When considering homeschooling a child with autism in Australia, there are several options to consider for home education. Chances are if your child was previously in school, it wasn’t working out. If that is the case, give serious consideration to taking a “holiday” from academics and anything remotely school like. Give your child time to recover before you tackle learning enjoyment with him or her. Here are the options for homeschooling in Australia;
There are many distance education options in Australia. This page on distance education provides an overview of all Australian states and options for distance education.
This option lets you homeschool by following a program delivered by the distance education provider. In addition, adjustments are provided for children with special needs on proof of disability.
Some families prefer this option as it takes pressure off parents to plan for and provide a suitable curriculum. The education provider is legally responsible for your child’s education, not you.
Distance Education is basically a “school at home” option. A set amount of schoolwork has to be completed and sent in regularly. Unfortunately keeping up can be difficult if the child has special needs which impacts their ability to learn and produce work. Some families find that their children with autism are highly resistant to formal academics, and feel pressured when these children don’t meet the workload.
Don’t be discouraged and stressed if you have chosen this option and it is not working for you. There are other options!
A cover school in Australia is typically a private school that offers a home education curriculum. Most of these schools are religious. Some families will opt for ignoring the religious aspects of the curriculum for the ability to be enrolled in a school, while remaining at home.
Like Distance Education, a cover school is also a “school at home” option. A set amount of work needs to be completed regularly and sent to the school.
Shopping around, or asking for recommendations can help to find a cover school willing to be flexible with adjusting their program for children with autism. In some instances, a cover school will be more flexible and understanding of an ASD child’s needs than a government distance education provider.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks. One such drawback is your child may not be able to handle the workload, and the school may not provide the necessary supports needed.
Register with the Department of Education
Registering for home education directly via the Department of Education will provide the most flexibility in curriculum and workload. It also places responsibility for education solely on parents.
Each state is required to ensure parents are meeting their lawful obligations regarding education of their child(ren) and to this effect, will require paperwork, reports, forms, work samples and in some cases visits to the home.
An attractive benefit for home educating families with ASD children is the flexibility to change things according to the child’s needs. This allows for a highly individualised plan for learning in the way parents feel is best for their child.
Futhermore, parents are also responsible for obtaining special needs related resources to help their child with any learning difficulties.
With that said, be aware that learning difficulties can be really hard to diagnose even for schoolteachers. If your child has learning difficulties, try reaching out to support groups (Facebook has many different ones) for feedback and strategies. Occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists can also help pinpoint the problems and offer strategies for addressing them.
Many home educating families in Australia do not bother to register with the Department of Education. It is the law in Australia to enrol in a school or to register with the Department of Education. Most parents who don’t register often do not have any problems flying under the radar. Keep in mind staying off the radar is difficult to do with a child with autism.
Families that choose to opt out of the system entirely by not registering should always make the effort to read up on the Education General Provisions Act and check the laws for their State.
Avoiding registration means time is not taken away from home education to produce intensive documentation of the learning progress. Parents have complained these demands seem to be more about what the parent is doing than how their child is progressing.
However if parents have a child requiring supports via the public health system, this can pose a problem. Services designed to support families and children often will look at the child’s education. If the child has challenges with behaviour, social skills, or learning difficulties, many service providers view school as the solution. Unfortunately, many service providers have no clue about the problems for children with autism in the school system. School is not always easier on families, and definitely is not always the optimal choice for a child with special needs. Some service providers also have the ability to check registration status (not always), and most will report parents if they believe they have not registered their child.
Another factor to consider is that these children aren’t eligible for the Assistance for Isolated Children (AIC) allowance from Centrelink. Parents have to submit proof of registration or enrolment with AIC applications.