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Do We Need Labels? Homeschooling Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
We successfully homeschool our two munchkins (boy 8 years and girl 6 1/2 years, who both have ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorder) for the past eighteen months, and haven't looked back! But we don't really think about the ASD label much these days!
A label will come in handy for the schooling system. It's the only way families can get funding, aide time, and other benefits (such as Carer's Allowance from Centrelink). But, if you are going to homeschool, you won't need a label. The label is for society to be able to neatly place our munchkins into boxes, so that they can better understand and 'handle' them. I don't need that to be a better parent to my munchkins. I've always parented intuitively with them: I was already doing what I should have with them before getting a diagnosis for each anyway. In fact, psychologists and other therapists ask me for advice! Since we are living with it twenty-four/seven, we really do have a better understanding of it than someone who only comes into contact with autism from nine to five each week day.
BUT we all have relatives too! And, yes, I have to admit, that even if we'd always homeschooled, I think a diagnosis would have been beneficial for those outside our family nucleus who needed proof of our children's differences. And not just relegating all behaviours to the 'naughty' setting. We still battle preconceived ideas with the label!
How we approached schooling (which we did at an excellent Independent School for four years before homeschooling), was to have open communication about autism. I feel that it defeats the purpose of getting a diagnosis, and then not want anyone to know.... How can they then help? How can they then understand? How can they then cope with some of the behaviours? How can they then educate the other students? Or educate the other parents? And most importantly, how can they then teach our munchkins the way they need to be taught?
Yes, a label is painful - and I was challenged by a parent one day, as to WHY we were going ahead to try and 'get' a label. My response was, "well, I would rather that our son had a correct label, rather than an incorrect one. He already has been labelled through ignorance and misinformation by other people - naughty, disruptive, inappropriate, socially a misfit, reclusive, weird, uncommunicative, agitated, anxious, etc, so, as your child's parent, what would you prefer? All those ugly label's? Or a correct diagnosis from which we can then educate others?" Hmm... I think she got my drift!
So, yes a label has greatly benefited us, and we have been very open and very communicative with others. We are not ashamed of the label, although we don't use it very often, and it's not something that we 'flaunt'. And, to be honest, we don't need it in our homeschooling environment anyway.
We have also talked about it with our two munchkins - not because I wanted to, but because someone from school had said it in my son's hearing and he asked if he was autistic... I had to reply honestly, as we have always been honest with our munchky-moos, and told him "yes". So he wanted to know what exactly that was? I explained that his brain functioned differently to most people, and that he was very special and unique, and etc... He then asked if his sister was autistic. "Yes". He then asked if his daddy was autistic. "Yes". He then asked if I was autistic. "No". And he honestly feels very sorry for me! He wishes that I was autistic too! Both my munchkins are very happy with how they are, and very comfortable with who they are. More so, now that we homeschool, and they feel that they are more secure in their environment.
Unless one of our munchkins really wanted to, I would never go back to the schooling system. I love our lifestyle. I love our family time. I love our relaxed pace in life now. I love the fact that we are not reminded every day that our children apparently don't fit in with what society thinks is the 'best' way to be. It is refreshing. It is exhilarating. And it has opened up our whole world!
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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