How I Began Homeschooling My Daughter with Autism
MEMBER INTERVIEWS & STORIES
As we celebrate Autism Awareness Month, we are pleased to share this special blog post by Christina Stiles, a homeschooling mom and Time4Learning staff member.
I can remember it as clear as day: the moment a dear family friend, Marta, (who also happened to be a Speech Pathologist, and like a mother figure to me) mentioned, “You know, I am not seeing the typical developmental cues and milestones we could expect for Bella at her age.” This is how a hesitant friend modestly brought up my daughter’s development and what launched my first conversation ever about autism.
I was a new mom, without parents of my own, and did not notice that she was not babbling as a baby should or making eye contact. As is often the case, having a conversation about my child possibly having autism was followed with denial and very upsetting emotions. For many families, it is difficult to wrap their heads around such a life-changing statement. This can cause delays in testing, therapies and intervention, which is crucial at an early age. Some parents simply become too emotional to even discuss such a topic. However, I was fortunate enough to have someone I hold in high regard initiate this conversation. With her help, I jumped onboard, albeit a little worried, but ready to get Bella any help we could find.
This was during Bella’s toddler years and, at that time, the diagnosis could not be provided until the age of five. Up until that age, many challenges facing children with autistic were labeled as “developmentally delayed.” Since Bella was not diagnosed until the age of five, we were unable to tap into the many resources available to help her develop speech and motor skills, and pertinent life skills.
“As a mother, you want to protect your child, and when there are pains you cannot alleviate and problems you cannot solve, you feel helpless.”
When she was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), it was more difficult than the years when her diagnosis was unknown. I started to understand how difficult her future may be. As a mother, you want to protect your child, and when there are pains you cannot alleviate and problems you cannot solve, you feel helpless. On my autism journey, I fell strangely in love with the idea of the spectrum, as my daughter would sometimes fall into some categories that many children with autism shared, but then experienced some that were in unique territory. Since not as many girls are diagnosed with ASD, for many years Bella was often the only girl in her classroom. I also loved the idea of a “spectrum” or band of colors, as Bella was infatuated with rainbows and colors and loved to draw and paint. We finally embraced the rainbow and navigated our way through our own personal rainbow, which also included dark clouds and storms, as rainbows typically do.
We were fortunate to live in a county in Florida that provided many wonderful resources for early intervention. There was even a PreK-5 elementary school, which was specifically for students with special needs. After her first two years of preschool, Bella started advancing quickly and, to our happy surprise, was recommended to attend a traditional public school which provided cluster classrooms specifically for students on the autism spectrum.
Bella started her first day of kindergarten like many other students and was taught the basics, but at a different pace and approach than that of a typical student. Bella had a wonderful teacher that year and developed in ways that we were previously barely hopeful for in her academic career. This was the first year we experienced an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting. We sat with teachers, therapists, and school administrators to come up with a learning path that suited Bella’s needs. She then had a wonderful first grade teacher who helped all the students blossom. So much so, that the same teacher remained with the class for the following grade level. Everything was smooth sailing until the middle of third grade.
The content started challenging Bella quite a bit, as well as the expected daily social interactions. Then to top off an already difficult year, our family had to relocate in a competitive housing market where options were limited. We even obtained a scholarship to keep Bella in her school district and drove her 40 minutes twice a day to stay in the same school. This meant long days for Bella, and school was already straining for her. Things as simple as sitting still could be agitating and difficult for her to do. Alas, we spoke with her educational team and concluded that another school would be best for Bella. Many children struggle with big changes, but children on the spectrum who thrive in routine can even digress when faced with big changes, such as moving. This change to a new school would ultimately lead to a heartbreaking year that would eventually lead the family to homeschooling.
Make sure to read part two of this special series in recognition of Autism Awareness Month.
Hi there, I can totally relate to your story. I have a daughter that going through the same stage. As a single mom of 3, My youngest is 8 now I actually calling her “Bell” or Bella when she was a baby. She’s perfect in every way day until I noticed how she’s picky and wouldn’t want any baby food. but for me, it just may because she’s, my only girl. at aged 9months old, my mom died unexpectedly so I travel out of the country, I noticed how she’s not eating well. 2 weeks in there we got back here in the state and she start having a fever, following by ear infections that seem not to go away then she got better by the time of 24 months she got double shots of MMR. due to mistakes, changing doctors in just a few weeks. where they forgot to put it in the system,.they assure me that was okay and nothing to worried about” however after that, my daughter starts being sick and just not feeling well overall. (both of my two other kids were just fine, perfect, smart boys as I called them.) so for me, I never heard of Autism, or I just not probably like everyone else until u got aware of other challenges in development milestones that can go wrong. My daughter changes so much after that vaccine. she starts this sleeping all the time and not eating, not playing. so I called the doctor’s office, same process ..” nothings wrong”., then she really starts doing weird stuff, I can only hope and suspect it’s just a phase and it will pass.Pass forward. That’s the start. at age 4 she was diagnosed with ASD. As I mentioned to my doctor about the double dose vaccine. he said “it’s just a nonsense term or be blamed for a vaccine” so as I was believing everything as he is my doctor. I supposed it’s true no matter how much I search about this matter. I pause and moved forward as I was in puzzled and in hays of answer’…As I relate to your story, My daughter been through so much, and because she doesn’t talk then it’s all guessing gestures and trusting my gut feeling about things that happen to her, on what she wants or feels. But 2 years ago she starts talking and making sentences but still needs improvements. however with covid and all issues in school that I don’t feel safe for my daughter so I pull her out of private school, so I decided to put her online curriculum which this site ” Time4learning is great comes handy and she can take time as she pleased. I am new to this homeschooling thing” struggles that my daughter feels and I am far beyond ordinary …well I, in that phase of always putting my guard up..since explaining to people about my daughter conditioned seems to laugh off for some. like one day I took my daughter to a community park by us, then she will always run towards a swing’ this time as I was holding here she quickly takes her handoff and runs. well there’s this little kid same aged as my daughter that she accidentally tap off as she “My daughter not really aware of her surroundings and kids ,. anyway, this parent of that kid got up and like yelling at my daughter so I came so fast and apologizing and I was explaining to her about my daughter conditioned and she looks at me and said, “Well she shouldn’t be here” and should just keep home” I actually almost cried as I bow my head and just apologized and took my daughter back to the car. As you can guess I cried the whole way through…after that, I feel I have to Approach other judgemental People when we encounter problems in Public. ” As a mom, you kinda wanted to protect your child as far as you could especially if the child can’t speak for themself, It’s hard when it comes to finding the right care of the place where she would receive speech and O.T is a challenge.anyway, thanks for reading my story.Bella MOM
Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story with our readers, Mari! We’re thrilled to read that Time4Learning has been a valuable tool for you and your daughter! 🙂
This is such a heartwarming story, and Time4Learning has been such a lifesaver for me personally.
We’re thrilled to hear this, Kaela! Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂
My grandson was on an IEP since 2nd grade. We are in this home schooling proram now and he seems to be working so much better at his own pace. I look forward to hearing the rest of your story with a happy ending.
Hi Nancy! Thanks for stopping by. We’re thrilled to hear that Time4Learning is working well for your grandson and we appreciate being a part of your homeschooling journey! You can read the rest of Christina and Bella’s story here: https://www.time4learning.com/blog/special-needsgifted/homeschooling-over-the-rainbow-a-mother-and-daughters-journey-part-two-of-a-two-part-series/ 🙂