I have recently spoken to many members who are new to homeschooling and have children with special learning challenges. I have also had the opportunity to talk with seasoned homeschooling families who are now sailing into “unchartered waters”, due to facing a recent diagnosis of Autism and Aspergers. To be sure, there are countless families who are in similar “boats” and feeling waves of fear, doubt, loneliness, and quite frankly just overwhelmed and reeling with uneasiness.
Today, I would like to encourage you that you are not alone as you embark on this journey, and as you launch out there here are three R’s to keep in mind: Research, Resources, and Respite.
- For many states, there are no additional requirements imposed on families when it comes to educating children with special needs. So, for the most part, homeschooling a child with special needs is very similar to homeschooling a "regular education" student. You will want to be sure to follow your state’s homeschooling laws and requirements, which you can access here.
- As you begin, be sure to check out HSLDA’s brochure "Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner", that I think you will find helpful and encouraging.
- You will definitely want to check out NATHHAN/CHASK, (National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network and Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children). This private organization offers support, curricula ideas, articles, resources, a lending library, parent/family support directory, and encouragement to families who are homeschooling and/or who have adopted children with special needs.
- Explore various curricula options. Some websites that carry specialized curricula and teaching materials for children with special needs are:
Here are a few resources that I consider to be must-haves on every homeschooling bookshelf (when it comes to special needs).
- Sharon Hensley’s book Homeschooling Children with Special Needs, available here.
- Joyce Herzog’s Learning In Spite of Labels I also recommend her other books Luke’s List and Luke’s Life List (for functional/daily living skills)
- The Student Education Plan by Judith Munday, found at this link.
- Teaching materials and parent resources for Autism and Down Syndrome available at Woodbine House.
- Evaluating For Excellence by Teresa M. Moon
For more resources and guidance, be sure to visit our Struggling Learner website, and click on the Resources tab. From there, scroll down to the heading that best matches your child’s unique challenges where you will find many helpful lists of resources.
Remember not to “swim” alone and be sure to grab a “life jacket”--enlist the help of others and schedule times of rest and relaxation for yourself. Homeschooling is not an easy job in the first place and certainly when you are working with children who have unique challenges it is not for the faint of heart. It can be easy to become discouraged and just plain tired due to the necessary medical appointments, therapies, or extra tutoring required for your child.
Our department encourages families to line up private therapies, if at all possible, by working with their medical specialists and insurance companies (if you have medical coverage). Some private practices may dispatch therapists to the home and/or provide consultative services.
Also, there are some local, charitable organizations such as Easter Seals and The ARC that provide respite and job training services, as well as other resources. The Scottish Rites organization provides speech and language therapy, as well as a dyslexia intervention program. Parents can search their Rite Care directory at this link in order to find centers located near them.
Many churches and communities of faith are offering disabilities ministries. To find lists of churches that provide such services, be sure to check out Key Ministry. Nathaniel's Hope is a national organization that is partnering with churches and disability ministries in order to provide free, respite services.
Happy sailing, but remember the One who controls the wind and the waves is in the boat with you!