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Homeschooling a Child with Special Challenges

By — Homeschool Association of California
Updated on Feb 29, 2008

Homeschooling a child with special needs may seem daunting. We might be lead to believe that psychologists, school administrators, and others have all the answers. Is it possible to homeschool a child with special challenges? Might that child even flourish?

In this section three moms who have found their own solutions to special education challenges share some helpful advice. You will also find some helpful books, periodicals, and other resources.

Finding Help

Homeschooling a child with disabilities, special circumstances, unique characteristics, different learning styles, or whatever one wishes to call an unusual challenge, can be done. Many families find that no one 'recipe' stays successful, and that midcourse corrections are the order of the day. Finding resources can be exciting, yet frustrating, because what is true today may NOT be true tomorrow, or in a different part of the state!

The situation regarding special education in California is in a constant state of change. Most districts are interpreting the law to mean that if the local school district is offering an 'appropriate special education program' for your child in the public school, but you choose to send your child to a private school or to homeschool outside the public system, the district is relieved of any further responsibility to serve the child's special education needs. This could mean some families might wish to continue in an established relationship with a district speech therapist, for example, but be denied that service. However, in some cases personal appeals to the district for an exception have been successful. Establishing a cordial relationship with a Special Ed representative as early as possible may facilitate future goals. Keeping a record of all contacts will be very important. It is as yet unclear how homeschoolers will be impacted, if at all, by changes in Special Ed policies, but some districts seem more amenable to performing special ed services on what they call a 'consulting basis' for homeschooling families.

The Internet provides many chances to compare notes, find families with similar problems, and generally get support outside the school district. Wellness sites like Healthcentral.com have pages with basic information on many conditions, and ideas for further research. A fine magazine is Exceptional Parent, which addresses many rare conditions and has discussed homeschooling as one of the answers for many families.

If a child is permanently blind, one can make plans based on that. But when a child's situation never stays the same for any period of time, planning becomes more complex. Along with that comes the evolution inherent in different developmental stages. Adjusting to the constant change can be exhausting. Please contact me directly at hscce@aol.com or (925) 455-0465 if you have questions about the California policies or need individual help.

You Are Not Alone

I began this homeschooling journey searching for the book that would tell me exactly what to do. I searched the web and reviewed materials, and read many books, only to discover there is no one particular book with all the best answers. Since each child has individual strengths and weaknesses, talents and interests, what seems to work best is a "cut and paste" approach. This involves sifting through materials and resources to find what you feel will work best for you and your child. In spite of changes to the law, you might still be able to receive services such as Speech and Occupational Therapy. Feel confident when you attend your IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meeting, knowing that you are providing a superior education for your child. Remember: you are the person who knows your child best. Follow your intuition, knowing that if something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't right. There is support out there as more families choose to homeschool their children with special needs. At times it may seem like it's one step forward and two steps back, but try to be patient with the process and trust yourself along the way. I can be reached by e-mail: nobleclan@hotmail.com.

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