The number one piece of advice that I give to people when they ask me about homeschooling children with autism is to forget their actual age. They all look at me crazy and say what? Seriously , forget about their chronological age (actual age at the moment). Spend some time playing with them to find out their developmental age. It is an invaluable piece of information in your home school as well as your autism treatment plan.
Our children with autism have gaps in their development. Their brains have developed differently than a typical child. In some areas, they are really advanced. In our instance it’s math and reading. Logan can spout facts like no one’s business hence the nickname , Cliff . There are then areas of the brain that are not developed as well , usually social and verbal skills. This is where auditory processing delays come in as well. Unfortunately, in order to get to higher level skills, you have to fill in the gaps between the two areas. You have to get the mirror neurons to fire in that particular area in order to make the new connections.
5 Ways to Find Their Developmental Age
- Play with them. Get down on the floor and join them in whatever activity they enjoy doing. You will be amazed at how much you can learn about where your child is at simply by hanging out in their world. Do this a couple of times to be sure you are seeing the same things.
- Bring them around other children in different age groups. You’ll quickly see what age group your child can hang with. There’s a caveat here. Your child may not be able to hang with any of them. Don’t force it. If that’s the case then spend a few moments observing the children to which group has some things in common with your child. Because Logan had a little sister, aka Madison, we were able to partake in some toddler and pre kindergarten events like preschool story time. This gave me the opportunity to see Logan in action with children younger than him. He clearly fit in with that crowd. Wow, was that a hard pill to swallow.
- Ask a close friend what they observe. Be careful here. Ask someone who is going to be brutally honest. Honesty is key. I would not ask a family member. Someone who has spent a good deal of time with your child.
- Do an developmental checklist. I started at the early years so I would feel better about where he was. Unfortunately I didn’t get very far. It was the most depressing afternoon of my life. Be prepared for lots of emotions.
- For home school subjects that offer them , have your child take a placement test. Keep giving the tests on different occasions until they can’t do the levels anymore. Then go back to the last level they completed successfully. Start there.
This will be harder on you than your child. You will be grieved over where your child is versus his age. Get over it. Seriously, this will pay some many great dividends in your child’s progress. You will be amazed at the increase in confidence and skills. Always pick a level your child can do successfully. As they grow in their success , you are able to push them a little farther past their comfort zone. This is due to the mirror neurons making those lost connections. Once those gaps are filled in , higher levels can be attained.
Progress can come fast and furious or slow as a snail. Even slow progress is still progress. Learn quickly to see the accomplishments ,big or small. Above all, rest in the knowledge that you are doing what is best for your child.