"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
We are an Army family that has relocated every 1 to 2 years. Miles has never had a problem with relocating to a new area because he likes the sense of adventure. It does take him a little bit to adjust to the new routine but luckily this is where homeschooling has really been beneficial for our family. Below is the full story as to why homeschooling was a good option for Miles.
Miles began attending daycare in Louisiana for half a day when he turned 3yrs old. We knew he had trouble interacting with other kids and sitting still for long periods of time. Our hope was maybe the routine of daycare would help him overcome some of the issues he was having. Needless to say since he had not yet been diagnosed with Autism, it was doomed from the start. We were asked to leave within a month of attending.
By age 4 we enrolled Miles in preschool. We informed the preschool upfront of the issues we had with Miles at daycare. The first day I received a phone call saying Miles had fallen off the slide. Apparently he had been walking up the slide & when an adult called his name he lost his balance and fell on his wrist. Turned out he fractured his wrist which meant a cast for few weeks. Now my thought was what is he going to do at daycare with this cast? Yep, he used it as a way to get his meaning across to other kids. He lasted a little over a month before we were asked to leave.
God bless this daycare for all the help they provided Miles and us! He attended here until the beginning of Summer when we pulled him out for a break. On our last day Miles' teacher told us since he would begin Kindergarten soon she felt that a school district evaluation in areas she was seeing education delays would benefit him. We contacted the school district and they found a small speech delay but no educational delays and said he would be able to receive services through the school in Kindergarten (it would only provide 30min of services). We opted for private speech therapy (which provided 1hr of services) so he could begin as soon as possible. We also went to have Miles evaluated by a Child Psychologist who diagnosed him with ADHD and prescribed medication which he started.
Miles began Kindergarten at the local public school. He had an AMAZING teacher who paired him with a friend. The ADHD medication helped him stay seated and able to complete his classwork. He continued seeing his private speech therapist which also seemed to be beneficial. Kindergarten was the best experience we had within a public school setting and we couldn't have been happier for him. He enjoyed 2 different field trips where he rode the bus, Christmas parties, birthday parties and Easter egg hunts. He was also having a good time during his Sunday school classes and interacting with his friends from church and our neighborhood.
We relocated to New York for 1st grade. We enrolled him in the local school and explained all the past experiences with the staff. They assured us they could handle any situation that would arise and agreed to show Miles his classroom. By the 3rd week of school we were being called into a meeting. They informed us of the issues Miles had been having concerning his classmates and assignments. Their opinion was he needed to be seen by a Child Psychologist because they felt he might have a mental disorder. Yes, we were seeing red by the end of that meeting and honestly our relationship with this school was all downhill from that moment.
We contacted a Child Neurologist who unknown to us treated patients with Autism. It was at this time Miles was formally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. This Doctor gave us information and resources to learn more about Autism. We started digesting every bit of information we could get our hands on but it was proving difficult to find the right kind of service providers.
At school Miles was seeing the Sociologist who sent him to the Principal's office as a punishment and reward. He was having daily meltdowns, his health was poor and he had no friendships. There was no routine, sensory breaks or understanding from the staff when it came to Autism. We fought the school through many IEP (individualized education plan) meetings for Miles to get the services he needed but they refused to provide anything. Needless to say 1st grade was proving to be a HORRIBLE experience for the entire family and Miles began to regress.
It was during the summer after 1st grade that I discovered Miles had to stick with a school routine. I picked up workbooks from the bookstore so he could continue learning year round. He had fun with these lessons and so did I. He actually mentioned at this point that he wished he could do school at home so I could be his teacher.
2nd grade unfortunately did not improve. We fought even harder for services during IEP meetings and informed the staff Miles was never to be seen by the Sociologist again nor sent to the Principal's office for anything more than to be sent home. Any "pleasantness" the environment had was over. The school proceeded to tell us our only recourse to get what Miles needed was to take them to court. Miles was having daily meltdowns, constantly in poor health and the medicine he was taking just to get through a school day made him gain 25lbs. Thankfully for Miles we had orders to move to another state before the end of the year.
Without the friendships and support we had through our local church this duty assignment would have been a nightmare. At least when Miles was at home and church he had friends and people willing to learn and understand the challenges of Autism. He was allowed to be himself and not judged during his difficult moments.
Once we settled into our new home in Illinois we went to enroll Miles at the local school. We had a meeting with the staff who informed us they had 6 other students who also had Asperger's Syndrome. Then they proceeded to tell us these kids were all in one class and the teacher was overwhelmed. I asked about the morning and lunch routines. I was told the kids sit in the hallway monitored by a 5th grader until the bell rings to begin the school day and then 5th graders also monitor the lunch room with almost no adult supervision at either time.We did not enroll Miles in this school and decided to look at a private school. Unfortunately this proved an unsuccessful setting for Miles too as they were unfamiliar with Autism.
