Homeschooling Teens with Autism, Interview with Penny Rogers

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Homeschooling Teens with Autism, Interview with Penny Rogers. This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Homeschooling Teens with Autism, Interview with Penny Rogers

Homeschooling Teens with Autism, Interview with Penny Rogers

Vicki was so excited for this episode. She has been a long time that she has been trying to connect with Penny Rogers, who is another of our friends from our beloved 2:1 Conference. Penny is an autism advocate, speaker, resource expert and founder of the popular website Our Crazy Adventures in Autism Land.

Penny lives with her husband and two children in southern Arizona (just twenty minutes from the Mexican border). She has been homeschooling for many, many years. Her son, Logan (who has autism), and her daughter have both graduated from homeschooling. However, Penny has been homeschooling her nieces and nephews for years and has graduated one of them. She has years ahead of her since the younger ones are in middle school and elementary school. SO, Penny knows homeschooling…and she knows homeschooling teens with autism.

Logan went to school through second grade. During that year, Penny’s husband looked at her one evening and said, “you are spending so much time making sure the school is adhering to Logan’s IEP! You might as well bring him home and teach him yourself. It will make your life easier!”

Penny thought about it and agreed. So, at the end of second grade, she brought him home for homeschooling. He education for the first two years of homeschooling mostly involved therapies and getting to know each other in the new format. By the time Penny’s daughter started kindergarten, he was ready for more rigorous academics. He truly blossomed academically from then through graduation.

Here is advice that Penny gives families who are homeschooling teens with autism

Penny is frequently giving advice for handling homeschooling and autism through personal interactions, speaking and her website. Here are some things she shares:

If you are bringing your child or teen home from traditional school, give them a year to “de-school”

Kids or teens with autism often have many bad episodic memories about school. It takes time for them to learn that homeschooling is not traumatic like traditional school can be. So relax and help them learn about themselves and have positive experiences for a while.

Find out their developmental age

Many young people with autism might be adolescents by age but developmentally much younger.

Discover their academic level

Many children with special needs have academic and ability gaps. In Logan’s case, he needed time to catch up. Therefore, when his sister started homeschooling kindergarten, Logan did kindergarten with her. However, as the gaps were filled, he soon jumped ahead academically. Remember: Work at their level!

Help them discover that you have something to teach him that he wants to know

Sometimes teens with autism have rigid thinking. When they started homeschooling, Penny’s son was concerned that his mother was not a “teacher”, so she couldn’t homeschool him. Over time their deschooling time, Penny helped him learn that she had something to offer, even if she was not a “real teacher”. Some of the educational activities they did in order for him to learn that she indeed, had something to offer.

Here are some of their educational activities:

  • Cooking together
  • Going for walks and sharing about nature topics
  • Playing games

This is called the “Master/Apprentice” model of education. Penny learned this when she got training in Relationship Intervention Therapy to help her son.

Remember you can think out of the box for courses and credits for your special needs teen.

In adolescence, be mindful of the mismatch between the teen’s developmental age and their physiological changes

Because their bodies are changing, you need to be able to talk to your teens about what they are experiencing. However, you do this little at a time (Penny calls this “scaffolding”.)

Practice patience, patience, patience

Adolescence is difficult for most teens. However, teens with autism tend to need even more support because they will sometime struggle with challenging experiences such as:

  • Challenges with mood management (along with occasional aggression)
  • Feeling like they have no friends

Remember: Behavior is communication

If a teen becomes aggressive, they are trying to communicate something. (They may be in pain or feeling frustrated.) So if your teen has behavior issues, look for the triggers.

Remember: Relationship trumps academics. - Penny Rogers

Also, keep in mind: Relationship trumps academics

Penny’s relationship is more important than a frustrating academic moment. If things get tense, put the books away for now and concentrate on the relationship. Because, in the end, your teen will graduate from homeschooling high school. When they graduate you will want to still have a positive relationship with them.

(This reminds Vicki of our friend, Melanie Wilson of Homeschool Sanity Podcast’s saying: Relationship over rules!)

How to keep the positive relationship going while homeschooling teens with autism

On tough days practice: “Autism Rising Day”. It is a code word for “my teen is having a tough day”. On those days, text or let the family know that it is an Autism Rising Day. This means put away the books and concentrate on figuring out what is going on to stress your teen with autism.

Be willing to push them out of their comfort zone but always bring them back

Stretching their ability to try new things or handling stress is an important life skill. However, give them time to rest and compensate for the stress after the stressor.

Tailor high school to their goals for after high school

Talk gently about goals with your teen. Gradually work on exploring and defining those goals. Then build their curriculum and credits to develop those goals. For instance, Penny’s son was interested in herpetology. Therefore they developed courses to explore those interests, as well as finding courses that generally built scaffolding for those interest (all the Sciences and Maths, which he loved).

Penny developed an “Autism Action Plan” to help teens learn to set and develop goals. This plan helps teens set a:

  • Ten-year goal
  • Five-year goal
  • and One -year goal

You can find the Autism Action Plan on her website.

Use tools and compensations for their high school courses

For instance:

Are you preparing to homeschool a teen with autism?

Penny is a consultant who has worked with many families with autism. She works to help families go through their own autism land with encouragement, hope and frugality.

  • She helps with therapies
  • Not only that, she helps manage the financial challenges of helping teens with autism

Also check out her Special Needs Homeschooling Facebook group.

Join Vicki and Penny for an encouraging chat about homeschooling teens with autism.

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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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