Tips for homeschooling a child with autism

Tips for homeschooling a child with autism

With COVID-19 continuing to impact education for the start of the 2022 school year, even if your child has gone back to face to face learning there is a chance you will have to homeschool them during isolation at some point.

Key points:

  • Homeschooling can be difficult and have many challenges, but there are techniques that can be used to keep your child engaged
  • Routines, structure and separating learning and play can all help, as well as organising social connection opportunities with your child’s peers
  • There are a number of websites and resources you can use for further support

For students on the autism spectrum learning from home may require different supports, so the team at Autism SA has provided some tips and tricks to help keep your child engaged in their education.

A different approach to learning

Individuals on the autism spectrum benefit from increased structure, routine and

consistency across contexts, so changes like learning from home instead of at school can be difficult.

The home environment is often the “safe place” for autistic children who may compartmentalise their approach to home and school and struggle to stay focused and engaged without extra support mechanisms in place.

Having the home environment reflect the school environment can support your child to cope with the change of learning from home.

For example, implement the same routine for school with start, finish and break times, and separate learning spaces from play spaces.

Challenges to expect

You might face a number of challenges while trying to homeschool with other family members around, including the struggle of trying to keep routines and schedules in place and not having a consistent space to work in.

Other challenges might include providing the sensory supports that are needed by a child on the spectrum, trying to support children with staying focused and on task and assisting with emotional regulation whilst trying to tend to the everyday needs of a family, work and therapies.

While technology can make some things easier and facilitate connection to learning or support, separating learning tasks from play while your student is using IT equipment is a common struggle.

Overcoming challenges

The methods which can be used to overcome these challenges are becoming increasingly creative as more families use trial and error as well as evidence based practices to achieve successful learning at home.

But there are some key concepts underlying these techniques, including providing clear structure and routines, providing visual strategies, using motivators to engage children in a learning task, utilising passions to give the child a reason to want to do the work and providing a structured learning environment.

Talking to other families about what they’ve tried and joining parent groups to share knowledge can help you to find exactly what will work for your situation. There are lots of groups you can find on social media to join or your local autism association, which can be found here, may be able to connect you with other groups.

The social benefits of school

Aside from missing out on the school’s learning environment, students who are homeschooling also miss out on the opportunity to socialise with others their age.

There are many benefits to the social aspect of school so part of your homeschooling structure can be to facilitate social connection through other pathways for your child.

Organising specific online times for the child and preferred peers or friends to connect can be a COVID-safe way to socialise.

You can provide times and guidelines or rules for them to join in age appropriate online and in-person games or catch-ups with classmates and friends.

Or, where Covid regulations permit, you can create or attend groups related to the child’s interests - such as a chess club, Lego group or one of the social skills groups at your local autism association.

With your support children can share pictures of their work, craft or hobbies on social platforms and engage with what their peers are sharing.

It could also be helpful for your child to share ideas and positives about what they are doing while learning from home with their classmates and friends.

Working while homeschooling

For families with an adult working from home while homeschooling children, it can be difficult to juggle these responsibilities.

There are a few things you can do to try to stay on task at work while keeping your student on task with their schooling.

Have clear strategies to show your child when they can come to you to interrupt and how to do it if they really need to. This gives them the social scripts around the situation.

Set up a clearly designated area for undertaking school work, which is separate from your workspace.

You can also have a visual schedule and use timers to signal the end of activities - both your child’s preferred and non-preferred activities - so they can stick to a schedule and know exactly what should happen throughout the day.

Resources

Your local autism association may be able to provide support at home, school or at clinics through NDIS funding and may also have free resources that are specific to your State or Territory’s education system.

For more support and information you can also visit:

  • The Spectrum of Autism Resources is a new online platform that will be launched soon providing users access to a range of resources. Parents of children on the autism spectrum will be able to use National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funds to access both online resources and learning modules to assist in understanding autism. The resources will also include evidence informed strategies to support children at home, in school and for the community
  • The Spectrum
  • Positive Partnerships
  • Raising Children Network
  • My Time - groups and support for families of children with disabilities

Have you got any tips for learning from home? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:
School transitions for children with autism
Your questions about school meetings for students with disability answered
Support for children with disability in mainstream schools

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