Unfortunately, many parents who have children with special needs think that they are completely incapable of homeschooling their children. It’s an excuse I’ve heard a million times if I’ve heard it once. The truth is, you can homeschool your special needs child just as easily as you can homeschool a child without special needs. The fact still remains, you know your child better than anyone else. When disabilities are involved, this is actually truer with these children than with those who have no disability.
It’s also often mentioned that special services are offered through the school that your child wouldn’t receive otherwise, but again, this is not entirely true. We’ll dive into that a bit deeper later on. Just remember that you have every right to homeschool all your children and when you do, you’ll see the monumental progression that results. It may take a bit more research (and WE can help with that), but isn’t your child worth it?
Special Needs Acknowledged by Public Schools
Aside from physical disabilities, some of the mental disabilities that are acknowledged by public schools include autism, Asperger's syndrome, and ADD/ADHD, just to name a few. In order to receive special education services in public school, two requirements MUST be met:
- The child must have a disability that is both documented (by a physician or psychiatrist), AND covered by the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This is a federal law that each and every state school must comply with and covers children ages 3 to 21.
- The child must only be able to access the general education curriculum only via special education classes and helps.
Public schools must utilize the LRE (least restrictive environment) to provide services that must include assistive technology, accommodations, modifications, and paraprofessionals such as teacher’s aides. The IEP (Individualized Education Program) outlines all the needs of the special-needs child and a group meeting is held after initial evaluations are completed. Every special-needs child that attends public school must have an IEP in place.
Advantages of Homeschooling Your Special Needs Child
Even in what is considered the Least Restrictive Environment, a special needs child is often left floundering. And sadly, many times this goes completely unnoticed because public schools often don’t know exactly what your child is capable of in the first place! Homeschooling allows you to focus on strengths you know your child has without having to go through needless busywork and testing. You can even play on what the public-school environment would consider a “problem.” For instance, if your child obsesses on puppies or stuffed animals, you can always implement that into Unit Studies, Lapbooks, or other teaching resources that will really help them to focus and therefore retain the information presented.
Making Up for Lost Time
Anyone with a disabled child knows that doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, playgroups, support group meetings, and SO MUCH more are a common occurrence. Of course, all of these absences are “excused” from the public-school calendar, but what about the classroom instruction? Once it’s all added up, your child will have missed a massive portion of materials that they just can’t get back. And more often than not, many schools just pass the child over anyway to avoid having to go back.
A perfect example is my own son, who constantly spelled his spelling words wrong on test day. I started to notice that the tests were marked “perfect” anyway, with a “100%” right on the top. When I inquired about this, I was told that since he was spelling the word phonetically correct, they were counting it as correct. But it was the part they added next that solidified my decision to homeschool: “Since that’s really all we can expect from him in the first place.” I didn’t know whether to be angry or sad, but in reality, I was very much both. My son COULD be expected to do better. As a matter of fact, that’s just what he did!
You’ll find out, it’s much easier to maneuver around these appointments with homeschool and never miss an important lesson. Sometimes, you can even turn your outings into field trips and other lessons to go along with what you’re working on at home, as is the beauty of homeschooling.
Positive Social Interactions
One of the biggest reasons to homeschool a special-needs child, in my opinion, is for a better social experience. The special needs environment is supposed to be all-inclusive and you would expect the children would be civil to one another, but that isn’t always the case. Many times, the bullying that goes on in these situations can be far worse than what “normal” children have to go through. Of course, each case is different, but homeschooling means that all the positive interactions your child can have over the course of a day, a week, or even the entire school year, can lead to increased self-acceptance, stronger bonds with friends and family, and a massive decrease in anxiety created by negative social settings.
One-on-one instruction is something every special-needs child can benefit from, but it is almost nonexistent in the public-school setting. Homeschooling offers unlimited one-on-one time and for some children, it can make ALL the difference! As both teacher and one-on-one tutor, you have the upper hand of knowing exactly what your child needs to work on, what they’ve already mastered, and what they’ll need to prepare for in the days ahead.
For some children, adhering to one specific learning approach or instruction style can become so monotonous, they simply shut down. In homeschooling, you can utilize any means necessary to keep your child engaged, excited about learning, and always moving forward. Maybe math and a game of jump rope could go together. Or counting with beans. They might enjoy the experience of an old-fashioned chalkboard to write out spelling words or even create a variety of hands-on resources for those with sensory issues. The possibilities here are endless, so let your imagination run wild. (Or just check Pinterest!)
