Friday, October 27, 2006

By the Seat of Our Pants, Sort of

I have had a few people show surprise or even incredulity when I was asked where Alan goes to school. He is almost 15 and I tell them that he has always been homeschooled. Our other kids went to traditional public schools in Canada and California. They did well. I knew at once when I investigated special education for Alan that he would not be well-served. It is not that there aren't dedicated people, both general education teachers and specialists in schools. After all, I taught remedial reading myself long ago, and think I did do some good for those kids.

What I find amazing now that I have done it, is that people are willing to turn their children over to a group experience that might be stressful and not a good fit for even the best student. I sure was one of those parents with our other kids.

I knew that Alan needed consistent, one-on-one, quiet help. He also needed to have some say in what he was doing. He needed me not to always command, but to invite him to join me in doing what he could do and then just to challenge him on the edge of his competence. Also, his abilities were and still are widely separated from preschool on up well into high school. There is no way that any other teacher except for his family would work with him at each skill and at each level. We also get to hire specialists to work with him at times and if it isn't working out, we have no argument. We just stop the service since we are in charge and we are paying.

Without knowing any other local parents of an autistic child who dared to keep him at home, I went online in search of others who were doing so. When he was still officially a pre-schooler, but would have been in school (it begins at age 3 for special needs kids), I was corresponding via e-mail with other parents who had similar children. None are exactly alike, of course. Alan was not verbal. He had some obvious sensory differences which have mostly faded. He was, however, reading. One of those online friends suggested that I look at the American Hyperlexia Association web page, and I did. Learning that 80 percent of hyperlexic children were on the autism spectrum was difficult, but I was determined to see how that early reading would help him.

The other big break for me was to discover the newly-formed Aut-2B-Home e-mail list. Tammy, the originator, has a daughter just two years older than our Alan. She is also hyperlexic. From Tammy's Web site and by reading the e-mail list, I gained support and information. This has been going on for probably about ten years. There is a core group of us that post frequently, giving each other ideas and support while we engage our children at home.

Now, we also have RDI therapy for Alan. And, luckily, the parent-psychologists who conceived this therapy and are rapidly teaching it to other parents and certifying consultants also homeschooled their typically developing children and feel that homeschooling, for a short time, or even throughout all their school years, is beneficial to children on the autism spectrum.

So, today I told Alan that I knew nothing about functions. He reminded me we had met the beginning of the function concept earlier and explained it to me. Oh, yes, it is positively thrilling for me that he can and does understand such a concept well enough to teach it to me. I'm always searching for new ideas and ways to help Alan with the areas that are still lagging. I need these shining moments to remind me that he can learn and learn well. We plotted points on graph paper and found lines of symmetry today in his math lesson also. At my age, these concepts are not going to be useful, but he has many hurdles to overcome and I am so happy he can learn.


Blogger The Glasers said...

You are so right in your comments, Mary. Some children need truly individualized, one-on-one learning, which most schools cannot afford to give. In our case, Pamela has syntactic aphasia. When she was in school (ages 3-6), she received group speech therapy. She sat there quietly and let the other children talk. Her last therapist did an experiment and found that, if she gave the talkative children five minutes of busywork and worked exclusively with Pamela, she would get more out of her in five minutes than an entire month of group therapy. Some of our children need more than the system can give.

We tried many kinds of speech therapy for Pamela, including Teach Me Language which is specially tailored for autistic children. Even that was not enough for her.

She finally started making consistent and measurable progress with an obscure program developed for children with aphasia. There is no way the schools would have been able to afford to train a therapist in this one program for one child. I did not go to any training, but read the manual twenty times. I talk about the association method at my blog: Aut-2B-Home in Carolina


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