Many parents find out in a well-child appointment that something isn’t quite normal with their precious child, as we did. We went through the system of early intervention for testing and therapy for each of our special needs children for years. Generally Early Intervention is for birth to 3 years old then you change over to public school, but what if you want to homeschool?
When I first brought up homeschooling to my Early Intervention team they all just looked at me astonished. Most were not openly hostile, they just didn’t understand why I would want to. A special needs child can be exhausting and intense. There were also things like therapy and additional learning needs that needed to be addressed. The general consensus was its okay to homeschool a normal child but one with special needs was outside a parent’s ability.
Let me assure as a mom to 5 children with medical needs, 4 of whom have autism, YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL! I know you can. I do it every day. My children are flourishing with homeschooling.
The first thing I needed to do was decide if I wanted to keep some contact with public school therapy system. Did I want to go with an IEP and try for therapy? All states provide testing when you can show a clear nee, but not all states will provide therapy. There are a handful of states that allow full access to school therapy, usually at the school. Most states put homeschooling at the bottom of the barrel and you get what is left over (if anything is left over.) Then there are a few states that are clear: you either come to school and get therapy or your child doesn’t receive anything at all. Here is a list of State Law Requirements for Special Needs Homeschoolers that I compiled on my site.
I decided to leave the public school system and get my children tested at a private OT clinic and the local Children’s hospital for Physical Therapy needs. The private clinics were a split decision. One of my rules is I sit in on all appointments. One clinic assured me that mothers in particular hindered children’s progress. We happily moved on from that one. The next clinic was a delight! We stayed with them for years and all my children attended it at some point for needed therapies. We would have the appointment and the therapist would give us homework to keep the progress moving throughout the week. We were even able to shave off weeks to the ‘normal’ therapy schedule.
The Children’s Hospital however, was an unexpected pitfall that is all too common. The hospital was so used to working with the public school system that they didn’t even stop to consider we were homeschooling. They even included another clinician to the Physical Therapy appointment that was meant as a school therapist. They started contact with the local school district IEP team without even asking us! The whole experience was uncomfortable and needlessly intrusive. In the end the results were very disappointing: The therapist told me that while my daughter was buckled into her wheelchair she was safe enough for a classroom setting and therefore under their current financial restrictions she would not get therapy.
I walked away from the public school and the quasi school delegates without a shadow of a doubt. My daughter went to the original private therapy clinic we loved and she thrived.
Let’s talk money, which can be the make or break of getting therapy. Many therapy options are not covered (such as music therapy.) There are great stories where parents found a way to make it happen, but overall if your child needs a therapy you need to look at the community therapy assistance such as the local University therapy school, Scottish Rite, and pay out of pocket private care. There are also a growing number of home based therapy books, online programs, and tutorials that are a much cheaper option. There are scholarships available to some special needs families that you should look into.
You can homeschool your child with special needs successfully! You can continue getting needed therapy for you child even if you have to think outside the box. Homeschooling your child with special needs can easily help your child flourish in ways others cannot imagine. You love your child and have a beautiful grand vision that starts early with therapy and choosing homeschooling. Enjoy the journey, I know I am!
Author Heather Laurie: a veteran homeschooling mom of 5 and advocate for the special needs community. Her family homeschools and thrives despite the unique challenges of a genetic disease that causes problems from learning disabilities, autism, to strokes. Sharing how to have a Hope-filled, Help-filled, Peace-filled home even when facing significant problems when speaking or in her book, Homeschooling When Learning Isn’t Easy. Please check out Heather’s Site– SpecialNeedsHomeschooling.com— for great information, resources, helps, and encouragement.