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Developmental vs Chronological Age {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

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.

Developmental vs Chronological Age {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

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.

Copyright Penny Rogers 2014

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?

 

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The Nerd Herd {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

What do you get when you cross fun technology with kids on the Autism Spectrum?

Instant nerds.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably at least heard of Minecraft before. Minecraft is a free-form game that becomes what ever the  players want it to be. It is by far my son’s favorite past time.

The Nerd Herd {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

Late this past summer, we joined a homeschool Minecraft club. They meet year ’round on Monday afternoons, and I promise you’ve never seen anything like it before. The players range in age from 4 up to 40+, because yes. some of the moms play too. I’ll be honest when I say it is the very first time I’ve ever felt like “odd Mom out” in a TECHIE setting, since I don’t play.

Homeschool Minecraft Club

In my search for friends who “get” my son and his particular passions/obsessions, we began attending the Club.

I figured that if he can find other kids who speak his language, who love what he loves, then friendships will be easier.

And they have been. The hope is that as he goes consistently, since he is 14, that other teens who only come sporadically (because there are so many younger kids) will begin going regularly.

It has been happening. More teens are coming, and those friendships are  developing. There’s nothing like a shared interest to give friendships a strong basis. It’s awesome.

Nerds used to have a bad rap, but these days, being a nerd is cool.

Being a nerd is often seen as a positive thing. Many nerds grow up to enter prosperous fields of work and earn enough to raise a family and plan for the future. Since so many Autism Spectrum kids have strong nerd tendencies, this can only give me hope for his future.

Long live the nerds! :)

Encourage your Minecraft Nerds to learn more about programming with these programs from the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op!

Game Design 1 Minecraft Mod Design 1

This post is part of a series. Please go to my landing page to read all of them.

This post is linked up with #Write31Days.

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Do I Dare {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Autism Spectrum}

GO.

New co-op, new situation, new people. Can I trust them?

Do I dare share with them this Momma’s heart? My tall, quirky boy with the brown eyes and the deep voice and the funny gait that will always, always make me able to pick him out of a crowd, can I?

Do I Dare? {31 Days of Homeschooling on the Autism Spectrum}

Special to me isn’t always special to someone else. Sweet and kind he is, but what if his motives are misunderstood? What if his exuberant desire to help and please and DO only succeeds in annoying them?

This dare I am willing to take most times. Most days I can do it. Most times it works out. But what if it doesn’t?

It takes some guts to smile and say “Yes my son has special needs. He on the Autism Spectrum. Please let him be himself?” We aren’t asking for special privileges, just grace for him when he needs me to adjust something. Grace for me when I arrive late (again) because it took him 45 minutes to get his socks and shoes on.

But we take a deep breath, walk in with our heads high, and greet the new.

STOP.

Parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum takes guts. What do you have to be daring to do?

This post is part of a series. Please go to my landing page to read all of them.

This post is linked up with TWO #31Days challenges!

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Social Myths and Truths {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

There are plenty of myths and preconceived ideas about kids on the Autism Spectrum, particularly when it comes to social relationships.

Social Myths & Truths {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

Myth #1: Autistic kids don’t need friends because they aren’t aware of others like most kids are.

Truth: Autistic kids need friends just as much as your neurotypical kids do; more so, even. Spectrum kids are very aware of their own limitations in social situations, which makes them want even more to be accepted just like any other child does.

They are aware of others, even when their sensory issues or the fact that they are nonverbal makes it difficult for you to tell that. In fact, some kids are SO aware of how others present themselves that they are moved to compassionate acts that you simply cannot stop.

My son is a good example of this. We serve as a family downtown with a local homeless street ministry. Our son can spot someone in need, someone ill, or hurting and will go straight over to them and find out what he can do for them. As soon as he knows their needs, he’s gone in a flash, to track down what ever it is they are in need of, from Tylenol to a new sleeping bag or a fresh plate of food because they spilled theirs. He loves people and loves to help out. We’d have to tie him to the truck to keep him from it when we’re down there.

Myth #2: Autistic kids don’t experience emotions like neurotypical kids do. They don’t feel or express love, anger, sadness.

Truth: Autistic kids are the very opposite of this! They feel EVERYTHING. They experience everything, every situation, in a much deeper, more personal way than we do. That’s why they struggle to process the world around them; they simply can’t turn it OFF or filter things OUT like most of us can.

Myth #3: Autistic kids can’t play sports or do things in large groups because they can’t handle it.

Truth: Yes they can, in one form or another. The reason they call Autism a spectrum disorder is because there are so many different degrees of effect. Some profoundly affected kids may not be able to handle chaos and noise but would be fine in a large group of well behaved, more quiet students on something like a tour.

Others may do just fine within the bounds of a group activity if they know where their boundaries are. (My son in particular is a rule keeper. If he knows the boundaries and the rules, he will follow them.)

Myth #4: Autistic kids don’t play.

Truth: Of course they do! They may just play differently. Younger children enjoy sensory play activities. Often, when they are spinning, rolling, jumping, swinging, etc. they are able to interact with one another much easier than when they aren’t receiving that sensory input at the same time.

Older youth like to use their strengths, so if you are able to find a club for your child’s passions (Chess, Minecraft, horses, rocketry, underwater basket weaving, whatever it is!) he will be blissfully happy to find others who ‘speak his language’ and do the things he loves to do.

How does your child do in social situations?

This post is part of a series. Please go to my landing page to read all of them.

This post is linked up with #Write31Days.

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Take Heart {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

This week I am discouraged. This post is as much for me as it is for you.

Take Heart {31 Days of #Homeschooling on the Spectrum}

It has been a week of–wait—today’s only Tuesday. It’s been TWO weeks of side-by-side, question-by-question schoolwork. It has been Sit Down and Do Your Math and Where Did Your Brother Go?

*forehead hits kitchen table*

Days like these, when all I want to do is be DONE with school and be DONE with all of this, looking at the yellow bus drive by and thinking Hmmm….

But no.

Just NO.

That isn’t a good alternative. It is not a healthy alternative for him. For either of them. We will not deal with Special Ed again. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

You are homeschooling your Autistic child for very good reasons.

You are avoiding some potentially very harmful situations for him. You are choosing healthy socialization.

You are preventing his being forced to conform to the status quo by neither holding him back nor shoving him forward. You are meeting his academic needs by tailoring to right where he is.

You are there. Now. You see his state of mind and you can head off a potentially bad outcome because you are aware and can prepare him.

You can choose just which situations to bring him into, when he’s ready, to help him develop skills at his own pace. With you he can practice things like making eye contact for more than 1 second, or taking a breath and slowing down before he speaks so he doesn’t stutter.

With you he is safe.

No so with the world. The world won’t see an Autistic child and take that into account when it has expectations of him. The world won’t see his quirks and then look past them, like you do.

The world doesn’t understand him and he doesn’t understand it, with all the noise and body language and sarcasm and everything that looks one way but means something entirely different. It is confusing for him. He needs a navigator.

So these days, the hard ones, when he spent five hours completing 13 math problems because he just couldn’t stay focused for more than 2 minutes at a time, they still have a purpose. They still make progress. It may be baby steps, but it’s progress. Make yourself some tea (or coffee, with almond milk please), sit back down and have him go over problem number 5. Again.

And take heart.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

Has homeschooling been a struggle for you lately?

This post is part of a series. Please go to my landing page to read all of them.

This post is linked up with TWO #31Days challenges!

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