Homeschooling Handicapped Children

Because the word handicapped is not used as frequently as it once was, it is important to understand exactly what it means in order to understand how to know if one’s child is handicapped and how homeschooling  handicapped children can help the most. This article discusses these issues.

World Health Organization Definitions

A handicap is not the same as an impairment or a disability..

  • An impairment, according to the World Health Organization is a permanent or temporary abnormality or loss of function of a body function or structure. It can be physical or psychological.
  • A disability is a limitation: either an inability to perform some action in a normal range or manner or a restriction in that function. Most disabilities result from impairment.
  • A handicap results from either a disability or impairment causing a limitation in a normal human role or prevents the fulfillment of that role.

What a Handicap Means for Homeschooling

Different types of handicaps and different types of causes, as well as the degree to which the handicap can be ameliorated will mean that homeschooling may incorporate support for a handicapped child in very different ways. For example, a child with a hearing impairment that is undiagnosed may initially have a severe  handicap in communicating. But if the child learns American Sign Language and lipreading, for example, the handicap may be extremely diminished or imperceptible.

Homeschooling handicapped children allows the family to focus on whatever particular needs the handicap creates. Being educated at home may make the whole experience of education completely different and much more enjoyable and productive. If your child has really bad days, when you’re homeschooling you can work around them rather than always trying to fight through them.

Because the handicapped child is not in the context of a larger class with other goals when she or he is in a homeschooling environment, he or she doesn’t have to either try to move at the pace of the other children or face the sometimes challenging difficulties of being pulled out of the classroom for special attention. So whatever types of changes, accommodations, presentation, and pace the child needs can be followed.

In addition, the whole schedule of the school day can be arranged to suit the handicapped child and the household. One-on-one attention can be given as often as necessary, and breaks taken as needed, whether just for a breather, for physical therapy, a snack, a nap, or any other reason related to the handicap. You can also try any therapy, approach, pedagogy, or program that suits you and your child, whether or not it is accessible in a public school. And for the child for whom getting to school or being in the school environment is a particular challenge, these factors can be alleviated so that the child can concentrate on learning.

Another thing to try is multitasking  – rather than trying to finish up PT in order to get to school, for example, you might be able to use PT time to also read or listen to a story or music, play a learning game, practice counting in a foreign language, etc.

Federal IDEA Assistance

Whether as a homeschooler you can receive Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding depends on your state at the present time. In states that allow homeschoolers to be recognized as private schools and in other states that have passed specific legislation to cover the situation, you can receive Federal assistance. Note, however, that receiving Federal assistance means following Federal guidelines and possibly having aspects of your homeschooling come under the surveillance and perhaps rulings of the Federal government. So you may wish to do some research on the implications of this choice before making it, if indeed you are eligible.


World Health Organization Bulletin