If your child was just diagnosed with a learning disability or a special need of any kind, there can be a myriad of emotions to deal with, such as shock, concern, fear, relief, anger, or sadness. You may feel overwhelmed with further questions, the biggest of which is, “Now what?”

No need to panic! The HSLDA Educational Consultants are here to help you make homeschooling possible.

Frequently, after receiving a diagnosis for their child, parents decide to pull their student out of public or private school and to home educate in order to address the child’s needs and create a customized intervention plan.

After receiving a diagnosis, following these next steps can help you and your child.

1. Learn all you can about your child’s diagnosis, while recognizing that your child is more than a particular diagnosis or label. Nobody loves your child or wants to see them succeed and meet their full potential more than you. By learning about your child’s diagnosis and different abilities, you can grow in understanding how to better support them as you continue to be your child’s fiercest advocate and loudest cheerleader.

2. Investigate treatment options, such as therapies, interventions, and possible medications. A great place to start is your child’s pediatrician or diagnosing professional. You may also want to consider seeking holistic treatments by working with an integrative physician. There are more and more types of therapies available for various disabilities and special needs: art and music therapy, pet and equine therapy, behavioral and cognitive therapy, and traditional or standard speech/language, vision, physical, and occupational therapies.

3. Seek support for your child and your family.  You can search the HSLDA Group Services directory to locate a homeschool support group. If you're an HSLDA member, our Educational Consultants would love to come alongside you with personalized answers and practical resources.

Groups such as Decoding Dyslexia and Eye to Eye provide parent support and child mentoring, and national charitable organizations such as Scottish RiteEasterseals, and The Arc offer resources, support, directories, grants, scholarships, and other helpful tools. Joni and Friends provides resources, a directory for disability ministries across the country, and family camps. SPED Homeschool is another national nonprofit organization that offers encouragement, resources, and an online community to support families impacted by special needs.

4. Talk with your child about their diagnosis and teach them to self-advocate. Your child needs to understand that their diagnosis does not define them. There are many bright and successful people with disabilities. In fact, it is estimated that one in five people have a learning disability. Help your child come to understand what their difficulty or disability is and how it may impact them, but also teach them ways to work around it. Also, help your child recognize both the ways in which they are smart and their areas of strength. The book 8 Great Smarts by Dr. Kathy Koch is a great resource.

Self-advocacy is an important, empowering life skill. Resources such as The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss, the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, LDadvisory.com, and Understood.org can help you find resources to educate your child and teach them how to advocate for themselves.

5. Allow your student to use accommodations. Make a plan for your student’s reasonable accommodations and discuss these accommodations with your student and with other adults or teachers, such as those in your community of faith, coaches, music teachers, and co-op leaders. Accommodations level the playing field and help students take in information or demonstrate what they know. Some common accommodations are extra time, use of audiobooks, dictation or oral assessment, and frequent breaks, to name a few. It is a good idea to keep a written record in your homeschool file of the educational accommodations you provide to your student. 

6. Be encouraged that you are your child’s best teacher, and home education can truly give your child an excellent completely personalized education plan. Due to its very nature, homeschooling is individualized experience, but drafting a written student education plan can be wise. (And it's a good idea to know your state's legal requirements along with these best practices for your special needs homeschool.)

Did you know that HSLDA’s Special Needs Educational Consultants are available to help our member families with all matters related to special needs and learning disabilities and provide templates for writing individual plans? We can help make sense of your child's diagnostic assessment reports and help you, the parent-teacher, come up with a customized educational plan. To connect with a consultant for one-on-one guidance, click here. Not a member yet? You can learn more about membership here.

—Faith

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