Homeschooling with Autism and Separation Anxiety

by Zoe
(Surrey, uk)

Hi, I am looking at homeschooling. I have always wanted to but my husband has never been for it. Just lately things have been awful at the kids school, to the point where I no longer wish them to be there and so this has spurred me on to look at home schooling in more depth. I know nothing really at this point.

My husbands main sticking point is that our daughter is just turned 5 and may have Autism. She suffers with separation anxiety and has a very tight emotional bond with me. She can't always communicate with others (or us at times) and I feel that she would benefit immensely from being at home with me and learning in this fashion. My husband however thinks it will be the worst thing for her as she would have no need to practice being away from me and so would never learn the need to be away from me.

We have 3 other children too 7, 3, and 19m and so would be looking to home school all of them. We live in the uk.

Any advice/info would be gratefully received.
Kind regards




Hi Zoe. Thank you for the question.

In researching separation anxiety for you, almost all the sites I looked at (like this one) advocated practising separation, or worse, medicating - so I can see where your husband is coming from. But I can't help thinking that children react better to kindness and love than to being 'toughened up'. If you wanted to harden off a seedling before putting it into the garden - you don't plant it straight outside and let it cope. It may survive - but the chances are that it would not grow well. Instead, you would tend the seedling and nurture it. Then, when it had grown strong enough, you would slowly acclimatize it to the harsher conditions outdoors. Only then would you have a strong and healthy plant that could be safely planted out.

I think it may be helpful for you to get hold of Mike Fortune-Wood's book Can't Go, Won't Go which presents an alternative approach to 'school refusal' - I think that much in the book may apply to your situation.

If you think the way forward for you may be homeschooling, then I would recommend you join the Home Education Special mailing list. They will be able to help you with your concerns about Autism and separation anxiety, and I feel sure that there will be people there who have faced the same challenges as you and would be happy to share their experiences with you.

If you want to read more about homeschooling then here is somewhere to start :
Start Homeschooling

How to Homeschool

Homeschool Socialization

How to Get Started Homeschooling

Also, a great book to start with would be Free Range Education (your library should have it).

Homeschooling is an option that is working very well for other families in the UK (including us!). I am not sure where in Surrey you are, but there is a group in South West Surrey that should be able to point you in the right direction. Most groups are happy to share how homeschooling is working for them.

I hope that gives you somewhere to start. Do come back if you have more questions and I will try to help. I hope everything works out well for you.

Best wishes, Julie.


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Comments for Homeschooling with Autism and Separation Anxiety

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Separation Anxiety
by: Kathy

Julie had great comments. I have one other thing to add as well. Children with special needs go about learning things a bit differently. This includes separation anxiety! For a neuro-typical child, yes, most will do well with having times when separation is forced so that he/she can learn to handle things better. With a special needs child, this almost always is the worst thing to do! In our experience, it creates a dramatically worse situation. This child needs to be loved on, feeling secure, not frightened that he/she is going to be forced to leave. There are small times to practice separating (i.e. at a playground, being babysat, church nursery, etc.), but the majority of the time can be focused on making the child feel safe. Will it take time to overcome? Absolutely, but not as long as it would otherwise, and the child will feel your love & grace throughout not frustration and anger.

(homeschooling mom to three boys, one with a history of severe anxiety issues & many special needs)

Zoe's husband.
by: James


I'm Zoe's husband. You'll probably be thinking of me as some sort of anti-homeschooling ogre!

Thanks for the comments. I'm sure that some of the links will be useful.
We live in the opposite side of Surrey to that group, unfortunately - just inside the M25 in the borough of Kingston.

I like the seedling analogy, but the question comes when do you put it outside to grow? If you kept the plant inside all through the spring and summer and then put it out in winter it probably wouldn't do much good either. That's how I see homeschooling, especially for our daughter.
At some point they need to face the outside world without a loving parent constantly on hand. I think the ideal time for that is as a child with other children and the ideal place for that is one where the other children are in a similar boat (albeit some more confident than others). I think that delaying the separation until the child becomes an adult and then throwing them on the world isn't fair on them.
We wouldn't want to send our children to a day nursery at an early age and we haven't done. That would be the equivalent, to me, of planting a seed straight out in the garden.

I think that it would be hard work for my wife (especially with our youngest around all the time and all of them having various appointments through the week) to teach them academically and practically (which is where I think homeschooling comes into its own - I'd much rather our children learnt how to make a sandwich, sort the washing, change a car wheel, etc than learnt the order of Henry VIII's wives) but it would certainly be possible. (Sorry for all those brackets. The sentance does make sense if you ignore what's in the brackets!)
But I don't think that anything we can do at home can compensate for the lack of peer interaction that they get at school. I don't think going to a homeschooling group once or twice a week, going to the park and library, etc, and going on a homeschooling camp once a year (and keeping in contact with friends made there online, as one article I read suggested) is any substitute for the social skills they learn at school.

Where will they learn how to deal with bullies? Where will they learn about the latest music? Where will they learn how to share and cooperate with friends? Where will they get to play football and other team games? Where will they learn how to deal with authority? Where will they learn in what ways you can break the rules and still be acceptable? Where will they learn to do anything without a parent on hand?

In many ways I love the idea of homeschooling. But in other ways I feel that we would be taking away one of the best things about being a child (meeting up with your friends every day) from our children.

