Why You Should Homeschool Your Special Needs Child

As the mom of a severely autistic child, I know how frightening it can be to think about homeschooling a special needs child. After all, it’s difficult just keeping up with therapy appointments, doctor visits, behavior issues, special dietary requirements, and the list goes on. So why on earth would you even consider homeschooling too? I’ll tell you. 

My autistic daughter is now 18 years old. I’ve homeschooled her since about age 3. For several years she exclusively homeschooled using a very intensive program just for severely affected special needs kids with various diagnoses. Once she got to the point where I thought she was ready for school, I began sending her to a local school (part time) that had a program especially for autistic children. She attended school in the mornings, and I continued her homeschool program in the afternoons. 


The first couple of years went pretty well. The teacher there discovered that Hannah already knew how to read! There were a few other great discoveries that the teacher made too. Hannah enjoyed school, liked her teacher, and did learn some things. Unfortunately, she also picked up on some very unwelcome social habits from some of the other special needs kids in the classroom. Overall, though, I thought I was doing what was best for her. Until the next year…

The next year Hannah’s teacher moved away, and Hannah was placed in a different class. The teacher of that class didn’t believe that Hannah could read (She was non-verbal, so she couldn’t read out loud.), didn’t have high expectations for Hannah academically or socially, and really just didn’t want Hannah in her class. So Hannah definitely “lived down” to that teacher’s very low expectations. She was smart enough to know that she didn’t have to work very hard because the teacher didn’t expect her to and didn’t think she was capable of it anyway. Sad.

Another thing we discovered that was happening (I’m being honest here.) was that we were learning to live life without Hannah being involved. I had 2 other children by then, and we were going places and doing things without her. It became an inconvenience to us when it was time to pick Hannah up from school. We couldn’t do the same things when Hannah was with us that we could do when she wasn’t. She was no longer in the habit of going places and doing things with us, and it began to upset her when we did take her along. She was used to her school routine, and any deviation from that caused her to be completely stressed out. 

Also, I realized that my other two children were beginning to feel resentful toward Hannah. If we were in the middle of a homeschool activity or field trip or play date and had to stop what we were doing to go pick her up, of course they felt upset. It’s fine for our children to learn that sometimes we have to make changes and adjust our schedules for other family members, but when this happens often to young children who aren’t mature enough to “get it,” the natural consequence is resentment. Not good.

For all of these reasons, my husband and I finally decided that maybe it would be best to bring Hannah home to homeschool with her brother and sister. I was scared half to death at the thought because my other two children were not “easy” children, and I just didn’t know if I’d be able to handle all three of them, keep them all fed and clothed, keep discipline under control, and actually teach all of them something at the same time! We truly felt like God was calling us to bring Hannah back home, though, so we decided to give it a try. 

I remember the moment I called the principal of the school she was attending to tell her that Hannah wouldn’t be back. I was so nervous and unsure, but I forced myself to make the call. The moment I made the call and hung up the phone, I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from me! I believe God was reassuring me that I’d done the right thing. I literally felt like a new person! I was no longer worried about if I could do it. I knew it still wouldn’t be easy but that it was the right thing to do. 

Over the next few weeks, Hannah became a regular part of our lives again, and we became a regular part of hers. Her behavior improved dramatically, she ate better, she was more content, and she was just plain happier! The rest of us felt better too. We got back to the point where we enjoyed having her with us and didn’t have to completely change our routine to work around her preferences and her school schedule. We felt like a family again.

Another huge benefit was that I knew what Hannah was capable of doing as far as school work was concerned, so I didn’t allow her to be lazy about it. I gently and lovingly pushed her to do her best, and she learned to do her best again. She also improved dramatically in her behavior. 

Yes, it did mean more work for me. Yes, it did take some time to adjust to our “new normal” schedule. Yes, it was totally worth it!! You see, the fact is that you are the expert on your child. Nobody else has that advantage. Nobody else knows her, her preferences, her wants and needs, like you do. 

So if you have a special needs child, I truly believe that, in most cases, homeschooling is the way to go. It’s not the easiest way, but it is so good in so many ways! 

What do you think? Do you homeschool a special needs child? Why did you make that decision? Or maybe you’re considering homeschooling your special needs child. I’d love to hear from you! 

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NOTE: The graphic above is from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net 

“Blackboard On Brick Wall” by antpkr. 

