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  1. #1

    Default Explaining Politics to a 6th grade Autistic Child

    I am endeavoring to figure out how to teach election coverage to my son this fall. He is going to be in 6th grade.

    I cannot think of any political issues he will actually care about (even after it is explained) other than maybe net neutrality. I don't want to spoon feed him my opinions, and I want him to learn critical thinking skills. I don't necessarily expect him to attempt to have fully-formed opinions, but I would at least like him to think about how the issues of the day are relevant and why he should eventually care about them.

    Getting simplified sources for biographies will be very easy--but getting the right level of explanation for actual issues and party platforms is another matter entirely.

    I looked at the various sites for kids and so far have not been impressed. I think I am going to have to pick a handful of issues, do a simplified pro and con of each one, and then make a chart with each candidate's position.

    So far, I think maybe I will do immigration, health care, outlook on foreign affairs, taxes and I am not sure what else. I think social issues will be problematic, but I think somehow I should cover them, maybe as a way to teach the influence of religion on politics?

    I also do not know how to approach the obvious issues stemming from the type of campaign Donald Trump is running, in terms of nastiness and tone, without being obviously impartial. I don't know that it is even appropriate to be neutral on this, if that makes sense. I guess I could ask my son if this type of approach is professional and if there might be a better way he could express himself, and that would be OK. Part of learning social skills is frankly learning not to behave that way, and I think with an autistic child, being neutral is not really wise.

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    You know, I wouldn't discuss policy positions at that age. Because you're right, he probably won't care about those issues because they aren't part of his reality yet. The morals and values that you are passing to your son in everyday conversations will, most likely, end up in what his political views will be down the road anyway.

    I would definitely talk about the election process...primaries, caucuses, all states do it differently with their party, party convention, electoral college, how elections shape all three branches of government......but mostly as an overview, the basics....nothing too in depth. Don't forget talking about local elections and maybe attend a city council meeting.

    As for media, and critical thinking. THAT is the big one. In general, when my kids were little, whenever the TV was on, I would regularly ask them, "What are they selling you now? What's the message?" and expect an answer. When a show is on I ask them to guess what kind of commercials they are likely to see, and why. And when watching the news (being teenagers now) they know very well which parent corp owns which news corps and which slant they have. The most important thing I want them to know is that the media can be useful, but these days you really have a responsibility to know the source and it's motive. Eyes open. But it's a process.

    At 6th grade, your son will have another presidential election when he is high school age. Cover more then.
    Homeschooling two sons (14 and 16) from day one. Atheist.
    Eclectic, Slackschooler covering 8th and 10th grades this year.

  4. #3


    We used the Oak Meadow's 8th grade Civics book this year for our social studies. It has just the right amount of reading. We didn't do many of the assignments, I just used the readings for a kick off into some of the concepts. It covers the government system at a middle school level, talks about the different branches of government, the constitution, bill of rights, voting rights, state vs federal gov. It worked well for my then 13 year old who is a reluctant reader and writer. I didn't do all of the chapters but it really got him interested in a lot of things.

    Civics 8
    Mom to two boys
    14 year old/9th grade homeschooler
    Non homeschooled son heading to Reed College this fall, and proudly wearing his Reed/Atheist t-shirt.

    I spend a lot of time sitting in an ice skating rink - still

  5. #4


    See if this helps a bit:
    My daughter did it in school and thought it was interesting and fun enough. I don't think the online courses use real candidates, but it does explain how things work and there are teacher lesson plans that may give you further ideas. It's free and the student section is self guided, I think. You might need to set up a dashboard for him. She'll soon be a homeschooled fifth grader, so this may be a little young if he's in sixth now, but it's not too childish, IMO.

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Explaining Politics to a 6th grade Autistic Child