Would welcome any comments.


Response for James
by: Julie

Hi James. No, not an ogre! It is natural to have concerns about homeschooling.

So, to go back to the plant analogy - you think that keeping her at home would keep her at seedling stage - and it is better that she begins to make the adjustment now? I think that being at home will bring an increase in self-confidence and help her to flourish in her own time and way - and thus make the final planting out almost a mere formality.

You sound like you kept your daughter at home until she was 4 (ish?). In that time didn't she begin to develop her own way? I am sure she began to find her own interests, her own tastes in music. In what she wanted to wear or eat. Did she begin to learn to share and co-operate with her siblings and with you? Surely people learned these things before school was invented?

I think the opportunities for social interaction at school are actually very limited - and often negative (like learning to deal with bullies). Peer interaction can be very cruel, especially at that age. I don't see the point of subjecting young children to it - especially if it is making them unhappy. Children who have been supported and given the freedom to be themselves without criticism, learn to become much more confident and outgoing and are then able to deal with negativities much more effectively.

Besides, I would think that going to school would help her deal only with 'school' situations - it wouldn't help with dealing with new situations. Plenty of people go to school but still can't deal with bullies, or authority.

It may suit some children to see friends every day - but why do we assume that ALL children will enjoy that. I don't want to see MY friends everyday. I know it seems strange but children do naturally just pick up a lot of group social skills. My children have never really been up for group activities/clubs - and I have worried that they were not developing 'group' social skills. Last summer they both announced an interest in a large group event (for my daughter a one week camp at the Young Kennel Club, whilst my son wanted to go away to a kids outbound holiday). And they both thrived. Because they were both reasonably confident in themselves they fitted in well and coped easily with the new situation they found themselves in. My son even stepped in to stop another child being bullied - and diffused the situation. I am not recommending what that homeschooling article you read suggested for most children - but I bet the children in that home fitted in just fine when they got to their annual homeschool camp.

James, it all comes down to a judgement call. The question is 'what is the best way to build self confidence in children'. To push them, or to give them time and space to be confident to do the pushing for themselves. My experiences have led me to believe the latter - but I am sure there are many stories on both sides. Only you and Zoe can decide what is best for your daughter - but thanks for letting me have my say. Jule.

Probably not Seperation Anxiety or school refusal
by: Mike FW

Its common for children with Aspergers or Autism (two related problems) to refuse to go to school. This is not because of Seperation Anxiety, its because the child, being autistic has dificulty coping with the school environmnt. Aspergers children have problems with noise, multiple relationships, chaos, nonspecific commands aimed at groups rather than the individual and group dynamics generally. Instead they prefer calm quite places with a very few trusted individuals at any one time, they like predictability and security.

Many aspergers children find schools close to being a nightmare.

Now, if your child has been labelled as school refusal the medical profession generally believes that home education is Contra indicated by SR, so they will say its a bad idea and yet there is absolutely no evidence to support that. There has never been any research on school refusal and home education. Their belief is based entirely on a set of assumptions that have no basis in fact.

I know of a number of aspergers children who have been home educated with no ill effects at all, indeed they have done extremely well.

It was this that prompted me to write my book on this (cant go wont go) which you can get from:

School & Social Interaction Myth
by: CTQ

Unless you were the bully or only half awake in school or thick skinned ... I do not know more than a half dozen people who believe school was a positive and enriching experience for them.

For a child with any problems - I believe the reality is that you can take such a child and turn them into a shell of themselves. Messages of 'not good enough'= somethings wrong with you = you cant etc turn a sensitive child into an isolated insecure child who needs to wear a mask, protect their feelings or bully in return.

I have sent my child to school and home schooled. By the time I was forced to home school the child was almost destroyed by school society, harsh and difficult teachers. He DID NOT learn how to deal with the bullying. He died inside and faked a veneer on the outside.

I NEVER regret taking him out to homeschool. I would regret it life long had I not done so, now that I see the change in him. I began home schooling with the most christian principles = you are created unique. unconditional love. acceptance. I emphasised he did NOT need to fit the mould to fit in. (He has multi fasc. problems from huge IQ to anxiety, emotionally sensitive etc). After 2 years the psychologist was astounded to see this mouse of a child had turned into a confident self assured little man who accepted who HE was because we accepted him and valued who he was = not tried to get him to fit in, make more friends, socialise more etc. He gravitates to those like himself and if excluded by the clique - so what. Isnt that what we want to teach them to do as adults?

If your child goes to the best school in the world and is a social giant, but has his self esteem and confidence bullied out of him - you have achieved nothing in the education process. A happy secure child WILL florish. Bullying? They are stronger in themselves to be able to fight it but putting little importance to the persons opinion.

HOME SCHOOL SENSITIVE KIDS. Forcing seperation is a bit like the old wives tale of if a baby cries and you pick it up you will spoil it!

Pro homeschool
by: CTQ

Sorry, forgot on comment to say my son is Aspergers. Unless you have a school perfect for their emotional needs = I would only homeschool. Normal school nearly destroyed him and his peer group were - the majority = vicious. Little understanding, butt of jokes, last guy chosen etc

CTQ - Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am sure it will be very helpful for people in this scenario. Thanks. Julie.

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