Saturday, 7 April 2012

Home Educating an Autistic child

When I first started home educating I had wonderful visions of walks in the woods, beach combing down on the estuary and visits to museums during quiet times.
It hasn't quite worked out like that. As the mother of an autistic child with oppositional defiant disorder I have noticed over the years how my 'teaching style' has been moderated and adapted to suit his learning style at different times throughout his development. At the age of eleven my son is exhibiting an increased reluctance to go out anywhere and when we do manage to go out we are invariably accompanied by a dirty  old duvet (a comfort blanket) which he wraps round himself . Gone for the moment are spontaneous trips to the park,swimming in the pool or walks in the countryside. Everything has to be planned and negotiated in advance.
I have to say that at times I have felt like a prisoner in my own home. I love taking the day as it comes and going out and exploring- you see so many unexpected things .The negativity and opposition you get from a child with Autism can drain you too. When all your well meaning ideas are rejected and your son seems to want to do nothing but play on the X box or watch television you can feel like you're failing. But looking back over the years since I began home educating I can see so many positives. My husband has just returned from a week away. Only a year ago my son wouldn't sleep, turned over furniture, lashed out at his siblings and swore, all because he was stressed by the change in routine.This time we worked our lives round him, restricted trips out,cooked what he wanted to eat ,watched what he wanted on the television. To those who don't live with an autistic person it  looks as if he is controlling our lives, in fact the opposite is true. By 'listening' to my son and acknowledging that his worries are real , we have removed much of his stress thereby enabling him to be more flexible and in control of his anger. By placing our son at the centre of our life we have transformed our world from one of continual anger and negativity to one where we have frequent happy family moments together.
We have opted , after an initial period of structured learning, to educate autonomously, observing our son and following his interests. As we dismantled our old trampoline yesterday my son commented on how rusty the springs were. My eldest started to explain how the rust was formed by oxidisation of the metal.It is at moments like these that you realise how important it is to answer the questions as they come up! Only yesterday my son asked whether clouds were water and, as we travelled in the car ,we discussed evaporation and the water cycle. Later, as we watched Disney and Pixars animation 'Cars', we discovered that Radiator Springs is a real place in Nevada to the east of California and North of Arizona. We discussed the number of states in America and my son picked up an American Newspaper my husband had brought back from his week away and studied the weather reports and the map of the U.S. None of this was planned, it just happened! It wasn't a week day, it was a Saturday! We don't have set teaching days. Every day is an opportunity to learn and whether it be in a museum, on a field trip or in our back garden my son is learning because he is happy and will continue to learn throughout his life .

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