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Homeschooling Carnival: Autism

By September 18, 2007

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In choosing a theme for this weeks carnival, I had originally planned on doing something with fall or apples or Johnny Appleseed. But after keeping my grandchildren for the weekend, I decided to go with the theme of Autism. This could be a very long post.

Some say there is an epidemic of Autism, some say there isn't. I definitely lean toward the epidemic side. Statistics show that 1 in 150 children are on the autistic spectrum, when a mere 20 years ago, it was 1 in 10,000. That is a gigantic jump in a short amount of time. There are lots of statistics out there, different philosophies on the cause of Autism and a flurry of treatment methods. I'm not going to spend time getting into the stats, maybe some of these high school students can give it a try:

Much like homeschooling, having an autistic child is a whole new world. It becomes a way of life. The entire family is affected and the family generally takes on a whole new dynamic.

My grandson, Nathan, was recently diagnosed with Autism. Of course, we weren't surprised as we've observed him slipping away into what seemed like a non-reachable state. In our research, we realized that he met all three main areas of Autism. My husband really struggled with accepting the diagnosis. Some of Julee's friends had a hard time taking it seriously at first. Now she is getting the support from everyone that she needs.

The first step in getting help for your child is obtaining a diagnosis and finding out exactly what is going on his body. According to Rob Richards, the three primary areas to consider are:

Social Skills:

  • When evaluating your child's social skills, ask yourself these questions... Does your child fail to respond to his or her name? Does your child avoid making eye contact with you? Does your child appear not to hear you? Does your child avoid being held or cuddled? Does your child seem to be unaware of others' feeling or emotions and prefer to play alone?
  • In all the years of having the issue of socialization coming up in the context of homeschooling and knowing how preposterous it was, seeing the social issues in autistic children is intriguing to me.

    Nathan avoided eye contact even as an infant. If strangers were around, he could be found standing and staring at a wall. A smile or "hi" from someone in public would send him to the ground, either crying or just lying there with a blank look.

    Behavior and Sensory Issues:

  • When evaluating your child's behavior, ask yourself these questions...Does your child perform repetitive movements, such as rocking? Does your child become bothered with small changes in their routine? Does your child appear to be unusually sensitive to their environment through light, sound and touch? Has your child developed specific routines that are easily identified? Does your child have a ritualistic pattern in their daily lives? Does your child seem to be constantly on the move?
  • Nathan lines things up and makes patterns. He goes through periods where his feet can't touch the ground. A hot oven doesn't seem to faze him, he's actually drawn to it. We have to watch that closely. He has issues with swinging and going down the slide. These are all things that we work on with him.

      DeputyHeadmistress presents Out of Doors Play posted at The Common Room. "Children who aren't handling wood and clay, sand and water, bricks and acorns, leaves and grass, and other such stuff because they are too busy inside in a sterilized, sanitized environment lit by artificial lights and enhanced by artificially created noises, the beeps, sings, and whistles of computers and cartoons- these kids are not figuring out what to do with the things they learn." I am very interested in spending more time with this post.

      Melitsa presents Stuck on pretend play posted at Play-Activities.com. She says that boys enjoy pretend play as well. She takes a practical look at this form of creative play.

    Language Issues:

  • When evaluating your child's language skills, ask yourself these questions...Did your child begin speaking much later than other children? Can your child repeat words or phrases verbatim without understanding how to use them? Does your child speak with an abnormal tone, perhaps a sing song voice or a very mechanical voice? Does your child have difficulty starting a conversation or staying engaged in a conversation?
  • At the age of two, Nathan virtually had no words. A few came here and there, but they were soon to disappear. He spoke to us by taking our hands and taking us to what he wanted. Or standing in front of us, staring at us until we figured it out. This was obviously the most apparent of his symptoms. I learned that if we didn't "teach" him to talk, he may never talk. That's a scary thought. But after homeschooling for so many years, we're already in the mindset that we have the responsibility of teaching our children and equipping them to be responsible and contributing citizens.

    Nathan has a vocabulary now of about 25 words. It is nice to hear his voice after being silent so long. His talking tends to sound like that of a deaf person. I'm not too sure at how his brain is working and what he actually "hears." He learned the letter sounds in a week. He now sounds out any words he sees. He hasn't started blending yet, but I'm sure that will come shortly. I think he will be reading words before actually speaking them. Strange.

    Other Issues

    In addition to these three areas, their little bodies have many other things going on. Many autistic children have stomach issues, sensory issues, allergies, and much more. It's helpful to keep records of what your child goes through, the progress and the regressions as well. Discovering Nathan is one tool that Julee is using to document their journey and keep the family and friends informed of what's going on at the same time.

