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By Suja Pisharody

Autism & Home schooling

  • Dhruv joined playschool when he was 2.5 years old and from that tender age, started going to school by the school-bus. Gopan was in a transferable job and Dhruv got used to different schools in different cities. As he was diagnosed with Autism only by the age of 6, he attended only mainstream schools ! His shy and sunny smiles, despite his challenges, made most of his teachers, peers and even the ‘ayahs’ (helpers in schools and school-buses) bond with him 😊

    Going to school was something he looked forward to, and we ensured he took the school bus/van, in our bid to increase his socialisation. Leaving Delhi after 4 years in the same school was pretty emotional for all of us. His teachers spoke about their time with him and how he made a difference in their lives, some wept and some gave him gifts to remember them by !  Felt so touched that he had been lucky to experience this kind of love.

    After Delhi, last year we moved to Bangalore and he got admission to an inclusive school. We expected him to go to the next class as per natural progression, but the school, after assessingput him down by 2 classes as they felt he was not ready! Although, this was a big blow to us, we still admitted him as the school seemed sensitive. To give the school credit, they even allowed him to use an I-pad as he has writing challenges due to Dyspraxia.

    As Dhruv is a verbal child, many teachers assumed he could handle academics, without realising he has comprehension issues. As parents, it hit us all too soon that though he was going to school happily, he was struggling to keep pace with his peers there and also in academics. Learning was not happening at his pace. It was a huge dilemma for us and we wondered what to do. The big plus, however, for school was socialisation, if you ignored the bit of bullying too that happens in school life especially if you are ‘different’. Having said that, Gopan & I sat down thinking, if indeed it made sense to continue sending Dhruv to the School, just for the sake of saying “my child goes to an ‘inclusive school'” ?

    There are a number of kids with Autism who are verbal/ non-verbal with no comprehension issues. These children can cope with academics, even clear the exams/ boards (may be with a few accommodations which are permitted by the rules); so mainstream schooling works for them. Dhruv on the other hand needed an environment which had to be tailor-made for him. So, we started exploring options, and eventually zeroed on to home schooling. It was not an easy decision, and first “we as parents” needed to be sure ourselves, before convincing the child.

    I have a B.Ed degree, and have taught kids in the past, but thinking of Dhruv being at home 24 * 7 was a little tough to digest. Could I do it ? Unlike those Hindi filmi moms, think Nirupa Roy, Reema Lagoo, I am no martyr, and definitely need my “me time”. So, how would that work ? What about his socialisation? Gopan was convinced much before me, and after lengthy discussions and multiple SWOT analysis we decided home schooling it is.

    Home schooling has given us a chance to work at his pace, work on his life-skills and also focus on his musicality which is one of his strengths. This decision also led to another very important decision, and last month Gopan took voluntary retirement after his long innings with the Indian Navy, as he wanted to be part of this exciting new journey of home-schooling Dhruv.

    Just as we were wondering how to explain home-schooling to Dhruv, the pandemic struck and suddenly the world over, every child was studying from home ! Do note there is a huge difference between home schooling and studying from home online but it made it easier to explain to Dhruv why we were home schooling. As he was learning music from “The Bangalore School of Music” ( BSM), we just told him his regular school was over, and now his school is BSM and of course learning with Amma!!!.

    The last 6 months we have been home schooling Dhruv, and I am happy to report that he has actually become more social, increased his repertoire of language and now can converse in Hindi and Malayalam apart from English! During this period, he has also learnt many life-skills, wearing clothes properly and not inside-out, taking a bath, sorting his clothes, etc. His slow, but steady progress towards gaining independence in doing his own things by himself, is a huge milestone !

    More info on home schooling and what we actually do, coming up soon 😊

    Disclaimer: The views expressed are my personal thoughts and are not meant to offend anyone’s beliefs and sensibilities.

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