Headphones to

block out noise

has helped to calm some of our

kids and helped to avoid overwhelm

At times, some visual charts helped our kids have a sense of control over their activities

Navigating Neurodiversity 

Accepting our children as they are, understanding that all of us have different brains, different abilities and challenges and honouring each other's needs is probably the best way to sum up how we think of our neurodivergent family.

I am a neurotypical person and so I can only speak to you from the place of telling you what it has been like to be the homeschool mama helping to navigate the neurodiversity within our family. I won't tell you what it is like to be autistic because I am not autistic. I will share what has helped our family but please keep in mind that of course, each family is different. There are many great autistic advocates who can share what it is like being autistic and who you would be blessed to listen to. I can share with you a little of our story though and hope that it is of encouragement to others out there. 

OUR NEURODIVERGENCE

Within our family of 7 people, our neurodivergence includes several autistic people, ADHD, ODD, inattentive (passive) ADD, SPD, anxiety, dyslexia, mood related issues and some anxiety issues around two of us having rare bleeding disorders. I am also almost one year-post Ross River Virus and this has meant having days with joint pain and chronic fatigue like symptoms. This of course has brought with it its own set of challenges.

We decided to homeschool because we felt it was the best way we'd be able to meet and honour the needs of our children, especially the children who had more complex learning needs that we knew traditional school would not be able to meet. We made the decision to homeschool at the end of 2008 and it is currently 2020. We have had 2 of our children 'graduate' our homeschool and go on to uni/vocational studies and work.

HOMESCHOOLING & NEURODIVERSITY

So what's so good about homeschooling for neurodivergent people? Well, frankly, LOTS! We were not only able to tailor their learning program to incorporate their interests, their needs, their challenges and their strengths, we were also able to make changes within our home environment that honoured their need for sensory input, for quiet at times when anxiety was high and were able to help them keep other sources of overwhelm at bay. 

VISION, OVERWHELM & AVOIDING BURNOUT

This does not mean it has all been smooth sailing and easy. We have had days where one person has felt overwhelmed and had a meltdown which has triggered another person (or several) to have meltdowns. It has been a journey which has taken a large amount of grace, learning and forgiveness when we have hurt someone by our inability to understand or help.

We have stuck to our vision of being able to love and nurture each of our children, sharing faith and connection with them through our days of living and learning at home together. We are a team of individuals who want to love God, each other and others well. We have a fairly eclectic style of learning which daily revolves more around rhythms than strict routines and curricula. Our children have loved being a part of our local homeschool group, enjoy social times involved in various team sports, community activities and group projects. 

Having people with a wide range of needs in our family has meant we have learned to be empathetic, flexible and accepting of everyone in our family. We've ALL had to learn to express what we need and try to fill our own cups so no one burns out.  

PRACTICAL TIPS

We have developed safe spaces for people as they needed it. We also made accessible a range of tools for our children who were sensory-seeking (like fidget cubes, therabands on the bottoms of chairs, body socks, playdough and chewy necklaces). We have also had aides for our kiddos who needed to avoid sensory overwhelm by providing tools like headphones, lego, drawing, building items, deep pressure when they asked for it. We used an MSL/Orton Gillingham approach for helping our dyslexic children. Music on ipod shuffles has helped as our kids have gotten older and the lego collection grew into a lego room. Daily rhythms have been a huge help to us all. I found that having children dictate their stories to us (which we'd write down for them initially) really helped our reluctant writers. I also formulated our templates specifically to help our kids make notes about their learning in an easy format. You can find our template collections HERE.

Building was calming 

for some of our 

children

One of our kids with ADHD spots things that others seem to miss seeing. We love his acute sense of observation.

He once spotted this nest in our hedge that we'd all have missed out on otherwise. We were able to watch these eggs hatch because of what he saw.

RESOURCES

The following are some places you might like to visit to get some encouragement, practical tips or purchase resources.

Hello Michelle Swan :

{taken from Michelle's website} Michelle Swan is an internationally known autistic Australian writer, speaker, resource developer, mentor, and neurodiversity rights advocate. She travels regularly, educating teachers, parents, carers, and health professionals. In her local community Michelle works with autistic young people as a mentor and advocate. She also practices and teaches karate. Michelle’s work in all settings focuses on self-understanding and personal development, peer support, community building and meaningful inclusion in all settings. Through centring the voices of neurodivergent people in conversations about neurodiversity, she encourages real understanding of their experiences and appropriate ways to support them. 

Sensory Oasis:

Some of the sensory items we have found helpful can be purchased through this website.

Different by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson

I love this book - a book all about loving our children for who they are. An amazing insight from both perspectives of Nathan and his Mama Sally.

A couple of safe spaces we created

for some of our children