It wasn't all fun and games at the beginning! There were some trial and error before I figured out the curriculum and schedule that worked best for Miles. The flexibility of homeschooling allowed me to teach according to the way Miles learns and I was able to give him much needed sensory breaks between lessons. We also started adding life skills and field trips to our schedule when possible. These were great for hands on learning that Miles needed and made things a little more fun. He was also beginning to make friends in the neighborhood and at church.
A personal note: I was used to working and it took me a while to adjust being home and being the one in charge of Miles' schooling. It was a huge responsibility that I felt inadequate to perform but Miles was doing the work and succeeding. Some days were rougher than others but in the end he was enjoying our time together and so was I. I knew that at this point and time I was doing what I was supposed to for my son.
The rest of his 2nd grade year was spent discovering Miles' learning styles
and researching Curriculum to be used for the following year
Beginning of the 3rd grade we were into the swing of our homeschool routine. Miles enjoyed doing his assignments and was making gains in his therapies. I began researching more Autism therapies covered by insurance and was blessed to find his current ABA and DAN/MAPS Doctor. These two individuals began to help Miles overcome behavioral, social and health related issues. I also took Miles to the Optometrist who prescribed glasses and an Allergist where he began weekly shots. We really were enjoying the flexibility of our schedule and continued our field trips, therapy homework and reading many books.
We continued to homeschool for 4th grade knowing the next year we would be relocated. Miles seemed to come to a stand still with his local therapies and they were not sure how to help him progress much further. I did not allow him to be dismissed from the therapies because his ABA & DAN Dr. said there was still quite a bit that he needed to improve upon within these therapies. Thankfully the local therapists agreed to continue treating him by looking into different strategies they could use. He was still seeing the Allergist 1x/week for shots, his health and behavior issues were still improving and he was enjoying homeschool, friends and church.
When our pet and Miles' best friend of 10yrs died it was a time of grieving which Miles became stuck and unable to process. He stated his world was without color, empty and nothing in it because everything is gone. Things that the dog had worn or were specifically his could not be thrown away or put into storage. It was at this stage we began researching Autism Service Dogs and he got approved to receive one after our upcoming relocation.
We were very blessed while stationed in this area because of all the hard work Miles, the therapist and Doctor's were doing was proving successful.
In 5th grade we moved to Kentucky and Miles received Marley, his Autism Service Dog. We decided to supplement Miles' 5th grade homeschooling of math and reading for 1:1 instruction in the public school. He would still be receiving private therapy through our insurance and I would still be home- schooling the other subjects.
Our hope was to give Miles a positive public school experience so he could slowly integrate back into the setting. He had finally overcome the negative impression the NY school had left and we felt this was the perfect opportunity at this stage.
Unfortunately we met with problems from day 1 beginning with their refusal to let Marley attend school alongside Miles. After getting the OK from the school district Marley was admitted and Miles began his 1hr of school. After a few months of successful attendance with no incidences we felt another 1hr could be added for math and writing. We wanted to increase his time and success by increments. This was a delicate balance agreed upon by his therapists and Doctor.
By our 3rd IEP meeting things were going downhill. We wanted to start adding therapies to the school day because it would keep him in the environment longer but we wanted the therapies recommended for children with Autism to receive. Once more we were told we would have to go to court to get anymore services other than what the other Autism students were receiving because Miles' individualized educational plan (IEP) didn't really matter.
Once more we were dealing with individuals who although they said were trained to deal with Autism were proving otherwise. Miles' Doctor intervened for us with the Army by writing a letter stating we should never have been relocated to this area due to a lack of services for Autism. By this point we were prayerfully searching the US for places where Miles could receive the best Autism services covered by our insurance. Eventually I located and spoke with service providers in Florida and we felt this was where God was leading us for Miles.
Miles continued homeschooling for 7th grade and full time therapies.
Miles' 8th grade year his therapists told us about a Charter School opening but it only went to 7th grade. Miles was really excited to begin making new friends and didn't care he would have to repeat the 7th grade at this school. Enrolling Miles was the best move we made for him! He made such huge gains socially. He was finally among peers with Autism, made lots of friends and even began playing basketball. Unfortunately this school proved unable to deal with so many children on the Autism spectrum and Miles began to regress educationally and behaviorally by 9th grade.
We decided to enroll Miles in a private school for children with IEP's where the McKay Scholarship pays for the majority of his education. He is excelling educationally and still enjoying basketball.
Since relocating we have been blessed to find a great church and make amazing friends. The blessings have been abundant since moving to Florida. Miles has had an AMAZING time at school and basketball with his friends.