Autism-Related Articles, Books, Services

Monday, October 15, 2007

In Search of Help for a Homeschooler-to-Be

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a parent with a child on the autism spectrum is that there is NO ONE out there who can really coach you, one on one. Virtually every practitioner worth their salt (that is, one who is not peddling snake oil!) seems to say "well, you just go out there and do the research. Figure out what you think works best for you and your child."

Uh huh. Sounds so easy, doesn't it? After all, there are only... what... five or six million autism websites... two thousand autism books... and fifty or sixty possible treatment options. No sweat.

But this time, I thought, there MUST be someone out there who I can turn to. Someone who knows special needs education AND has a handle on curricula. Someone who can tell me, based on some evaluation of Tommy, which curricula would be ideal. For example - he learns well by ear as well as by eye, but has a tough time focusing. So the right math curriculum for him would be...??

I looked around in Philadelphia but couldn't find anyone who seemed to put the pieces together. They could test him and tell me his deficits and strengths, but knew nothing about curricula. Or they'd be happy to tutor him for $100 an hour, but had no materials to share (or even sell). Or they knew lots about social skills training but nothing about academics.

Then I came across a book by social skills guru Rick LaVoie. I read the back cover, and it turned out he lived in Cape Cod. I sent him an email, and he sent me to an organization that specifically worked with homeschooling families of kids with LDs (learning disabilities) - right on the Cape! I contacted them, and set up a meeting.

We arrived on the Cape in mid-July, and before the end of the month I had Tommy in their offices. After a couple of hours of conversation and testing, I had my answers. In essence, they were "he's certainly a bright boy, with a lot of strengths. I'm sure you'll do well homeschooling him." Which curricula should I use? They didn't know. But I should do some research, and figure out... blah blah blah.

On the up side, they did recommend a terrific "speech and language" therapist right near our new home. I put "speech and language" in quotes because our therapist, like so many really good therapists, is interested more in communication and thinking skills than simply in the skill of putting words together correctly.

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