by Wendy Young

Our children will all grow up one day and become adults and will live more of their lives as adults than as children. Our goal as parents is to raise adults who are contributors to society, who can live in community, can be compassionate and caring towards others and who can have gainful employment and be good parents.

That sounds like a tall order and you may ask: “What does this have to do with my special need child and social situations?”

Mainstream school offers a false social construct. Nowhere else besides the 12 years that a child is in school will you ever see a group of 30+ people all of the same age together doing the same thing at the same time.

Real socialization is vertical in age groupings, covering a vast array of socio-economic groupings, racial and ethnic groups and all doing a variety of different things.

When you look at that as the social world your special needs or neuro-diverse child will be in as an adult, you will realize that this is the world for which you need to prepare them.

This does not exclude play mates of the same age group – of course not -but it does mean that true social interaction will happen much better in a homeschooling environment that in a school one.

Taking your child with you to the grocery store, library, doctor’s room, or clinic offers you so many opportunities for your child to learn how to correctly behave in public and a variety of social situations. Again different lessons apply to different children. If you can and it is appropriate, you can always phone ahead to a doctor’s or vet’s room to let them know what your plan is.

Here are some examples of what children can learn:

  • How to greet others
  • How to speak appropriately to strangers, with your oversight
  • Talk through why you are there, if appropriate
  • Exposure to different environments
  • Contextual light and noise exposure – choose times that wouldn’t be too overwhelming
  • To learn to wait – take along something to entertain them quietly
  • To learn to ask correctly
  • Exposure to different facial expressions
  • To practice tone of voice, and learn to interpret others
  • Executive functioning by planning your shopping route
  • Practicing self-regulation when things don’t go their own way
  • How to appropriately gain attention

I know, from my own personal experience, that it may often seem easier to leave your struggling child at home and whizz in and out to do your errands, and there are times when, for you own sanity, may need to do this.

But in the long run, the more that you can do to expose your children to real life situations where they can learn real life social skills then better. There have been many programmes created, on and off line, to teach atypical children how to gain social skills. It is my firm belief that a full varied, yet considerate lifestyle, can teach them much more.

Articles about SEN Homeschooling

Homeschooling A-typical children – a homeschool mom’s perspective

Labels – let them define, not confine

Finding professional assistance

How to encourage children with special needs in social situations

Benefits of home educating a child with special needs

Why Homeschool Moms are Better than Teachers

Back to Homeschooling Special Needs