The Magic of Radical Unschooling and Autism Acceptance

This is a guest post by Carys O’Sullivan.

Wow, it’s been a journey. An incredible ride of emotions and letting go and learning and epiphanies and quite a few paradigm shifts! Radical unschooling feels so normal to us now that I don’t even think of it in terms of those words – we’re just living life and enjoying each other! And I suppose that I have created a little bubble of safe, similarly minded friendships, so that the other way that a lot of people do life seems quite foreign, and sometimes shocking, to me.

I didn’t know what being autistic meant before I discovered radical unschooling, but learning about neurodiversity and challenging my internal ableism has led me even closer to a fulfilling, deep relationship with my child. Accepting and celebrating her autistic self has brought an even deeper appreciation for how awesome my child is, and reaffirmed that I shouldn’t be bending to societal pressures to change her.

Leading a radical unschooling life has given our family the opportunity to be responsive to our daughter’s needs with the freedom of time and space to explore life and let our child’s natural learning unfold.

What does our life radical unschooling with our autistic child look like?

It’s midnight pancakes with exactly the right amounts of each topping.

It’s accepting the days when she wants to change her clothes every thirty minutes. Or wants to wear the same pyjamas for days in a row (cos, y’know, they’re super comfortable!).

It’s respecting that hair cuts and nail trims hurt her and only doing them when she wants to.

It’s ensuring each different food is served on a separate small plate and that each type of food is prepared to the exact, preferred texture, temperature, flavour. Made with love and gratitude that we can help her feel respected and loved by us noticing and accommodating her preferences.

It’s joyful cuddles and playful rumbles.

It’s co-sleeping for as long as our child needs to.

It’s diving deep into our child’s interests with her.

It’s favourite youtube videos on repeat.

It’s not worrying about combing hair.

It’s acceptance and accommodation of her sensory needs, even when they might initially seem inconvenient or strange to us.

It’s sleep-ins and cuddles in bed and no rushing around to get to activities.

It’s enjoying the freedom of an unscheduled and unhurried life, able to respond to our child’s needs in any given moment.

It’s trying social stuff and not ‘persevering’ or pressuring her to return when our child indicates she’s not comfortable there.

It’s going out for an event we were looking forward to, then suddenly returning home when it gets too hot, cold, windy, noisy or overwhelming, and enjoying our time together at home instead.

It’s supporting and facilitating our child’s natural learning by giving her an environment and resources in response to her interests, and by giving her the time and space to explore at her leisure.

We love radical unschooling. It’s a pefect fit for autistic children and all children. I hope you’ll join us!

5 replies
  1. Colleen Knutsen
    Colleen Knutsen says:

    Yes! Thank you. This is our journey with our daughter as well. It is so encouraging to read this. Thanks. This gives me renewed love in my heart.

  2. Deborah Sale-Butler
    Deborah Sale-Butler says:

    We are on an unschooling autism journey too. Yes, it is the best life for all of us. I’ve been blogging about it since we began and it sounds like we’ve had some similar experiences. I hope more parents dare to let their children be who they are and learn to love spending time with the amazing people they become.

  3. Becca
    Becca says:

    Oh goodness, yes. We are new to unschooling(Feb ’17) and finding a groove that settles well. What a relief. Our daughter is 12 and 2e. How I wish I would’ve allowed her to jump the standard track or never started down the school path! I often wonder where her brain would’ve taken us if it could’ve been more free to work how it needed. *sigh* Blessed to have found you, blessed to be here NOW.


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