Homeschooling Options for Children with Autism


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Many parents of children on the autism spectrum are unable to find a successful place for them in the school system. Often, teachers and staff have little or no training in autism and treat our children’s symptoms as disciplinary problems rather than manifestations of sensory overload and anxiety. We may grow tired of being afraid when the phone rings, signaling yet another crisis at school. Perhaps we are plagued by that uneasy feeling that our child is falling through the cracks and not receiving the help they so desperately need. Maybe we feel that home is just a better environment for them than school.

Some parents opt for homeschooling, while others are driven to it. However, when taking on homeschooling a child with autism, it can be a daunting prospect.

Gratefully, a new website exists to provide guidance for parents homeschooling their child with autism. Autistic Homeschooling contains an abundance of information on topics including philosophies of homeschooling, homeschooling by states and of course, a trove of potential curriculum.

Additionally, Khan Academy has a huge collection of entertaining and informative videos on a myriad of topics and test preparation for standardized exams, all free of charge. Many universities are marketing online learning. For instance, Brigham Young University (BYU) has middle school through college classes online for credit as well as free courses. See if your school system partners with free online academies for homeschooling if you wish to remain within the system while keeping your child at home.

I have to homeschool my son through his remaining three years of high school with no help. The Seattle school system has a Homeschool Resource Center that is top-notch, but my son is considered too severely impaired to access the program. The catch-22 is that they have no appropriate placement for him in the classroom and no resources for him outside of it. 

My strategy is to set credits aside and prepare him to pass the GED. Taking his area of interests and fashioning an independent study encompassing a variety of subjects from different standpoints is the most viable option I have of keeping him on track. I am also recruiting mentors from the academic community to challenge and inspire him. 

Every child is different and every path is unique. It’s heartening that more guidance and resources are now being made available to parents as we make these critical decisions about our children’s education and future.

47 Responses to Homeschooling Options for Children with Autism

  1. B. Evans says:

    I’ve home schooled all but one of my kids with special needs. For my two oldest children I went through North Atlantic Region Schools. They both received High School Diplomas, not “Letter of Completion” like the public school wanted to give them. My middle child’s behaviors got in the way of me home schooling the other so; I placed him in the public school system. After, 13 years of asking for help with him. His doctor just changed his diagnosis from bipolar to Asperger Syndrome..Autism. Now, everything makes complete since. I figure if he’s going to get through high school I’m going to have to home schooling this guy MIT needs this kid.

  2. Kimberly H. says:

    I have been homeschooling for 17 yrs and have at least 6 more to go. My oldest 3 are graduated and gone. I still have 2 at home and each have some special needs. My youngest has ADHD/Bi-Polar/PDD-NOS. I started using the Charlotte Mason approach with them and love it. Lapbooking, unit studies, Queen Homeschooling Lang, Math-U-See are working really well. The hardest time I had was teaching the youngest to read. I finally got “You Can Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Lessons”. It worked and he is reading almost to grade level.
    There are still challenges, and meltdowns but they are far and few between.

  3. Susan says:

    It’s good to hear of your successes! And B., I’m happy for you that you have the correct diagnosis now. That’s huge!

    SM

  4. Susan Ford Keller says:

    Good to know that this alternative is available. Wondering how you get the socialization piece in. Do you mix at all with other, more traditional home schoolers?

  5. Leah says:

    I live In Burnaby, BC, Canada. My son just completed grade 4. we began homeschooling mid way thru grade 2. We are very lucky to have an option here called distributed learning. Essentially, we are homeschoolers, in charge of our education, but we have a center we are a part of. We have a learning consultant/teacher we can consult anytime. We can access their resource library. Best of all, they have classes we can choose to attend, and field trips/social events we can sign up and participate in. It is so ideal for us. My son struggled in public school, he’s smart but doesn’t sit down for long which disrupts others. It was killing his self esteem to be removed all the time, and he was making no friends. Lunch time his aide would basically say “go play” so he’d wander around the other kids, with no help on joining them.

    Now, because we only attend, when he’s able to participate, he’s accepted by other children, we have more playdates/social times then we ever had before. We keep learning time at home, seperate, from social time when we’re out. Less pressure for him, seperating the two.

    I know not all are able to have their child home with them all the time, and I’m thankful every day that I have a home business and was able to choose this life for us.

    thank you for the resources you’ve listed, I will look at them for sure. I’m more than happy to discuss homeschooling/ASD & and our awesome kids anytime..be in touch if you’d like.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I have a child that is Autistic, MMR, I pulled him out of school last year and we did our first year of homeschooling. The issue I have is that when I pulled him out he was already 3 years behind. In public school they told me that he could not really progress much more due to his MMR. Does anyone have any information or websites that can be useful for the Autistic child that is not at grade level but needs to catch up to the best of their ability.

