Beauty may not be a word people use when talking about Autism.
Living with a child on the spectrum can be challenging at times.
Our lives are like the best roller coaster, full of hills and twists and turns, excitement one minute and terrified the next.
Finding and seeing the beauty in Autism can be hard when your life consists of various therapies, your child only eats four things, doesn’t go to sleep until 2am, or wakes at 3am every.single.night. You’re sleep deprived, you’re doing your part for Autism awareness, you’re researching, educating family, friends, and sometimes strangers.
Maybe you have a child who hasn’t potty trained yet, a child who is non verbal, or a child with severe learning disabilities.
Maybe you’re dreading the next IEP meeting, or you might be that one parent who is up at your child’s school every single day acting as his aid because the school continues to tell you it’s not in the budget to provide that service to your child.
Maybe you’r thinking about homeschooling your child but feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
Maybe you get frustrated at times because your child has a hard time with daily living tasks but can name every type of dinosaur or bug to ever roam the earth.
Maybe you go to bed feeling guilty for being frustrated, or you struggle with all the ‘what ifs’ on a daily basis.
I know this is some of the hardest work you’ve ever done and never in a million years did you expect to be the parent of an Autistic child. You’ve been subjected to article after article about what causes Autism and you have well meaning friends offering the use of essential oils to cure your child of Autism. You’ve dealt with ignorant comments such as She doesn’t look like she has Autism, and you’re over all of it.
The beauty is in how you’ve come to see the world through your child’s eyes.
There’s beauty in the way you love and accept your child for exactly who he is.
The Beauty is in realizing all of your feelings are valid.
There’s beauty in talking with your child about Autism and listening to her describe all the ways she’s smart and unique.
The beauty is in meeting your child where she is.
The beauty is in your strength and courage. This parenting journey is not for the weak.
There’s beauty in the way you show up for your child every single day. The words ‘give up’ are not a part of your vocabulary.
There’s beauty in the way you advocate for your child, and your passion for helping others on the same journey.
There’s beauty in the way you remain this unmovable rock for your child.
There’s beauty in the your unshakable faith in your child.
The beauty is in the pure joy your child gets from watching the same thing over and over, or the way he/she lines up her favorite toys.
The beauty is in the way your child’s eyes light up when you come home with a new bug book.
The beauty is in the moments you spend with your child at 3am while the rest of the house sleeps.
The beauty is in how you celebrate meeting the small goals as much as the big goals.
We were gifted these amazing, precious children to look after.
These smart, courageous children, born with all their quirks and amazing talents and gifts.
Wanna know a secret? I’ve been staring at a blank screen off and on since around 10 this morning, trying to decide what to write. I felt anxious about writing this post in particular. Unschooling and Autism in the same sentence?! Should I turn in my Unschoolers card now? I’m joking – sorta. I kept telling myself to write something! It easy for me to take photos of our days and post them along with my thoughts, but the second I began to tackle writing in-depth about a topic, particularly unschooling, I freeze.
I always feel like others explain unschooling in a more eloquent way than I ever could.
Then I started thinking that instead of explaining unschooling in a general way, maybe it would work best if I explained how it works and looks in my family.
Here’s the other thing – after being part of several unschooling groups for so long and hearing or reading about how you’re not really a unschooler if you take your child in for any kind of testing or diagnosis, it chipped away at my instincts.
You see, unschooling is living as if school doesn’t exist. BUT if you do something schoolish, like testing and getting a labeling diagnosis, then how can you live like school doesn’t exist? Testing and diagnosis/labeling are what they do in schools. Follow me?
I’m not saying these groups weren’t beneficial to me because they absolutely were. I didn’t have a mother who was willing to look at how she spoke to me and treated me. For me, learning about unschooling was also learning about how to be a better mother to my children.
I can see how a parent can start to think of their child as only being on the spectrum or *insert whatever your family has going on*, and it could be damaging because you start to see the label and not the child, I see being on the spectrum as a part of who my daughter is, not the whole of who she is.
I started leaving these groups about two years ago and instead of depending on the advice of people who were not living my life, in my home, with my children, I turned the focus on my family. I looked at what my kids needed and what would be best for all of us.
Doing the testing and getting the diagnosis was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. No one was mean or rude to my child, no one frowned upon my choice to homeschool(not to my face anyway). We have been met with nothing but kindness and understanding on this journey from our spectrum team.
I was asked what my goals were, did I want to put her in school now or in the near future? My answer was I want to meet my daughter where she is. I want to understand how to best be there for her and help her. I have no plans of putting her in school at this time.
And they helped me develop a care plan. If I change my mind or plans change, then I have the option to go back and they will help us come up with a new care plan. These Dr’s and therapists know just as well as I do that homeschooling allows us to move at Kiah’s pace in a way that’s best for her. Having the diagnosis allows us to receive services that we couldn’t get without the testing and diagnosis. Our lives have improved so much over the last two years because of our unschooling lifestyle and because of the services we were able to get, and because I understand my child in a way that I didn’t before!
We’ve all heard that children on the spectrum thrive on routine and structure, right? To a point.
Here’s how it works in our family….
My daughter can rely on her mother being there for her, supporting her, keeping her life fun and interesting. She can rely on me to answer her questions and help her when she needs it.
Our days and life are very relaxed. It probably looks like we’re not doing anything to people who don’t get what unschooling is. BUT what looks like nothing is actually a lot of learning.
Unschooling isn’t just another method of homeschooling for us, it’s a lifestyle, and one that I love living with my children.
It is not child-led learning – I don’t sit back and twiddle my thumbs, waiting for my kid to learn something new every day. There’s no passive parenting to the point of neglect going on over here. If I have concerns with something then I address it. It could be that my expectations are too high, or it could be a real issue and I take the steps to work on it with them.
Kiah is a highly social person with an insane amount of energy, so she thrives on hanging out with friends and being on the go. We make plans but we can also be flexible. Making sure I allow plenty of time for lounging around after waking up, eating, and getting dressed is important. Our days usually start around 10am and if we’re having an out and about day it starts in the afternoon and goes on until evening.
We live and we learn through living.
When I first heard of unschooling and read up on what it meant, I thought it would be soooo easy. The concept was easy for me to understand but the execution can get tricky sometimes. This lifestyle is fun but it’s also hard work!
Sometimes it helps me to break down our adventures into subjects and make a record(using this blog at times)of what we do and what/how they’re learning. I have three kids with three different learning styles and needs.
It doesn’t matter if the interest is Japan, dinosaurs, trucks, sharks, animal jam, fashion, the solar system, gardening, human anatomy, zoology, or Mario Bros….I support them. We watch documentaries, cartoons, get books from the library, use puzzles, make up games with flash cards, attend homeschool co-op, find nearby classes, museums, Lego, and youtube videos. We go to the parks and beaches, festivals, and travel out of town when we can afford it.
We also use our microscope and telescope.
The point I’m trying to make is that having a child with Autism hasn’t changed my view of what unschooling is and looks like for our family.
Children learn through play and I don’t think having a child on the spectrum is any different, not for us.
Jodi from Geek Club Books is sponsoring this fabulous All Geeked Out Giveaway:
Mighty League Vol. 1 Autism Story App
Mighty League Vol 1 Comic Book
Dorktales Storytime CD
Geek Club books Tote
To Enter: leave a comment below, stating you want to be entered into the giveaway. Your email address is visible only to me. The winner will be announced next Thursday, here on the blog. You will have 48hrs to respond via email with your address.