When the typical middle school experience is extra challenging for your not-so-typical child, what do you do?

When you tire of perpetually worrying about your child and receiving daily calls from teachers, where do you turn? 

The school system has failed to adequately accommodate your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as outlined in his 504 Plan, and you’re left with complete disappointment. 

Is there another option for your child’s education? Absolutely.   

The transition from elementary school to middle school is tough for any child. 

When a student is on the Autism Spectrum and suffers with Anxiety, the hardship of change is greatly magnified. Going from an environment where he knew all of his classmates and the entire school staff, the transition was overwhelming for my son. 

Moving to sixth grade meant no longer feeling comfortable in his surroundings. When his accommodation plan fell by the wayside and his new school was unprepared and uninformed, his world quickly became unraveled. 

The move brought a new world of sensory overload and anxiety over social interactions. 

There was no familiar Principal, school nurse or Resource teacher to look after him each day. 

He was no longer in a safe environment with people that knew his personality and understood how to best relate to him. I can only imagine how alienated this must have felt for him, as he tried his best to adapt. 

After three weeks of trying to acclimate, behavioral issues stemming from elevated anxiety, and some serious meltdowns, we decided that enough was enough.

We decided to homeschool our child.  

We are now two years into the homeschool experience. We chose an accredited on-line homeschool program. 

Our schedule is flexible, and we can set our routine as we see fit. There are no crowded hallways, ringing bells, confusing lockers or noisy classrooms in our home. He isn’t tasked with completing his assignments without help. 

I act as his Shadow and he is not left to navigate alone, in anxiousness. 

If he needs ten energy breaks throughout the day to run outside and burn off extra energy, they are granted. 

If he needs to stand or even walk around the room while we study, that’s perfectly fine. 

He feels safe at home and I feel secure knowing that he’s getting a good education, without any outside stressors.

Has it been all unicorns and rainbows? Absolutely not. 

We do have our struggles and sometimes I have to count to ten and practice my own coping skills. 

I am having to relearn course material that my brain has long since forgot, and it’s very frustrating. 

I have to remind myself daily to keep patience and to carefully choose my battles. 

The bottom line is that he is thriving and for now, we have found a favorable solution to our middle school misadventure. 

For any parent in our shoes that is considering this option, I offer these tips (and remind myself to do them daily) to maintain your sanity, and to help your child be successful:

Reach out for help when you feel overwhelmed. 

Our homeschool program has certified teachers, tutors and counselors on hand, ready to assist.

Establish a consistent daily routine, but allow yourself and your child room to be flexible.

Take breaks for yourself and for your energetic child…use a 30 minute run together as your Physical Education activity!

Keeps plenty of strong coffee on hand for yourself.

Don’t throw in the towel when the going gets tough. One day may be extremely difficult, but I guarantee, you’ll see plenty of positive days too.

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