Today we have a special guest writer, the mother of a teen with Autism.
Hi! I’m Penny from Our Crazy Adventures in Autismland. I’m so honored that Dawn asked me to participate in her 31 days series. I have a teenager, Logan, with high functioning autism that I have been homeschooling for the past nine years. Yikes! How is that possible when I’m only 21! Seriously, I’m going to share a lesson that Logan’s RDI consultant taught me just as we were beginning our homeschool journey.
It’s common in children with Autism to be developmentally behind their peers.
Considering that it’s a developmental disorder and one of the major red flags is that the child doesn’t hit their developmental milestones on time. It’s not a shocker to see a child with autism be 5 years old chronologically but have the mentality of a 2 year old. When we took Logan out of public school at the end of 2nd grade, he was 8 years old chronologically. Socially and developmentally he was around 5 – 5 ½. This was important to know for many reasons.
First, I needed to tailor his homeschool curriculum to his needs.
While he was advanced in math and reading, he was severely behind in writing. He could barely write his name at this point. Remembering the 5 year developmental age made it easier for me to look at his lessons to see if he was making adequate progress. It also reminded me that he needed short, fun lessons just like any other kindergartener even though chronologically he was in 2nd almost 3rd grade. I expected the same work out of him that I expected out of any other kindergartener.
Second , this made socialization easy to set up.
He needed to hang out with other kindergartners. This was a smidge difficult as he is a tall boy. He definitely stood out amongst all the other children. I was made a tiny bit easier in that he had a little sister who accompanied him to things like story time at the library. We would go to the park when day care children would most likely be there so he could play with them. Our field trips with the homeschool co op was always taken with the early elementary kids.
Third, it made behavior issues that much easier to deal with from a parenting standpoint.
I had to train myself to see him as a very large 5 year old. Then I had to respond just as I would to a kindergartener. This made it easier to understand some of his behaviors. Not that life was easy at this stage in our lives. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It just made it easier to understand where he was coming from with his behaviors. What did this accomplish for him? Lots and lots.
It made him feel more competent in dealing with other children since he could relate to the younger kids.
He had successful interactions with them making positive episodic memories . This enabled me to push him a little further out of his comfort zone at the next interaction. It also filled in the developmental gaps that he missed out on when he was originally that age. By filling in those gaps, we could move on to the next age to fill those gaps as well. Eventually all the gaps got filled in allowing him to hang with kids his own age.
Has it gotten easier as he’s gotten older? Yes and no. It’s easier for me to remember that he’s about a year behind his peers at this point. He’s approaching the age range where it’s not as noticeable because there is a range of maturities. It only becomes apparent at important birthdays like getting your driver’s license. Everyone runs out to get it on their birthday while we had to face the inevitable fact that Logan was nowhere near ready for it.
I’m thankful that I learned this lesson early so he could make the progress that he’s made in many areas.
I’m sad that autism has still robbed him of some things. Most of all though, I’m thankful for the opportunity to homeschool him while allowing him to be himself. He has learned and grown at a pace that was comfortable for him. That makes it all worth it in my book.
How has the Autism-related chronological/developmental age gap affected your child?