What Every Home Educator Needs To Know About Working With An Autistic Teen
If you’ve been raising an autistic child who is now in their teen years, then you are well aware of how challenging the school environment can be. Public schools don’t always have the resources to properly teach autistic children, the noisy environment can be upsetting, and socialization can be extremely difficult, as kids don’t understand why your child has specific behaviors. While you don’t want to put your kid in a bubble, from a learning standpoint, it can be more beneficial to homeschool your teen. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering taking your autistic teen’s education into your own hands at home.
In case you’re on the fence about homeschooling, some advantages to consider include:
- Allowing your teen to take frequent breaks and avoid social frustrations, thus making it easier to learn.
- A stressful social environment is swapped with a safe, loving one.
- More quality time with your child.
- The ability to create a customized program tailored to your teen’s needs, abilities, and interests.
There are many routes you can go when it comes to teaching, but keep in mind that teens with ASD tend to become fixated on a specific interest, so use that to your advantage. Empowering your teen to assist you with lesson planning naturally places them in a leadership position while helping them develop critical thinking skills. To aid with real-world socialization, take “field trips” to places that correspond with their current studies so that they have an easier time integrating into the real world down the road.
Just like there is gym class and recess at a typical school, schedule time for physical activity on a daily basis. Balance the time spent sitting during the learning period with activities such as kicking a ball around, cycling, or jumping rope. Exercise aside, schedule regular breaks, and create a “safe spot” where your teen can relax, read, and listen to music if they start to become frustrated with their studies.
It’s likely that homeschooling is new to you, so know when to ask for help. Seek out an accredited learning partner to help you choose the correct classes and curriculum, as well as how to stay organized. You can also consider working with a free cyberschool for help with tasks such as recording attendance, evaluations, therapies, equipment (computer, printer, etc.) assistive technology devices, and more.
Set Up A Quiet Working Area
It’s important that you have a good learning environment for your teen that also doubles as a homework spot. Keep things neutral and natural, as those with ASD have a hard time processing man-made spaces. Paint the walls beige, tan, or a soothing shade of blue or green. Hardwood floors are best, but add a few naturally-woven throw rugs for texture. Opt for wooden furniture over plastic, and make sure the lighting is soft, not harsh.
Routine Is Key
In order for homeschooling to be successful, it’s important that your teen maintain a routine that includes regular mealtimes, activity, homework sessions, and bedtime and awake time. It’s not uncommon for those with ASD to have a hard time sleeping, so make sure their environment is quiet and free from disruptions, has adequate lighting (but not too much), has good airflow, and has a quality mattress and pillows. If your child is a “hot sleeper,” it’s important to make sure his or her mattress has breathability, as well as heat conductivity and retention. If your teen is still waking up groggy, analyze the room to see where improvements can be made.
It’s important that you’re administering self-care while homeschooling your autistic teen so that you don’t experience burnout or emotional stress. Take advantage of the time when your teen is taking a break to take one for yourself, too — and don’t be afraid to lean on friends and family. Simplify your morning routine by making pre-prepared breakfasts, laying out your clothes for the day, and avoiding social media or anything tech-related for the first hour upon waking up — you’re going to need all that physical and emotional energy for teaching.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]