Q&A Friday: Is Homeschooling Best for a Child with Special Needs?

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Making the decision to homeschool can be challenging enough even in the best of circumstances, but add in other factors like special needs, and it can really become a source of worry for potential homeschooling parents.

I’m familiar with these concerns and insecurities; my daughter has a visual impairment as well as special social and emotional needs. Before she joined our family (at the age of four), I read online about fellow adoptive parents who had successfully homeschooled their blind daughter. It was just the encouragement I needed at just the right time–it made me think that homeschooling was not only possible, but that it could be the preferred situation for a child with special needs.

Recently I received this email from a Simple Homeschool reader, asking for our help:

“I would love to homeschool, but my daughter has autism. I worry that she will not learn the social skills necessary to be a successful adult at home.

Please know that this is a different question than the cliche socialization questions many homeschoolers receive, rather this involves a child who doesn’t know how to socialize and would often rather be in her own world than join her peers.

I’d love to hear from other parents who have homeschooled their children with special needs and found it to be a positive experience for their children and for themselves.”

I know many of you out there reading today have personal experience on this issue. Although the exact needs may vary, homeschooling parents of special needs kids share a connection.

We’re kindred spirits, in a way–navigating a path that isn’t often traveled. We have a lot to offer each other, which leads to our question for the day:

Do you have experience choosing to homeschool a child with special needs? If so, what has your journey (& your child’s) been like? What have been the challenges and the joys involved? What would you tell someone considering this path?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. what a timely post!!! i was just introduced to your blog via a friend about a day or two ago- i have a daughter with autism who is set to enter developmental kindergarten in the public schools- and i am having SERIOUS second thoughts about that. i am thinking of taking her out of public school and homeschooling her- but my concern is the same as the person who asked the question- it is hard enough already for her to have social interactions and learn appropriate peer behavior- so i just don’t want to take her out of a system that might be beneficial to her- especially since there are so many resources at the public school that can help her (therapists paid for by the school (right now we pay out of pocket for home therapy), as well as her peer interactions)…

    so i guess i will just check back to see what others say. if anyone has something helpful for me specifically perhaps they could leave a comment on my blog? it is linked through my name…(this is not to ask for people to visit my blog- i am just looking for answers because i feel so in over my head and on the fence on whether or not to homeschool- i find it all quite overwhelming- but this blog is inspiring me)…

    thanks!

    -Erika

  2. Jenna Burns says:

    My son is 6 and is PDD-NOS– he can strike up a conversation with anyone he pleases and is very well mannered. He chooses to not talk to children his own age. he says they are mean. I home school Nolan and while there are many frustrating moments there are more rewards then not. We are ahead in some areas and behind in others.. well, maybe in home school terms we just haven’t got there yet. It takes a while to get the rhythm down but it happens and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  3. Kama Ogden says:

    My daughter is diagnosed Socially Emotionally delayed. She is verbal but has a lot of autistic traits. She could start kindy this year but we are holding her back even from home schooling. I want to give her another year to be a kid. It’s really go go go for us humans from the time we go to school on. One more year I wish I would have held my sons back too now. Just one more year to be a kid.

    That said we plan to home school next year. I think that home with just me and my daughter during the day will be perfect for her. She learns best when she is calm and relaxed something she will never be in a classroom.

    That and I have worked off and on and I have never been in a situation where I have to sit side by side with 20- 30 other people all the same age as me except for school. Why does a child have to have that socialization? It isn’t normal even in our modern society. Everyone says they need that but I just can’t for the life of me see why. Everyone knows smaller class size is better.

    • I love your desire to allow her to be a kid, I’d like to encourage you to continue on it that vein even once you start “homeschooling”. My son is 4.5 and I just checked him against the Ontario Curriculum requirements and apparently we have completed SK already which he should just be starting this year. He also has learned some of the Gr.1 curriculum. I have done no formal education other than some workbooks that like all his other toys are accessible to him for fun. We spend a lot of time in nature, a lot of time walking around and talking about whatever comes up. We bake, we (at his request) do builiding projects and he helps me with all of my house work during the day. Through these natural activities and without all the coercion sometimes needed to get kids to “learn” he has learned the language and math skills expected as well as the social skills. Best blessings for your journey.

  4. The very reason I am homeschooling my seven year old this year is because of her special needs. She isn’t officially diagnosed with anything but has pretty intense anxiety as well as social and behavioral issues.
    It is amazing to me the variety of advice I get on this, all the way from “it’s the best thing you can do for her!” to “that is a terrible idea, she needs to be in school where she is going to learn this stuff.” I hope to god I have set up this year with the right mix of a small homeschool group that she will go to twice weekly and time with me to work on some of her difficulties. This year will be truly an experiment for all of us.
    Obviously my heart says this is right, and my daughter is excited, but I do worry a great deal that I am not making the right choices for her. Of course, I would worry if she was in school, too!

