Monday, October 27, 2008

Asperger's Syndrome and Homeschooling

I recently joined a discussion board ( for adults and children (and their parents) who have Asperger's Syndrome (AS). One note from a mom who has a 9yos who was recently diagnosed with AS and has begun homeschooling him caught my attention. I replied on the board, but thought there might be others who could use the encouragement as well, whether or not you are homeschooling a child with AS:

[My son] is nine. He is of above average intellegence but is lazy when it comes to learning or at least how I am teaching him. How do I find a way of inticing him to learn? He hates to read, and his handwriting and spelling get worse every year. I am on my third week and I feel like I am failing him. Anyone with any suggestions please HELP!

Don't give up. Three weeks is really a very short time considering the transition for him. Start with doing things he likes and finding a way to tie it to learning. Is there a topic he enjoys? Study it together. Read aloud to him, ask him to narrate a story to you (you can write it down, or record it to transcribe later). If he's lazy at reading, find a topic he likes and reward him for reading books on the topic. If necessary, get simpler readers that are "below" his age level, just to get him interested in reading. Sylvan Dell has some great science and math books that are colorful, fact-filled, and engaging.

Remember to give yourself and your son a break. If he has been in an institutional classroom for the last four or five years, then (a) his teachers probably experienced some of the same frustration with his learning style, (b) he probably experienced frustration with their teaching style, and (c) homeschooling is a completely different way of doing everything. The transition is not going to be a really easy one for either of you, but it will be so worth it.

The great thing about homeschooling (for all children, but especially Aspies) is that you don't have to teach every subject "on grade level." Grade levels and what is taught in classroom environments are based on age, average performance across children within that same one-year window, and the agenda of the particular school system. Since you have a smaller number of children than the classroom teacher, you don't have to follow what the school is doing. And since your agenda is to not only raise a competent adult, but to love your son, the way you do things will look totally different from a classroom environment.

When you homeschool, you can tailor the "scope and sequence" and pace of each subject to (a) your child, (b) yourself, and (c) your family life. For instance, your son may be stellar at math, doing calculus at age 9 (we actually reviewed a calculus book in the July/August 2008 issue (pg. 66) that was geared toward nine-year-olds). But, his handwriting may be closer to an "average" kindergartner. And perhaps he reading is "on level" but he's bored with the books he's offered. When you homeschool, you don't have to teach to a test, nor do you have to hold a child within range of the rest of the "class," so he can move on from calculus to quantum physics, read everything there is to know about trebuchets of the Middle Ages, and continue practicing drawing his letters with his five-year-old sibling.

Remember too that there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum—not in institutional schools and not in homeschools. Your child is an individual and so are you. Learn about teaching styles and learning styles, and find a combination that works for BOTH of you. There's no such thing as "getting behind." Each day, you try to take a step forward. Some days you have to back up and cover ground already trod. Some days you get sidetracked chasing rabbits, taking care of someone in need, or resting. And some days you'll play leap frog and cover lots of ground.

That's living life together as a family, and is greater than any "book knowledge" he will acquire.


Heike said...

My son has Aspergers and he is at an age where we deschool him. He is very interested in Science and Politics. To get him to write I tell him to write a story using his favorite subject. So instead of me picking the subject he picks it and off he writes. He types his stories because he has a lot of problems with his handwriting. Again we live in a modern age where tying is ok. His spelling is great, we make it more into a game, so he does not even realize he just did school. Put the fun into learning, instead teaching towards the test. That is what deschooling is. Find your childs interests and start teaching in those areas. Make a math game out of it, spelling, find books to read only on this subject, your child will come around. All the best to you. Asperger children are a true blessing from God, they are very unique, I would never want to change him.

Lindylou said...

A few comments/ thoughts...

A very encouraging post for all home schooling moms but especially for any family making the transition from intitutional (public/private) education classrooms to homeschooling. I am going to forward it to a new homeschooling mom in our church homeschool group. It is just what she needs to hear.

2nd, we all - veterans and newbies - need to learn that the beauty of homeschooling is that we get to teach our children just were they are developmentally, interest-wise, and toward the way they best learn (visual, hearing, touching - best using a combo of all!)

3rd, homeschool parents are able to teach what is important to God and to prepare our children to fulfill His purpose for their life. Everyone has a God-called purpose, no matter if they are specical need (ex. Asperger, etc.) or normal (if there is a norm). In God's eye's all of His children have special needs! (so we can all praise Him and take a deep breath).

4th, no matter how loving, energetic, well-prepared a parent may be... we all need rest. This is especially true for parents of special needs. The selflessness that it takes to give, love, and teach drains. Homeschool moms (parents) need to find a quiet time of rest... a walk outside, a devotional book with coffee/tea, a warm shower, a nap in a hammock... whatever speaks refreshment to your soul... and don't take this time alone... let God over flow it with His source-giving presence.

After all, it is all about Him anyway! Life, homeschooling, parenting, breathing... allow Him time to equip and restore you... He is waiting for you to come to Him.