9 Comments

  1. Stephanie Harrington

    So many people thought I shouldn’t homeschool my ADHD son, but I am so glad that I did. He’s 22 now and still ADHD but has a degree and I know that my providing a stable and tailored program for him made all the difference. It was not an easy thing to do, some days were just plain terrible and we got little accomplished. But looking back I know that the one on one care and love I put into teaching him gave him the optimum environment for learning.

    Reply
    • Wendy

      Thanks for your comment, Stephanie! I agree that it’s definitely not easy homeschooling a special needs child (because it’s not easy homeschooling any child! It’s hard work!), but I also completely agree that it’s worth it! Thanks for sharing your info about your son. 🙂 That’s so encouraging to those of us who are still at it!

      Reply
  2. Jackie P

    My daughter has ADHD, dyslexia, CAPD, and anxiety disorder so homeschooling is the best route for us. We have been homeschooling since 3rd grade, but she did try junior high (8th grade) and that lasted about 2 months. It was beyond awful!!

    I did want to invite you to link-up with the Let’s Homeschool High School September Blog Hop. The theme this month is “Back to School”.

    http://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/blog/2013/09/03/homeschool-high-school-september-blog-hop/#.Uip51saURCa

    Best wishes this year.

    Joyfully,
    Jackie
    Let’s Homeschool High School Team Member

    Reply
  3. Krista Ranck

    In some ways special needs is daunting (she has so many different teachers and specialized people working with her) and in other ways it’s not (the school has to really work hard to give her the individualized attention that is a given in the homeschool environment, not to mention the lack of 20 something other distracting people in the classroom). I am in my first year of homeschooling my 6th grade daughter and God reminds me everyday why it was the best thing for her. I love reading blogs from other people who have been there done that, thanks!

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I have three children, two ADHD, one with SPD, CAPD, dyslexia, and no working memory. She looks like “normal” child and knows how to act like she is on level with the other children her age, but she is not. She is 9, in fourth grade (by the school putting her in the next grade each year, not passing it), she reads on a 2nd grade level and that is because her 2nd grade teacher was a GODSEND! Last year was okay, she had an IEP that they had to follow. This year is a nightmare. She loves two of her teachers, but does NOT like her reading teacher. She will NOT follow her IEP, and refuses advice from other teachers, she screams at the kids and tells them how much time she has to spend away from her own children to teach them (that would make me feel awful as a child). Anyway, she comes home everyday asking me to call the principal and have that one teacher changed or to homeschool her. She has always been fine with homework, but this year, she fights tooth and nail and hates it. I have really thought about homeshooling her, but I am terrified. I am not a disciplined person and I don’t know how to teach her with all her disabilities. I am so scared. I guess I just had to get that out.

    Reply
  5. mtngray

    I just stumbled across your blog and now plan to stalk you! But really, I have a 10 year old son with high functioning autism, and a 7 year old son who’s highly gifted. As a certified teacher (SAHM right now), I’d love to teach my younger son. Teaching my older one scares me, though. He’s very well behaved for me, but he doesn’t like to do homework or anything school related at home.
    So I’m looking for inspiration right now to help me make decision. Thanks for writing about your experiences!

    Reply
  6. Shannon

    Hello! Do you mind if I ask which intensive curriculum you used with your autistic daughter? We are in our third year of homeschooling and I just got the autism diagnosis last week for my 13 year old son. (though I’ve suspected for some time now) He was diagnosed severe ADHD and dyslexic several years ago but now, also, ASD. I am happy for the most part with the curriculum we are using this year but I can’t help but feel we need to be doing more. Thanks in advance for your time and information! 😀 Shannon Brown

    Reply
    • Wendy

      When she was very young, I did ABA therapy with her. I used a book by Ivar Lovaas called Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children: The Me Book. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0936104783?tag=hiphommom-20 I also used Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism: A Manual for Parents and Professionals by by Maurice, Green, and Luce. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0890796831?tag=hiphommom-20 It’s important to note that I did not do the negative reinforcement that Lovaas recommends in his book. I did the hand-over-hand prompting prompting and other prompting methods and well as the positive reinforcement. Your son may be past the need for those books, though. Now that Hannah is much older (She’s 18.), I use regular curriculum with her but present it differently–according to her needs and her ability to respond. I hope that helps!

      Reply

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