Children Are Special
Honoring Their Special Needs Through Homeschooling
Our society respects adults who think differently and take risks to become our inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Often these are people who discovered inborn talents through their interests, honing them until they became very good at something others either can't do or never thought to do. If we extended the same approval of unique thinking and nurturing of inherent talent in our children, would we persist in expecting them all to learn the same thing in the same way at the same time during their school years?
Of course not, especially when the continuation of this one-size-fits-all schooling is accompanied by a soaring increase in the number of children labeled as "learning disabled." It might be that many of these children are not dis-abled, but merely "differently-abled" learners who just don't learn in the narrow way the schools have chosen to teach.
As record numbers of families choose homeschooling because their children's needs aren't met in schools, many are pleasantly surprised after what is sometimes a brief period of time to find that "symptoms" of learning disabilities disappear. In these cases, the symptoms had more to do with the school's inability to serve the children's needs than with the children themselves. There was a failure to recognize that all children, just like the adults we admire, are special because they are unique individuals with varying needs.
If You Suspect Learning Disorders
Homeschooling has many benefits for a child suspected of having learning disorders (LD).
A formal evaluation may be unnecessary
Your possible late bloomer will receive time to blossom
Homeschooling's one-on-one attention is highly recommended
Your child could by-pass the use of Ritalin and other
psychoactive drugs and their side-effects
Addressing True Learning Disorders with Homeschooling
Since homeschooling is a flexible educational approach easily customized to the needs of individual children, it's also a match made in heaven for children who have physical, emotional, or brain impairments that create different educational requirements. In this situation, however, the question of whether or not to use public school services comes into play.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes provisions for all qualifying students to receive a "free, appropriate public education." If a child doesn't qualify for special education, some help is still available through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in the form of classroom modifications and other accommodations, such as large print books or test administration in a quiet environment.
However, some homeschoolers find that school personnel are allowed to reject requests for help by stating that when their offer of a "free, appropriate public education" is turned down, they are no longer responsible for additional services. Decisions regarding provision of such help to homeschoolers, therefore, are still the purview of the state and local school districts, and services can be anywhere from easy to impossible to obtain.
Some families appreciate public schools' help with special needs,
including the creation of Individual Education Plans (IEP's).
Others remember their children are home because the school's
services weren't benefiting them and, like other homeschooling parents, decide they can create their own learning plans
independently or with the help of a special education teacher, information available on the Web and in books such as the
forthcoming Wrightslaw: Smart IEPs (Harbor House Law Press), or the aid of other homeschooling families with experience.
Ten Tips to Make the Most of Your Homeschooling Experience
Of course you will experiment with many ways to best help homeschooling work for your child with special needs. Successful families hold in common some foundational practices that can help you, too.
1) Leave behind school and its ways. You chose to homeschool either because you found out that the school's approach isn't working, or because you feel it won't work for your child. There's absolutely no need to bring home failed methods.
2) Consider "bad days" inevitable and learn to roll with the punches. Homeschooling is not a rose garden; rather it's a quick and efficient way to figure out the best way to help your child learn. Accept that you will make mistakes then learn from them and go on. Realize that you can also take a break when things don't run smoothly, and come back at a later time.
3) Keep learning fun. Be ever alert for educational activities that provide necessary academic lessons in ways that teach your child learning is its own reward at the same time.
4) Minimize environmental stress and distractions. For many children with special needs, "normal" visual and auditory activities are unsettling. Stand-up, tri-fold displays available in teaching supply stores can create a quiet cubbyhole. Add earphones supplying pleasant music, if necessary or desired, to provide "quiet study time."
5) Honor the child's internal "learning clock". Your child will grasp and maintain skills as she is neurologically ready. Allow her the schedule that's right for her, even if it doesn't keep pace with others' expectations. This keeps stress to a minimum for both of you.
6) Emphasize strengths, bolster weaknesses. Focus on what your child can do instead of what he can't yet accomplish. He'll gain much more self-confidence, and that will better prepare him to tackle his weaknesses.
7) Repeat what works, even if it's non-conventional. Some of homeschoolers' greatest successes in imparting knowledge to their children happen by chance when they least expect it. If it works, do it again!
8) Provide frequent activity change, exercise, and fresh air. This will increase your child's ability to concentrate and focus. Besides, it's healthy advice for everyone!
9) If needed, physical activity while being read to can increase your child's comprehension, and autonomous reading should take place in any way he likes. Boundless energy needs release, and it's easy to provide at home. If your daughter comprehends best while jumping up and down on a trampoline, let her jump. Reading under a blanket with a flashlight while petting the dog is still reading.
10) Look upon the learning differences as a gift. If you do this, your child will, too, labeling himself "smart."
Balametrics' Learning Breakthrough Program
Dr. Frank Belgau developed The Learning Breakthrough Program
during twenty years of careful observation of the activities that remediated learning disabilities and improved attention, reading
efficiency, and visual and auditory processing. He found that
precise balance stimulation with the special tools he developed
showed significant improvement in all these areas.
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