St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What Catholic Homeschooling with Autism looks like, Part I

What does home schooling your autism diagnosed son or daughter look like when being applied in the home?

While there are many variations in home settings, as many as those on the spectrum, most share in common the desire of the parents to keep the child home in a safe and nurturing environment, work with academics and tap into as many home therapies and resources as possible.

We have always home schooled with a strong Catholic classical education being integrated daily in the home.  This means, following a specific home school program, praying together, learning about our Catholic faith together 5 days a week within our actual schooling, as well as attending our parish for liturgies and other activities.  I will say with confidence that a good Catholic home schooling program in the home can and will develop a college ready student. 

The program we use is easily tweaked and adaptable to many needs of students, thank God for that.  I wouldn’t change a thing about it (except maybe the tuition part :)  HA!…but it’s worth every penny of it.  The program already is the most therapeutic – built into the actual courses, particularly in the younger grades where comprehension, observation, listening skills, retelling abilities…and critical thinking, sequencing, etc. are so foundational to further academics. All these areas are the same areas speech-language therapists work with in a clinical setting with many of those showing communication-language disorders.   It’s ALL there already.  Of course, I do highly recommend you have your child evaluated/screened thoroughly first, for a good diagnosis so you know exactly what you are dealing with.  And if speech language or other therapies are needed, do get those services for your child.  What we do in the home is in conjunction, and on occasion in place of outside therapies…BUT we have had and tapped into outside therapies; it’s just that sometimes you reach a place where you can do some of these on-going helps in the home daily.

Our academic home school program is: Mother of Divine Grace  or for those who wish to follow the courses without the help of Modg:  Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.


Things I have discovered along the way that are key:

Reading. Seriously, if you EVEN THINK your child is having trouble picking up on reading, decoding, getting it all together……put everything else on hold and investigate further.  Do not put it off!  Each year they are not reading is a hindrance and is crucial to remedy and resolve to further education.

Children need to be reading at average age levels (like by 2nd grade following most standards)….and developing their reading capacities and comprehension abilities.  For special needs children, or those simply challenged who have not been diagnosed, this means reading may be formed into a method of therapy. 

  Example:  while my son with autism could read very early at a very high level, he didn’t necessarily understand what he was reading.  My simple at home method consisted of:  having him read a sentence in a story book that was mid-way ability to his reading level and then covering up the sentence with my hand and asking him what the sentence was telling us (in our case, at the end of 1st grade he was mid-way in a fourth grade reader).  This method worked, slowly and patiently, until I could have him read several sentences, cover them up and have him retell.  Eventually we worked up to a whole paragraph and so forth….Until, the first full book with chapters he read was Stuart Little (he was 8 yrs old), and each night he would read before bed, one chapter and voluntarily come into my bedroom and tell me the whole chapter’s events.  THAT WAS PROGRESS!!!  And how joyful to see his excitement over really understanding the story….where before, it was just excitement over rattled-off words.

Reading to your children is important, so they can hear language in books, but helping your child with early learning resources to help them recognize letters and sounds is important ground work.  Playing games with them, letting them watch educational TV and DVDs are all helpful for building a learning environment around them.  I used Leap Frog videos that sang the phonics and Leap Pad with educational alphabet and number games.  Of course our “Leap Pad” is completely outdated, I can not even show you on a link what it was.  They have all been updated technology wise. The point is: they were a great educational alternative.  I also did not allow just casual watching of the TV ever.  If the program was educational and at an appropriate time, they could view it.  Otherwise, I did not have the TV on occupying their minds or filling them with twaddle.  But we did have many fun video filled with educational materials, as well as baskets of books, books, books, blocks, puzzles and other hands-on materials for learning opportunities. 

~ Part II  to follow…..

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