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My son has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD and is having a very difficult time in school — academically and socially. He currently takes medication and is very bright, but he struggles to get D's and F's.

I only have a high school education. Should I take the chance of homeschooling my child, or let him continue to feel and be unsuccessful in public school? We live in a small town and there are no programs instituted within the system to accommodate him. He does have a full-time aide at his side, but that seems to make matters worse. Please advise.

I wish I had a little more information — your son's age, the extent of his disability, and why the full-time aide is not providing the assistance your son needs. However, I can try to help you based on my personal experience and knowledge of families who homeschool their children with disabilities.

In the past ten years I've spoken with dozens of families who've decided to homeschool their children with disabilities. I've gotten to know many of them personally. Just about every one of these families tried, unsuccessfully, to work with the public or private school system. Homeschooling was often the last resort as they watched their children slip into a downward spiral of academic and social failure. Against the advice of school officials, family members, and sometimes even friends, these parents decided to do whatever it took to help their child succeed.

The good news is, they were remarkably successful. Within a year, these kids made a noticeable improvement. By the second year, it was as if they became different children. I recently published an article about a little girl named Jessie with Down syndrome. Her parents were told by school officials that their daughter would be barely functional. While in school, she lived up to those expectations. Not satisfied, and believing her child was capable of more, her mom decided to try homeschooling. Three years later, Jessie is quite independent, has a green belt in Karate, plays the piano, paints beautiful gallery-quality artwork, and is doing professional modeling. I can easily share a dozen similar stories.

For these parents, the deciding factor in their success was not a college degree or specialized training. It was the firm belief that their kids can and will succeed. They were determined to read and research their kids' disabilities, and then custom fit that information into a program geared specifically for their child. In some cases (the little girl, above, for instance), the information (even in professional journals) may be outdated or inaccurate. Jessie's mom had to join support groups and speak with experienced parents to determine how she could best help her daughter.

For a start, read Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. Find a homeschool support or resource group near your home. Be sure to read Homeschooling the Child With ADD (or Other Special Needs) by Lenore Colacion Hayes. It's filled with helpful advice and encouragement for parents of children with special needs. Perhaps Hayes can answer your question about homeschooling better than I can: "You possess the ability, knowledge, determination, and love to direct your child's future... You need only grasp opportunity in one hand, your child in the other, and never look back."


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