  5. Not quite the same, but my daughter was born with a hearing impairment that went undiagnosed until I demanded a hearing test for my non-talking two year old. We were able to fix her impairment, but the time with limited hearing has impacted her speech. I was told her language impairment was severe and to sign her up for speech therapy. I did as I was told. Her first therapist was horrible, with expectations that were not developmentally appropriate. Her second therapist in five months was good, but undevoted. She would miss half her appointments. I decided not to try a third, but to work with her myself. I have an extensive early-childhood background, although no speech background. It does make me nervous. I want to do the best for my child. Right now, she is making great progress. If her progress ever halts or she asks for more assistance, we will try formal therapy again. For now, “homeschooling” therapy seems to be working.

  6. My son has Aspergers. Originally he went to public school, through to the end of grade 2. Although his teachers were very nice, I found that they didn’t always have time to focus on the extra help he needed as they had twenty nine other kids in the class and he didn’t qualify for a teachers aide. Socially he was awkward in school, but again, nothing was done to foster friendships. It was almost as if they were checking the boxes – yes, he’s in school, so he’s socialised, check. Anyway, come grade two my son turned into a different child. He started crying on the way to school, would have major meltdowns when he returned home and started talking about killing himself :-0 it turned out he was being bullied. The schools answer to this was to keep my son in at recess. It was as if they were afraid of dealing with the bully. I ended up pulling him from school a few months before grade 2 ended. We started homeschooling and within a few weeks I had a different child living in my house. Obviously we still have meltdowns, but they are less infrequent (as they were before he began public school). He is a happy kid and is now going into grade 7. Homeschool works for him at this time. He has expressed a wish to try school again, so I think we will try out grade 9 (hopefully missing the nastiness of junior high). If that doesn’t work out for him then we’ll just go back to Homeschool. Friendship wise he struggles. He always joins a club and is a little quirky with kids. I actually think kids should be taught in school about special needs so that they can understand the traits that some kids display. He has two really good friends and I think that is enough for him, as he is quite an introvert. Do I worry for the future, yes and no! My son is now 12, he has made huge leap over the past few years and I’m so proud of him. When he was 6, if you’d told me he would be the boy he is now, at 12, I would have been thrilled. Therefore, I have to trust that all will be well in the future for him.

    My daughter on the other hand is a different story! I pulled her from school in grade 1 as she was really struggling with reading, to the point that she would cry if you brought a book near her. We spent the next year just building up her confidence before we touched phonics again! Now, just beginning grade 5, she is a grade behind in LA. My plan, right now, is to keep her home until the end of grade 5, and then to send her to school for grade 6. She is a real extrovert and craves being around other kids, to the point that I can’t maintain. The Homeschool community here is small, so once the kids go back to school she will be yearning again. She belongs to clubs and we go to church, but that isn’t enough for her! Again, I’ll probably put her in and if it doesn’t work out then we’ll H/S again.

    If I could go back in time and choose again if I would Homeschool – yes, I would, it’s worked out for my kids and really helped them. They are individual people who don’t follow the crowd. People are always impressed with the things they know too and I think to myself “don’t they teach that in school?”
    Lyn H’s latest post: With – Book Review

  7. My son turns 4 in few weeks and was diagnosed with Autism in January. Right now I consider myself a co-schooler. He goes to developmental preschool three days a week for 2 and a half hours. He has two private therapists who come once a week (for a total of 1 1/2 hours of therapy). I do his therapy everyday with him, along with teaching him pre-learning skills. He has the verbal abilities of an 18 month old, although he’s learning more everyday!

    Our goal in his education (and his brother’s education) is to do what’s best for him. Right now, what’s best for him is a few hours a week at the public school. He’s in a class with other special needs kids with various needs and disabilities. They help push him not to stay locked in his world. This isn’t simply socialization, this is necessary for him. I’m not worried about socialization. He will likely always live at home.

    One of the reasons I send him to preschool is so that his older brother and I have time to do his school. Our youngest requires constant attention. He has no fear and will climb everything in the house. He’s a sensory seeker–always needing more stimulation. As he matures and learns, we hope to be able to homeschool full time (hopefully starting at kindergarten).

    This is a deeply personal decision that can only be made through prayer and communication with the entire family. Because each special needs child is unique, we can’t judge what other parents decide to do.
    Sandra’s latest post: Asking for Your Prayers

  8. My daughter, 7, is on the autism spectrum. She was completely non-verbal at 3. That’s when I put her in a public school full-day special Ed preschool program. She did it for 2 years and it was amazing for her. She was speaking, writing, and socializing. At 5 her special Ed team and I decided she was ready to mainstream with a continued speech IEP.

