Homeschooling children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Homeschooling special needs children

Last week, Milton Gaither reviewed a report by Karen S. Hurlbutt called “Experiences of Parents Who Homeschool Their Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” from the publication Developmental Disabilities 26, no. 4 (December 2011): 239-249.

The results of Ms. Hurlbutt's research are encouraging for parents of children with ASD.

These parents are nurturing, involved, knowledgeable, flexible, courageous, and willing to sacrifice career and financial success to minister to the needs of their children.

Mr. Gaither gives a great synopsis of the article, but then ends with this comment:

As it stands, this article to me reads like a variation on the theme of helicopter parents, intensive mothering, invasive parenting, or whatever other trendy term one might select.

Let me help you out with something, Mr. Gaither. Helicopter parent is a pejorative term for parents who are paranoid, suffocating, and often forbid normal healthy activities for their children. Invasive parenting is also an abnormal parental response, resulting in a parent going to ridiculous, unethical lengths to ensure their child's well-being and success. These are also frequently referred as PFHs, or "parents from hell".

What you really meant to say was that Ms. Hurlbutt's research seems to indicate that most traditional schools are ill-equipped to deal with the special needs of special needs children, but that parents--naturally and deeply invested in the well-being of their own children--are absolutely up to the task.

Special needs children are particularly vulnerable. Many are physically challenged, non-verbal, unable to understand or to tell anyone what is happening. It's to be expected that these parents might be more protective of their children. 

Our culture reveres professionals, and I would never suggest that experts don't deserve respect. However, respect should flow both ways, and parents should not feel like they've been put on the stand to defend their concern for their children.

I've read many of Mr. Gaither's posts, and I understand that he is just trying to bring research on homeschooling to light. But words means things, and writers should be careful about how they characterize the people they write about.