Our Story of Autism and Homeschooling

 

Autism and Homeschooling

Autism and Homeschooling

Our Story of Autism and Homeschooling

by Rita Davidson

 

When our first boy, August, was born, it was a big change from three, sweet girls. The house suddenly became noisier and dolls changed to trucks.

When our second son, Andrew, was born, it was after a long and difficult pregnancy from unrecognized gallbladder issues. His birth was slow and he was sluggish at birth. Everything seemed to progress fine with him for his 1st birthday and his second. But he had an odd way of lining up cars that we thought was so funny, we took pictures! Hmmm

We had another boy, Joseph, who was a c-section, because of all his jumping around! He continued that jumping when he got out too. 🙂

Around Andrews 2nd to 3rd birthday he started becoming increasingly frustrated and screaming alot. Toilet training came late for him. He seemed to have the ability to recite long segments of conversations. Since we had a previous daughter that didn’t talk until over age 4yrs, and was doing fine, we didn’t see anything wrong with his odd conversational style.

Birthdays came and went, and he was about 6-7 yrs when I started suspecting something. I called his name one day, as he was sitting right beside me on the couch, and he never turned nor acknowledged me. Fear gripped my heart like never before! He’s deaf I thought! Here I was right beside him, and he didn’t respond to me. I started to cry. My heart welled up with such sadness and fear all at the same time. My baby!

 

Autism:

Once I got a hold of myself, I did get him to respond to me. Then I started doing some research (being the research nut that I am). I found articles on autism by searching for deafness. One stuck with me: it showed how autism is commonly found, when looking for deafness or hearing trouble. Now this was disheartening, but it was a place to start.

I read everything I could get my hands on to understand autism. What does this mean for my son? What does it look like and how to cope with it? After much prayer, and much searching I came across the most wonderful set of people who helped me slowly start to put something together. I’ll talk about them later.

At this point Andrew was aggressive, with little eye contact, tantrums, screaming, hitting things, and not communicating very well. He had alot of repetitive talking, which I later learned was echolia. But, I could tell that he was smart, and that he could understand too. That is what made me want to know more.

 

Learning how to read

 

I thought that his level of frustration was because his communication was limited and if he could read perhaps this would help him. Years and years of teaching phonics in our homeschool, I had alot of pre-conceived ideas that I needed to get rid of. So it began.

I tried phonics with him with no luck at all. Disappointed I continued searching until I discovered a method of sight reading that seemed very successful with autism.

This simple ‘flash method’ Andrew was able to learn to read words in one day of flashing!

It was amazing how quickly he started to read with this method and I was as overjoyed, as was he.

Once he got a few dozen words down, he made the connection that these words were everywhere and so he started reading cereal boxes and store signs when driving, and every word he could find. It was so exhilarating to see him enjoy finding words and reading them. He eventually taught himself basic phonics rules, though not all children with autism can do this.

After all my research (very tiring) I put together a program for him to work with his sensory issues, his academics, and his behavior. His reading came along quickly with this ‘flash method’ and his behavior started to improve and guess what, his eye contact returned!

It wasn’t until he was 11 that he was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism, after 2 or more years on our own program. This aggressive, no eye contact boy would NOT have been considered mild autism just a few years before.

 

What struck me most, was with his diagnosis. They gave us no hope. It was simply;

Your son has autism, I’m sorry there is nothing we can do. Have a nice life.”

 

Maybe that is a bit too simplistic. But that is what I got from it.

At this time both our older son, August, and our younger son Joseph was also diagnosed with autism. Joseph’s diagnosis was a real blow, again that gripping sadness, overwhelming sense of failure to apprehension took over. I prayed that God would give me strength, and that He has.

So, that makes three with autism for our family. We have since had another son, who at 3 is so far, autism free thanks to GF/CF diets and more

Having seen the improvements with Andrew in his previous program years, I knew there was more hope than what they let on to believe. I pulled up my sleeves and got to work.

 

Homeschooling

 

It was after the diagnosis of our 3 boys that I found a book that was a lifesaver. Even though I took homeschooling Andrew in stride, this book confirmed that children with autism benefit from homeschooling.

