I just read something about Asperger's kids that I'd like to share, it's a major reason why I've chosen to homeschool, and decided to ignore the advice of the developmental psychologist who told me she needed to go to school for the socialization.
From Parenting Your Asperger Child by Alan Sohn Ed.d, and Cathy Grayson, M.A.
"Schools tend to focus on academics. Many Asperger children have fairly well-developed academic skills. It will be the cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional issues that will be the most important ones for your child to learn. You will be your child's most important teacher because you spend more time with him than anyone else and, also, because he needs to demonstrate the appropriate skills in the real world, not just in a classroom."
My first question about this quote is, does a child in school really spend more time with his parent than anyone else? You factor in the time you spend rushing your kid off in the morning, about an hour, not really quality time either. After you pick them up, she needs a bit of time to decompress, play a game on the computer for an hour. After that, you talk to her about the phone call you recieved from the principal and explain to them how it's innapropriate to pretend you're a barn swallow during math or some such thing, then she has homework you can both cry over. After that is dinner. After dinner, Dad wants to play with the kids, as he should. Story time. Bed time.
My second question is, what's more important to my child's life, the classroom, or the real world? Is a classroom even marginally close to the experiences of real life? In the real world she is confronted with more choices, but also allowed more choices. She meets people of all ages and goes everywhere I go, the grocery store, the homeschool co-op, the roller derby....In the real world, she's not under a microscope and can develop coping mechanisms without being overly-traumatized at the same time.
And is a classroom a very good place to address the most important "behavioral, social, and emotional issues", or does the classroom environment just exacerbate the problem with social skills?
I sent her to school on the advice of an otherwise really great developmental psychologist. I thought I was finally doing what was right. What I didn't know was that the child spent the whole day at school performing innapropriate behaviors that the teachers had no time to address, or didn't observe. Other children spent a good deal of time being entertained or bothered by her behaviors, or teasing her. And two months later at a meeting with the principal and the 5 others (teachers, nurse, administrators, and a psychologist), I find out about 15 other major incidents that they saved up just for this meeting instead of calling me about them that day. All the opportunities to educate the child in social skills were neglected in that time and the anxiety and behavior become worse and worse, and the her reputation suffers. Did you know in my daughter's public school last year they waited a month to tell me about my her removing her clothing in the cafeteria? And that they blamed her for this incident instead of the kid who told her it was fun and okay to do it? It was clear my kid was not in full possession of her faculties. I should have taken her out of school the moment I heard that story. My bad.
Anyway, why spend 12 years teaching a child with a social disability how to survive in a school environment, only to later have to teach them how to live in the real world? Why not teach them how to live in the real world first and introduce them to the idea of school when they are old enough to go to college and have a handle on what to do with their life? I would say a young adult with asperger's is more likely to find comfortable social groups at a technical college, a group of D & D geeks, or in the AV club, when they are older, without all the baggage of being an outcast in public school growing up.
Homeschooling my child has allowed me to introduce her to situations more slowly and tackle social and behavioral issues when I see them. I can tailor a program just for her to help her navigate the real world. I know the kids she plays with, and the parents understand the situation, many of them are dealing with similar issues in their children as well.
So now we're part of a co-op and developed a small group of friends, and we're in gymnastics, and she's beginning to get educated not only in balance and coordination, but personal space, interrupting, and volume control. We've begun to do a lot more schoolwork with a lot less tears, but it's because I really have decided to devote my time to my child and am blessed to have the means to do so. I really do spend more time with her than anyone else, and I am her most important teacher. Little by little things will get better, and poor behaviors will be replaced with new appropriate ones, and I will hold her hand less and less. One day she will grow up and disconnect from me, and leave the nest.
It's funny to me how this has come around to a bird metaphor, because she's in love with birds, and believes she will find a way to fly someday. She'll have to fall a little more than the others, and I'll have to be there to pick her up more than most moms, but she will fly, because I am here with her on her journey, and am able and willing to teach her how to navigate the world with a more positive outlook, and I am here when she needs a place to rest.