    The elementary school we were zoned to go to was way underfunded, and the kindergarten was way over-crowded so I felt very uncomfortable taking her from a class of 5 children/2 teachers and moving her to a class where the ratio was 30/1. So I looked at all my options and decided to do an online public charter school through k12. That way I could give her the one on one attention for her schoolwork and I could also have support with her IEP services.

    We did online charter schooling for K and 1. This year I found a great private speech therapist covered by my insurance and little sister is 5 and school-ready so I am doing independent homeschool. I have loved teaching my special needs girl at home. I am just unwilling to sacrifice therapy services in the process. We are able to work through her academics at her pace and interest, sometimes deeper sometimes with lots of breaks. My child isn’t uninterested in social relationships. Sue just has a hard time navigating them. So we go to the park and ballet classes and play dates often. I am with her though so if I see her struggling (lots of funny examples spring to mind but this is already longwinded) I can step in and help coach her in what to say and do by either modeling it myself or sometimes feeding her the conversation line by line. This may not be what a “normal” child would want or like but it’s something my daughter needs and loves.

  9. I homeschool my 8 year old with Autism. I worried about him learning social skills, but my decision was made after seeing how he shut down during and after each day of special ed Pre-K. Here was a child who loved to learn, but wasn’t getting anything from being in a public school setting. He was surviving in it and just getting through, just keeping it together. At home, he is able to thrive and I feel that he is doing so well because he is comfortable and not overwhelmed by the sensory bombardments or stress. Yes, social situations are always going to be a challenge and he’s not ever going to be “normal”, but he’s happy, he’s learning, he’s thriving and if he’s social awkward, well, better that than in school and not thriving at all.

    • Julie can you email me? I would like to talk with you and hear an update. My child went through a similar situation in Pre-k just this year and I am looking for advice./ Thank you.

  10. I’m new to the homeschooling journey. I’ll be starting with my 10 year old, Asperger & ADHD, son this fall.

    We are veterans of the public school system. He has been in some sort of program (Pre-school, Self-Contained, Main-Stream, & Private Catering to Special Needs) within the system since the age of 3.

    Based upon our experiences, I feel the system is great for some but not all. What works for one child’s needs does not work for every child’s needs. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that you & only you know what is best for your child.

    No one has more of a vested interest in my son’s success than I do. Having been through every other possible educational scenario, I think I’ve beat the proverbial horse dead & beat every bush along the way. It is time for a change.

    We’ve tried it “their way.”. Now it’s time to try “our way,” beginning with homeschooling. I’m excited for September. And, honestly, it can’t be any worse than what we’ve been through for the past 7 years. It can only be up from here!

  11. I have a son with Aspbergers’ Syndrome and homeschooling has been the best for him. In fact, his psychologist said he is the most well adjusted Aspbergers’ patient she has ever had and she attributes it to his homeschooling. He is able to succeed and surrounded by people who love him instead of being bullied at school. It has been one of the greatest decisions we have ever made!

  12. I think you just have to look at the options available to you and make your choice accordingly, whether your child’s needs fall inside or outside the normal range.

    Home schooling enables a parent to educate their child according to their abilities, not according to what the school thinks their abilities should be. This means that if a child has problems with reading or writing, you can ditch the reading or writing if it’s not central to the skill you are trying to teach your child (e.g. by all means get your child to practice handwriting, but don’t make hand writing a long report central to studying science). Socially, I think the ideal home schooling situation would be to live in an area where it is easy to make friends with neighbourhood children, where there are homeschooling/disability specific support and social groups, and where you can find sports and other groups to suit your child’s interests.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of teachers and parents who blog about classroom experiences, and I think “wow wouldn’t it be great if my child could go there (or even, I would love to go to that school!), if only I lived anywhere near them/on the same side of the world”.

    I have found that in mainstream education, a lot of SN support is tick boxing, and sometimes through no fault of their own, teachers are completely unprepared for having an SN child in their classroom. I would also say that being in a class with 29 other people who happen to be the same age is not socialising, particularly if somebody is always apologetically explaining why your child can’t take part in sports/the school play etc. etc.

    Having made the choice, realise that some days it will feel as though whatever choice you made was completely insane, and that you can change your mind.

  13. I don’t have a child with special needs, but as a former schoolteacher I believe that it totally depends on the child and how severe the needs are. In many cases, the needs can probably be met by conscientious parents and occasional extra interventions.
    Emily’s latest post: Save Money On Groceries: Reduce Food Waste

  14. Kathleen K says:

    Who has the greatest love for the child? Who has the greatest desire to see this child succeed? Who is willing to make personal sacrifices to help this child learn? In most cases, it is the parents, and as such, homeschooling is often the best choice.