It was called, Homeschooling with the Child with Autism by by Patricia Schetter and Kandis Lighthall.

I highly recommend this to anyone considering homeschooling a child with autism. It is entirely free of bias, describing options and combinations of part school, part homeschooling and so loved it for that reason. It describes the difficulties that children with autism have when put in schools with sensory issues, communication issues and not being able to interpret others social cues.

The stress on the mother is significant enough that it is compared to a soldier in WWI by putting her children with autism in schools. No wonder I ended up to worn out! The difficulty of getting a child in school to get the services they need, the IEP’s and more takes up far more time, stress, frustration than just doing the homeschool on your own. Remember homeschooling is not just bringing school home. But it is ‘homeschooling’, meaning keep it simple.

Homeschooling with Disabilities, and making a Difference

 

Where we really made strides was when we found the program that gave us hope for our boys. The same program that I found before Andrews diagnosis, I dove back into once our boys were diagnosed.

A program based on research that was done in the 50’s and 60’s with children who were given up to ever get better. Research that shows how the brain is not static. How with proper stimulation that the brain can grow new networks and improve. Everyone from down syndrome, to stroke victims to autism and more can benefit from this therapy. All that is needed is a caregiver, hopefully a parent, that takes the time to make this program work.

Neurodevelopmental Programs

 

Neurodevelopment Programs are the only really promising therapy I have see available. We have seen speech therapists at work, we have had Occupational Therapists but it has only been this program that has seen the progress that has even amazed our OT. Our children with disabilities deserve to have the best chance at a full life that we can give them. No different than our regular children. Homeschooling can give all our typical children the best protection from the secular world and the best environment to thrive for our disabled children.

Our youngest boy with autism, Joseph is now 9 years. He was diagnosed with severe autism, non-verbal. Our therapist Sylvia, just discovered he could read! We are working with him and reading, just like we did with Andrew before. This non-verbal boy had the ability to read, we just had to show him how.

If your interested, start by familiarizing yourself with this therapy to know if it will suit you. Get a DVD copy of Sylvia’s 5 hour Seminar detailing her work with children and autism, available {here}.

Or if you would rather read and make notes, get a copy of her book covering the same information as her 5HR seminar did. Get that {here}.

I encourage you to pray if you are considering homeschooling your children with disabilities. It is possible! This is a therapy that worked for us, it might not be for you, only you can decide that. Once you have read or watched the book/DVD, then contact some of the ND therapists, see below, to ask further questions. God bless you for giving your children the best they can be! 🙂

 

Flashcard Sight Method

 

It’s a method where you take simple words, perhaps of things they recognize.

  1. Print them on flashcards, large and clear.
  2. Take about 5 at a time and flash them to them, while saying them. They don’t have to repeat.
  3. Then mix them up and do it again.
  4. Later in the day, flash them again, keeping it fast and enjoyable.
  5. After the first day, flash them again.
  6. But, after the flash now your going to test to see if they recognize them.
  7. What you do is mix them up, and lay two cards beside each other, in front of them.
  8. Ask where ‘one’ of the words are, and let them choose between the two.
  9. If they get it right, you give them a ‘hi-five’ and remove the card they got.
  10. Then place another card beside the remaining one.
  11. Again ask for one of the words.
  12. If they get it wrong, you just show them the word card and then pick it up.
  13. You keep it positive for them and if they miss something you know they need more work on that word. So, take note for your next flash.

Keep in mind, you are inputting when you are flashing to them. The more ‘input’ the better. Keep it fast, and interesting to keep their attention.

 

Book to get:

Homeschooling with the Child with Autism by by Patricia Schetter and Kandis Lighthall.

 

NeuroDevelopmental Therapists:

 

In Canada contact Sylvia Funk, at www.Pathways-ND.com

In the U.S. Contact, Kay Ness at www.senc.us

Or in the U.S. The main chapter. www.icando.org

 

Do you have a child with autism? Or another disability? What have you used that works? Share with me?

