There is a serious misconception that homeschooling is not a viable option when your child has special needs. Moreover, there is also a perception that a child with special needs, is missing out on valuable therapies and resources when they are not a part of the school system. Today, I want to debunk some of those special needs homeschooling myths.
Homeschooling with Special Needs
We have been homeschooling now for five years. We began before we had a single diagnosis for either of my boys, largely because school was a very difficult place for my oldest son. (Think sensory overload and bullying, mixed with a healthy dose of anxiety and you have an idea of what it was like for him every day – not good.)
A year after we began homeschooling, he was diagnosed with autism and generalized anxiety disorder. A year later, we learned his younger brother is profoundly dyslexic and has ADHD.
In both instances, I was asked if, now that we had the diagnoses, I would be putting the boys back in school. There was an assumption that because my children now had identified “special needs”, we would need the “experts” to take over their education.
The truth is, although I was a little overwhelmed with all the needs, I also felt even more certain that a typical school environment would not accommodate my children’s learning differences.
Myth #1 – You Need Special Training and Qualifications
Every single mom I know with unique little ones like mine is an expert. I say this with complete confidence. We read more books, learn more online, ask more questions and try to piece together answers for our children beyond what the school system can provide.
Children with special needs, whether in school or not, rely on their parents to be their most passionate advocates. This is true in IEP meetings, doctors’ appointments, therapists’ offices, and parent-teacher conferences, without fail. It is also true in homeschooling.
I know my boys better than anyone else on the planet. I know what works and what doesn’t work when my oldest did not sleep and was anxious all night long. I know how difficult the last set of sight words were for my youngest, and can take the time to research the best way to help him proceed. I have the time and the passion that would be unrealistic to expect from anyone else.
As far as the legality? Some states do require a little more oversight, but all allow parents to choose to homeschool their children, no matter what the diagnosis. I have some education and training, but it is not necessary or required.
Myth #2 – A Special Education Classroom Is Better Suited to Handle A Child’s Differences
I actually went to school to be a special education teacher back in the day. I did my student teaching in special education classrooms. I studied book upon book about individualized learning plans, IEP’s, education law, and classroom management.
As a result, I know a little more than some about the education my children could expect to receive in a special needs classroom. I also know that for my two guys, there is no way that would be an option.
Both of my children have genius-level IQs but also have serious education deficits. This asynchrony (also called ‘twice exceptional’) makes classroom placement difficult. For example, at home, my dyslexic nine-year-old is reading at a 1st to 2nd-grade level but is completing 7th-grade level science and history. This would be impossible to replicate in a school environment.
The reality is that as much as school district IEP’s (individualized education plans) seek to focus on a child as an individual, once that same child is in a classroom with other competing special needs, it is difficult to meet the plan’s objectives.
This was certainly my experience as a teacher. It has also been my experience as a homeschooling mom of two children with unique needs. I feel like meeting both of my boy’s special educational needs, is near impossible some days – and there are only two of them! Imagine them both in a classroom of at least 10-15 other children.
Myth #3 – Your Child Will Suffer Without School Interventions and Therapies
My children do have access to therapists and use outside resources (boy do they). My youngest saw an educational therapist for a year to help lay the groundwork for reading. In addition, I met with her once a month and she taught me the methods she used with him, so that I could replicate them at home. The same is true for occupational therapy and social skills therapies for my oldest.
We are by no means doing this alone, and have plenty of experts helping to speak into my children’s overall development. A bonus is that many of these therapists are booked solid after 3PM, for children they see in the school system. I have found many of our professional support people are able to meet with us faster and for a longer period of time, because we can be so flexible with appointment times.
Myth #4 – Socialization Is a Major Problem
Every single homeschooler will probably have to answer the socialization question at least once in their children’s educational years. This is doubly true when your children have special needs that affect social development.
I care deeply about my children’s education. I have put a lot of thought into this. What I have found is that homeschooling is the best way to give them what they need to be successful in life. This is true academically, but even more so socially.
We have a supportive and loving community of friends who also homeschool. My children benefit from the opportunity to make friends in their own time and at their own pace, as much as they benefit from progressing academically at their own pace.
Homeschooling actually gives them a social experience that makes sense for their needs.
The longer we do this, the more progress I see, and the more I learn that I am perfectly qualified to homeschool my children with special needs.
Please, let me encourage you – you are just as qualified, just as capable, and just as likely to succeed in homeschooling your child with special needs.