Did you know it is now widely acknowledged that up to one out of five children has some type of special learning need? That’s a lot of exceptional children!

And for the child who learns a little differently, curriculum might need to be a little different, which could just mean modifying it a bit. After all, we wouldn’t expect a book or curriculum package designed for most kids to meet every child’s particular needs!

Thankfully, as a homeschooling parent you have access to two tools that many classroom teachers don’t:

  1. a close-up picture of how your child learns and what motivates them (after all, you know your child better than anyone else!) and
  2. the freedom to completely customize your child’s education.

In this series, we’re going to show you how to use those tools to select and adapt the curricula that help your kiddo shine!

Keep in mind that, for some kids with special needs, a good curriculum isn’t the only important building block in their education. They may also need personalized therapy, which could be anything from vision therapy to occupational therapy to a remedial reading program. You can start exploring therapy options (and how to incorporate them into your homeschool program).

Now, on to the basics: how to choose special-needs-friendly curriculum! Then we’ll discuss how to adapt that curriculum to your child’s specific strengths, weaknesses, and learning challenges.

What makes a curriculum more friendly to learners with special needs?

  • It includes multisensory materials and activities, tapping into all the ways that children learn. (Check out this info on visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning.)
  • Its lesson plans and other elements are adaptable and can be used flexibly.
  • It uses a direct instructional approach, with lessons that are explicit, sequential, and repetitive or spiraling (going over the same material in more depth each time).
  • It provides ongoing practice in fun and engaging ways.

You can even find some curriculum designed specifically for struggling learners. (For instance, Simply Classical is published by Memoria Press to make a classical Christian education accessible to students with special needs.)

But it’s encouraging to know you don’t have to be limited to “special needs” curriculum—by keeping an eye out for the features we’ve listed above, you can identify a special-needs-friendly curriculum and adapt it yourself. (More on that in the next article!)

Before we move on, though, we want to mention one thing . . .

Your child doesn’t have to be boxed in by age or grade level.

There is no requirement that a student use only books and curriculum designed for their chronological age or grade level. Let’s say you have a 9-year-old who is successfully using a 4th-grade curriculum for reading and science, and because they love history so much, they’re reading history books well above their grade level. But this child also struggles with dyscalculia, so you’ve placed them in a 2nd-grade math program. Guess what—that’s totally fine! 

Or, perhaps your 10th-grader who has dyslexia cannot access a high school–level Latin textbook but could meet success with a middle-school Latin curriculum. By using materials designed for less advanced students, even the most challenged learners can access rich educational content.

You can learn more about kids being on different grade levels in different subjects. (It’s actually pretty common!)

Now you might be wondering . . .

So, where can I find homeschool curriculum?

That’s a great question, and we’ve got lots of tips for you. Check out our Finding Curriculum series to learn about types of curriculum, how much it might cost, what kinds of learning groups homeschoolers use, and more!

If you’re an HSLDA member, you can reach out to our Special Needs Educational Consultants to get more extensive or more specific curriculum resource suggestions that can meet your child’s needs.

Now, ready for some tips on how to modify any curriculum for your child? Let’s move on to Part 2!