Every child is special.
Before we go further, know that I know that. I know that all children are special. All of their needs are real. All of their needs are valued. That’s not what this post is about.
This post is about the child, who, in a category entitled “special needs,” stands out in a sea above the rest.
This is about the child who is in the minority in an already very diverse group.
Yes, he has special needs. But, he is non-verbal. He is not walking on his own. He is incontinent. He needs to be fed. He needs to have his position changed often. He uses equipment to support him. He needs to be supervised at all times.
When your child is this child, you even have trouble relating to other parents of children with special needs.
When your child is this child, you can’t imagine how he’ll be able to perform life-long skills that would allow him to provide for himself one day.
When your child is this child, you wonder how to teach him since everything on the market is geared toward kids who do walk, who do talk (even if only a few words), and who can hold pencils and not mouth every object they see.
When your child is this child, even the resources you find for educating children with special needs need to be modified or adapted.
You are certain that you are the only parent on the planet who thought it possible to homeschool a child with significant developmental delays.
If this is your child, I hear you because I’ve just described my own.
How I knew I could homeschool a child with significant delays
I had always wanted to homeschool – even before my son was born. As a public school teacher, I felt it in my blood that I would one day do a better job at reaching children if it was one-on-one.
When my son was born, and I learned of all of his challenges, I thought long and hard about how I’d be able to one day homeschool. Even with all of the education and experience under my belt, I had never taught a child with such significant delays.
What happened over the course of the next nine years is worth noting: I got to know my son. I connect with him in ways I never related to anyone else in this world. I understand his signs, I understand his cries, I know his laughs (and they aren’t always about funny things).
There came a time when I knew more about my child than professionals. That’s when I knew that I could one day homeschool. I also knew I’d be the best person for the job.
How to homeschool a child with significant delays when you don’t feel qualified
It’s true that schools for children with special needs have the equipment, tools, and resources that you may not have at home. For whatever reason, you also know that homeschooling is the best option for your child right now. How do you reconcile the two?
Here are three tips:
1- Have confidence in your abilities. Similar to my story above – no one knows your child like you do. No one ever will. Even with all of the challenges your child may face, even if you don’t have the training, as long as you feel that this is what you want to do, know you are the person best equipped to teach your child, hands down.
2- Educate yourself. If there is anything you don’t know about being an educator, train yourself. That doesn’t mean going back to school and getting a degree (although it could). It means finding out what your child needs, and getting access to those resources and skills so that you can follow-through with success. The internet has an endless amount of academic articles, research studies, and educational ideas to get you started. The rest can be modified or adapted.
3- Get support. Even though you are the best person to teach your child, I never suggest going it alone. Find out what kinds of professionals you might need to make the task easier for you. Nothing beats talking to a live person, no matter how great the material on their website is. Occupational therapists can suggest adaptations for fine motor activities such as for holding a pencil or a paintbrush. Physical therapists can show you how to position your child at a desk that fits him right. Educational consultants can help you plan the academics and help you adapt the activities to meet your child’s specific needs.
You may feel that you are in a class of your own as a parent of a child with extra special needs. Know that you are never alone. There is always something you can do, resources you can find, and people who can support you.
What are your biggest concerns about homeschooling a child with significant developmental delays?