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Homeschooling a Child with Asperger’s Syndrome

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There has been great debate and general arguing about home schooling. Are they religious zealots? Hippies that try avoid any type of government control over their lives? Or possibly those rabble-rousers that would rather torch the public schools all together?

And the beat goes on and on and on

But there are more reasons to home school than the average news program or magazine would have you to believe. One reason, and the primary reason that I home school, is Asperger’s Syndrome. My teenaged daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when she was only four and it has been an educational struggle ever since.

The official definition of Asperger’s Syndrome, according to Wikipedia, is a neurobiological, pervasive developmental disorder related to autism. It is recognized by the medical community as one of five neurobiologicalpervasive developmental disorders or PDD considered to be part of the autistic spectrum. It is typically characterized by issues with social and communication skills.

Asperger’s children or Aspies as they are sometimes referred to, can have mulitple and complex issues which manifests in both the positive and negative upon themselves and those around them. And due to the mixed nature that this may cause, it is still remains controversial among parents, educators and even members of the medical communities.

Asperger’s Syndrome was named for a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger, who in 1944 published a paper which described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. In spiteof the publication of his paper in the 1940’s, it wasn’t until 1994 that Asperger Syndrome was added to the DSM IV.

Since then,children with Asperger’s Syndrome and other autistic spectrum disorders have growing by leaps and bounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control(CDC), who released their findings back in February, show an average of 6.7 out of 1000 children had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder in the six U.S. communities assessed in 2000. An average of 6.6 out of 1000 children were found to have an ASD in the 14 communities included during the 2002 part of the same study. Presently AutismSpeaks is now running television ads stating that 1 out of 166 will be diagnosed with Autism or ASD.

Yet the U.S. public school system is not prepared for such an onslaught to the special needs programs. At this moment, there are only a handful of private schools that accommodate solely the education of autistic children and they are, for the most part, in the East Coast states such as New Jersey and Connecticut.

The ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ has done a grand job at chasing good teachers away from the public schools. Too few educators, too many kids, and too much bureaucracy. Now the teachers have twice as much paperwork and not enough time to teach. Not to mention being bullied into passing students that don’t even complete the work.

So what is a parent of an autistic child to do when the schools can’t even keep up with the normal learning children? What happens when you watch your special need child sit in a corner coloring instead of learning all because the teacher doesn’t want your child being disruptive? And you watch your child fall further and further behind and essentially fall between the cracks of a system that is overwhelmed at best.

Home schooling has become a viable answer

An unsourced National Home Education Research Institute statement an estimated 1.9-2.6 million children in the U.S. were home schooled in 2005-2006. 69,000 of these children are what are considered special needs.

My daughter is an extremely bright 14-year-old teenager who is taking 11th grade level-Calculus and Geometry, is a 6th grade level in Science and Social Studies but is only at a 5th grade level when it comes to grammar. She reads and comprehends well but I don’t believe that she’ll ever read Shakespeare. The idea of placing her in a public school is futile at the grade levels she is at.

Then again, when was the last time you could tell someone what a dangling participle was or could name every U.S. President in order and the years that they were in office?

But I’ve always believed the education is more than knowing how to squeak by a TASK test. Education needs to be about character and how to survive in this world. Social clubs and high school sports are a wonderful part of public school but when it comes to making it in the adult world, that MVP trophy or debate ribbons that are gathering dust on the mantle doesn’t mean very much when the rent is overdue.

The naysayers may think that I can’t teach my child or even child for that matter, all the subjects that she needs to know. No parent could possibly teach a child everything that they need to know, I have heard often. But at the end of the school day, those educators go home and forget about my girl. I don’t however. She is my responsibility now and in the future whereas those concern educators will forget her name over the summer.

And as my daughter grows and learns, I do the same. No, I am not a professional at each and every subject but I can learn in the same way that she can. In the beginning, I had forgotten about calculus, the Civil War and what abbreviations went with what chemicals. I do have the ability to pick up a book and read. I have come not only a knowledgeable parent but also an even more knowledgeable teacher.

When my daughter has a meltdown, I can handle it with patience and love. Not by sending her off to a corner because she is ‘disruptive’. When she is tired of looking at diagrams and numbers, we can retire to a spirited game of volleyball or basketball. When she is mentally exhausted, we can take breaks. Not be scolded because she is staying up with the rest of the class.

Socialization? She has a neighborhood full of kids and a sister who plays with her. My daughter belongs to a local chess club and Camp Fire Girls. In public school, the children aren’t allowed to talk in class, while walking to the bathroom/lunchroom/classroom and barely can speak during lunch. Where is the socialization in that?

In public schools, the rate of violence of student against student, shootings, on campus rapes, gangs and teacher and student sexual relations have doubled in the past ten years. My sweet Asperger’s daughter who would rather watch Nickelodeon than MTV wouldn’t stand a chance. So those who would protest against my special needs daughter being home schooled rather than educated in the public school system, can take a step back and let out a breath. Because seeing is believe and I believe that my daughter is better educated and better for it than anything an overcrowded school could give her.

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