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The Washington Times
March 31, 1998

Resources Help Parents of Special-Needs Students

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
March 31, 1998

There is perhaps an underlying assumption that only families with mainstream children can successfully home-educate their children. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children with special needs benefit tremendously from the individualized attention that comes from home education.

A study conducted by Steven F. Duvall, a special education expert and public school psychologist, who was published recently in the Education & Treatment of Children concluded that home education offers more of the kind of education that special-needs children need most.

But there is no doubt that families with special needs children need extra help with home education. Such families can use some extra resources in three main areas:

Coaching by experts. Special-needs parent-instructors have found that their own ability to meet the extra needs of their children is enhanced by interaction with an expert in the area of their children’s disabilities. Experts don’t need to do all or any of the instruction, but a home-school friendly expert who is willing to coach a parent can provide invaluable help.

Parents can get referrals from two places to locate sympathetic experts. Tom and Sherry Bushnell of Washington state operate a national network for home-schooling families with special needs children called Nathhan, or the National Challenged Homeschoolers Association Network For more information write to, 5383 Alpine Road, S.E., Olalla, WA 98359 or call 253-857-4257.

Also, the Home School Legal Defense Association employs a special-education professional to provide initial consultation for member families who have questions and a list of expert coaches.

School districts who obey the law. Children with special needs are entitled to federally funded related services and equipment, even if parents choose to provide the core educational program themselves. Federal law makes it clear that such services are to be available to all students.

School districts that place public school ideology over the needs of children will occasionally reach the conclusion that they are not required to provide such services or equipment to special-needs home-schoolers.

Support from other special needs families. I mentioned the Bushnell’s excellent organization, Nathhan, earlier. Nathhan is simply a support group for families that have taken the extra step requiring love and sacrifice to provide home education for their special children.

Becoming a part of Nathhan is essential to finding and receiving the practical advice and encouragement that come best from families who know your joys and challenges because they have had similar experiences.

When Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas,his wife, Hillary, was successful in rolling back an excellent home-schooling law for a more interfering version that virtually banned participation by special-needs children.

Fortunately, wiser heads have prevailed over time. Parents of children with special needs in Arkansas are now free to choose between services at the public school and those provided by individuals in the private sector who are not state-certified special education teachers. Until the law was changed in 1997, a parent was forbidden to obtain special education or related services from anyone other than a state-certified teacher.

Many parents have turned to home education because their special-needs children spent too much time sitting in a public school, unattended and untaught, because one-on-one instruction was simply not feasible. Individualized instruction is what such children need most. For many special education children, there’s no place like home.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at