Homeschooling with Aspergers and Autism
By Dianne Craft, MA
HSDLA's Struggling Learner
Certified Natural Health Professional
In the United States, it is
estimated that 1 family out of 150 has a child who is struggling with Asperger's
syndrome , or autism. (CDC report as seen on
) This represents a 500% increase in the past 10
years. Homeschooling families are not immune to this phenomenon.
Many experts on Asperger's syndrome encourage three approaches to help these
children overcome many of the challenges they face: biological interventions,
educational interventions, and social interventions.
What does the homeschooling day look like for a family who has a child with
Asperger's-like symptoms? Let's follow a day in the life of
1. Mom finds that she cannot change the "routine" for the day or Steve tends
to become very upset. The need to have things the same is
a very strong drive for him. New settings and noises in particular bother him.
2. Helping him learn a "balanced" curriculum also takes much effort from mom
because Steve tends to have very narrowed interests, wanting only to learn about
World War II planes, or studying only spiders in the animal kingdom. He is very
fact-oriented, memorizing an amazing array of information about a subject that
he is interested in. In fact, he often only talks about one subject to others,
even if they are not interested in it.
3. While the other siblings enjoy youth group at church, or the social
interactions with other homeschoolers, Steve very often is aloof, not
participating in the interactions, appearing to be a loner. When he does
interact, his behavior frequently is inappropriate, because he has difficulty
reading social cues, and nonverbal signs that people give to one another.
Sometimes his behavior can be loud and aggressive. At times it looks like he is
detached from the feelings of others. He seems to exhibit little ability to form
4. When teaching him, mom finds that he easily seems to go into his own world,
being fascinated by thoughts that have nothing to do with the task at hand. In
fact, he can entertain himself for a long time with nothing more than a simple
piece of string.
If these characteristics resonate with you regarding one of your children,
please don't despair. Homeschooling is a wonderful tool for helping such
children be successful.
WHY HOMESCHOOLING IS BEST
Many parents have found that the very best educational setting for these
wonderful children is at home. Since these children are often very curious, even
gifted learners, at home they are free to explore
the topics of interest to them, without needing to do the mundane chores that
are needed in the more formal school setting. Also, since peer relationships
aren't their strength, they are not distracted from
their learning by the constant need to interact with their peers. Their siblings
and parents can be their friends. They learn appropriate social interaction in
the home setting. And since many of these children suffer with "SI" symptoms
Dysfunction), it is better for them to be educated in a setting free from the
unsettling atmosphere of a crowded school room, with its accompanying noises,
movement, and demands.
The one thing that all of these children have in common is that they easily
experience sensory overload. Whether the label is Sensory Integration
Dysfunction or Sensory Processing Problems, these children would be what Lendon
B. Smith, MD describes as "goosey, touchy kids", meaning that everything bothers
them. Their sensory system shouts "red alert" when something as insignificant as
a label on a shirt, a lump in the yogurt, a loud noise, a sock with a seam,
stiffer jeans, foods touching on the plate, a change in routine, or an
unexpected touch occurs. They are not comfortable in their own skin. Anxiety
rules much of their day. (Asperger's Syndrome, Tony Attwood)
At home, you can give your child a set schedule for the day, so he knows what to
expect, which will give him a good level of comfort. It is also the best setting
in which to pinpoint dietary issues that may be contributing to the child's
behavior. Several parents have homeschooled their children with Asperger's
syndrome and written books about the methods that they found to work well with
these wonderful children.
Child with Asperger Syndrome: Real Help for Parents Anywhere and on Any Budget
(paperback), by Lise Pyles,
Deciding to Homeschool with Asperger's Syndrome by Martha Kennedy
These books provide
step-by-step instructions and advice on creating a curriculum for a child with
Some physicians, who have children of their own with Asperger's syndrome, have
developed a "metabolic" theory of Asperger's. They have seen their own children
overcome many of these unsettling symptoms by balancing their child's body
The "Gut" Connection
It has been found that there is a strong connection between gut health and
symptoms of Sensory Processing Problems and Asperger's syndrome. Early, or
prolonged antibiotic use, or intero-exposure to antibiotics or steroids appears
to be the dominant factor in this approach. The early or prolonged antibiotic
use often creates the overgrowth of yeast and fungus in the child's system.
These yeast/fungus toxins cause many behavioral upsets, including spaciness,
mood swings, aggression, hyperactivity, inappropriate behavior, depression,
anxiety and in general an upset nervous system. This upset also tends be the
catalyst for food allergies. Thousands of parents report very positive changes
in their child's behavior and learning when they take natural steps to rebalance
their child's gut ecology.
The Gut and
Help for Your Hyperactive Child,
William Crook, MD,
Kids, Leo Galland, MD,
The Biology of
Behavior CD set, Dianne Craft,
The "Food Allergy" Connection
In his book,
Dr. Philpott describes the many behavioral manifestations of an allergy. Dr.
Doris Rapp, in her book,
Is This Your Child?
describes videos that she made of the
dramatic change in a child's behavior after the child was exposed to a food
allergen. It has been well established that children with ADD, ADHD, dyslexia,
SI, autism and Asperger's syndrome tend to have a compromised immune system,
resulting in many hidden allergies. Many parents have seen dramatic changes when
they not only reduce sugar and simple carbohydrates, but also when they begin an
allergy elimination diet.
Starting an elimination
www.blockcenter.com. Many parents find
that by adding a targeted enzyme to each of the child's meals, that the child
can tolerate a much wider range of foods without behavioral reactions. You can
read about the enzymes that parents have found to be most effective, at the
parent website, www.enzymestuff.com.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The exciting news is that parents are finding ways to greatly reduce the
symptoms of Asperger's syndrome in their child by following the paths that other
parents have created. To find some of these paths, go to the websites:
To find an "integrative" physician in your area, you can go to
God has shown us many ways to
help our children who have Asperger's-like behaviors to feel more comfortable.
The implementation of these changes is not as difficult as it seems. If you
choose to make a change to diet or supplementation, first check with your health
care professional. Make only one change at a time, so you will know what is
helping. There are many aspects in the process of working with children with
Asperger's syndrome, and it can easily seem beyond your grasp to deal with it.
But please be encouraged; you can make progress, as will your child, one step at