Friday, August 7, 2015

Autism, Homeschooling and Socialization

I can't even begin to tell you how complicated socializing is with autism. 

I don't know where to start. 

For the most part, I think every single person on the planet WANTS to connect with others. Some try harder than others. Some need more than others. But I think we are all intended to be a part of some kind of community, whether large or small. 

I am pretty much on the introverted side, and I prefer time alone to time with people, but I still desire to have friends and talk and stuff, sometimes more than other times.

From what I can guess so far, my B is the opposite. He wants to talk to people all the time. He could literally talk all day long if you'd let him. He would talk to anyone, anywhere. Maybe more so if I don't know the person, it seems like! I said hello to someone in the store today and he clammed up, where a complete stranger he would have initiated the conversation and I would have been begging him to stop so we could move on. 

We're homeschooling, and more often than I would have expected, I get "that question" - what about socialization?

Seriously. I'm even more surprised when the person asking that question knew me when I was in school. I never quite know what to say, or the right thing to say, but I usually end up saying the truth: he has friends who live nearby, and family, and we do this program or that group. It never sounds adequate in my mind, and I'm left wishing that I had said more, but I don't really need or want to get into long philosophical conversations either. Because really, there we get into the spot where I'm seemingly trying to convince them of something they don't believe or agree with. 

The fact is, we have autism. There is no amount of socialization on the planet that will help that. Those same things will always be there, no matter if he's homeschooled or public schooled. Having gone through public school myself, I KNOW what kind of socialization goes on there. It's "Lord of the Flies" the real world. I'm not even kidding. It's live or die, fit in or die, join the crowd or die. 

Like everything there are kids that make it through unscarred. I was not one of those kids, and to keep holding onto this belief that the ONLY way for a child to learn socialization is to go to school is very harmful. And really, what is more important anyway? Learning academics and life skills, or learning how to avoid being tortured by fitting in? Learning how to balance a checkbook (and the math skills that come with that) or learning how to reject your family's values in order to be accepted by a bunch of kids who won't even be in your social circle anymore after you graduate (for the most part)? 

We're focusing in the wrong direction.

I also get frustrated, because this is the ONLY thing that we think kids have to learn by being with other inexperienced, immature people. 

Do 6th graders go into the 10th grade classroom and teach them algebra (a class they themselves have not had yet)?

When you want to hire a mechanic, do you just call the kid down the street who's favorite thing is cars, or do you call a mechanic who trained both academically and with other more experienced mechanics to learn their job? Seriously?

What makes us think that putting kids together in a building teaches any form of good social skills? They are ALL lacking those skills. Who isn't? ADULTS. Adults have had years of practice, they've gone through adolescence and growing, and have their fully matured brain to help them logic things out. Kids don't have that. To expect them to learn anything by plopping them together is really not sensible is it? Wouldn't they be better off learning from adults? Especially adults who they have a relationship with?

Sure, teachers can do this. But is it effective to have 30+ students per teacher? And that's not even counting the majority of students who never connect with any of their teachers at all! Some kids just will not find a staff member whom they trust enough to glean any skills from. It is not working - look at the kids in this country! What we are doing is not working for the majority of kids. It didn't work for me. It wouldn't work for B either. 

I'm just really weary of hearing about socialization. It's like someone said "we have to have public school so kids get socialized", meanwhile, the kids were plenty socialized from having neighbors and family everywhere all the time, they were learning from their parents and their uncles and their grandparents and yes, the other kids in their family's social circle, under supervision of the same loving family members and parents that are guiding these kids, because they love them and want whats best for them. I said some kids will never connect with a teacher, but even more so, some teachers will never connect with their students either! It goes both ways. 

Autism is a different world altogether. I may have been more social as a child, I don't know. But what I do know is that the way I was treated in school, I quickly learned that I was not accepted the way I was, and I quickly learned to be afraid to talk. I quickly learned that talking to my peers was not safe. I want more for my kid than that. I know he's annoying when he goes on and on. I want him to learn how to manage that through the safety and love of our family, not because he was tortured and teased by his peers. What good would it do any of us to send him to a place full of people he will never really know, full of sensory overload and overwhelm, to be tortured socially? That's not socialization. That's the opposite of that. 

You may want to play the devil's advocate or something right now and say that I don't KNOW that it would happen. But seriously, he's not much different than his mama. The kids in public school are related to or the kids of the ones who tortured me! We were involved in ECFE for a few years and even then I saw my son playing alone, and everyone else just passing him by. Interactions were passionate and stressful for him. Just a couple hours of that kind of interaction and he would lose it the rest of the day. I don't want my kid to have to hold things in all day, and come home and explode on this family because he's been just barely surviving all day. 

I know what autism is. I know what autism means. I know what socialization does to kids with autism. I know what socialization does to kids like me. I don't want him to have to spend 5-10 years of his life trying to readjust to the idea that people might actually like him because it isn't high school anymore. (I've been out of school for 14 years now and I'm still surprised when people like me.)

Who should have to live like that?

Just my thoughts and stuff pouring out today. I don't think public school is a nightmare for everyone, and that I know even when you don't want to send them to public school, you sometimes feel too overwhelmed, like you don't have a choice. I just want to say, some kids do fine. I just know I want something different, something more, something better, for mine. I want things to go in a different direction. There are so many other reasons I favor homeschool over public school and even if my kid never learns to "socialize", those things are FAR more important than that anyway. 

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