Friday, October 23, 2009

Autism and Homeschooling

The past few months have brought a major change in our family.  About six weeks before the end of last school year I started homeschooling our son.  Then this summer I took him to a pediatric neurologist who diagnosed him with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Ironically, we took him to a different pediatric neurologist when he was three because my mother insisted that we get him checked for autism.  At that time he wouldn't make eye contact most of the time and did a lot of spinning. He would flinch and cover his ears when he heard a car engine starting.  And boy, was he obsessed with vacuum cleaners, just as long as you didn't turn them on.

Naturally he looked the doctor right in the eye and interacted quite well with him.  The doctor was also impressed that Stefan could ride a bicycle.  He thought he was okay, but did mention that he might have ADD.  

In the end, Grandma did know best. 

He was later diagnosed with ADD, Dyslexia, and anxiety.  Things didn't quite seem to fit and I took him to the neurologist because I felt we must be missing something. 

At first I was relieved to know what was going on.  All the little things that didn't fit his diagnosis before all fit with this one.  Then I was bummed for a while.  Stefan is still the same kid he has always been, he's high-functioning, and I've decided to quit being bummed. Things could be a lot worse.  I know people for whom things are a lot worse. 

Luckily we did a lot of things for Stefan when he was little that turned out to be the things we should have been doing if we'd known about the autism.  We read to him from birth, we took him to Kindermusic, mother's day out, pre-school, sports, scouts etc.  Starting in Kindergarten he had speech therapy through 7th grade.  We worked on writing in the summer because his fine motor skills needed improvement. 

I've quit subbing at the Middle School for a couple of years until  Stefan graduates.  He's in 11th grade this year.  His interest is in filming skateboarding, so hopefully he'll go to a college after high school to learn videography. 

I'm enjoying being at home with Stefan and teaching him.  So far it's working out well, although we never seem to get as much done as I want to do.  Part of that is because I don't have a handle on how long it takes to do things, part is technical (we are getting him a laptop for his birthday, which should rememdy a lot of the technical problems) and part is just because we don't always get everything done.  He is learning and the stress we had when he was in the local high school is gone.  Also gone are the hours and hours of homework after school. I'm also able to do life skills with him at home that he couldn't do in school.  

I've been reading a lot about autism.  One of the books I read is Homeschooling the Child with Autism by Patricia Schetter and Kandis Lighthall.  It's been very helpful.

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