Autism-Related Articles, Books, Services

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Planning for a New Homeschool Year

It's August, and time to plan for a new homeschooling year for Tom, our now-14-year-old with autism (actually PDD-NOS, or high functioning autism). This will be our fourth year of homeschooling, and chronologically Tom will be entering 8th grade. We're hoping that, after this year, he'll be ready to enter what we understand is a wonderful charter high school - and with that in mind, we plan to focus much more on basic academic and social skills than on content acquisition (even though he'll be immersed in all kinds of content whether he "aquires" it or not!).

Tom as Pharoah!
Being a slightly compulsive planner, I already have most of Tom's program laid out. Like last year, he'll be taking part in two days of small group classes taught by an ex-homeschooling mom who also happens to have a teaching degree and experience in special education. These aren't "special" classes or kids, but the small size of the group combined with the expertise of the teacher make it a good opportunity for Tom. Truth is, I personally wouldn't have chosen the topics for Tom (The American Presidency, for example) since he does poorly with abstractions; in general he does much better with topics that are more limited in scope (like Ancient Egypt or Greek Myths, for example).

Jessica, the homeschool teacher, has offered to work with us on helping Tom reach specific goals. Now "all" I have to do is figure out what the goals are, break them down into objectives, and select objectives that really make sense given the setting, the other kids, and Tom's real capabilities (which are always hard to grab hold of!).

In addition to these Tues/Thurs classes which run from 9-1, here are some of my plans for the year:

  • Continue with our genius of a math tutor who works with Tom on Sundays (we barter for his time, but have to travel over an hour each way!)
  • Continue with our genius of a clarinet teacher, who is a whole lot closer (he's a professor at a conservatory, and an absolute jewel of a person)
  • Continue with the after-school jazz band at the middle school (nervous since the wonderful and experienced band director has retired!)
  • Continue with our genius of a speech/social skills therapist, who is now helping Tom to interact socially with other kids at about his age and level
  • Restart tennis at a local tennis school (for reasons I can't understand, Tom seems to love and be reasonably good at tennis)
We're also working on ideas for building Tom's independence and academic skills.  With that in mind, we're thinking about -

  • buying a small laptop and teaching him to take notes using a keyboard (he's been learning to type on Mavis Beacon software, and he's a decent typist)
  • tapping into Universally Designed software programs intended to prompt learners with LDs and other issues (much more on that soon)
  • purchasing a "visual clock" that actually counts down so you can see how much time is available (Tom is still really unable to understand the concept of hours and minutes fully, though he's fine with days, weeks, months and years)
Whew!  Sound like I'm biting off an awful lot, but since the vast majority of what we're doing is NOT being done by us (mom and dad), the biggest challenges are organization and, of course, cash money to PAY for all this wonderful equipment and programming.  Of course some is free, and some we barter for...  but with all that, getting a child with autism out of the house and into typical settings with appropriate programs and support isn't the all-time cheapest or easiest road to take!

More coming very soon...  meanwhile, any thoughts or questions are welcome!


The Glasers said...

Sometimes, I wish I was both a compulsive planner and a compulsive implementer! LOL

I love the picture of the Pharaoh of Maine! :-)

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