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 Our Thought-Provoking Ideas about Socialization:

(1) Children with moderate to severe autism (like our daughter: she's
moderate--maybe high if her language ever gets close to catching up) are usually pigeonholed in special ed. They are not usually grouped with
peers who provide good role models for social skills and are often lumped in with emotionally disturbed children. 

 Homeschooled children have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities with good
social role models in smaller inclusive settings like church, youth groups, lessons (music, sports, art), etc.

(2) Children with autism usually have hypersensitivity to sounds, making inclusion difficult even for the most capable children. A classroom with 22 kids is anything but quiet, hindering their ability to learn.

 Homeschooled children can have peace and quiet when it's time to learn. They can be exposed to stressful noisy settings in small doses so they can figure out coping mechanisms as they mature.

(3) Children are usually required to sit at their desks most of the day and are discouraged from socializing for most of their classroom time.  School is a great place for meeting large numbers of children. But it does not always provide many chances for quality socialization with 1:1 interaction with people who share common interests (not common labels or ages).

(4) Most schools allow to some socialization during PE, recess and lunch, which are absolute disasters for some children with autism due to the noise, lack of structure and chaos. Homeschooling can allow parents to carefully select social settings which minimize distracting factors and maximize the child's strengths (a talent or keen interest of the child's).

(5) As adults, WE do not socialize only in groups of 22 or more people exactly our ages. Adult autistics will probably socialize like us, with people of a variety of ages with whom they share common interests or meet at work. Homeschooling offers more socialization opportunities in situations autistic children will more likely face as adults (shopping, church, interests, libraries, family gatherings, etc).

(6) Peers do not necessarily provide appropriate models of socialization for imitation. Ignorant teachers don't either (not all teachers are ignorant: wonderful teachers are treasures). In the worst case situations, autistic children are ignored, physically and mentally abused, singled out and teased by ignorant, uncompassionate people.

Because children are lumped by age, autistic children stick out so much sometimes they end up being magnets for bullies. Homeschooled peers are less aware of subtle differences between what is cool and uncool because they spend more time with children of a variety of ages and a variety of abilities.

The Bottomline on Socialization for Our Family:
I would much rather have a child who looks forward to spending time with peers, who may be a bit rough on the edges, than a child who's so afraid of messing up they feel major stress and self-hatred. Our daughter used to avoid being around other children at school and went to the opposite side of the room as much as possible. She no longer does that in a group. When we first started homeschooling, she had a very hard time joining a group craft activity during story time! Now she sits at the table and watches what other children are doing to get ideas for art. She's really blossomed in the past four years. More importantly is her reaction when co-op is cancelled: our daughter gets very upset because she looks forward to her classes. And, now if she sees a classmate at church or at the store, she smiles at them. And, yes, she has attended their birthday parties, slumber parties and other common events in a typical child's social life.

In a nutshell, gentle introduction into society in tolerable doses avoids the trauma of prolonged exposure to noise, chaos and occasional abusive treatment in traditional schools. Having the desire to socialize due to low quantity but high quality social experiences may help more in the long run than killing the desire due to high quantity but low quality experiences!

Tammy G.

"A parent's love perceives no limitations."
Copyright 1999 Tammy G 



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