

          Rose

          It doesn't matter if i'm wrong or right--i just love to argue.

          by rosabw on Sun Mar 20, 2011 at 01:27:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have (0+ / 0-)

            used Khan academy in the past, his explanations of the atom specifically. But I'd lost the link in a reformat, thanks :).   We use it as a supplemental though, not as full  curriculum.

            •  You are doing a wonderful thing... (0+ / 0-)

              I've been on both sides of it, as a teacher and a mom.  I don't blame the schools, it's a hard thing to get your head around, especially if kids learn different, and it's always been that way.

              When Ben was in grade school, he had a great teacher who had once been in high school teaching Resource.  He said he liked getting the kids before they gave up.  That tells you something.  We were afraid we were going to lose Ben, with us both having teaching backgrounds!

              He's really a hands-on type of kid.  He was so different from the other kids when he was young...I taught him language via pictures, and he was in fourth grade before his language skills were adaptive enough to no longer be echolalic. Dr. Temple Grandin's book, "Thinking in Pictures" was my bible.  She said to get our kids in tech school to keep them going.  I thought that was an interesting idea.  Maybe our kids were the ones thought to be "slow" who took shop classes in the past.  There are no shop classes, now...no output for their unique intellect. But then again, your son may not be that way.  It's NOT that Ben is "slow", he tested out of Social Studies  and Science in the 9th grade (IE, past high school knowledge).

              Blah, blah, blah, I do go on, but I just had to tell someone that he picked up the book "Shop Class As Soulcraft" by Matthew B. Crawford.  I loved the name of the book! He has always had a mechanical mind, that is his gift.

                Where are your son's strengths? There is always something, and he sounds very intellectual!

              It doesn't matter if i'm wrong or right--i just love to argue.

              by rosabw on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:28:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Spatial reasoning (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                rosabw, mamamorgaine

                When they had him do an IQ test before kindergarten, he scored very low on the language portion (no surprise there) and at 12th grade level (the tester's words) in spatial reasoning. He can make anything with legos. He most definitely thinks in pictures.  But his big love the past few years has been drawing, sketching. He's learning photo shop and how to draw on a tablet, and wants to go into computer graphics. His goal is to get into Full Sail or some other tech oriented college and design video games. Yes, I know, most every teen boy wants to do that, but he's serious about it.  

                Another career he's considered is herpetologist. He loves reptiles. He was very big into Steve Irwin when he was younger, cried for three days when he died. He's been very worried about the Australia Zoo with the flooding and such in Queensland, and we've not been able to find anything out about how the zoo faired.

                He also really likes politics, though I think he's figured out for himself that it wouldn't be a good fit for him career wise. He takes things too literally and personally and has trouble debating a point without it turning into an argument. He'd really really have to work on the skills for that one.

                I too read "Thinking in Pictures". It helped me stop worrying about his vision when he was younger and didn't understand something and said "I can't see!". I must have had his eyesight checked twice a year at least before I read that book and figured out what he meant!

                •  Wow--- (0+ / 0-)

                  That spatial is off the charts at kindergarten age!  Ben's was high (grade 5) but not THAT high!

                  He takes things too literally and personally and has trouble debating a point without it turning into an argument.

                  Sounds like today's politicians!

                  My brother had the hardest time in school and we thought maybe he was a little slow.  Turns out he is:  he's a lawyer...(sorry, I love telling that story... He's very successful!)

                  I cried when Steve Irwin died, too.

                  Good luck to you and your son, and have a great year!

                  Rose

                  It doesn't matter if i'm wrong or right--i just love to argue.

                  by rosabw on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 12:15:09 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

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