Our Thought-Provoking Ideas about Socialization:
(1) Children with moderate to severe autism (like our
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
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
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
"A parent's love perceives no limitations."
Copyright 1999 Tammy G