With the Coronavirus pandemic still in full swing, many parents have begun homeschooling their children as schools across the country have shut down. In an essay this month, Rebecca Brand, a blogger for The Mighty, discussed homeschooling her eleven-year-old daughter with autism, Sophie, and the ways that distance learning have been both challenging and beneficial for her.
On the plus side, Brand noted that distance learning has allowed Sophie to expend her physical energy outdoors and settle down to tackle her school assignments at her own pace.
“She can get up to run and hum whenever she wants, so long as she doesn’t bother her brothers,” Brand writes of Sophie’s first week of distance learning. “Whereas at school she expended energy paying attention, following somebody else’s schedule, keeping still her body that needs to move as quickly and constantly as the second hand of a clock, here I can watch all of that energy take flight in her laps back and forth outside the kitchen window. Then when she is ready, she can settle in and work at her pace.”
At the same time, Brand acknowledges that the first week may have been easier due to skipping Sophie’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and that a change of strategy was needed once the school began offering a fully daily program, and Sophie’s progress was more closely evaluated. Discussing Sophie’s work with her teachers served as a reality check for brand, spurring her to acknowledge her daughter’s challenges and monitor her work more closely.
“Writing an essay is a struggle,” Brand writes. “She can give me an argument and reasons, but cannot organize them. I end up writing them for her into an outline her teacher has provided. School is hard not just for the routine and physical constraints, but the rigor. I fear my most tantalizing dream will be crushed: that she will be able to take care of herself and thrive without me.”
Despite these concerns, Brand writes that Sophie has shown encouraging signs of independence in tackling her schoolwork, and that taking a step back in her involvement with Sophie has been beneficial for both of them.
“One morning she is resisting getting in her chair and starting her day and I swing between despair and frustration, but then she smiles at me and starts the principal’s morning message at 2x speed,” Brand writes, adding that for now, she prefers to cope with uncertainty by focusing on the moment, rather than worrying about the future.
“This step backward in my involvement feels like progress for both of us,” she continues. “We don’t have room in quarantine for my panic about today or the future…next week, my daughter’s whole team will work with her via Google meeting. Sophie and I will go through her checklist, but I will also return to my wonder and enjoyment at how happy she is at home rather than wondering where we will end up.”