Homeschooling Your Child with Special Needs - FamilyEducation

Homeschooling Your Child with Special Needs

by Isabel Shaw

Can ordinary parents help their children succeed when teams of experts are unable to do so? The answer might surprise you.

The Best Place to Learn?

For families who have kids with special needs, the decision to homeschool is usually a desperate move. Parents are often frustrated by the inability of schools to provide the services their child needs. Others are discouraged by the way their child is treated by his classmates or even his teachers. Motivated by an intense desire to overcome labels or individual challenges to their child, parents are deciding to take on the role of "teacher" with increasing frequency. But can ordinary parents help their children succeed when teams of experts are unable to do so? Isn't a school environment the best place for kids to learn? And what about socialization? The answers to these questions may surprise you.

Thomas Armstrong's book, The Myth of the A.D.D. Child, explores the idea that the traditional classroom actually contributes to kids' learning difficulties. Armstrong states, "Kids who are labeled ADD are those who can't or won't put up with the (school) situation. And that may not be such a bad thing, because they're telling us this isn't working. They're harbingers of whatever we need to reform in our schools." In other words, the conservative model of the teacher at the front of the room lecturing and giving instructions with students sitting at desks isn't effective for these kids. Usually very bright, often artistic and dramatic, they simply fall apart when faced with worksheets and meaningless busywork. Armstrong's solution? "It seems to me that homeschooling would be tailor-made for the child who is having trouble in that worksheet wasteland and getting slapped with the ADD label."

Parents of kids with special needs are often advised to medicate their children. They spend hours with counselors and school psychologists, developing coping strategies to get through each school day. Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons, authors of Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World: Unlocking the Potential of Your ADD Child believe we have to rethink our whole approach to working with kids. Freed writes, "What these children need is not a prescription for pills, but a prescription for a different learning method." For many families, homeschooling is that different learning method.