    Of course, another important step is to learn everything you possibly can to help understand your child more. Reading books, joining support groups, attending seminars and conferences. I attended an Autism Conference with my daughter. It has helped me to be more informed of what's going on and more understanding when it comes to changes in diet and such. I've become quite a good GFCF cook.

    Finances

    In the short time that I've been exposed to the Autistic community, I've noticed that everyone wants to get a chunk of your income, just like in the homeschooling world. Once the market is there, people want a piece of it. There are many different philosophies out there and everyone thinks theirs is the right way. Do your research, make your investments wisely and if things don't work out, chuck it, learn from it and move on. When Autism hits a homeschooling family that already is living on one income, one has to re-examine their life's choices and confirm they're on the path they want to be on. Personally, I'll do everything I can to help my daughter and her family continue to homeschool and also provide the needed services for Nathan.

    Super Mom

    When I think of adding an Austistic child and all that that entails to my homeschooling years, it's just mind boggling to me. All these extra things to worry about and orchestrate and the change in the functions of the family are very taxing on the parents. The energy required is astounding. Support from family and friends is crucial. If you have a family member or friend that is dealing with this, offer to help. Be creative. Many of Julee's blog posts make me cry, like Get this world off my shoulders!

    Therapy and Homeschooling Therapy Room

    When the homeschooling household is invaded by ABA therapists, speech therapists and new diets, many things change. Julee set up a "therapy room" for Nathan in the garage. This has given the therapist a place to work with Nathan without distractions, as well as provide a more distraction free homeschooling environment for the older kids.

    Fine Arts: Science History/Freedom

      Seafarer presents It?s Home Educator Week in Colonial Williamsburg posted at Family Travel. "As a traveler, I'm a big Colonial Williamsburg fan; but as a Mom, I'm pleased to find that they're so involved with teaching and education."

      Jennifer in OR presents Bonhoeffer and Gatto on Education posted at Diary of 1. She shares, "Since I just spent a great deal of time reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’ll submit something interesting I came across in Eberhard Bethge’s Biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. From p. 17, where he briefly discusses the fact that Dietrich’s mother, Paula Bonhoeffer, homeschooled all eight children for their early schooling."

      Over at Life Nurturing Education, Renae discusses the hope and faith required to teach her children in Freedom's Future
    College

    Imagine that, both homeschooled students and Autistic students can make it to college.

    Because I am around Nathan a lot, we have an understanding of each other and I will keep him overnight in a heartbeat. I can tell when he's over stimulated or having trouble. He has a way of turning his eyes off. It's kind of bizarre, but only those who really know him will notice. When I go away, he's the one I miss the most.

    I am aware that there are a lot of special kids in the world and that Autism isn't the only problem out there, but this is the one invading my world. If you don't have an autistic child or personally know someone who does, chances are you soon will. I hope you have a little better understanding of what these kids and families go through. Reach out to someone today.

    Learn more about Autism from Lisa Jo Rudy, About.com's Guide to Autism. In her post, What's Your Opinion: Public or Private School for Kids with Autism?, Lisa Jo reveals her decision to homeschool her 11-year-old son with autism. I'm eager to hear more about her journey as the year progresses.

    Well, that concludes this issue of the Carnival of Homeschooling. I hope you enjoy it.

    ~ Beverly

    If you enjoyed this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, spread the word!

    Next week, the carnival will be held at The Voice of Experience. Join the fun, submit your post.

    Comments

    September 18, 2007 at 9:01 am
    (1) Kristina Chew says:

    Thank you for the fine list of resources. My son is 10 years old and attends a public school autism (ABA) program and loves it; there have been a few periods when he has been homeschooled (because the school district could not provide him with what he needed). Best wishes to Nathan and your family!

    Kristina Chew
    AutismVox.com

    September 18, 2007 at 10:07 am
    (2) Lesley Vick says:

    Our 2 sons (and our family) are dealing with the effects of Autism everyday.
    For those who cannot fathom what our world is like (we also homeschool our 2 daughters), we ask people to view a short movie called “Autism Every Day” at http://www.autismspeaks.org
    It is a litle glimpse into the lives of some wonderful families who are dealing with a very difficult situation to say the least.

    Thank you for writing about your experiences. I hope to read more about your Autism journey in the future.

    God bless you :)

    September 18, 2007 at 11:12 am
    (3) Jennifer in OR says:

    Fantastic job on the carnival; I enjoyed finding out more about autism along with all the great posts!

