When your child isn't average...
School might not look very average either. If you sift through some older posts, you can see the beginning of our journey up through now. I strongly suspected my son had Autism, but hoped against hope that I was wrong. We started with feeding speech therapy before moving into Early Intervention with an Occupational therapist. Our next move brought us from Occupational therapy to Applied Behavioral Analysis.
Aging out of Early Intervention, at age 3, meant we would need to be included in Public Pre-k, or wait 2 more years (without services) hoping there were no regressions. Being accepted into special education was a hard fought battle. When you have a child with High Functioning Autism, they tend to not qualify academically, or even under the autism diagnosis.
This is our homeschooling story
My son was unable to remain qualified for SPED pre-k, as his only major deficits were social-emotional. The problem here is that most pre-schools will not accept these "problem behaviors" from students for long. I was fortunate enough to have a great pre-k that worked with us on managing Kekito's anti-social outbursts and reactions. He remained there for their private kindergarten as well.
After moving back to Hawaii, I called the Student Services Coordinator and explained my son's predicament: He was in kindergarten in the mainland, but in here, he was a 1st grader. I told him that I knew he was academically prepared for 1st grade, but probably not emotionally. He talked me through it all with a brief assessment of all his skills, and assured me that 1st grade was the right fit.
I anxiously, and excitedly dropped him off for his first day.... and I was called to pick him up 2 hours later. They decided to put him in special education full time while they re-evaluated. He flourished emotionally in there, while he was also somewhat alone socially.
IEPs and 504s
Kekito was re-evaluated and found to be ineligible for an IEP (that's another long story of it's own). I was assured a 504 was going to be just as effective at meeting his needs. Epic fail. We were at a low-enrollment/underfunded school, so we even moved in an effort to obtain an IEP at a school with better funding and staffing. However, we never were able to get back on an IEP; which meant we couldn't access more than 6 hours of monthly ABA through insurance either.
Anger, frustration, and bullies, oh my!
Kekito had been bullied frequently at the previous school, and the second wasn't much better. I was very active in working with the teachers and trying to figure out what we could do to alleviate the problem. I'm sure he would over-react in some situations, but I witnessed much of the bullying and even was on the receiving end one time. The teacher was as stunned at the boldness of that particular kid as I was. What always frustrated me is that my child was the one to be removed from the situation, the one to be sent home, and he was still refused any help in the classroom.
Deciding to homeschool
One day at church, my son drew a picture of himself acting out violently against his classmates. I can't tell you how scarred he was becoming. I had been looking into homeschooling for a while and was so afraid to try it out. We found out we were moving to Las Vegas, so we finished the last month of school and kept looking into homeschool.
When we arrived to our new home, I asked the school whether I could volunteer full time in the class room since we couldn't have an aide. I was told that it was a district wide policy that parents couldn't volunteer full time in one classroom.😞 I asked about ABA therapists sitting in? Hard "No," on that one too! Specialists told me he had the social skills of a toddler, yet his teacher believed he was academically accelerated even beyond his much older peers (having been born on the cutoff date). He was, in some ways, both a kindergartener and a 3rd grader all at once.
So we pushed forward with homeschool. I am so very glad that we did.
What about socialization?
This was my initial worry, and continues to be everyone else's. Doesn't he need to be around peers to practice his social skills? Isn't that the problem; he isn't social enough?
Short answer: No.
Long Answer: He still needs some opportunities to practice his social skills, and we give him those opportunities through church and playground time. We focus on quality over quantity.
Children with Autism have gaps in their developmental abilities. So, if you imagine their overall skills as a block of cheese, the social emotional deficits make it a block of Swiss cheese. If this is the foundation you are trying to build on, it's not going to be solid and strong. We are taking our time to fill in the foundational holes with smaller, lower stress, less frequent social gatherings. In our race to obtain social emotional proficiency, we are the tortoise and we will get there eventually! We practice our social strategies daily, and hope and pray for confidence building success when we have a "real-life" opportunity to practice.
Do you homeschool? How did you decide to take the leap? Or, have you been thinking about it?
I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions below!