If you have a child with ASD, or Autistic Spectrum Disorder, you have probably considered home schooling as an option. After all, school can be a challenging place for children with ASD, thanks to the lesson changeovers, the lack of one-to-one teaching and the ongoing possibility of sensory overload.
Although it can seem a daunting task, it is completely possible, and often very beneficial, to home school a child with ASD. Here are some strategies that will make this process easier for you to manage without compromising your child’s development and wellbeing.
One of the real benefits of home schooling is that you and your child are free to set the timing and pace of learning. Your child might prefer a shorter schedule, or focused activities in the afternoon. Experiment with lesson lengths and start time, so that your school day suits your child’s natural concentration and focus. However you choose to structure learning, maintain the routine wherever possible and, if things need to change, make sure you prepare your child thoroughly beforehand.
Another benefit of home schooling is that you can create an environment that is catered completely to your child’s needs. For example, if your child is sensitive to loud noises, teach in a quiet voice and make sure that you work in a room or area with no or minimal background noise. Create a sensory area with cushions, blankets and soft lights, so that your child has a place to relax between lessons or whenever they become distracted or overwhelmed.
Many children with ASD fixate on a particular topic or subject, and this is something that you can work with as you develop your home school curriculum. By relating the topics you study to your child’s personal interests and making links wherever possible, you will boost levels of engagement and promote deeper learning.
Children with ASD often struggle with long oral or written explanations, so opt for visual cards or cues instead, ideally with stages broken down into manageable steps. When giving instructions, use clear and direct language to avoid any confusion. A timer can also help children to visualise how long is left for a particular task or lesson, and a change card is useful to signal the end of one lesson and the beginning of another.
Finally, home schooling a child with ASD isn’t always simple or straightforward and you may get many things wrong before you get them right. However, a little patience and resolve can make the experience a very rewarding one for both you and your child.
Kaye Jones is a teacher and freelance writer, with a passion for history and education.