  7. Leah says:

    To Suzanne –
    off the top of my head…Successmaker is amazing. It’s a math program you sign up for. your child does an initial assessment (which is fun for them) then the program starts you off at the base/the foundation of where your math skills are, and builds from there. if a child seems to falling in a certain skill.. the prgram resets/reprograms itself to go back and present the foundation concepts for each level of math again. It’s quite amazing, the complete opposite of how teachers do it.. lol. we bought it with our education allotment thru our DL center. $90 a year I think?

  8. Kimberly H. says:

    Suzanne,
    Just start where you are. Don’t worry about what the school says. He may never catch up to his peers but he will do the best he can. The programs I listed are very good and not expensive at all. I love that the work moves quickly. My son gets frustrated after a few minutes working on a skill. So I give him short and to the point lessons. He’s ok with that and gets them done without too much trouble.

    Susan Ford Keller,
    My children are around other children their age at church, 4-H and playing w/the neighborhood children. They are also exposed to the elderly on a regular bases as my Mom lives with us part time. They’re exposed to younger children everyday with their niece and nephews whom they adore. They do not lack in socialization on any level. My son w/PDD sometimes gets overwhelmed. I let him have his space, and he goes to his room, or outside to play.

  9. Susan says:

    At one point I had an arrangement with my son’s school that he would receive speech, OT, and social skills at school and academics at home.

    SM

  10. Susan Ford Keller says:

    Thank you everyone for your help. I really appreciate learning about all these resources and alternatives.

  11. Suzanne says:

    Leah and Kimberly H. Thank you so very much for your encouragement and resources I will be doing my homework and looking into what would work best for my son. It’s great to know that we can work together as a community to help eachother.

  12. Michelle says:

    We are doing k12.com this year. It’s an online public school. My son will still get 1 on 1 with me at home and he’ll have a teacher as well as a special ed teacher (he has autism) and they send you everything you need for the whole year and it’s mastery based and FREE. For me, it’s a in-between homeschooling and the public school. Some of the work is done online and some offline and the kids gets to have real classes online with their teacher. This is our first year and we’re so excited!

  13. Susan says:

    Sounds good. Let us know what you think after you’ve done it a while…SM

  14. Michelle says:

    They have a facebook page where you can see how others like it too. Just type in k12. So far we are enjoying it. Cant wait to go on our first field trip.

  15. Susan says:

    Sounds like a great solution! I’m happy for you.

  16. JanB says:

    We withdrew our kids from school last January and went with k-12.com. I could have never known the impact it would have on Charlie, our 11 year old who has autism. We found out that the teachers were asking Charlie if he knew this word or that word and he would say “YES!” Well, he was just mimicking the other kids. I have taken him back to second grade vocab and we are also allowed to do second grade math, history, etc. All of those subjects, science as well, are all based upon being fluent in English. They would have worked with more diligence for a child with ESL, but in Charlie’s case, they just skipped him ahead. I am confident that we can get him advanced. K-12 let us work his lessons all summer long. Love that school!

  17. Michelle says:

    That is awesome Jan! I love that my son can start where he is and maybe one day catch up to where he should be.

  18. Fiona says:

    We withdrew our oldest (Asperger) from school midway through this year. Living in Oz we are fortunate to be able to enrol in the School of Distance Education which provides all the materials required in a prescriptive format, that is easy to understand and implement. My son is now so much happier, his self-esteem and self-belief have skyrocketed and he can now see that he is capable of doing this work, it just needs to be done in a different way.
    On a side note, for those whose children are “behind”, I just wanted to let you know that they will catch up. My son is living proof – he went from a D in maths to an A. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and persistence on the “teacher’s” (be that you or the school teacher) part, but these kids are not dumb, they just need to shown how to do things in a way that makes sense to them.
    Good Luck.

  19. Maggie says:

    Too bad k12.com did not have HS course in my county, they have some in other counties in the state. My guy was for years dx’d w OCD finally got a dx of Aspie in March- he has 3 years of HS left. School kept putting him w/ emotional disabled students.We will most likely go the GED route to get him off this crazy decipline train. They never used the tools they had to help him. Those who know him know he’s great and respectful. He gets in trouble when he listens to others tell him to do stuff and he does it because he thinks they are his friends.

  20. Susan says:

    Sounds like another version of my son’s story. He’s an Aspie w/OCD and they put him in with the profoundly retarded. GED is our game plan too.

