Having a child with special needs is a reason given by a large percentage of parents who choose to homeschool. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), it was the most important reason for 13.7% of homeschooling choices for the 1,096,000 children homeschooled in 2003. But it’s not completely clear what they meant.
This is because the phrase special needs has different meanings to different people. Gifted and talented students and students with disabilities can all be viewed as having special needs. This makes special needs a distinct category fromhandicapped students, for example. This article provides some information about homeschooling special needs students.
The Government Definition
In United States Department of Education language, special needs are the requirements caused by a student having a disability that is acknowledged by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This includes students who have a disability in any of these thirteen categories: autism, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment (including deafness), mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment (including blindness).
The Broader Definition
The broader definition of special needs includes students who have special needs because of a gift or talent that will not be developed or nurtured by standard education in a standard classroom. And, of course, it is possible for a child to have both types of special need: a learning disability and an exceptional gift.
Potential Advantages of Homeschooling for Special Needs Students
Homeschooling special needs students may potentially eliminate the anxiety these students feel when they shift from family-centered life to a school environment. The difficulties that come up with a student – for whatever reason – doesn’t feel like he or she fits in can be left aside, and instead, education can happen. In addition, money and time permitting, a number of different types of accommodations, modifications, and adaptive equipment can be sampled to find the best, without the child being under the microscope of school personnel and fellow students.
On the other hand, school resources are something you may wish to consider. At school, children with special needs who have disabilities are likely to be brought into contact with audiologists, behavior strategists, deaf educators and interpreters, instructional assistants, occupational therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, physical therapists, resource room personnel, school psychologists, social services caseworkers, special education teachers, speech language pathologists, or vision specialists, depending on the precise nature of their disabilities. Children with special gifts or talents, on the other hand, are likely to be introduced to enrichment activities by a Gifted and Talented specialist. All of them may have differentiated curriculum and other accommodations.
How this works in a home environment depends on the home. As a homeschooler, it is possible that you may receive IDEA funding, but this depends on your state. See the article “Homeschooling Handicapped Children” for more information. Whatever the special need is that your student faces, you may be able to, and wish to, take advantage of offerings in a local public or private school by having your student enrolled part-time there. Homeschool associations, privately hired specialists, and advice from organizations that specialize in the area of your child’s special need may all prove valuable.
Another Way of Looking
Another way of looking at special needs is to consider that there are two types of special needs students who are homeschooled: those whose special needs have been identified and those whose special needs are as yet undefined. If your child’s school experience does not go as planned – for example, if your child is not learning as you would have expected, is easily frustrated, acts out, or is uncooperative in other ways – it’s worth at least a momentary consideration that your child might have an underlying condition or characteristic that creates a special needs situation. Unless you are really sure that whatever it is qualifies as “just a stage,” keep in mind that there may be something else going on.