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Preparing for a Successful Homeschool Experience: Behavior Management

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Preparing for a Successful Homeschool Experience:

Behavior Management for Your Child with ASD

by Jeanne Mifflin

Autism Asperger’s Digest  September 2012 Online Article


Your homeschooling “classroom” is perfectly organized, filled with colorful materials and posters, you have a carefully worded list of rules posted on the wall, a full-year curriculum sits on your desk. It’s the first day of homeschooling and you place a coloring sheet and crayon in front of your seated child on a supply-laden well-lit worktable. Your child pops the crayon in two, fists the paper into a ball, and then tears it apart into pieces screaming, “You’re not a real teacher!” This article will give you behavior tips to achieve your “First Day of Homeschooling.”

Prepping for Behavior Success

For several weeks before you begin homeschooling, start recording the types of behavior problems you have with your child and when they’re likely to occur. For example, task avoidance is a typical issue for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Even though I don’t recommend that you try to homeschool before it officially starts, a tantrum can happen over as simple an issue as hanging up a coat on a hook.

For a full week gather the following information: type of behavior, date/time, situation, parent reaction. It’s important to do so for a full week so that you can include weekend and outings behavior. My son was so surprised by my strange “writing-down” reaction to his behavior that it seemed to give me a little reprieve from his colorful histrionics.

The number one problem you will be looking for (as you analyze the patterns of behavior on both sides) is where you reinforce bad behavior by your reactions. For example, your giving up is a great way to reinforce the very behavior you don’t want. Letting your child watch TV, in addition to your giving up, sets up a tantruming lifestyle for your child. He knows the routine—as soon as he sees you starting to get frustrated, he’ll push harder because he knows that it’s the first step toward your giving up and letting him get his way.

Look over your list and plan specific alternative behaviors for yourself. You will probably have to carry your list around for a few weeks until you have new habits of responding. For example, you can say something like, “The length of TV and computer time equals reading time. Fifteen minutes of reading equals fifteen minutes of TV or computer time.” Yes, your child will probably hate this idea. Expect tantrums. If you’re going to have to deal with rock-and-roll tantrums anyway, at least let them happen on your terms, not his.

Creating Homeschooling Harmony:

Structure and Routine

You can either plan for a successful experience for both you and your child, or you can plan on dealing with multiple tantrums and much frustration on both sides. Even with excellent planning, it’s still going to be rough going at first. The following are a few of the most helpful ways I found to create structure and routine for my son during our homeschooling experience:

Homeschooling Schedule. Post the schedule for school subjects—reading, language arts, math, science and social studies—as well as household chores for the week for both you and your child.

Consistent Wake-up and Bedtimes. Plan out wake-up and bedtimes, and follow them!

Meals. Plan two weeks’ worth of menus and start freezing prepared meals a few weeks before school starts. You are going to be broadsided for the first few weeks of school. You can get away with prepared foods for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.

Extracurricular Activities. Remember to work in church, Scouting, athletics, clubs, other regular activities, and field trips to your homeschooling plan.

Errands and Chores. Don’t forget grocery shopping and laundry!

Stick with your program, but use common sense and flexibility when you reach an impasse. Try to offer a way out for your child when things get tough. Rather than give in to a tantrum, a comment like “You did such a good job on math today” can smooth things out. Every day try to impose your structure on your “student” a little more and, after a couple of weeks, you will be delighted to see that you are in control of the educational setting.


Jeanne Mifflin began homeschooling to help her son who has autism develop self-reliance and self-control. He learned at an accelerated rate and now successfully attends public middle school at grade level. Jeanne is the author of Achieving Brilliance at Home: How to Teach Your Child Almost Anything, which is available on Amazon. Visit her website at www.JeanneMifflin.com.


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  1. This is a GREAT practical article on organizing for success in home schooling. Children love security and this is built through structure. Our children need to know they can depend on us to react logically and reasonably, even if they don’t like the answers we give them. Frequent breaks in the schedule are essential, especially for young boys. The need for energetic outbursts is just as mandatory as the need for math. Being flexible might include naps for days when the family has been out too late the night before. However, home schooling is so rewarding that it is WORTH the effort of adjusting the schedule and even having a little math “homework” to be completed after dinner if you chose to go for a walk on a nice fall afternoon. Looking forward to the new book!