    September 18, 2007 at 11:53 am
    (4) Kathy Cardell says:

    I’m the parent of a 24 year old son who has Aspergers (one of the Autism Spectrums). The services that were available when he started school were for “varing disablilites” and did not meet his specific needs. We homeschooled him from K-12. He holds a job, attended college and drives. Children with Aspergers are at a higher functional end. Your grandchild sounds so much like my son at that age. It is not always an easy road, but a rewarding way to travel in the end. If you want to pick my brain about what I did and how I did it, please feel free to contact me.

    September 18, 2007 at 1:25 pm
    (5) HowToMe says:

    Clever and informative way to host the carnival! I’m stopping now to ask God to assist you and your loved ones. May He strengthen and direct.

    September 20, 2007 at 2:19 pm
    (6) Debra Combs says:

    Thank you for your carnival. I too have a 13 year old with Aspergers. We were in public school for K and one more year in K due to school district changes. We then began homeschooling. We have had MANY bumps and knocks but now are moving forward well. He is doing a wonderful job and is planning on “someday” getting married, becoming a fireman (my 27 year old is a firefighter) and taking care of all of us. It has changed our family but I have to say it has been a blessing as I have learned to look at the world through his eyes and am able to slow down and appreciate the little things that facinate him. Good luch to you and your family. I will keep you in our prayers.

    Debra

    September 20, 2007 at 7:42 pm
    (7) Libby Jarchow says:

    I have a 6 yr. old son with autism. One of the things that we have learned along the way is that Federal Funding is for ALL kids, not just public school students. If you feel like you’re being asked for money, then you’re talking to the wrong people! Your autties should be offered money.

    September 20, 2007 at 8:46 pm
    (8) Heather says:

    Great job with this weeks carnival. I homeschool 3 ds, 2 of whom have developmental delays. I can definitely relate to the get this world off my shoulders! What a wonderful way to educate the educators – thank you!

    September 20, 2007 at 8:51 pm
    (9) Lisa Rudy says:

    I’m afraid this comment is a bit disconnected – so many thoughts, and so little time to say it!

    To start with, of course, being the autism guide, I have to say KUDOS for addressing this complex issue! As Bev said, I’m just starting this journey with a high-functioning autistic son (age 11) because the schools were, quite frankly, giving him a rotten education. It’s the start of a great adventure – and so far, while I’m overwhelmed, I’m also having a good time, and am VERY impressed with Tom’s real abilities.

    So much of public “autism education” is about “social skills” that – at least in my son’s case – they badly neglected everything from geography to scientific method to writing to… well, you name it. I think the theory is – FIRST we’ll teach you to be a typical student. THEN we’ll teach you academics. Unfortunately, most autistic kids will never, ever be “typical students” – though many have the potential to be outstanding in fields of special interest or ability.

    I’m not quite sure how Libby is managing to homeschool her child with autism and ALSO get $ for therapies – in my experience, while those therapies MAY be offered to homeschoolers through the school district, many are not… and many therapists accept no insurance or are not covered by insurance.

    So far, we are going with JUST a speech/language therapist, because quite honestly I haven’t found that other therapies are particularly helpful (though they are pricey!). Our insurance will cover about 80% of speech, which is not awful. We’ve opted out of the school therapists altogether – partly because our experience with school therapists has not been great, and partly because we just don’t want to get involved with IEPs. We’ve just moved from one state to the other, and are THRILLED to be able to avoid the “special needs” vortex that swirls around most public schools…

    Thanks again, Bev!

    All the best,

    Lisa

    September 25, 2007 at 8:09 pm
    (10) Carole Rutherford says:

    I live in the UK and home school my 10 year old son with HFA and have done so for 5 years now. I also home schooled my eldest from the age of 11 after he had a complete breakdown. The system is different here because we have the National Health Service, in theory at least. However many of us have found that once we have decided to home school they withdraw the the therapies, we don’t get ABA here unless you fund it yourself. It has not happened to us personally although like Lisa we find that the speech therapy helpful and our son has just started physio which also appears to be working.

    Autism sure is complex but unlike some people I do not see it as a life sentance. It has opened up a different world for us and one which has given us so much – like home schooling which has given us the opportunity to share in every success that our sons have achieved.

    March 14, 2010 at 7:40 pm
    (11) Katie says:

    Two things to check out:
    Dr. Rick Solomon and the P.L.A.Y. project (awesome alternative to ABA therapies)
    4 Paws For Ability (Autism Service Dogs)

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