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Neurodivergence in Home Education

By Dr Rebecca English

One of the defining features noted in research around home education is the rise in numbers over the past decade. While this rise is international, in Australia, it seems to be largely due to people who come to home education after a period of schooling, people I call ‘accidental home educators’. Many of these families cite autism, either a diagnosis or a suspicion, as the reason.

Autism is a condition of the brain which affects how you think, feel, experience the world around you and the way you interact with others. The estimate is that about one in 70 people are on the spectrum. As the name suggests, autism is a spectrum, or a constellation with different people having different experiences of autism.

There is a saying, if you’ve met someone with autism, congratulations, you’ve met one person with autism but there are some common features. Many of these features, including difficulty concentrating in busy or bustling environments, feeling overwhelmed by sensation, difficulty transitioning between activities and taking a bit longer to interpret spoken information may affect a child at school.

It is because of these features, as well as some of the conditions that accompany autism, such as AD(H)D (attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity), anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and dyslexia, that many families choose to bring their children home when they suspect, or have a diagnosis, of autism.

Many studies have looked at home education in the population who identify as having autism. These studies have shown that, commonly, the young person generally started school and came to home education later, often finishing in Year 4, when other children started to notice differences in relationships and communication. Many have brothers or sisters who remain at school.

Studies suggest these families may feel a lightening of their load and a reduction in stressors when they begin home education. In addition, they may find that their child’s behaviour and learning improved possibly because of the differences between learning at home and learning at school.

Other troublesome experiences, such as bullying, feeling like they weren’t achieving at school because of the ways the school presented and assessed information and the struggle with sensory issues (including scratchy uniforms, uncomfortable desks and the need to wear certain hairstyles) tend to be reduced which may also lighten the young person’s load.

If you are in a family where one of your children identifies as having autism and you are home educating, you are not alone! Many in the HEA, as well as members of the committee have experience home educating a child who identifies as autistic. All of us are available to help you access the resources you need to help you on your journey.
















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