Monday 3 August 2015

Home Educating a Child with Special Needs

Today's post is the last in the series about Home Educating in Different Circumstances.

 The first four posts were

Today, Beth, from As He leads is Joy, is talking about Home Educating a Child with Special Needs.

Do Special needs children and home education go together? Special needs is a term that can be applied to a wide variety of issues. Can teaching special needs children at home be done? 

I am writing from the perspective of a mum who has a daughter with Down Syndrome. My daughter is high functioning. I don't know that I had always considered home education for my daughter. The decision to home education came as a result of already home educating her brother and realising that the education that the school was offering her was life skills and I knew she was capable of more than that. 

As you consider home education and special needs, there are often doubts that come up in your mind or questions that others might ask you. 

The Doubts

1. I am not qualified. Being loving parent who wants the best for your child and is willing to do what needs to be done if enough qualifications. You know your child and the best way to educate your child. 

2. Is it legal? Home educating special needs children is legal in both the UK and the US. It might take a few requirements but it is legal.

There are challenges to home educating a special needs child. Some of these are the same challenges you have any home education child. 

The Challenges

1. The time required out of you as the teacher is greater. I need to be there with my daughter more than I would with a normal 11 year old. There are limited things that she can do independently in regards to her learning. I need to guide her learning a bit more. That means that I need to sit with her, review with her or remind her. Teaching a special needs child takes time. 

2. Finding resources and adapting resources can be a challenge at times for special needs children. There are numerous websites where you can buy therapy items and I have purchased various things over the years. These can be expensive at times as well so you need to be able to evaluate the resource. 

3. Finding support and encouragement that is both supportive and encouraging can be difficult but will help you be able to go continue on. I love the friends that speak into my life encouraging me with the progress that they see in my daughter. It is easy to look and see an 11 year old that does not know the basic addition facts and miss the progress that is being made. The friends that support and encourage help me to continue on.

4. Home educating a special needs child requires that I be disciplined. I need to be organised and have a plan for the day. I need goals for our year. My daughter is happy to play in her room and talk to herself. She loves to "take a break" and sometimes is it just easier to allow that but I need to be disciplined to motivate and encourage her to learn. 

5. Getting therapy and help can be a challenge. At this point there are minor areas where my daughter needs help. We have not done a therapy program for the past two years. Often therapy is through the school system and so working outside of that system to get the therapy can be a challenge. That is a challenge that we continue to face and I am still working at how to overcome this. 

Home education is difficult and add in special needs, why bother. Wouldn't it just be easier to send the child to a local school? Some days I think that but then I need to remind myself of the benefits of having my daughter home and learning here at home. 

The Benefits

1. Home education often means one-on-one learning. I remember meeting with a developmental doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the doctor telling me that my daughter would learn best in a one-on-one learning but not home education. What? Home education is one-on-one. I will say that at the next appointment the doctor was impressed with the progress and told me to continue with home education. One-on-one learning is often what the special needs child needs and home is a great place for that learning. 

2. The education is tailored to the child. As the parent, you know your child, the special needs and so you are able to adapt the learning to the child. My daughter does a great job at reading but maths is a challenge. Our maths examples often include things that she knows, "if you had 3 sweets and mum gave you 1 more, how many would you have." Those are things that she can picture and understand so it helps in her maths. My daughter is high functioning and I do not want to limit her.

3. Her brother is involved in helping her learn and she learns from him and with him. We do some things together and I know that she will not get all the details that he will but she is learning. I am amazed at the number of countries she can find on the map. Some of that is what her brother has taught her. A few years ago her brother was studying for a memory master and trying to remember the major rivers in the United States. He was stumped and she walked by and said, "Red River". She knew it. Siblings can learn from and teach the special needs child.

4. The learning is paced at a level that my daughter can handle. It can be a slower day with more breaks or can be slowly working through the book. My goal is progress. It might not be big things like finishing the book or learning all the fact family. Progress is learning the plus 1 family or reading a short book. 

5. Life skills are taught in a real life environment. When we began home education, she was not potty trained and first two years of school that was one of our goals. So many of life skills gaining independence and being able to care for yourself. My daughter's job often is to sort the laundry; that is a life skill. 

Home education is hard work and at times harder work with a special needs child but the benefits of listening to a child read, hear the answers to the questions, see the pictures they draw are bits of reward that you are doing the right thing in educating at home. Home education can be excellent for the special needs child. 

Beth is learning to drive on the right, drink tea, wear jumpers in the summer, and various new words and phrases since moving to England in April 2014. Beth and her family minister to Chinese students as they prepare to return home to China. She has two children a 14 year old son adopted from Eastern Europe and an 11 year old daughter with Down Syndrome both of whom she home educates. All of this has taught her to trust God in deeper ways as she sees His faithfulness. She enjoys quiet mornings, coffee, dark chocolate, and warm quilts. She blogs at

For information about the legal side of Home Educating children with Special Needs in the UK, this is a specific website which is worth visiting.

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