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Why

Aspect often receives requests from parents who are educating their child on the autism spectrum at home about where to access appropriate educational resources and supports. These families report that they face difficulties in accessing educational materials and supports that meets the specific needs of their autistic child.
To enable Aspect to devise the most effective solutions for these families and their child, we wanted to first understand more about their experiences of home education, the reasons they decided to home educate, their long-term aspirations for their child and what support they require.

How can Aspect develop services and resources to support families who are educating their children on the spectrum at home?

The research

To provide the data for this study, sixty seven families with a child on the autism spectrum from metropolitan, regional and remote areas across Australia completed an online questionnaire.

What we found

The information from these parents provided valuable and rich insight into the home education experiences of families with a child on the autism spectrum.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Most children in home education were previously at a mainstream school (78%). Many families had tried different schools and negotiated with teachers and principals, but perceived that their child was not learning and was unhappy in the regular school environment. More than half of the parents said they had no alternatives available to them other than to home educate.
  • Reasons for choosing to educate their child at home were varied, including: bullying; the child’s mental health issues; school/parent relationship breakdown; limited school understanding about autism; Positive Behaviour Support plans not being implemented; individualised programs not working; physical environments at school that were inappropriate or unsafe; and lack of funding for additional support in the regular school environment.
  • While 36% of the parents reported their family being under increased stress as a result of the decision to home educate, a further 43% stated that family stress levels had decreased, and for 21% of families the household stress was unchanged. Sources of this stress that had resulted from home educating included: reduced family income; time management issues, having the dual role of parent and teacher, lack of respite from responsibility and an unrelenting workload; limited availability of resources; no support for managing challenging behaviours; and lack of social opportunities for their child.
  • Some parents were contemplating transitioning their child back to school, but most (76%) did not want their child to return to the problems they had faced. For some parents, transitioning back to school at a later stage was still an open discussion, as they realised that their child may wish to return to school at some time in the future

Making a difference

Based on the parents’ responses, Aspect Education is now developing a program of services and resources to support families who are educating their children on the spectrum at home. This includes tele-education services based on the Aspect Comprehensive Approach that will be delivered online with the support of Aspect education professionals to parents and their child, and programs to support a child’s transition back to school for those families who wish to explore this option.

Aspect research team

Dr Susan Bruck, ARCAP (Lead researchers)

Lara Cheney, Aspect Education

Started

2015

Ended

2017

Funding

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)

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