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Autism: How we homeschool

education May 28, 2019

When I first considered homeschooling Tosh, I was overwhelmed. I had visions in my head of Pinterest-worthy homeschool rooms, and there was no way I could live up to that.

Thankfully, I don't have to. Tosh is making great academic progress working mostly on our kitchen table, sometimes on the playroom floor and occasionally in bed. The book and supplies we're currently using are stacked (somewhat) neatly on a bookshelf and the rest is stored in a filing cabinet in my office.

This post is Part 2 of a series on how we homeschool with autism. You can reach Part 1 here.

These questions came from comments and messages on Instagram. If you have additional questions I didn't include, please post them below in the comments!

Q: Homeschool looks so overwhelming! I wouldn't even know where I would begin.

A: Neither did I! There is no way I could have come up with the curriculum and teaching methods myself. Some parents do, and my hat is tipped to them.

We homeschool through a charter school, which is an independently operated public school. Because they are a public school, they require homeschool students to follow a state-approved curriculum using some of the same textbooks kids use in our district public school. We were assigned a general education teacher and a special ed teacher. Our gen ed teacher assigns coursework each month and meets with us once a month to collect Tosh's school work and discuss his progress.

We're very lucky that our gen ed teacher is well known in our area for specializing in helping special needs and struggling kids catch up and earn their diplomas. He was extremely helpful in customizing curriculum for Tosh that both met state gen ed standards and provided him with the special ed help he needs. We do special ed fundamentals in language arts and math, and grade level (he's in second grade) science, social studies and art.

Tosh is currently at kindergarten level in reading and writing, using Explode the Code phonics curriculum and learning the First 100 Fry sight words. Of course, he can read and spell every single animal name that exists. (Motivation is everything with autism!) However, those boring old sight words don't interest him. He's able to get his point across with Proloquo2Go without them, so I don't think he understands the value in them yet.

For math, he can do first grade addition, sometimes second grade, but he can't quite grasp subtraction yet. However, he can do grade level ten-frame work. He definitely understands the concept of tens, hundreds, thousands, etc. and can count by 100s with ease. We mostly use an app for math but also use physical objects to practice addition and subtraction. We're also currently working on money and time using hands-on curriculum and games checked out from our charter school's resource center. He struggles to understand the concept of value assigned to money (typical autism challenge) but he's catching on quickly to time, especially when it comes to knowing when a preferred activity will happen. (Again, motivation!)

We use a vocabulary program for picture learners that is grade level and has cool worksheets that don't require writing but still demonstrates knowledge of the words. Tosh also uses Proloquo2Go to show he knows the words. He also does grade level social studies, science and art.

When we run across a concept that Tosh doesn't seem to understand, I often go to Teachers Pay Teachers, and amazing website where teachers sell curriculum they've created. They have excellent special ed resources that specifically cater to autism. After a month or two of using a hands-on task box on a subject, Tosh usually is able to pick up the concept using an app or textbook/workbook. I also use Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest to find science, social studies and art projects that demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter required in his grade level curriculum, but accommodates his inability to take written tests or write out reports. His gen ed teacher has so far been very satisfied with my substitutions in these areas.

Because they are public schools, charter schools are required to provide the speech therapy, OT and special ed services mandated in your IEP. They all have special education departments, but the quality of services provided can vary. The best way to begin the dialogue with a charter school is to send them a copy of your child's IEP. They should tell you right away if they are a good fit for your child. If they don't seem to be care very much about your IEP, they probably aren't the right match for your family. 

Q: How do you encourage writing and coloring?

This was a struggle for Tosh - he's never been into coloring and handwriting used to almost always trigger aggression. So, since the aggression made it a behavioral issue, I asked his ABA provider to create a lesson that improves attending to worksheets and handwriting. After four months, the progress has been nothing short of amazing. He still isn't a big fan, but he will now do handwriting worksheets independently most of the time. He's also doing a lot more coloring, because ABA will sometimes give him the option to color if he's really not feeling his handwriting homework that day.

Q: What about socialization?

Tosh really misses his old classmates and the socialization he got from school. Thankfully, our homeschool program provides enrichment classes each Friday, so he can get some socialization in a mainstream setting. We also do ABA in clinic instead of in home, and our provider (CARD) does a lot of socialization work. Many of Tosh's lessons are run while he's playing games with peers. For the most part, he thinks ABA is one big play date that comes with a somewhat annoying lady that makes him behave and interact appropriately. LOL

Q: How many hours a day do you homeschool?

I personally only work with Tosh 2-3 hours per day, four days a week. However, he is receiving developmental, educational and academic services from other sources.

For example, as mentioned earlier, his charter school has classes each Friday, so that's four hours a week. He also does those phonics and handwriting worksheets in ABA, where he spends 20 hours a week. Based on the amount of work he brings home, I estimate he spends at least five hours a week doing worksheets at ABA. Tosh also has three hours of speech therapy per week, where he works on communicational fundamentals that support his academic progress. Right now, he's working on pronouns, classification of objects (when given a card with three pets or three red objects or three objects that are circular, and asked "how are they they same," he selects "pets" or "red" or "circle" with his iPad), and answering true/false comprehension questions like, "do bees make honey" or "can you write with an umbrella?"

He also works on handwriting one hour per week in OT and has PE with his Dad one hour per day, four days a week. In total, that's 24 hours per week, and most of it is pretty intense academic work.

Q: Do you work on any life skills?

Tosh is pretty good at life skills for his age already, so we don't spend a lot of time on that. We're doing money and telling time in math, so that's kind of life skills, I guess. Plus he does life skills lessons in ABA.

Do you have any other questions I didn't address here? If so, please leave them below in the comments and I'll answer them. If I get enough questions, I'll put them into another blog post.

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