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7/16/2009 4:16:25 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
July 2009: Homeschooling a Child with Asperger's Syndrome, Part 2
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by Dianne Craft
MA Special Education
Certified Natural Health Professional

The incidence of children with Asperger's Syndrome is increasing. But
parents across the country report that homeschooling their Asperger's
children offers the breathing room they need. Homeschooling helps
parents apply the advice of experts, many of whom encourage three
approaches to help Asperger's children overcome the many challenges
they face:

1. Biological interventions.
2. Educational interventions.
3. Social interventions and therapies.

In the February 2009 HSLDA Struggling Learner Newsletter titled,
"Homeschooling a Child with Asperger's Syndrome"
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6697), we focused on the biological
interventions. In this newsletter, we will focus on educational and
social interventions. Part 3, the final section due out later this
summer, will address recommended supplementary therapies for children
with Asperger's Syndrome.

Should You Homeschool Your Asperger's Child?

Homeschooling a child with Asperger's Syndrome offers the prospect of
tremendous benefits. Because the Asperger's child often acts in an
"odd" manner socially, and many times just doesn't fit in, he daily
experiences harassment and bullying in school. Since his sensory
system is overloaded with the noises and transitions of the school
day, every ounce of this child's concentration and energy is expended
in just being in the classroom, so that there is nothing left for
learning.

What are some common roadblocks to homeschooling your Asperger's
child? It is not uncommon for your doctor to discourage you from
homeschooling your child with Asperger's Syndrome. Your child's
doctor may be very familiar with Asperger's, but not familiar with
homeschooling. Thus, he may feel that keeping this child home all the
time doesn't sound right (as if homeschoolers do that). Dr. Tony
Attwood, a clinical psychologist, well-known expert on Asperger's
Syndrome and author of "Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and
Professionals," (http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6692) is on record
as being an advocate of homeschooling. He states, "I have always found
homeschooling to be a positive option that has literally saved the
lives of many children."


Educational Methods

Parents who have successfully homeschooled their Asperger's children
have found the strengths and weaknesses in various educational
approaches:

1. Computer-based instruction

Asperger's children tend to like structure and predictability. They
are also very easily self-taught, in many cases. For that reason,
parents have found that computer-based instruction works well for
these children. If a child is working close to grade level in most
subjects, then using computer-based instruction for all, or part of
the child's education, has been found to be quite successful (Time 4
Learning http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6698 is just one example).

2. Unit studies

Unit studies examine a topic in depth. Since this is exactly what
Asperger's children tend to want, it suits their style of learning.
Unit studies often work very well for kids who resist learning about
anything but their very special topic. Parents start with the topic
of interest and then branch out into other topics. The children like
the absence of abrupt transitions, since all subjects generally are
connected to the central study topic (i.e. trees, mammals,
electricity, etc.) Parents often recommend doing this four days per
week, allowing one day of the week for the child to pursue his own
interests entirely (with the exception of TV and video games).

3. Traditional curriculum

Traditional curriculum tends to overwhelm an Asperger's child with
details. The need to write in workbooks frequently becomes a big
point of dispute between child and parent if this type of curriculum
is used exclusively. Video classes offer instruction done by a
teacher, however, Asperger's children are often language or
auditorally challenged, and too much of the information is given
verbally. This type of learning needs to be carefully monitored by
the parent.


Social Interventions

1. Real-life social training

Social situations are often an enigma for these kids, because they
have difficulty reading non-verbal cues, and knowing the proper social
response to various situations. There are many good resources for
parents to learn how to teach these important social skills to their
child at home. Some parents use books such as "Social Skills
Activities for Special Children"
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6693) by Darlene Mannix, or
"Navigating the Social World" (http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6694)
by Jeannie McAfee, for social skills material. The social story
concept, developed by Carol Gray, is a formula-based written story to
work through social situations. These stories can be found in her
book, "The New Social Story Book", or her website for sample stories
and guidelines (http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6702). Parents can
use the CD sets and DVDs that demonstrate various social settings, and
give methods for the child to interact appropriately at Model Me Kids
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6699) and SocialSkillsBuilder.com
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6700). As with all videos, the
parent should watch it first, to approve all content.


2. Group work social training

Good social skills groups designed specifically for children affected
by Asperger's Syndrome can be helpful because the leaders really
understand the issues. These groups of like-minded children generally
meet once a week and under the direction of the leader practice
different social scenarios and rehearse proper responses. However, one
needs to be careful in selecting a social group to make sure that it
is made up of like-minded children, and not a mixture of children with
other behavior challenges. Parents would not want a social skills
group whose original purpose was to rehabilitate bullies. Parents have
found that good social skills groups are hard to find. Thus, many of
them take on this education of social skills as part of their
homeschooling curriculum.

Homeschooling is hard work and not without challenges, but wonderful
things can happen for our Asperger's-affected kids that might not
happen in any other way.

Resources
> Homeschooling the Child with Asperger Syndrome
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6695
by Lise Pyles (excellent resource!)

> Choosing Home: Deciding to Homeschool With Asperger's Syndrome
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6696
by Martha Kennedy Hartnett

> Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6701 (very thorough website)
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More reasons to join HSLDA...
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