Say "YES" to home education!
Your child is kindergarten age and you look around and the choices aren't satifactory. What do you do? Do you send them anyway and hope for the best? Even in excellent schools, with academically excellent children, teachers change from year to year, and honest parents will admit that there were grades and teachers they 'just had to get through'. If your child is older than kindergarten age, and you've already been struggling to make school be of benefit for your child on the spectrum, you have experienced what I am talking about. It is a daily struggle, particularly if your child follows a special diet, because there is no end to all of the parties and birthday celebrations and field trips. I have given a talk about this subject of home education in a crowded workshop in New York. There were many skeptics. Their main critique was "the social piece". Incidentally, the "social piece" was the mainstay of criticism of the entire homeschool movement, which has largely been dispelled by the academic and social excellence of the huge number of graduates succeeding in our nation. But, for our kids on the spectrum, I can assure you that there is plently of daily interaction available in the average family to suffice.
When my son was kindertgarten-age, the choices for him in public school were pathetic. I toured all of the buildings, met with all of the staff, and it seemed cruel to send my son to all of them. I announced to his team of professional therapists that I intended to home educate my son. His speech patholologist, who remains a dear friend, gasped "YOU???". Ouch, that hurt. But I recovered quickly. Yes, me. The one who has known him and his every movement from my womb. The one who prays for him continuously. The one who has loved him into life. Yes, me. There is no one more qualified. At that point, the psychologist tested him at a 5-9 month old infant level in terms of his social interactive capacity. (Honestly, after raising a normal 5-9 month old infant after this, I would say that he did not have the interactive ability of an 8 week old infant.) My son interacted for a maximum of 10 minutes every hour and spent the other 50 minutes engaged in exclusive, self-stimulatory behavior. I was told that his nervous system was like "an old jalopy trying to merge onto the freeway". It was true. It took 50 minutes of stimming to be able to look at me and interact for a few minutes-then back to stimming. So, we spent most of our homeschool day in our Son-Rise program playroom, working only on interaction. Living for those few minutes of engagement and eye contact. It was the best and most appropriate home education he could receive. Within 6 months, the same psychologist now tagged him at a 4 year old level. He interacted enough so that I could do academic work (Kindergarten-1st grade) for 60-90 minutes, and the rest of the day was spent with family, therapists, and volunteers in the Son Rise playroom.
When we moved from New York to Arizona, we found a small, private elementary school that would allow our son to attend 2 hours a day. That was all he could tolerate at that point. I homeschooled the academic subjects, and he went to school for recess, lunch and all the specials: art, Spanish, music, and science. By third grade, he was able to attend all day and graduated from 5th grade (their highest grade) in 2011. Again, I found myself unimpressed by the choices for middle school, so we are back to home education. He is doing great! This coincided with our finding that his "autism" was treatable with antibiotics, antivirals and IVIg. Homeschool is even more appealing now that I know his immune system needs a rest from the constant challenges in a normal school environment.
My love for home education was reinforced by my time as a stroke patient. I learned to walk and use my left side again, not because I was immersed for 2 months in a hospital where everyone around me could walk. I walked because one man encouraged me by saying "walk like you used to" and was there to support me when I started to fall. Within two weeks, I was walking with confidence. Now I walk for miles! But, it started with one-on-one encouragement and unwavering support. I believe firmly that our children on the spectrum need one-on-one, loving, unwavering support first. School comes later, just as it does for typically developing children. So, say "yes" to homeschool, even if just for a little while!