Seeing God's Perspective For Our Situation
Most anyone you talk to about homeschooling will have very specific reasons for choosing this route.
In our special needs world, every little thing is brand new.
There are no manuals for the acute needs of each child diagnosed with autism. Each kid has a unique list of do’s and don't’s. One thing is crystal clear in all cases:
“When you have met one person with autism, you have just met one person with autism.” -Dr. Temple Grandin
My son arrived in a package lined with questions that, after four and a half years, have yet to be completely answered.
Some days I feel as if I have almost pieced together the autism puzzle only to have it jumbled up, rearranged, and half-heartedly tossed at my feet. I bend over, back aching, and pick up the frayed pieces. I will always start over again.
Soon, I found my situation further compromised by the debate of school choice.
I ran my homeschool agenda by a couple of professionals and didn't receive as warm of a welcome as I had assumed I would.
When a mother is met with these types of reactions from well intentioned experts, you can guarantee a check mark will quickly be placed upon the “on second thought” category. The countless questions that autism had already presented left me in a constant state of fear. To this day I can still feel the weight of their looks as I foolishly presented my case for homeschooling. It made me afraid that I was making the wrong decision.
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:18)
Despite the fear, I could feel God preparing and strengthening my timid heart. He gave me glimpses into my God given abilities.
When the time came, I enrolled my son in our local special needs preschool program as suggested by the state program which he had phased out of due to his age. I felt confident in my decision and I felt like I was doing right by my son.
Or did I?
Every morning, twice a week, I would drop him off for four hours. Each day I spent those four hours waiting to pick him up. He was all I could think about and my heart ached for him.
Yes, I was a tired autism mom that could use a break. However, since the birth of my oldest son, I had never been one to shy away from a challenge. God had molded me into the mother that my special needs son needed and it was finally starting to show.
I had never been so sure about a decision in my life. My prayers had unapologetically crashed into God’s will and it was go time!
So what factors played into my decision to homeschool my son?
- The anxiety. My son would come home from school after four short hours, twice a week ridden with anxious behavior. I would spend the next part of the week watching him stim and attempt to self regulate his little body. The anxiety he experienced at school would never have allowed him to fully thrive. If a child with autism has to overcome basic coping skills and then be expected to tune into social clues, how can his uniquely wired mind handle much more? It was heartbreaking to see.
- The nurturing. My oldest son has always attended public school. He adjusted well from the beginning and right now, he is thriving in that environment. I am aware that every child is unexplainably different in needs, wants, and desires. With my youngest son, I was keenly aware of his need for familiarity to diminish meltdowns. I was his person and God allowed my weary heart to be okay with that. I am there in every second of my son’s growth, mentally, physically, and yes, even spiritually. He needs his mama for proper growth and that is just one factor in our lengthy homeschooling autism equation.
- The stretching. After having homeschooled for only a few short months, God confirmed my convictions. One of my son’s therapy professionals openly admitted of her skepticism. She then followed the claim by dumping a warm bucket of praise in my lap. I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. I was in awe of my God once again. I realized that with my son, stretching him looked totally different than what I had originally envisioned. Because he had gained confidence through my nurturing, he was more likely to try new things and step out of that safe autism box of his. I was able to study my son and after his therapist spoke those words, I felt like I had passed the course.
- The streamlining. Once we found our groove, I started to reap the benefits of one on one communication with my son’s private therapists. Whatever he was working on in speech therapy, I would carry over into our lessons at home. If his Occupational Therapist says she notices he needs help with something, that too could be added to our homeschool days. Because he is special needs and especially with the spectrum of autism, God showed me that his schooling will look different-not less. Our preschool days have included more social/play skills than actual book work. A trip to the store is always an opportunity to further his specific educational needs. Where he could once only sit at a restaurant for 10 minutes, he has now mastered the hour long meal time. These are our lesson plans. They are what my son needs and that is the beauty of homeschool.
“Social thinking skills must be directly taught to children with ASD. Doing so opens doors of social understanding in all areas of life.” -Dr. Temple Grandin
Throughout this homeschool journey, I have been challenged to look at my son’s schooling in a way that’s often out of the box. Much like his personality!
My type “A” personality has even had to let go of certain factors of normalcy and expectancy.
Now, the challenge no longer lies in the why but the how. Altogether it is totally worth the hurdles we have faced and will undoubtedly face in the future.
School choice is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about fulfilling the needs of your very special child. God showed me that for now, homeschooling is the best option for my son and our family.