    Our oldest son probably fell somewhere on the Asperger’s/Autism spectrum. We never had him diagnosed, as we didn’t want a label that he would be stuck with for the rest of his life. We made diet changes (eliminating processed foods, white flour, and excess sugar). Upon the advice of 3 different public school teachers (2 who were special-ed AND homeschooling moms, 3rd my sister), we decided to homeschool. Our little boy just wasn’t ready for the social aspect of traditional school. But he was ready for parts of schoolwork (math and art). We tailored our program to fit HIS needs. We didn’t worry about social interaction, he got some of that at church (and it wasn’t always positive). Today, he is a 7th grader (12yo), still homeschooled. His social skills are catching up to where he should be, and he loves to interact with other people.

    My advice to someone considering this: seek other parents who have been this route as mentors for you. Don’t be afraid of making changes along the way to adapt to your child’s needs. Take it one school year at a time.

  15. I want to applaud and encourage all of you out there who homeschool special needs kids! You are amazing moms! My friend has an autistic son as well as a few other kids with emotional and learning issues, and I am constantly in awe of all she does on behalf of her children. You all are strong and capable women who advocate for your children in every area of life, and my hat is off to you!
    Our homeschool mom’s group went through “The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook” this past year, which I would recommend to any of you to read. It essentially gives us permission as parents to set the pace and standards of learning ourselves and not worry so much about the school calendar or agenda. All kids develop at different rates, and that is ok. My friend with the autistic child is frequently frustrated at our school system’s lack of faith that her son can learn — just because it takes him much longer than the “average” student. What a blessing to give your child the time he/she needs to learn without feeling like a failure. (I thought I saw several books at CBD about homeschooling special needs, too)
    I do, however, firmly believe that you know your child (and yourself) best, and if you feel your school system has something to offer, or you just need that kind of help and support, you should take it. I have five kids and homeschool the oldest three — my two youngest are adopted through foster care, not yet of school age — and they are drug-exposed prenatally, so there may be some issues down the road that haven’t manifested yet. I don’t know. But I love hearing from parents like you who are a few steps ahead of me down the road, learning from you. Bless you!
    Jess

  16. My son is ADHD, anxiety, SID, and a long list of LD. Homeschooling has been great. The groups that we get together with are diverse in ages and interests, and it is okay for DS to socialize with whichever age group, gender, or special interests that he pleases. Additionally, he learned lots of social behaviour hanging out with Dad during the day, goes to Scouts, church, and various classes. There are also therapists and social skills groups that you can source outside of school, or in some cases you can still access whatever the public school board in your area offers. Look into it before assuming that it won’t work for you or that nothing is available. There are a lot of autistic kids at our (private homeschool) school board and in the groups we socialize with.

  17. Our special needs were not as intense as autism, I had 2 girls with ADHD. I did not start homeschooling from the beginning, but bringing them home was a relief as I could teach them the way they needed to learn. I believe that most with moderate special needs could be homeschooled. And I believe that those with more intense needs could also HS, it would just take a lot of research, understanding resources that they may need, and lots of patience and grace!
    My hats off to these moms who seek to do what is best for their kids!
    Bernice
    Frustrated with the ever-present mess?

  18. I don’t personally have a child with special needs or something like autism, but I know a friend who homeschooled her child who has autism (now a young adult, although he is still at home and probably always will be, and she still works with him). He is basically non verbal, he has a fairly severe form of autism (not sure the correct wording here but I think there is high and low functioning autism or something, he would be on the low end). Anyways, I asked her about her decision for homeschooling him and she always saw it that no one can love him like she can, and that at least here, they would put him in an “autism class” where several other children (usually at least 10) are at the public school and not integrated into the classroom with other children without special needs. I know from speaking to a teacher personally that those classrooms are often more about controlling outbursts and noises and getting through the day than actually “learning” anything. Often times there are mulitple things going on at once with the varying needs…

    I’m not saying the teachers don’t try their best and I know that most care about those children but no one can care like a mother does and no one can have the same attention for 10 or more special needs children than they can for one…

    Anyways I just thought I would share. By not particiapting in the public school system I know my friend did not receive any public help or funding and that was hard in many ways, especially on a very very limited income but it was worth it for her and she did not regret it.

  19. I do not have a child with Autism but am a parent of 3 and an Early Intervention Specialist who has had the privilege of working with and learning from many wonderful children.

    As with any child, parents do what is best for their child based on that child’s needs, learning style, traits, etc. Based on experiences with our extremely shy & reserved daughter, I no longer believe that public school is an answer to nurturing social skills. Many children, especially those with special needs, need a safe environment to practice such skills. When the time is right, there are so many opportunities/situations where these learned skills can be expanded upon.

