homeschool your autistic child. Everyone, absolutely everyone, thinks you are nuts. The pediatrician, the speech therapist, the
O/T, your parents, your husband’s parents, all the family members, all the
experts tell you to put the kid in public school where they have experts to
deal with this. You can’t possibly know
more than the experts.
in a later post but,while they have their place, let me tell you no one is more
of an expert in your child than you. No one. Not now, not ever. You are the best person to determine what is
best for this little person who, time out of mind, was give to you by God. He
trusts you to know what to do and who are you to question His wisdom? 🙂
Now I am sure you are
going to go to the bookstore and library and read some books and look up all
kinds of things on the internet. This is
a good thing and I encourage you to do that. I will be posting about books and
sources as part of this series of posts. Just keep in mind that while you are
doing this reading and research that they are not talking about your child, the
books tend to generalize but autism really affects each person very differently
and ten children with the same diagnosis will have totally different needs.
you plan how to teach your child I am going to do a quick overview of the
different styles of learning. Before I do that I want to encourage anyone who wants a great resource for this topic to order the tape of Dr. Catherine Moran’s talk at the IHM Conference . It was entitled , Educational Foundation: Learning Styles and Teaching Methods. This is the best $6 you’ll spend this year. Or any year. Dr. Moran has bee a home educating mom for a long time and she has two children with learning challenges, not the least of which was that when they came to her (adopted) they did not speak any English. Dr. Moran has been in the trenches and she spent some time with me during the conference and gave me really great advice and a lot of encouragement.
So, here we go…..
accepted three styles of learning; visual, auditory and tactile or kinesthetic.
Most people fall into one of those three categories.
by seeing. They think in pictures and learn much better from diagrams, maps, charts,
pictures, demonstrations, visual displays and videos. Visual learners are often detailed note takers. They enjoy puzzles, painting, computer games,
reading and writing. Visual learners are very creative and often have a large
vocabulary at an early age.
This is the child who
needs the Cusinaire rods and geometric shapes to learn math. The directions in
the text will be meaningless until they “see” the math. Children like this
often have a hard time when faced with a page of text to read because it is
difficult for them to translate that into a picture. You may need to use
picture books long after a typical child moves past them in order to help with
The auditory learner learn best through verbal lectures,
discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say.
Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening
to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. Written information may have
little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading
text aloud and using a tape recorder and they like books on tape/CD. Auditory learners are good debaters. Since
they think in words rather than pictures they are often eloquent and passionate
speakers. They are great humorists and storytellers who really understand the
nuance of language.
This is the kid who
talks constantly. Who asks why ten thousand times a day. You are going to be
reading aloud and talking this child through the all of the lessons. The method of having this student narrate
back all that he hears will be an effective method of teaching. It may be a while
before they are up to writing it out but they will enjoy narrating and having
it typed for them.
A tactile or
kinesthetic learner needs to be physically involved in their learning. A
hands-on method of learning is best for these people, they learn best by
exploration. Tactile learners are busy
and active and find it difficult to sit still and learn in a traditional school
setting. They are able to process and learn information by interacting with the
space around them. They generally have good hand eye coordination and good
balance. Tactile learners are usually good at sports, acting, mimicking,
building and crafting activities.
This child will learn
science through experiments and doing. He will learn nearly nothing from the
text. History will be best learned through projects and demonstrations. Math
will be best learned by using it in everyday life. Again, the text book may
prove useless except as a guide to what to teach. For example, having the tactile learner
learn fractions by baking cakes and following recipes may be the best way. Or possibly by measuring out wood and building a birdhouse.
So that is a brief,
brief overview of learning styles. What
if your autistic child, like mine, does not clearly fit in to one of these
categories? The fact is that due to the
varied way that autism affects different people you might actually have a child
who learns the alphabet best in a tactile way while a visual approach is the
best way to teach math. Observing, as
best you can, how your student processes different information is your best
method of figuring out the learning method for that skill. This does not just
refer to traditional school subjects but to life skills as well. You might be
able to tell your four-year old how to slip on his Velcro sandals but you may
need to show him how to brush his teeth. He may be able to follow directions
about taking out the garbage but he may need you to stand over him to have him
put away his laundry. He may need to put those same clothes in the right
drawers himself ten times before he owns that skill.
In some ways this
makes things easier and in some harder. I think most people fit fairly comfortably into one learning style
whereas autistic people seem to need a broader look to find what their needs
are. However, once you know the best way to teach different things your life
gets easier. You may find that their
different abnormalities can give you a clue as to how they will learn best. For
example a child with sensory problems who can not bear loud noise will probably
not be an auditory learner. A child
whose sensory problems seem related to their sense of touch may not learn well
in a hands-on way, it may just be too much stimulation. Then again there are those autistic people
who need to touch things, they are calmest when rubbing or touching something.
This may be the kid who needs to roll out snakes in play-doh and make them into
letters. This may be the kid who does well with sandpaper letters or shaving
cream on a cookie sheet (which is a lot of fun as well J).
Whatever you discover
about how your child learns know that you will be the best judge of how to
reach that child. Most autistic people are very capable of learning. They may
not all end up scholars but they are definitely capable of acquiring basic
skills. Some of them are highly intelligent and are just waiting for the key to
fit in and unlock their gifts. The best place for this to happen, in my
opinion, is in the home. They are being taught by the person who has a
passionate desire for them to be all God has created them to be. The mom as
teacher will strive constantly to reach that child and to find the best way to
get the information into those heads and keep it there. They will be taught in an environment that
makes them feel safe. There are no scary new situations to process in addition
to trying to learn all these new things.
You can do this. You
will do an admirable job. Even on your worst day when you despair of ever
reaching this child, he will learn. If nothing else he will learn you love him
and want him to do well. On the day you
decide to begin teaching multiplication he may frustrate you to tears but he
will learn something. You may not realize it that day or for many days but I
promise, everyday there will be progress. Some days, maybe most, it will be
infinitesimal but it will be there. And on those days he “gets it” big. Oh the
joy. The indescribable joy! You were there to witness it. To exclaim at your
pride and happiness about the accomplishment and to right away do a high five
and call daddy to tell him all about it. You won’t be finding anything out in a
note from a teacher or three weeks later at a conference. You’ll be there.
It’ll be so worth it.