  21. Maggie says:

    Good luck to you Susan. Are you in the UK or US?

  22. Susan says:

    Thanks so much. I am in Seattle.

  23. Karissa says:

    My son has PDD-NOS and an extreme sensory disorder. I just withdrew him from public school and I can already see a difference. I am doing it all on my own at home with approved objectives for him. His behavior was out of control at school and was in class with severely disabled children. I had to pull him.

  24. Samantha says:

    I have a daughter who is quite autistic. I really want to homeschool her but am scared I will short her. We live in Northern Maine. Does anyone have any suggestions or words of encouragement. I am scared but feel that this is something I really want to try. Thank you.

  25. Kara says:

    I can relate to Samantha…. I have 2 boys, both with Autism and I am seriously considering pulling my older son and homeschooling. But I am also scared. I want to make sure that he gets everything. How do you know that you’re covering what should be covered?
    I’ve looked into Connections Academy and K12… I’ve heard mixed reviews from other parents, so I’m just not sure. I feel like a fish out of water with this.
    Any thoughts or suggestions are welcomed!
    Thanks!

  26. Susan says:

    It’s difficult for me to comment because it’s a state by state thing. I would google home school collectives and associations in your area. My son did a dual enrollment in which he went to school for 3 hours and did the rest at home. You’re still entitled to speech, OT, etc. from school even when your child is home schooled. Out here in Seattle the community centers have classes for home schooled kids, even swim times at the pools. Your school district may have home school resources to draw upon. Good luck.

  27. Samantha says:

    Thank you for the input ladies. I’m glad I’m not alone. I guess I will first call the superintendent s office and see what is required and what I need to do. Then I think I am going to look into outside sources for speech and stuff like that. I have contacted our local homeschool group but have not heSrd back yet as to whether they have any kids with special needs. I hope we aren’t the only ones. I really need some support. So Kara that is my plan. I hope it helps. I am going to bookmark this page. So I can always find it. Thank you ladies. Any other words of wisdom and support would be so appreciated. I feel like it is the right thing to do but am questioning myself. But it is a gut feeling. Shouldn’t I follow it?
    Thank you again ladies. I am glad someone is still on here!

  28. Susan says:

    Many of us find it necessary to home school our special needs kids because our school districts are so far behind the curve. I think if this is your gut feeling, you are on the right track. It’s scary starting out, but it gets clearer and easier as you gather more information and support.

  29. Samantha says:

    Thank you Susan. I really appreciate any support I can get. Thank you.

  30. Susan Moffitt says:

    Certainly. I just found http://unschoolers.com/ which has tons of info and links.

  31. leah stoltz says:

    I don’t know if its been said. I used to worry he’d miss out on stuff, or i couldn’t teach enough. then i go back to remebering.. how much was he actually learning in the few minutes they could get him to sit down? I had to stop comparing my idea of school/the idea in our head of how much they think they will be able to teach.. to how much i could teach.. to remember he is not just memorizing facts like they do in school.. I can give him a gift of slowing down to his pace, helping him develop the skills and abilities he’ll need and the ones he’ll thrive knowing, not only can I skip stuff or rearrange the order to suit us and our family, we have all the time we need to do so AND as we have the time together.. practicing life skills ALL the time. In the end, my child, (most I’d think) is learning more AND will retain more skills and abilities AND confidence in himself than if he was in a public institution. Plus.. we are both happier.. times a zillion. the stress of not fitting in is super hard for kids and for us parents watching. my son can make friends in the worl now, cause he’s not forced to be with 30 kids at once.. one on one, in quieter spaces, less constrictions.. he has made friends! it has helped our lives immensely. The homeschool groups are awesomely helpful and full of great info too. good luck.

  32. Susan Moffitt says:

    Well said.

  33. Mary says:

    Hello,

    I want to homeschool my 3 year old son with autism but the dreaded s word (socialization) is proving to be difficult for me to figure out. If ANYONE knows of any up-to-date resources for social outings and even a support group for me, (his mother) please let me know. I can’t find anything that isn’t years old, expired pages, etc. I live in Ohio, kind of in the middle of Cincinnati and Dayton to be specific. I feel very strongly this is his best option right now, but I really would like some factual information to give them because they treat me like I’m incapable of being a teacher to him.
    Thank you for any and all information. You HAVE NO IDEA how much I appreciate it. God Bless! P.S. I already have a program picked out, just need socializing resources for his age.