Disadvantages of Homeschooling Your Special Needs Child
Many of the disadvantages you might hear spoken of with regard to homeschooling a special needs child don’t really exist at all, especially for the well-researched parent. However, if I had to list one that was of the utmost importance, it would be taking care of yourself.
It takes a lot of time to homeschool any child, and for special-needs parents, that can include the parts often played, in public school, by a wide variety of school personnel. There, the child is juggled among teachers, aides, therapists, counselors, and many others. Doing it all yourself can sometimes be mentally and physically exhausting. In all your planning, make sure that you take at least some time to set aside for yourself, if possible. If you can’t get alone, at least have some free time where the both of you can simply BE, without any stressors.
Depending on how busy your lifestyle is, you might also have the disadvantage of not being able to provide a daily routine that is completely structured. You might have other children, you might work from home, or there could be many other things that will disrupt your “routine” from time to time. On the other hand, some special needs children might be able to make much better use of those “breaks” and do astonishingly well as a result.
Making the Most of Your Special Needs Homeschool
The reward that comes from homeschooling your special needs child will be well worth the effort you put into making it everything that it can be. With just a little tailoring, you can cover all the necessary bases without missing a beat, and wind up with a much better scenario.
You can start by making your child’s IEP yourself. It doesn’t have to be just a public-school resource when you’re just as capable of creating the process yourself, without too much unnecessary intervention. It’s easy to find the resources and free printables to do everything necessary to monitor your child’s short and long-term goals. Better still, it can really help you stay on track, and can even create a guide for planning your curriculum for the year.
It’s also important to make sure that you’re willing to create challenges when necessary. But you have to recognize the difference between a challenge that will push them to do their very best and frustrating them so much they want to give up. Challenges should be fun, engaging, and should bring about the expected response before it’s over. Don’t create a challenge that takes days or weeks to accomplish success.
Remember that when your special needs child needs a break, let them have it. Of course, I don’t mean if they’re just manipulating in order to get one, but then, you’ll know if that happens. Breaks are often a very necessary aspect of school for the special-needs child, especially if they have sensory issues relating to autism. I remember hearing an autistic man speak, some years ago, and he described how the color yellow hurt. He talked about how being left in an environment with lots of yellows would eventually cause him to shut down and his vision would become dark as if he could only see shadows. Especially for non-verbal students, we don’t always get to see things from their side. But we can learn to watch for clues and cues that say they just can’t handle any more of what’s going on.
Important Resources for Your Special Needs Child
There are lots of things your child can do from the comfort of their own home. However, certain enrichment activities can help both you and your child. Special needs sports teams, Special Olympics programs, dance classes, and martial arts classes are just a few of the ways you could involve your child in activities they will get great enjoyment from while working on their physical needs as well. It can even be a bit of a respite for you.
You can also look into a variety of camp activities for special needs children. Nearly every camp has at least one during the year, dedicated to disabled children. You can choose from church or Christian camps, or secular camp programs, but they should all offer some amazing activities and enrichment for your child. Again, this is also a really good time for parents to rejuvenate themselves.
It wouldn’t hurt to take advantage of some specialized training for yourself and others in your household, in CPR and first aid. Not only is this generally helpful in any life situation, but it can also be very important when you have a special needs child. While it certainly is not necessary to be certified to homeschool, it’s always a good idea to know these procedures.
It’s important to remember that you are just as capable of homeschooling your special needs child than anyone. Research and planning play key roles in preparing to do so, but so does talking with others who have already done it. And that’s where Great Homeschool Conventions can help!
With our hundreds of workshops, speakers, vendors, resources, and homeschooling parents in attendance, you’ll have access to everything you could ever need to make your homeschooling endeavor a complete success. Choose the regional convention nearest you and come see for yourself what a difference our Great Homeschooling Conventions can make in the lives of homeschoolers!
We know that there are some families who have to travel farther than others. To make the experience even better for you, we offer hotel discounts, military discounts, and active clergy members are admitted free.
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And remember, our Great Homeschool Conventions are: Equipping… Encouraging… FUN!