    Listen to your heart and remember that if something is not working as you hoped, you can change it. All the best!
    Monique’s latest post: Nature Crafts

  20. I’m in total agreement with those who have said that you should pick the route that best suits your child when it comes to educating them.

    I’m Mama to Parker, a medically fragile kid with Down syndrome. We have chosen to homeschool him first of all because of his medical issues and health.

    But I also know that he gets far more with me one on one than he would receive in either a small groups classroom or in a mainstream setting.

    I have degrees in education…….but not special education. It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of dedication, but for us it’s been a great choice.

    Tammy and Parker
    http://www.prayingforparker.com
    @ParkerMama on Twitter

  21. I pulled my child out of school last year because of her special needs. She has anxiety problems, sensory processing disorder, and dyspraxia. Her teacher, though nice, was not following through with modifications, and the stress of social situations made for a lot of arguing and tears at home. Homeschooling was our answer. She has made closer friendships then she ever had a school with girls we’ve met at co-ops. She has developed better social skills because she can relax with small groups without the stress of playgrounds and large groups. She is involved with a community of leathers that is more open and accepting. As a former special Ed teacher, I know first hand the stresses kids with differences face at public school, and it’s not pretty. Homeschool has been the perfect answer for us!
    Casey’s latest post: Solar System in a Cylinder

  22. I have a five year old twins. My son is diagnosed Aspergers. I’d place money that my daughter is ADHD with some SID though we haven’t had her formally diagnosed. My son is very high functioning and from all I’ve researched it would be a challenge getting him services in the school. The great thing about homeschooling for us is that we are there to coach my son in social situations as they are happening. We also have the time to practice social situations too. I don’t think a classroom teacher will be able to give him that kind of attention. She has a classroom of other students too.

    Also knowing that he needs to learn social skills, we make sure we are providing him ample opportunity to interact with other kids. For that it means he’s been taking gymnastics, martial arts, and swim lessons from a very young age. We also participate in a local park day for homeschoolers where the kids run and play. From that we’ve made some more intimate friends that we do things with as well. Both of my kids go on errands with me frequently so they learn how to interact in life skill type situations. So if you can hook up with any homeschooling groups in the area, that is a great place to begin. Hope that helps.

  23. Thank you so much for posting this question, Jamie, and thanks for all the wise responses. We were going to send our daughter to developmental preschool this fall and after much angst, we have decided to homeschool. For us, we realized that the sensory overload and anxiety my daughter would face every day would so intense that it would prohibit her from actually learning. I’ve had to realize that the experts on autism have a wealth of knowledge to share but I still know my daughter best. We have found some co-ops in our area so that we can have an arena to teach social skills without it being so stimulating. So our homeschool journey begins and we’re feeling more and more confident and excited about our decision.

    I look forward to learning more from this community!

  24. The very reason that I chose to homeschool was because my son has aspergers. He went to public school up through the 5th grade. He had an IEP, however, that never really helped him get the educational experience that he needed. I struggled for those years with the “school system”, mostly the teachers. Please remember, just because a teacher(s) says that they understand the diagnosis, does NOT mean that they do. Also, I found that after we spent hours and hours (every year)to find an IEP that we all agreed on, they rarely followed it.(By the way, I am an attorney and they did their best to follow it.) As far as the dreaded “socialization” question, that everyone asks you as soon as you mention the word “homeschooling”, FORCING your child into an uncomfortable, anxiety producing situation does not “socialize” them. In fact, it can have very negative effects on them. You as the parent, know your child best. If you think that they are thriving in public school and you and they are happy, that is wonderful. (I have a younger special needs son who is currently in public school.) However, if your instinct/heart/intuition tells you that homeschooling would be best for your child- DO IT. If you choose to homeschool, enjoy and appreciate the gift that you are giving them. Please do not listen to the negative comments from people who don’t know YOUR child like you do. Finally, my son needs extra help with “social skills” and he is learning them here with us at home. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can spend more time with him on LIFE SKILLS. Please do what your heart tells you to do for your child. Everyone has an opinion, but its yours that counts for YOUR child because you LOVE them and want the best for them.

  25. As a parent who has been considering homeschooling my 4 year old with autism, I want to thank all of you so so much for sharing your encouraging stories! Really, thank you!! After reading the comments from parents who actually are homeschooling their children with special needs, I really feel like learning at home is the best thing for my son. There is not much info out there about homeschooling a child with special needs. This blog post has been beyond invaluable to me. Thank you all!