 

©Copyright 2013 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.

 

Rita and MarkRita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. Mark is her ever patient husband. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through http://www.LittleFlowersFamilyPress.com

Comments 4

  1. I have one daughter with autism, probably due to a botched homebirth. The only therapy I found that seemed to have any scientific backing behind it was ABA therapy, but like most intensive therapies it 1. took too much physical energy for a mom with her own severe health issues to do, and 2. it was way too expensive. We had an in home therapy by scholarship for about a year, although not enough hours to make a signifigant difference. Insurance covered nothing for her- she was too high functioning for PT or OT, (they do cover language therapy) but none of the proven intensive therapies that have shown to have 50% or greater recover rates. It’s so frustrating.
    Neurodevelopmental therapy is even more time and energy intensive, if what I remember reading about it is correct.
    Our daughter never showed any signs that she would benefit from the GF/CF diet (no bowel trouble, frequent illnesses, etc.), although with being vegan we are pretty close anyways. I know many say try it no matter what, but I’m pretty skeptical.

    We simply homeschool her with the rest of the children, trying out different programs and methods of teaching as necessary. She’s highly verbal which helps a LOT. She also enjoys being social even if she gets shy in public. It was so depressing to not be able to get her the help we felt she needed but I have had to just work at resigning myself to God’s will and then honestly not thinking about it. He knew our circumstances when He gave her to us.

    Some studies have shown that there is a difference between autism that shows symptoms from birth- like my daughter’s-, and autism that apparently shows up later in life- I say apparently because they often find in looking back over developmental records and such that there were signs. But anyways, that it’s the “later on” autism that is increasing so much. There are also studies that show preliminary prenatal tests in that the children have twice the levels of testosterone. That is really interesting to me, since that would show a genetic basis- and the sibling rate also seems to show a genetic basis.

    Have your boys ever been tested for Fragile X? A high number of boys, all with autism, is a big red flag for it. We have a friend with 4 Fragile X children- 3 boys and 1 girl.

    God bless you for homeschooling your boys and putting their souls first!

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you Sara for your comment. There is alot of conflicting information out there on Autism today and so it is a really difficult thing to pin down what will work and what will not. We found ABA to not have as much science behind it, and found other alternatives to not be given enough credit. I know families that have had to take out second mortgages to pay for ABA therapy and will pay it off the rest of their lives. Some even loose their homes over it. There is something simply not right about that. Families today are the ones blazing the trail for services and therapy’s that work as we are the ones fighting for our children.

      Our boys mostly regressed from birth, except for our one son that showed some signs at birth. I think one day we will find there are many causes of autism and that is why so many therapies are successful in some and not others.

      Our boys benefitted from the GF/CF diet and increased supplementation helped when they were discovered so deficient in key areas. There is a yahoogroup for the GF/CF diet that has over 14,000 members when I last looked. That is alot of families using a diet that must work in some cases. I would suggest testing for basic deficencies like Vit D, B12 to start.

      Our Neurodevelopmental therapy programs only take an hour per day, per child. We have found it has the best science behind it, and the best outcomes for improving function.
      Thank you for sharing and I pray this is of some help to you!
      God bless you for resigning yourself to God’s will!
      ~Rita 🙂 Xo

  2. Hi, I tried the link to the book you recommended on Sylvia’s 5 hour seminar, but the link is broken. I am still looking for ways to gauge what my non verbal daughter knows. I have started various therapies and teaching methods for her since she is 2 1/2 years old. Now she is almost 6 1/2 but aside from some improvements in her life skills and motor skills, I still have not much insight into her brain. What does she knows, academically? can she read or count? nope. no idea yet. 🙁

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Lydia,
      I’m sorry about the link. Try http://www.pathways-nd.com to contact Sylvia I hope this helps and be sure to let us know if you need any more information. Have hope as we have a nonverbal boy who is now much better than anyone would have thought!
      God loves His little ones!
      Xo 🙂
      God bless
      Rita
      Author: Immodesty, Satans Virtue
      founder: Little Flowers Family Press

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