Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs: Part One
Homeschooling, in itself, offers advantages and disadvantages, depending on your family situation, even if you are homeschooling all typical children. For example, will you be giving up an income for one of you to stay home and homeschool? That affects all families making the homeschool decision. These two lists in this two-part post contain items that may be applicable whether you have a special needs child or not. But they are good things to consider if you are making the decision on whether or not to homeschool your special needs child.Today we will look at the advantages of choosing to homeschool a child with special needs. In a few days, I will post the second half~~the disadvantages to consider when thinking about homeschooling your child with special needs. I look forward to reading what advantages and disadvantages you can add in the comments! and p.s. this post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving or receiving of medical advice. Thank you!
Part One: The Advantages of homeschooling your special needs child:
1. No one knows your child, or how they learn better than you. Is your child a visual learner? Or does he learn by doing? Does he stay on task better when allowed to stand as opposed to sit? You have the advantage to be able to present the material to your child in the way you know they will learn it best when you homeschool. Your child can be taught 1:1 via his particular learning style; something he will most likely not be able to receive as one of many in a public classroom setting.
2. No one knows your child's diagnosis more than you. This is particularly true if your child has a syndrome or multiple things going on and not just a blanket diagnosis (autism, for example). But even with one well known diagnosis, you have been reading about it, studying it, living, eating and breathing it since diagnosis day. You may not be the foremost expert in the world on autism, but you are the foremost expert on your own child.
3. More time allotted in the day for repetitions that a child with special needs, needs. The bottom line is a homeschool schedule offers more flexibility. If your child is finally starting to grasp a concept, you can keep going! You decide when to move to the next subject, the next task, the next goal...not the clock.
4. Life skills as a curriculum subject is an option. Granted there are some Basic Life Skills classrooms, but overall, a public school classroom for a special needs class is mandated to teach a particular set of academics of which life skills is not included. However, life skills are extremely important for a child with special needs. In my own son's example: when I took him out of public school, they had been trying to teach him for almost THREE years, how to count coins. Well, fast forward 4 years of homeschool: He still can't count coins, but he can now make his bed, set the table, bring his own dirty clothes to the laundry room, he is potty trained now and can do his own shower. While we work on math each day and he can now add single digits, I'm not really missing that coin counting ability. The school worked on it because it was a state standard for his grade,but even with modifications this was a skill above him, and the question to ask...TO WHAT END? in other words, what was the point? I have the autonomy to work on what I feel is a home standard for him (in addition to the required academics) to be the most independent little boy he can be! To read more about life skills as a curriculum subject, click HERE.
5. Social Skills are genuinely better, not worse. We have all read the research...homeschooled children are shown to have better social skills (not worse) than their public school peers. Same goes for special needs children. If you want your child to have good social skills, they need to be in an environment where good social skills are modeled consistently. This is typically not found in a special needs classroom, where children of different levels and abilities are often placed together. Also, with certain diagnosis like Autism, where sensory issues are involved, a loud, fluorescent lit classroom filled with various people, sounds and smells, is sensory-overload...not the best platform for desired behavior to build.
6. Ability to do outings when venues are less crowded. If your child has DME (Durable medical equipment), has difficulty waiting or being quiet, then being able to go to a movie or a restaurant on a Tuesday morning when everyone else is in school may be your ticket to more enjoyable social time with your child. When my children's grandparents visited Thanksgiving week, they took the kids, all of them. to the movies. By going on a weekday morning, there was no line and no crowd and since they were the only ones in the theatre, my one son's habit of wanting to talk through the movie (a skill we are stringently working on) was not a big deal.
7. Ability to travel in off seasons. No lines. No crowds. and it's cheaper. Consider Disneyland. Being able to go when there are no crowds could be the difference between a successful vacation for a family with a child with special needs and an unsuccessful one.
8. Ability to do more school outside. I have kids with lots of energy who learn by doing. So science outside? Awesome. With the Waldorf homeschool method, a part of each day is spent outside, but personally, isn't this a great idea for any child...whether homeschooled or not, special needs or not? Sunshine changes everyone's disposition; including Moms. Children desire and require interaction with nature. Experiences are still the best teacher over worksheets and most special needs children have difficulty with worksheets at a desk anyway. Lastly, recess break when my special needs kiddo is getting antsy? No problem...we don't have to wait for a specific "recess time".
9. Therapies. You will spend less time on a waiting list for therapies when your child is available times other than the prime after school hours. For our particular homeschool decision, our twins who had been on a waiting list for over two years for after school therapists had therapy going again within two weeks of me starting to homeschool them as they were now available in the morning for ST, OT and PT.
10. Routine. You can change the routine as needed. If your child did not sleep the night before, as most children with special needs (80% as compared to 30% in their typical peers) have sleep issues, you can adjust the days learning schedule. Likewise, you can keep the schedule as rigid as need be for your child's comfort level.
11. Ability to spend more time on areas of interest for your child. My son Sean loves trains. It is amazing the ways I have used trains over these past few years to teach everything from science, to social studies to math. We have spent extra time on theme units that was initially unplanned because it sparked a desire to learn that I didn't foresee. Homeschool allows for this flexibility.
12. Diet issues. If your child is on a special diet, be it gluten free or even tube feeding, homeschooling in its definition is easier than public schooling.
Do you have other advantages to share? Leave a comment. Part two of this post: The Disadvantages of homeschooling your child with special needs can be found by clicking HERE.