Thursday, June 3, 2010

Homeschool and Socialization

In our decision to homeschool we already have people-- with out a vote--worrying about Nate and his socialization.  I came across this article today and it cleared everything up for me.  So I am posting it here so that anyone concerned can have access to it and read it also.

Socialization and Children with Asperger Syndrome

Anybody who has been homeschooling more than twenty minutes knows that the most popular probing question from the masses is: "And what about socialization?"

This is an especially bothersome question for families affected by Asperger Syndrome who want to homeschool. Since lack of social skills is one of the hallmarks of the child with AS, people naturally assume that keeping a child home instead of exposing him to the social climate of school will just worsen the situation.

The reverse is true, in my opinion, for the following reasons:

1. School has people, but that doesn't make it social. In fact, it is usually fairly anti-social since kids can be very cruel and bullies seem to be an ever-present part of the school experience. What is social about exposing our children to daily torment? Nothing. Children with Asperger Syndrome are natural targets for bullies and the situation frequently results in a tantrum, depression or violence, all of which could have been prevented by avoiding this "social" atmosphere.

2. Homeschooling does not mean denying social experiences. To the uninitiated, homeschooling conjures a picture of cloistering your child at home all the time. For most homeschoolers, nothing could be further from the truth. There are trips to the library and the park, gatherings with other homeschoolers, and lessons and clubs that tie in with the child's interests. And, we still live in neighborhoods, still have extended family and friends, church and other social obligations. Homeschooling does not mean restricted movement but rather greater flexibility.

3. Social experiences tend to be more positive when done through home education. As homeschooling parents, we can monitor social gatherings to keep them positive. That is, we can pick and choose the activities, watch for bullies and intervene, head off other kinds of trouble, and teach our children with spontaneous social lessons "in the moment," (or make a note to discuss things later). In short, we are on deck. Finally and perhaps most importantly, we can steer our children gently homeward before sensory overload undermines the whole event. In school, our kids do not get the luxury of this kind of protection or customized teaching. It's usually a case of "sink or swim." Our kids tend to do more sinking than swimming.

4. Homeschoolers may get more social opportunities out of their day. When we homeschooled, my son was in the comfort zone of his home surroundings for mornings of academic work, and that still left him with some energy in the afternoons and evenings to try other things. Parks department classes, bowling league, swimming lessons, and Boy Scouts were just some of the things he tried. When we stopped homeschooling and put him into a regular school, however, these fell away. He was too burned out from the school day to do anything else, and quit all outside activities. Although he'd wanted to try public school and did fine academically, the tradeoff was that he gained some very negative social experiences and lost some very positive ones.

5. The idea that our kids need the classroom experience of having positive role models around them every day is suspect. It's true that positive role models are better than negative ones, but just placing our kids alongside peer-age so-called normal kids does not mean that they will intuitively pick up on proper behavior. In fact, their condition of Asperger Syndrome means they will NOT pick things up intuitively. Things like social graces, body language and speech pragmatics must be consciously, deliberately, and specifically taught, bit by bit. Unless the child has a one-to-one aide to provide full-time tutelage in these things and allow ample rehearsal time, not many social skills will be picked up. Contrast that with the home environment, where the parent does have the time and patience to teach these things and can provide a safe place for rehearsing them.

6. Finally, we need to measure by a different yardstick. Our kids with Asperger Syndrome do not typically need or want the same level of social interaction than their neurologically typical peers do. Not everyone wants to be surrounded by others all day long, have large parties, or a dozen friends. Many of us (self included) cherish solitude, are happiest in our own company and function better with fewer social interactions. This is not abnormal, only different, and it should be honored. It is far better to have a little interaction and look forward to more another day, than to have too much interaction and suffer devastating consequences.

In short, parents can rest easy that their home education program is probably doing more for their child's socialization than a public school counterpart could. The only dark side, and there is a dark side, is that our children will probably never be totally at ease in social situations and will always have a few challenges, no matter what we do. Asperger Syndrome is, after all, a lifelong condition. And because of that, there will always be someone ready to proclaim why our child seems socially inept. "It must be because he was homeschooled!" they will cluelessly proclaim. Sometimes, you just can't win.

Copyright 2002 Lise Pyles

Lise Pyles, a homeschooling parent, is the author of Hitchhiking Through Asperger Syndrome.

Learn more about her book at or

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