Homeschooling Our Child with Autism (PDD-NOS)

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Making the decision to homeschool our daughter was difficult, and for a long time, each day was a struggle.

When I first started homeschooling my daughter, I thought I had to teach her in a particular way, based on our public schools. I would get her up and try to start school promptly at 9 AM. When she would resist, I would tell her to just go get a uniform out of the closet so I could take her to the “big school” where she wouldn’t have any fun and would be forced to sit in a chair and write her own sentences. Yeah… not my finest moment. The guilt trip approach never works either.

It did not take long for me to realize that I had to give up what I thought was best and work more towards what she was willing to do. Forcing her to do things that she didn’t want to do would end in a complete shutdown or worse… a huge tantrum. So, that is when I learned to follow her lead and only insert my new ideas when she was ready, prepared to pull back if I met resistance.

On any given day, we might start school at 9 AM or 10:30 AM or after lunch or when Bill gets home. This might seem quite the opposite of what you would expect since children with Autism often beg for routine. Perhaps it is because she is at the far end of the Spectrum that this works for us. But when I am flexible and follow her cues, school time goes much smoother.

Our environment varies too. If she resists sitting at the table, we might pull out the lap desk and sit on the couch or on the floor. While I try to go where she leads, I also have to be mindful of distractions. So, if we are in the living room, the television is off. If we are at the table, no music can be played in the adjacent rooms.

Now, my flexibility does make it difficult to plan in advance. Recently, I started putting my lessons in manila file folders. I have the folders numbered but they are not dated. Each folder contains one lesson, having a few worksheets with one or two for reading and one or two for math. I can work through as many folders each day as she wants or even stop mid-folder. (I have 145 folders since I am obligated by law to have 145 school days.)

As time has passed, I think she has adjusted to me as her teacher and she is less resistant to my ideas and techniques. We have grown in our relationship to one another in more ways than one and I know she is getting the individualized attention she needs.

Do you homeschool a child with Autism?

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Comments

  1. hi, just wanna drop in to say thanks. I tried your system of putting lessons in numbered folders, without the dates. It’s giving me a peace of mind, and saves a lot of our time. Thanks again.

    • That is wonderful, Lydia! I am so glad it is working for you. Please let me know if I can help in any other way. :)

  2. Bless your sweet sweet heart! I’m sure this is all a big learning process. How wonderful you’re getting your own ‘system’ of doing things.

    • It has taken a while and I don’t think we are done but God is faithful. He’s not finished with me OR Lira. :)

  3. Wow!! great idea on the folders. I totally beleive you about working with them when they are willing and not forcing. I started out like you did too. And now I sometimes do school after my daughter goes to bed so we can have one on one time. He needs that so badly still. thank you!!

    • I’ve thought about schooling when the littles are resting but honestly, I need that time to rest too. {{blush}}

  4. Thank you for this post. We are homeschooling our younger children (3 boys with special needs: 2 on the spectrum & 1 with cerebral palsy) and I have also found that by following the children’s lead we seem to accomplish so much more. We school year round to make up for the days we don’t accomplish much. We also try to incorporate more “hands-on” experiences. Curious to know, are you homeschooling under a charter or privately? Thank you.

    • In my state, I have to charter under a church school or hire a tutor. So, we choose to be under a church school. Year-round really works for us. I enjoy the stability. :)

  5. My 8 yr. old daughter is adhd/pdd/asd. I have found that we have to start our days with the same routine and doing school in the morning. If we don’t it can turn in to a huge meltdown. If we have to interrupt school, for whatever reason, we can’t go back to it that day. She will be thrown off schedule.

    • Don’t you hate those meltdowns? I always feel so helpless but frustrated. Whatever we can do to avoid them is always welcomed. :)

  6. YES! We adopted our two youngest sons through foster care, and both were drug affected infants. Our 11yo was diagnosed with CAS and “developmental delays” very, very early on. We just completed his first full developmental evaluation since he was 5, last month, and the new diagnosis is also PDD-NOS. We were told by a developmental ped. when he was 5 that “he is probably some where on the spectrum”, but she didn’t do any formal testing on him at all… not that she really could have, since he was still barely verbal and so hard to understand at that point. But yes, we’re there. He’s 11 and we finally have that piece. The sensory issues, language delays, inability to cope with certain stimulus, etc. all makes sense now. I’ve been stalking your blog tonight but I think I better just subscribe so I can keep up with you and your daughter! :) SO glad I found you!

