Yes, I Unschool My Autistic Child

When people find out that my autistic child is unschooled, I get a look of serious concern that says “Oh my! That woman is not benefiting her children!” Some people have even suggested that Child Protective Services should step in, and at one point they did. I still have my children, and they are still unschooled.


Our choice (errr, my choice initially) to unschool was a drastic move from our regimented down-to-the-second homeschooling schedule. I could go on for days as to why we have done it. But I will keep it pretty simple and give you just one example today:

My now nine-year-old son was soooo very attached to our schedule that any deviance would leave him “out of sorts” for around two weeks. This became alarming to me when I thought of his future. As an adult he will on occasion have to be on someone else’s schedule, not his own (work, recreation, babies coming…).


I can say that this “experiment” has made some fabulous leaps in his social flexibility. We are taking a last-minute trip tomorrow, and he is elated. A few years ago we would have had to schedule it and remind him about five times daily.


So yes, I proudly say “I unschool my autistic child.”  And he has benefited from it.


~ Anita

About: Anita AKA Button

Wife, momma and crafting artist. Unschooling advocate for special needs kids and blogger at Oh What a Spectacle.


  1. Danielle says:

    You raise a wonderful point, Button. There are myriad benefits to this lifestyle that have nothing to do with academic, schooly stuff. Learning to go with the flow, especially for a child with autism, is a huge thing! Congratulations!

  2. Jessica says:

    I think this is interesting. Many people might think it’s best for a child with this need to mold the family to fit that need, with a highly structured, environment. But I love how this actually freed him up to help overcome the issue.

  3. Pam says:

    I too unschool my now 13yo autistic child. Not only has it done wonders for helping him live a real life in the real world (as opposed to a limited and programmed life in an artificially constructed and manipulated world), but it has also helped him grow and develop as the whole person that he is, instead of trying to shape him into someone (or something) that others think he should be. Unschooling allows him to learn what he wants and needs to learn to live the fullest and richest life possible, at the pace where his learning is maximized, while doing the most to respect him as a whole person, rather than treating him like a problem, or a project, or a product. Unschooling him has rubbed off, and we now unschool our other three children as well (who are also thriving in living real lives in the real world as whole persons).

    • Sherrylynn59 says:

      I am so grateful for your response! I’ve been homeschooling my 13yo high functioning son with autism for about 3 years now, various programs. I’m at the point where the traditional, regimented schedule is NOT working for us. Also, I work part-time, 7am-1pm, so I have to deal with him after work, and so many days, he’s ready be finished by 2:30. My son allows for flexibiity in his routine, but I’m afraid that if I change the method now, he’ll hate school worse than he already does! How do I implement a change over to unschooling? Incrementally or just throw out the schedule on Monday? I’m in PA, so for the most part, meeting state requirements for a child with special needs isn’t a concern. The problem is that I want my son to grow up to be a productive contributor to society. Will unschooling leave serious gaps in his learning? I’m still schooling myself on the topic of unschooling and have come here looking for help. Thank so much for any assistance! God bless!

  4. I too unschool my child who is on the autism spectrum. He just does better that way. He is interested in so much, and has learned a lot about respecting his own needs but also those of the other members of the family. While we have routines, he has created his own structure to each day, and is now flexible enough to handle all the little changes and opportunities that come along. I’ve seen him flourish so much since i decided to unschool him. God’s put some amazing things in his heart and mind, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with it.

  5. Carma says:

    SOOO true! I have one on the spectrum too. I think being at home is what is best for them, learning to deal with life’s little curve balls! I also think the forced unrelenting social aspect of schools drives some children on the spectrum further into antisocial behaviors, where allowing them the freedom to choose when and how much they socialize results in more (and more pleasant) interactions.

    • Joan says:

      SO true. Our 12-year-old daughter is on the spectrum and she is just a completely different person since she got out of public middle school. There, she was inflexible in a way that was painful (when the schedule changed for a 2-hour delay, and the periods were shortened, she didn’t want to leave the classroom!) At home, BECAUSE we’re not on such a regimented schedule, she’s better able to adapt. We do try to make it a point to do things if we say we’re going to do them, because it does help, but what we’re finding is that if we don’t overplan, she doesn’t over-fixate on what to expect. It’s been amazing. She likes to learn now… maybe not what “other kids” her age would like to learn, but so what? Now she can really show off all the things that make her great and wonderful and (in my selfish mom opinion) BETTER than so many other kids, rather than being forced to “work on” all her “weak spots” – heavy sarcasm there for the school IEP!

      Was a blessing to read this today.

  6. Thank you for the wonderful feedback. I intend on sharing more on the different aspects of unschooling and special needs.

  7. Nicole says:

    Anita! This is GREAT, so great. I have and ADHD child with sensory processing disorder and a son with SPD too as well as i’m sure soon to be diagnosed ADHD child, too but with other underlining issues as well. (oh yes he also has an agressive/disruptive disorder)

    I am a mom with ADD and I’m homechooling my little ones. As you can imagine trying to fit myself into all the expectation of how I am supposed to be and how structures I am supposed to run our home is insane! literally.

    I am only just now beginning to see if it is at all possible for me to run the home with freedom. peace and sanity within freedom…

  8. Julie says:

    I am so glad I found your blog. I have at least 2, possibly 3, children with Asperger’s and one with ADHD and we unschool. This thread of comments has been such an encouragement to me. I have read so much material about “the best way to educate an autistic child” and have realized that it only applies if they are in school. At home, I thought “how will my children ever learn how to schedule their own time, how to be flexible, how to get along with others if I implement the ideas of professionals?” Their siblings provide a daily social skills group and they all respect when each other needs some time alone (don’t we all?). I have found that lots of hugs and time together has helped a great deal with aggressive tantrums. It is so much more effective to provide the information and tools at the moment they are needed and wanted than it would be if they went to once a week “therapy” sessions.
    The best thing I have found is to stop reading all the literature and just really BE with my children, trusting God with their futures and loving them unconditionally.

    • I am glad you found this blog as well. It’s not always easy to have an Autistic child at home, but far easier then submitting to a school. Children learn as they grown and also learn to adapt themselves when they can.

  9. paulino quevedo says:

    Could you please give me advice? I was refused ABA and can’t get anything else any time soon. Since my son is now out of school I am pushed into unschooling by circumstance. It is impossible to get him to do much work beyond a few minutes unless it is an app which he likes to do. I really hoped unschooling him would change his aggression but he still hits me and it is enough that I am scared of him and he is only 8. I tried medicine and it does not work, it just makes him worse. So I feel stuck. I have done everything I can for him and continue to teach him how to communicate in natural, non-intrusive ways but I don’t know what to do. He has been out of school since June and it is almost November. I thought he would appreciate not having to be forced to go to school.

  10. charlotte quevedo says:

    I posted my previous comment and now have an update. Things have gotten way better around here and I have continued to unschool my son despite that he was aggressive. I did it anyway and now his aggression is rare and he is a lot happier. I finally have hope for a bright future again and feel like the good results have barely began. My son teaches himself to play the piano and read, he likes to watch Blue’s Clues and lay on the floor with a blanket. I started even allowing foods that I normally restricted and now my son has chosen for himself to eat blueberries and wild salmon jerky (home made) all day. There are some modifications I have to make to the philosophy to help my son but in general as the default rule I am unschooling him and he is happy with it. I also am unschooling my 3 yo daughter and she is actually ahead academically if she were compared to kids in preschool, but I don’t deal with tests or grades I just let her do what she wants, as long as what my kids want is ok for the other and us.

  11. Button here, I am so sorry I have been off the radar. Update coming soon.

Leave a Reply