Homeschool vs Public School for Autistic Students
Parents often wonder, “Is homeschooling a good option for my child with autism?” Think about this: nationwide, 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism. That means that public schools have many students on their rolls who have unique learning needs. Many families who have a child on the autism spectrum explore alternative educational options. Private schools, charter magnets, and homeschooling are options that have worked successfully for students with autism.
On this page, you will find a comparison of two types of school choice for kids with autism: homeschool vs public school. Hopefully, the information you find here will aid you as you research the best alternative for your specific child.
Homeschooling a Child with Autism
Even with supports in place, parents still wonder, “Can I homeschool my autistic child?” More often than not, parents of autistic children are very knowledgeable about ASD. In fact, their knowledge usually surpasses those of typical school teachers and administrators.
The idea behind an “individualized education plan” is to create a specific program that works best for an individual student. Interestingly, that’s exactly what homeschooling entails! Homeschool families have the flexibility to choose how, when, where, and what to teach their child, making it a superb option for students who would benefit from a customized approach.
The bigger question for most families is whether they feel capable to handle their own child’s education. The answer to this is personal to each family, but certainly, there are plenty of curriculum tools, online and local support communities, and information available to ease most any family into homeschooling a child with autism.
Pros of Homeschooling for Children with Autism
- The learning environment has fewer distractions and fewer stressors.
- If a student has been dealing with bullies in school, homeschooling provides a safe haven.
- All aspects of education can be individualized to fit the student’s needs.
- Appropriate socialization can be modeled by parents and taught as part of the curriculum.
- Flexible schedule allows plenty of time to go to therapies and take frequent breaks.
Cons of Homeschooling for Children with Autism
- Only some states offer special education services to homeschoolers. Check you state laws to find out if your state provides this service.
- Not every family has the availability or financial ability to homeschool.
- Some families find home education of a child with special needs to be overwhelming or emotionally draining (support systems can help alleviate this stress, however).
Autism Programs in Public Schools
Can autistic children attend regular school? Of course they can, but it is important to have accommodations in place that support the special learning needs of a child on the spectrum. While education is obviously the chief goal of any school, a child’s social, behavioral, and health needs must be taken into account as well.
Even accommodations that prove helpful for one child, though, may not be appropriate for another. That’s where Individualized Education Plans (IEP) come in. The IEP is a written document outlining how to tailor an educational program to a child with special needs. It is usually created as a cooperative effort between parents, teachers, and educational specialists. By law, schools must create individualized educational programs for every autistic child.
Depending on where the student with autism is on the spectrum, the amount of mainstream classroom time he/she receives may vary. Some may be assigned part-time to a traditional classroom and part-time to a special needs classroom. Some may be assigned full time to a traditional classroom with a support, or a shadow (a person who would be working with an autistic child in the classroom). Others may be assigned full time to a special needs setting.
Pros of Public School for Children with Autism
- Some therapies may be available for students meeting the criteria for them.
- If social skills training is available, students will have many opportunities to practice with peers.
- Schools are required to have an IEP in place for students with special needs.
- If a dedicated autism classroom is available, there may be access to specialized software and other supports for learning.
Cons of Public School for Children with Autism
- If a school and/or teachers don’t have training in autism, they can have difficulty teaching students effectively.
- Even with an IEP, it can be challenging for teachers to meet the educational needs of individual students.
- Students who are struggling in school usually have difficulty communicating those struggles to parents.
- Can create safety issues for students with ASD including bullying, wandering behaviors, or logistical confusion such as field trips.
The Best Educational Approaches to Autism
Because autism symptoms fall along a spectrum, no two children with autism are alike. That means that there is no one “right” approach to educating a child with ASD. However, there are some strategies that are often beneficial no matter where your child falls on the spectrum.
- Children with autism benefit from a regular daily schedule. They often need extra time to switch to a new subject or activity.
- Many learn best with a visual schedule and with visual instruction.
- Not only do children with autism need to learn their “Three R’s”, but they need to be taught all of the social skills that other children seem to pick up naturally by being around other people – how close to stand to someone, how to engage in conversation, how to play with a friend, etc.
- By minimizing distractions in a room or teaching area, students are more likely to be able to stay focused on the lesson at hand.
- Try to always be a calming presence, even when (or especially when) your child is out of control.
- Responding to anxiety with calm is the likeliest way to de-escalate a child’s tension.
- Find ways to link educational lessons and topics to what your child is already fascinated with.
How Time4Learning Curriculum Helps Students with Autism
Using an interactive online environment, the Time4Learning educational learning system builds and reinforces the academic skills needed for both traditional and special needs students. It can be used as a core curriculum or as a supplement to other tools. Many families homeschooling a child on the autism spectrum use Time4Learning. Here’s why:
- Lessons and activities are multisensory and work with a variety of learning styles.
- The impersonal nature of computer learning is preferable to many on the autism spectrum.
- It builds on existing skills in reading, math, science, and social studies.
- It allows for the placement of different grade levels in different subjects.
- New learning opportunities are introduced in a safe, supportive environment.
- Learning is balanced with fun!
Choose your subject and grade level to experience lesson demos of Time4Learning’s interactive curriculum.
Have other questions about homeschooling a child with autism? You may find the following pages helpful.