Homeschool 101: Homeschooling special needs

Can you homeschool special needs children?

Yes. Yes you can homeschool special needs kids. And in my opinion, your special needs child will do better at home than in a school environment. 

Special needs encompasses a wide range, from gifted to mild disability to severely handicapped, from developmental to medical, and everything in between.

But it doesn’t matter what the disability is, your child can be homeschooled.

What that will look like will depend on a number of things. Every homeschool is different, and just because you’re homeschooling a special needs child, doesn’t make that any different.

It’s because homeschooling can be so different from one family to the next that makes it ideal for homeschooling special needs kids.

First, homeschooling your child means they are less stressed.

After all, they’re home with the people they know love them most! Their care providers aren’t going to change from day-to-day, and the people they are around aren’t going to change. At home, their needs can be accommodated better. And they’re in a familiar environment, surrounded by the smells, sights, and sounds of home.

There’s nothing like the comfort of home to create an environment that is calming.

When you homeschool special needs kids, you give them the space to relax and cope better.

My special needs child struggles with anxiety. It can interfere with her learning, with her emotional and mental health, and with her ability to just function! But because she’s home, when she needs a safe place to meltdown, she has it. When she needs to calm down, away from people, she has the space — and the protection to do it.

There’s no one here going to force her to hold it together or “behave” in a certain way, just because of arbitrary rules. We can roll with how well she’s managing, not with any agenda set by someone who doesn’t know her.

Second, you can provide a predictable, reliable routine for your child.

How regular your routine needs to be is up to you. But you can have the same meal times, the same methods of learning, and the same daily expectations for your child. The rules aren’t going to change on them, or confuse them.

This allows you to build on skills every day.

You’ll be able to teach independence, because they’ll know what to expect. Eventually, they’ll be able to take responsibility for their time, following the well-known path you’ve laid out for them.

My oldest daughter has ADHD. She’s bright, energetic, and super creative. But she thrives best when her world is ordered, predictable and routine. And because we’re home, we don’t have to change where things go or in what order we manage things like meals, hygiene, and leisure time.

That helps her be able to cope with the changes that do happen every day. It gives her a framework to rely on. To homeschool special needs kids means being able to give them greater control over their own lives.

Third, you can tailor your program to your child.

Schools try to do this with their IEPs, Educational Aides, Teacher’s Aides, supports, special education programs, and resources rooms. But when you’re trying to manage individual education plans for multiple children, not everyone can be accommodated all the time or in the best way. Schools have limited resources that must stretch a long way.

You may also have limited resources, but your resources can be better tailored to your child. You don’t have hundreds of kids that need the right supports — you just have yours. And because you’re intimately involved in their education, you know exactly what the weaknesses and strengths are.

You know what they need.

And that means, you know when your child legitimately can’t do something, and when they need a little push instead. When you homeschool special needs kids, you can support them right where they are.

My middle daughter is intensely curious and bright. Her insatiable need to figure things out can sometimes get her into trouble. But because we’re home, I can modify our curriculum to stay on that keen edge between challenge and success. She isn’t going to be pushed beyond her abilities, but she isn’t going to be held back either.

Fourth, you can accommodate the little things.

Does your child need frequent wiggle breaks to concentrate? Do they need special tools to be able to communicate? Or maybe you need to turn off everything in order to better help them learn. Whatever the unique needs of your student, you can better accommodate them at home.

Schools aren’t set up for the sensory challenged kids. And if your child needs special tools just to accomplish basic tasks like getting from place to place or communicating, that’s a lot harder to get at a school.

Not all schools have what your child needs.

Not all schools have elevators for wheelchairs. Or braille books for visually impaired kids. Or communication boards, iPads or other communication tools — or the trained teachers to be able to use them.

And that can mean that your students end up in schools farther away, or in less-than-ideal environments. But when you homeschool special needs kids, they can have the best environment for their needs.

Isn’t it better that you can provide what they need at home?

With fewer students to accommodate, your resources go further, and that means you can get the things they need. You can have a completely-allergy-free environment. And you can turn the lights low and block out the sound, if that’s what they need to concentrate.

You can give them the fidgets and the sensory toys — without distracting 25 other kids in the process!

Fifth, you can protect your child better.

Sad to say, our special needs kids are often the butt of the joke, by people who take advantage of the vulnerable. It’s not kind. It’s not fair. And while there are movements out there trying to change this, the truth is, our kids may be victimized frequently in the public schools.

When you homeschool your special needs kids, you can protect them from all the mean-spirited bullies and the misunderstanding, condescending strangers. You’re right there with them, so you can stop it before it gets dangerous, when it does happen. And you can help your special needs child navigate a world that isn’t always friendly to people who are different.

You’re their biggest advocate!

You may be concerned that you can’t provide the best education for your special needs child. But you know your child the best! You have watched them grow, develop and learn from day 1.

You’ve talked to their doctors, their therapists and the experts, and you’ve fought hard to get the supports they need. You may not be an expert in child development, but you’re an expert in your child.

You were their first teacher. You’ve waited anxiously for every milestone to happen, no matter when it happened. And you’ve cheered every single one of them when it did.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you know how to reach your kid when they aren’t seemingly interested in anything. And even when you’re frustrated, confused and sad, you have never given up on your child.

Can you homeschool your special needs child?

The question isn’t really can you, but what’s stopping you? You want to (or you wouldn’t be reading this!). You know your child the best, you can provide the best environment for them, you can accommodate their needs better, and you are their biggest advocate.

If you’re afraid of a lack of support, don’t be. There are lots of us who are already homeschooling our special needs kids. You can find your tribe online, and in your local area.

Homeschooling your special needs child may just be one of the best things you can do to help them the most!

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