One of the most common reasons for choosing to home educate is because school (despite sometimes trying hard to do so) has been unable to accommodate the needs of an autistic child, or because parents of preschool aged autistic children can see that school will not be a good fit for their needs.
HEN surveys have shown that around 60% of families who are home educating have at least one child with differing needs, and autism is one of the top three conditions cited, so if you are considering making the move you will not be alone. Home educators are friendly and helpful, so once you understand the basics of home ed which are explained in our Start Here section, one of the best things you can do is to join your local home ed group, and the HEN Vic group if you are on Facebook, and ask for feedback and advice on different options.
The home education environment is flexible. You have the freedom to study at any time of day, in an environment your child finds relaxing. You can minimise stimulation and environmental triggers, use music or noise cancelling headphones in the background, incorporate regular movement breaks, provide distractions or companion animals for those who need the stimulation of touch, or any other measures which suit the needs of your child.
When it comes to educational content, you can retain the aspects of school based learning that worked for your child, and reject those which did not: it’s up to you. Online programs and platforms work well for some children, and there are an increasing number of online classes and virtual incursions available. For children who have deep but limited interests, these can be used as the basis for all of the eight key learning areas (KLAs). Autism, as well as other learning differences, can also be used as grounds for one or more exemptions from covering specific KLAs in Victoria.
There are specific autistic social and learning groups, though availability will depend on where you live. Families may also arrange to meet others at autism friendly venues such as We Rock the Spectrum gyms, or galleries/museums that have autism-friendly sessions. Other families and children within the community are generally open to difference, particularly in informal groups, and active supervision is the norm to ensure that frustrations or communication difficulties do not lead to avoidable incidents.
Children who have narrow interests will often become extremely knowledgeable, and home education allows them to pursue their passion at their own level. Their interest may have a clear educational aspect, such as statistics or chemistry, or be related to an interest such as cars or birdwatching. However, any interest can be reframed to show the educational benefit, and many adults with narrow interests find ways for them to become an income stream. The world needs a variety of people, and it’s clear that many of the discoveries, inventions and intellectual leaps of the past came from people who would now be diagnosed with autism.
Home education is not an educational panacea. Difficulties do not disappear, and some children will still struggle. However, removing many of the unavoidable stressors inherent in the school environment makes managing and supporting behaviours more workable.