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Homeschooling a special needs child is 100% possible. I want to start by getting that out of the way. Your kid with special needs needs all the loving attention, support, and encouragement they can get. Why not get it at home?
Today, I’m going to share all the reasons why homeschooling can be sanity-saving for children with special needs. I’ll also go through a few of the most frequently asked questions on the topic. Let’s get right to it.
Pros of homeschooling a special needs child:
If you’ve ever tried to get classroom accommodations for your child before, you know it can sometimes be a challenge. No more!
When you are in charge of setting the schedule, the curriculum, and the pace, your child can blossom. If your child with ADHD learns best in the afternoon, you can do that! Maybe your child with dyslexia wants to read everything in that special dyslexic font. You can just start! You don’t need permission from anyone to do that. Or maybe your child has anxiety and struggles with transition times. You can build school into a few very long, focused days instead of the traditional five. Whatever works for you and your kid goes.
We all know the playground can be a cruel place, especially for kids who are different. Homeschooling, on the other hand, can be a great opportunity for your child to socialize at their own pace. And clearly, there’s no shortage of options!
- After school sports (even sometimes those sponsored by the public schools)
- Library events
- Part-time jobs
- Homeschooling co-ops
- Field trips
- Group therapy
- Art classes
Often, since the business of school is learning, kids who learn differently stick out at school. But Juan from karate class doesn’t know that his new best friend struggles to read. Not unless your child chooses to explain. That’s a huge relief for kids!
Letting your child get comfortable with a smaller group of friends can also give them social confidence. This allows them to weather the storms of less-than-kind interactions in the future.
Follow their passion
Kids with special needs have passions just like any other kid. If your child wants to learn about the ocean, you can use that passion to homeschool! Take a trip to the beach, visit an aquarium, do science labs about density or salinity, and read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The world is your deep-sea oyster, so to speak.
This method allows you to start with their strengths and use them to engage. This is to your child’s advantage. When they feel successful, you’ll have better luck building up their weak areas when you tie them to a passion.
Frequently asked questions:
Is it actually possible to homeschool a kid with special needs?
Yes! You don’t need to be a special education expert to be an expert on your child. You might need to spend more time researching, scheduling appointments, and dealing with red tape than the average homeschool parent, but thousands of homeschool families are thriving with special needs every day.
Do I need an IEP?
An IEP, or individualized education plan, is a document created by a team of school employees that is legally binding for teachers and staff. It means they have to teach and treat your child in the way his or her team has deemed best.
You, as the parent, are not legally bound to follow an IEP, whether or not your child has ever had one. Being taught at home is automatically an individualized experience!
However, I would highly encourage you, your child, and anyone else who might have a hand in your child’s education to sit down together. Have a mock “iep” meeting where you discuss your child’s strengths, struggles, and passions. Let them share any hopes or dreams they have for school this year. Whenever you get overwhelmed or frustrated, go back to that document and see whether or not you’ve been faithful to it. Maybe a quick tweak based on that plan can get you right back on track.
Do I need any special training?
Knowledge is power, but maybe not the kind of knowledge you think.
When a teacher gets their degree in special education, they spend years studying how to educate children with a WIDE range of disabilities. You, however, only need to focus on the specific disability (or disabilities) present in your family. This makes a degree in special education impractical.
Maybe that means finding another parent who’s homeschooling a special needs child and learning from them. You might consider following some experts on social media and paying attention to what methods or curriculum they suggest. And maybe you do want to take a college class or two.
There’s definitely a certain skill set that’s helpful to have when working with special needs children, even your own. If you aren’t confident in your abilities, it’s always possible to outsource parts of homeschooling, either by choosing prepackaged curriculums, having your child take online classes, or attending co-ops.
My child needs regular therapies (OT, PT, Speech, ABA, etc). How can I homeschool my special needs child without giving up access to those services?
This question is often the hinge-point. The good news is, school districts are legally responsible for identifying and evaluating children with special needs, and many states will start/continue to provide services.
However, different states have WILDLY different rules and regulations about how children who have disabilities can receive services. Some states require you to completely disconnect from the public school system in order to access outside services. Others want you to come to the school and get those different therapies in-house, even if you homeschool. And sometimes, figuring out how to privately pay (or receive grants) for therapy might be the answer. You really need to find out what the standards are in your area and go from there.
Where to find info about provided services in your area:
- State (or county) Department of Developmental Disabilities
- Your pediatrician’s office
- Local school district website
- Your state’s Behavioral Healthcare Services website
- The Homeschool Legal Defense Association
- Homeschool groups in your area (at least one family usually has a child with some kind of special need)
The bottom line is that yes, you can teach your special needs child at home. In fact, it might be the best decision you ever make for your child’s education and your family.
If you want to feel more confident about homeschooling but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve got an all-in-one beginner’s guide! This guide will equip you for meeting the unique challenges in your family and get you homeschooling-ready in FIVE DAYS.
For more reading on this topic:
- Executive Functioning Activities (Masterlist!)
- What is Alternative Education? 4 Options for Your Child
- Accommodations for Autism: Best 21 Recommendations for Learning
- 25+ Learning Accommodations for ADHD
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.