Tag Archives: Autism

Thanksgiving and Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thanksgiving is just round the corner; which means that it’s now time for friends and relatives to visit your home. It’s the time of the year when families cook special foods like that on Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas. It’s that time of the year when holiday foods like collard greens, tamales, empanadas, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and potato latkes are spread on the table.

But for children with autism spectrum disorder, the coming few weeks could be quite overwhelming. They’ll experience new tastes, new smells, and new sounds and sights almost everywhere. The routines are changed. Special religious symbols and trees suddenly appear in the house. The usual foods disappear from the dining table. And that often poses a challenge to the family of the autistic child.

Special needs teachers know that these are difficult times for autistic children. They experience so many new things. Setting up the classroom, so that it mirrors the holidays, can make the transition easier in both school and home. Autistic children can enjoy the fun seasonal activities of how to wrap Christmas goodies and gift them to other children. A talking raven and curved pumpkins would transform into colorful leaf arrangements and turkeys. A Christmas tree and some Christmas music, along with a Santa are put up in front of classrooms by early November. More holiday symbols and activities are gradually added to help the autistic children adjust to the season.

In many special needs schools, new foods are introduced. This helps them to prepare for the thanksgiving and Christmas parties. The thanksgiving platter may include traditional items like turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pumpkin pies.

Elsewhere, winter holiday parties are a great time to introduce Santa to autistic children. Besides, it’s a great time to experience a large gathering of family, friends and strangers. The “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” apps, developed to impart communication skills to children with autism spectrum disorder, are of a great use in these times. These two apps help autistic kids to express themselves even to total strangers.

With all the decoration around, the look on the children’s faces is priceless when grandparents, parents, and siblings walk into the classroom. An annual event like this is a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand how “What’s the Expression” and “Make Sentences” apps have helped children with autism pick up key communication skills. And for the children, waiting for Santa to speak to them, is the most eagerly-awaited moment.

Homeschooling Children with Autism: 5 Reasons Why It Works

As a homeschooling parent of a child with autism, I am often asked, “How do you do it?” It takes dedication, planning, and research, of course, but I find that it is not all that difficult when I remember why I do it.

There are 5 primary reasons why homeschooling is the best option for my child:

1. One-to-one instruction provides for optimal learning.

It is a generally-accepted educational principle that the lower the teacher-to-student ratio, the more effective the teaching can be. Most parents realize that the more students a teacher has, the less attention and direct instruction each student will receive from the teacher. One-to-one instruction is always preferred for private lessons or tutoring because the lessons can be customized to the student’s ability in order to maximize their progress in the shortest amount of time.

Homeschooling or private tutoring offers a child with autism the opportunity to make the most of their learning potential. The child receives more direct instruction time, immediate feedback, and teaching that is tailored to their learning style and strengths. Due to the individualized instruction he or she receives, the child with autism is able to experience success on a daily basis which helps improve their self-esteem. Feelings of success are something that many children with autism do not experience in a typical school setting.

2. The environment can be adapted to the child’s sensory needs.

In a home setting, it is much easier to control the learning environment. Unlike a classroom situation where other students can be a big distraction from learning, homeschooling parents can structure an environment that is best suited to their child’s needs. Whether it is a quiet room, special lighting, background music, or breaks for sensory issues, the home can be an ideal educational setting.

3. Homeschooling offers flexible scheduling.

With fewer distractions and more direct instruction, home-schooled students require less of their time to be spent on schoolwork. There is no time wasted on the taking of attendance, class announcements, student reprimands, repetitive teaching on a subject the student has already mastered, etc.

The school day can also be planned around the child’s best time for learning. Some children with autism are “night-owls” by nature and have a difficult time going to bed early and getting up early for school. We can adjust our hours of instruction to correspond with the times that the child is naturally most alert and able to focus. We can also schedule shorter learning sessions throughout the day with plenty of breaks as needed. Shorter sessions also promote greater intensity and concentration on academic tasks resulting in the child retaining more of the material being taught.

Most parents quickly realize that another benefit of homeschooling is the fact that you can plan field trips during the week when places are less crowded. This is a big advantage for children with autism who may not do well with large groups of people.

4. The child has a better opportunity for positive socialization.

All socialization is not beneficial for our children. In schools, you must take the bad with the good. In a home setting, parents have more say in determining when their children are ready for specific social situations. For more on the topic of schools and socialization, see my article entitled, “Social Skills and Autism – Where’s the Best Place for Socialization?”

5. The child’s interests can be incorporated into their schoolwork.

Anything that your child is interested in can form the basis for their studies. In homeschooling circles, this is referred to as unit studies. You take any topic of interest and design a complete educational program around that topic. This approach works well for reluctant learners who say that school is boring.

For my family, homeschooling is a great time-saver that allows us to focus our attention on constructive social opportunities, educational field trips, and practical daily living skills. We don’t have to worry about which teacher our child is going to have every year nor do we have to spend most of the year trying to help the teacher “get to know” our child and their needs. We don’t have to fight the school district for services or for the correct implementation of services that were promised. We don’t have to waste our time going back and forth to school or to school-related meetings. Simply put, homeschooling offers my son with autism a method of instruction that works efficiently and effectively to enable him to achieve his highest potential.