  26. I don’t have personal experience homeschooling a child with special needs (although my oldest does have some fine motor delays, they are minor). However, I did teach special education in the public school for 8 years before I stayed at home with my kids. What I do know is that special ed teachers in our public schools are often overwhelmed with paperwork and big caseloads, and that can really impede their teaching. I truly loved my job and my students, but their educations often played second fiddle to meetings, paperwork, and system requirements. So, if you have a desire to homeschool your child, it will probably be a much better academic situation for them.

    That said, I also saw how exhausting it can be for parents to care for a child with serious special needs. While homeschooling in any situation can be overwhelming at times, when you have a child that requires special attention 24/7 it can really take its toll. So don’t be afraid to look for and accept outside help. Check with your county and see if your child is eligible for some services even though you homeschool (like physical, occupational, or speech therapy). Use your support network to guard against burnout. And know that you know your child better than anyone else in the world : )
    Paula @Motherhood Outloud’s latest post: An Uncomplicated Life: Cleaning

  27. I have 4 kids, one of which has Autism. I began homeschooling him last year half way through first grade. I agree with many of the posts that you have to look at this on a case by case basis. What are you expecting from the school? or what are you expecting from home based instruction? If you decide that home based instruction is best, there are still ways to give social opportunities to your child. You may also consider a partial enrollment in the public school. Perhaps some extra stuff like PE or music. This gives them the opportunity to attend school on a limited basis while still getting all of their academic needs met.

    Consider outside activities such as sports, art classes, Sunday school, or even a home-school co-op once a week. There are also less formal ways like going to parks, skating rinks, etc. Use social stories or checklists for them to motivate them to interact and help with transitions.

  28. I would love to tell our story, but I would be here all day. I have a 8 year old boy and I have done both with him. There were good and bad aspects for both. Every decision that I have had to make on our journey has been bathed with lots of tears and prayer and prayer from close friends. I am so thankful to how God has led us and touched my boys life. On days when things are hard and I look at how far I feel we have, I am quickly reminded to how FAR that we have come. Josh read to me his first two readers this summer. I can not even tell you how overjoyed I was to be the one to share in his success. He has to work so much harder than other kids at these things, but he just keeps going. One of the things home schooling provided was that I was able to establish a strong relationship with him and observe him on a daily basis in many different situations. This gave me the ability to help him in things that he struggled to communicate with me. So when he started public school I was able to let his teachers (general class, and lifeskills) know these things so they could better help him. Such as the fact that he was scared to talk to other kids because of his speech, or that he took everything literally and interpreted things and body language differently. They put him in groups of one – two others kids and facilitated interaction while playing games. They helped him build confidence and gave him words to use. He grew enormously. One thing that public school gave him that I have struggled with is consistency. They worked the same schedule on the same things every day; something that he really needed. I on the other hand have 5 kids and there is always interuptions and constant changes in schedule, that was not helping him retain what he needed. And the constant behavior struggles that we have had with him, got better. There was more peace in the home. But I did miss him. This year I am home schooling him. He wants to be home schooled. But I will probably take him into school some durning the week to lifeskills. I am in the process of deciding on that now. We don’t have much in our area for help, so the public school is really the best option for help in services. My advice would be first prayer. Decide what is best for your child. If my son got a ton of pressure from school and began to shut down, like he did the first time around (services given when he was 3/4) I would pull him out in a heart beat, because I want him to succeed. I expressed to his teachers this point when he started 2nd grade this last year. It is very important to stay involved no matter what you should do. I am so proud of my son. I tell him all the time, that he is perfect( he has struggled with comparing himself to others and thinking awful of himself) and God made him with a purpose and he will succeed.

  29. I homeschool my 3 children dd 13, ds12 & dd9. My ds12 has aspergers and my dd9 has dyslexia and sensory processing disorder. My oldest was in school until the end of grade 2 and my middle child until the end of grade 1 and the youngest has never been to school.
    Whilst at school my ds12 was always a bit of a loner and picked on quite a bit from the other children, and could never quite fit in. By homeschooling him I have been able to actively work with him at every social occasion and through this he has learnt rule after rule for dealing with social situations to the point that he has friends and mostly they don’t notice that he is so different anymore. Although he will still happily talk to you with his back to you which can be slightly disconcerting, other than that, it would be very hard to pick a social difference in him, if I had not homeschooled it would not have been possible for me to be there to create the number of rules which ultimately has lead him to find friends where he is accepted and to grow into a socially functioning boy. He would never have had these opportunities for such intense social training by simply being in a school yard.

  30. I am a homeschooling mother of two special needs kiddos. Well, I only homeschool one child right now but, I struggled with the same question the first two years and this year it is in the back of my mind now and again. I did as has been suggested a few times though, I weighed his issues and his needs against what he would get in public education and what he would get here.