  34. Michele says:

    Mary: I live in Northern Kentucky and might be able to help. I have a 2.5 year old son with autism who I also intend to homeschool. If you are on Facebook, try looking up “Cincinnati Area Secular Homeschoolers.” I know there are multiple members in that group with special needs kiddos. Second, there are a couple of Yahoo groups you might try. “C-A-T-C-H” is one of them as is “Cincinnati_Home_Schoolers.” I frequently see posts about people wanting to find others to meet up with for play dates and the like. Finally, I can recommend a homeschooling play group on Meetup.com called “Little Explorers’ Homeschooling Playgroup.” It’s a Northern Kentucky group so it might be a bit of a drive. I’m not sure if there’s one a little closer to you or not. At any rate, if you are able to check out any of the first three groups, you ought to be able to tap into additional resources. Best of luck!!!

  35. Jayashree says:

    Hi I am considering home schooling my son ,who has pdd -nos and ADHD. I live in Simi Valley and need any info regarding home schooling

  36. Sandy West says:

    I’d like to recieve all the info I can get for free about the regulations on home schooling my autistc child.thank you.

  37. Susan says:

    As that varies state to state, the best thing to do it contact your school district and local homeschooling alliances.

  38. Mary Page says:

    I am seriously considering home schooling my son for his last two years of high school. My son is certified A.S.D. and has processing delay. I live in southeast Michigan. Would someone please help me with information on who to contact to get started? Thanks in advance. Mary

  39. Shataramarie says:

    My son is starting K12 this year he has autism and doesn’t talk at all. This will be a challenge but ive heard so many good things about k12 my whole
    Family is excited! We get to teach our child at there
    Own pace. My son will be starting kindergarten Aug. 12 of this year.

  40. Tracy says:

    My 7 year old son just started k12 this week in GA. I have mixed feelings about it. He is autistic, has ad/hd and ocd (and we have recently been advised to have him tested for dyslexia as well). I feel he has regressed and is seriously behind. They want him to start on the 2nd grade level courses, despite not doing well on the assessments they gave him.

    ANY input, advice, or help would be so greatly appreciated as I want to do everything possible to help him learn at his own pace and feel a sense of success in his school work, not frustration because he does not understand.

    Does anyone have a suggestion of a reading program? He can barely read a word.

  41. melinda says:

    i am thinking about homeschooling my 3 yr old son who has pdd and adhd what do i need to home-school him and how do i home-school him

  42. Susan says:

    I would try to connect to local resources and reach out to other home schooling parents in your area for help and advice.

  43. Marsha says:

    Hello:

    I have a nine year old son who is autistic and not thriving academically in public school. We would like to bring him home to homeschool at the Christmas break. While researching and having him take placement tests in math (his best subject), he is testing a grade behind. Have you found this to be common? Also, I have tried to find homeschooling groups locally (we live in southern Indiana) but due to our rural situation, I haven’t been able to connect with other homeschoolers. Has anyone found a way to work around that? Thank you for your imput.

  44. Susan says:

    A web search of resources is likely your best bet. I found this site right off the bat:

    http://a2zhomeschooling.com/regional/us/indiana/indiana_homeschooling/

  45. Marsha says:

    Thank you Susan. I have been to this site before. Especially the Indiana Homeschool Assocation, etc. It sounds like there are lots of resources here, however, when you get deeper, you see that where I am, a county that is away from large city centers and resources, there are few options. The few groups I did manage to find had either disbanded, changed contact info and didn’t update it, or didn’t reply for whatever reason. I guess it will be internet connections only for me. Thank you again for your reply.

  46. Susan Moffitt says:

    Sorry to hear that. You’ve probably called http://www.autismsocietyofindiana.org/

    Do you have a community center that’s accessible? That’s often a good way to get the social piece. I’ve drawn upon the talents of friends to help with my son’s education, asking them to tutor him in their areas of expertise. Here in Seattle if you’re homeschooling a special ed child, the school district is still responsible for his speech and occupational therapy. They still are required to meet the goals of his IEP in conjunction with you. I think the main thing is to counter the social isolation. The academics are manageable online. Have you heard of https://www.khanacademy.org/

    It’s a very cool resource. Good luck and keep me posted…Susan

  47. Marsha says:

    Susan:

    This is one of those times that I am happy to say that I was wrong. I found a local homeschool coop, and they are active! *happy dance* Thank you for your new suggestions to try. Will check into them now. As far as therapy through the school, it is my understanding that you might be able to get those services, but it is up to the school system to decide, and quite possibly income based (as are most *free* services for autism in my area). Fortunately, this is one of the (few?) good aspects of having my son in PS until now; he has had speech therapy since Kindergarten. Again, Thank you Susan!

    Have a great day!

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