    • Welcome, Dawn! I am so glad you stopped by and I look forward to getting to know you better. Life with PDD-NOS in the house definitely keeps me scratching my head but at the same time, you are right… it brings everything in Lira’s past into perspective. Even her sensitivities as a baby make sense now. :)

  7. Alexandria says:

    My soon to be 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter both have PDD-NOS. After praying (and praying some more) i have decided to pull all 4 of my children out of public schools to home school for the 2012-2013 school year. I have always believed that these two children in particular would be more successful in school with other children. I am realizing that my son needs more help than a overcrowded school system can give. My 12 year old dd is learning more than she should and my 8 year old dd got held back last year but now they are telling me she is gifted with autism (allready new she had a high IQ). My youngest 5 year son spent more time in trouble in kindergarten due to attention issues. I have learned i can use the states (we live in Florida) virtual academy but i don’t feel like that will catch my son up. The 10 year old will be in 4th grade next year. He is at a 1st grade reading level but is on grade level for math. I don’t feel like he should keep going ahead if he hasn’t gotten the basics down. So i would appreciate any help or advice you might have in this subject. I want him to learn to read, that is my greatest concern. I am hoping with private therapy and one on one help from me he might progress faster. So what would you do. Stay on grade level or pick and choice grade level based curriculum? I am so frustrated and worried i will make the wrong decisions. Thanks for your help, Alex

    • Hi, Alexandia! You have amazing courage to make this decision. KUDOS to you!

      I would recommend doing a test before deciding which curriculum to choose. Many companies offer free online assessments, like the ones at Alpha Omega Publishing, to help you decide which level would work best for your child. http://www.kidzmet.com also offers a student assessment tool. That would be a good starting place.

      I hope this helps a little.

  8. What lesson plan or homeschooling program are you using? There are SO many to choose from and I don’t know what would be best for my son. Thanks for your suggestions! :)

  9. We have been homeschooling for a total of 9 years. My twin boys were diagnosed 2 years ago with Autism-PDDNOS. I have been homeschooling them since K they are technically in 3rd grade. I have had problem after problem with simple math facts. Nothing seems to be working. Any suggestions on curriculum or additional help on learning facts. We have done Math u see with no success and are currently doing Math essentials with supplements from time4learning.com. These math facts plague me! help!

    • Hi, Becky. Lira is a 3rd grader and we use Teaching Textbooks. It is a very real math, based on every day concepts. She struggles with a few of the concepts because of the way the word problems are phrased. I had to reword it and then she seems to do well.

      I have learned with her that math is very abstract. I have to make it concrete. Give her lots of manipulatives and opportunities to see it applied in real life. I hope this helps. :)

  10. I almost cried when I saw this link….We adopted five children…all drug and alcohol exposed…each with their own difficulties and struggles..but our 9 year old we adopted when she was four…from day one we knew something was different with her….after evaluation our concerns were confirmed..She has mild retardation and is at the low end of the Autism spectrum. Ok..Now what…since we already home school..I began backing off her schedule and relaxing a bit..setting the bar high but not pushing her to reach the goal…but encouraging her to try….Home schooling has turned on its head around here…it was refreshing to read your article and it supports what we are doing..I look forward to reading much more…love the folder idea and I will be stealing that one : ) something for her to walk up and choose on her own. Recently I handed her our Hooked on phonics box and said have fun…she reads those little books several times a day and is so proud when she can read one to us…Her Doctor said she will never be “bright” But for us she is our bright spot in our day…so happy to find a source to encourage us : ) thank you

    • Oh, sweet Cathy! Your comment placed a tear in my eye but a smile in my heart. How precious that you have opened your home and your heart to children with special needs. I am thrilled that you could find encouragement here. May you be blessed in all you do. :)

  11. I’m so glad I found your blog. And so glad you posted this. I’m a newbie to homeschool and will be with my son who was recently diagnosed ASD. I’ve been told to get professional help and that homeschool was not a good idea. Can’t wait to prove them wrong! Good bless you!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  12. Thank you so much for posting this, I shall be roaming around more on this site it’s amazing. I will start homeschooling my son in January was a bit overwhelmed but knew that I wanted the best for my son and it wasn’t happen in group settings for him. He is now in first grade and progressed so quickly from age 3 to nearly 5 that they placed him in general education. My son was diagnosed at 3. I always knew since before I had children that I would homeschool no matter what that wAs a priority for me. When my son still wasn’t talking though after his third birthday I decided to enroll him in a kids program that was offered in our school district. He excelled quickly but we were blessed in his first two years with amazing teachers. He absolutely loved school and wished for school on the weekends. Then he entered into his second full year of kindergarten and it was a struggle he would throw tantrums every morning before school screaming and throwing himself down in the halls. If you saw him on Sunday you,d think he was a completely different child from Friday. In that year I felt he fell behind in all the progress achieved at school so I enrolled him in arts academy that offered smaller class sizes and an ability to work with him more than could be offer in the public school. Just into the first quarter his behavior is turning even more downhill and it’s affecting his once optimistic attempts at retaining course work. I now realize he needs constant one on one that no school can currently provide. I am well educated and am able to support his education and still make a living so I really felt the need to homeschool and make the change was an easy decision. I am very pleased to have found this site because I was still feeling uneasy about the decision, if I was making the right choice for him and his future growth. I didn’t even know where to start, even after researching the laws to homeschool a child with autism in my state for months. It’s nice to know there is a good community of other parents who have decided to homeschool and persevering one day at a time.

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