    His anxiety level is pretty high (generalized anxiety disorder) and he has Tourette Syndrome, OCD, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. Not to mention he is hearing impaired. He is very much like having a an autistic child that can talk and tics. He is finally able to play, at almost 7yrs old, with a single child his age but, he hits a limit in terms of numbers of his peers and then withdrawals and disengages with them. He prefers the company of those he knows, followed by adults and then a peer or two. Which makes me sad but, the truth is, I was very much like him as a child and even now in my mid thirties, most of my “friends”, including my husband, are 7+ yrs older than myself! So, I can understand where he is.

    As for my concern for socializing him in the right way being a special needs kiddo and homeschooling, I let him guide me. He knows what he is ready for. I simply provide him the opportunities to socialize with peers now and again. I encourage and sometimes give him a gentle nudge and see where he goes. He goes to occupational and physical therapy 2x a week and we all work in conjunction with concerns as well. I think it’s an issue that you need to consider what works for and against your child. I can tell you that the school district that I’m in, if he were to attend public school, he’s be a 1st grader this year, it wouldn’t be long before he’d be singled out, He’s shorter than 97% of the kids his age, wears aids, braces on his feet/ankles, tics, has severe anxiety & OCD, his hyper active, little attention span and can’t touch or eat certain things because of sensory issues, etc. He would be a walking target in school and all the growth we’ve worked so hard to achieve, maintain and build off of, would be lost. This is what made me decide that this was the right course of action for us. :)

  31. Hello,
    I homeschool my 5 kids 4 of whom are on the autism spectrum. You are quite right in questioning how to create social interaction for a child on the spectrum. That is a subject for my kids like physical therapy would be for a child with cerebral palsy.
    It takes effort, thoughtfullness, and lots of love to help you child learn to be as socially appropriate as they can be. Also understand that they may retain quirks no matter what form of schooling we chose.
    I will be speaking at the online Special Needs Expo, “Autism the new socialization question” http://www.ultimatehomeschoolexpo.com/SpecialNeedsExpo2011.htm
    I hope my blog or this workshop can help you. As a parent that has homeschooled through thick and thin for over 10 years now I know YOU CAN DO IT!
    God bless
    Heather Laurie
    SpecialNeedsHomeschooling.com

  32. I have a 9 year old son with cystic fibrosis and mild cp. He has always gone to a small private school but we are doing half days this year. I will be teaching him science and social studies at home. He has a lot of difficulty with fatigue and that results in a never-ending cycle of make up work. The new schedule is working well. He is also gifted. He scores 99 on the IBTS for reading. It is a lot easier to let him work at his own pace for a few subjects and still get to go to school with the other kids.

  33. What a wonderful question and I feel blessed that a friend sent me to this blog. Yes, homeschooling a special needs child is absolutely the best! My oldest has a form of Down’s Syndrome and was never labeled or put into a mold. He excelled beyond anything I read in a book. He didn’t speak clearly until well into his elementary years.

    Several of my children are dyslexic and one has severe auditory processing disorder but can hear fine! Our success? I’ve homeschooled since 1986 (some of you were probably in middle school!) have five children, two graduated from homeschooling and YES it works!

    My oldest son drives, has a good job as an electrician’s assistant and I’m going to share my testimony about how he helped our family draw closer to God in an audio I’m presenting at my Special Needs Expo in a few weeks. My second child graduated from college in 3 years with honors and wrote three novels with me (I’m a publisher) for the homeschool market and was dyslexic, although now she no longer is (did you know there is remediation and a cure for dyslexia?!!); and I continue to homeschool three others. I feel such a need to give back that I’ve organized the second homeschool special needs expo this year. The first was in January with many experts, this one is a mix with many successfully homeschooling mom. It is totally free in “real” time online. You are welcome to join us. I pray you consider homeschooling your special needs child. As an educator with a degree is specific learning disabilities I can tell you from experience the money allotted for our special needs kids never went to us. I pray that has changed but either way, no one cares or loves your kids as much as you do. I am so happy I have the opportunity to homeschool and pray you consider it.

    • Hello…you mentioned there is a cure for dyslexia, but didn’t tell what that was. I would love to hear more.

      • Hi Tricia, good questions! I met Tara Jenner who has training in brain development and she worked with my children. What happens is the brain is trained, to use a new neuro-pathway to get the information where it needs to go. Her website is http://www.TheBrainTrainers.net

        I just found your question in my inbox emails, and it is perfect timing! She is speaking online at 1:00 ET on Tuesday, March 6th on the topic of reading. It is free event, but only available this one time live. The website is here: http://www.MediaAngels.com/expos

        Hope this helps!
        Felice

  34. I too have a daughter who is developmentally delayed and ADHD. As far back as pre-school she struggled to “behave” at school. Every year until this school year the conferences with teachers, school administrators and special ed increased until the point came to me hovering around the phone waiting for the daily call from the vice principle to talk my girl out from under a table, a tree, or to ask her not to lash out at those around her. The final straw came when the teachers wanted her to see through a punishment for a misbehaving incident that occurred a full five days before, but had yet to be administered. That is when I had to ask myself and them: “do you want her to understand and accept the punishment for her actions (which after three years of trying has yet to penetrate), or do you want her to learn how to get over it”? Due to her high intellect she can not only perfectly recall the situation, but relive the emotions she had with them for long periods of time afterward. Basically, there comes a time when someone will need to swallow their pride. Now, as this first day of homeschooling drew to a close, we had at least three meltdowns, and no punishment or resentments from my side and hers. We also accomplished so much in one day that I am ecstatic to continue with this journey, even if other days are not as successful. She has not had to go through a new teacher who needed to learn her as I already do, and ignore or correctly redirect her emotions as they happen.

    My other point is who else is going to be as loving, as accepting, as protective and screen their relationships as well as a parent? With her in public school I cannot count the number of times I suspected she was picked on by a mean spirited kid. And the network of moms I hang out with have the same feelings, and screen who their children are with just as much as I do in order to keep her in healthy relationships with other kids.

  35. We don’t have as many difficulties as we could, my daughter is ADHD/gifted. From the time she was an infant we knew she was different. At school age, we sent her to school, and our life became one battle, one piece of chaos heaped upon another. I finally pulled her from public school midyear of first grade and began homeschooling, though that was never something I wanted to do. I will tell you that our lives are still fast paced, and chaotic. But…homeschooling has meant that I adapt school to her, instead of her falling behind because she can’t sit still in class long enough to prove that she already knows the information. Homeschooling allows me to pace school according to her needs. And when she is happy, feasting on information as fast as I can feed it to her, life at our house is much happier! My recommendation to someone considering homeschooling their special needs child would be, find a good curriculum (we love Time4Learning), know your child’s strengths and weaknesses, because you are their best advocate and remember that no one will love your child as much as you do. And the teacher/student ratio is incredible!

  36. I pulled my son out of a self-contained special education class at our local public school in the middle of first grade. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and his anxiety had crippled him, turning him into a mute shell of himself. He stopped eating. He stopped sleeping. I thought we were going to lose him. He came back to us at home!

    The best thing we ever did for him, as far as his diagnosis and needs were concerned, was READ, READ, READ to him. For a child who did not engage in imaginative play to the boy I have running around saving the world from various catastrophes that he invents daily, I’d say reading has been the key to unlocking what was inside of him all along! :)

    He is quirky, no question, but no one would single him out in a crowd anymore. He participates in activities with and without us–his progress is simply a homegrown miracle, and I thank God for it.

    I also have a daughter with hemiplegic migraine. Additional stress, heat, and activity can bring on attacks, so keeping her home has been helpful in keeping the attacks at bay.

    At home, every child is special. As homeschoolers, we tailor the instruction we provide to each particular child anyway. IEPs? We have them! Our whole purpose in educating these precious children at home *is* an IEP. Meeting special needs at home is challenging, but not impossible, for most families. There are so many more resources now than just a few years ago.

    For parents of children with autism, please check out http://playproject.org/ if you haven’t already. Dr. Solomon, the founder of the program, was my son’s developmental pediatrician and the first “professional” to suggest homeschooling. Wonderful man, great program!
    Fran’s latest post: Saturday with my Girls

  37. Vickie Bordelon says:

    Thanks for the comments. I needed the encouragement. Sometimes, I also wonder and doubt whether I am doing the right thing for my child. So many people associate socialization as having many friends their own age with being good with socialization and this can be discouraging. But, I also try to remind myself just because someone is popular with their own age group doesn’t mean he is an expert in the skills of socialization. I have a child with Asperger’s syndrome and yes he has problems with social skills but in the school system there are kids who have problems with social skills too and they do not have Asperger’s syndrome. I see many kids out in public that are too busy with their Nintendo Ds games to socialize. Instead of socializing and playing with other kids they are busy playing with their game. An adult tries to speak to them and they are too busy to stop their game and talk. They are simply rude. There are some out there that have not learn manners. They do not say please, thank you, or your welcome. So for a child on the spectrum who is struggling and trying their best to learn these skills this might be difficult in an environment with 20 plus kids who don’t know the correct social skills themselves. They receive conflicting information. I know for us that it has not been easy homeschooling my child with Asperger’s but I think he is probably happier and doing better than he would be at school where he would probably be bullied by some child that does not tolerate somebody that is different than him/herself.

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