Children with special needs often experience gaps or deficits in certain skills, while being ahead in others. Whether your children with special needs have ADHD, autism, dyslexia or any other sort of disability or learning disorder, this is common. It’s part of the reason we love homeschooling. When you homeschool, you can tailor their education to meet their needs subject by subject.
First and foremost, we started looking at homeschooling because of severe bullying and lack of IEP support. However, as I began looking into homeschooling, I realized this was another great benefit.
We initially decided to homeschool right as we received orders to move to a new state.
The cutoff date where we lived advanced my son by a grade over any other state. I knew that if I decided not to homeschool, he would either repeat a grade or I’d have to petition to have him moved up a grade to stay on track with where he was.
So first I asked his then ABA provider what she recommended. She said that it would be a blessing for him to repeat the same grade. “He’s simply way too far behind socially and emotionally to keep moving forward. Any time that he can have to review and build up his social skills should be taken.”
Then I talked to his classroom teacher
She said I should absolutely petition for him to move forward with the next grade. Additionally, she was more than willing to sign any papers recommending that he move forward. From her perspective, boredom caused major disruption and behavior problems; he knew too much already. She literally said, “You cannot do that to him. He’ll be so bored that it will be a disaster for both he and his teacher.”
Lots of kids fall into this. There is no one-size-fits-all education for anyone, but it’s much more pronounced for our special needs kids. Many cannot get services or an IEP. 504’s really don’t do a whole lot either (in my opinion it’s the school’s way of pacifying concerned parents who don’t know any better). So what are children with special needs supposed to do? In my opinion, homeschooling is the best option and here are 3 great reasons why…
1. Gaps aren’t missed or just skipped over
In addition to social skills being behind, writing was a weak point for my son. It caused constant tears and headaches. Some of it was a fine motor issue as well as planning out his thoughts and converting them into his own words. It’s mentally exhausting for him. Honestly, I struggled with the exact same thing as I grew up with undiagnosed ADHD.
Sometimes, I’d argue most of the time, gaps in learning impact everything else that you learn. No, I’m not saying gaps in learning as in “you’re going to miss teaching them something if you homeschool.” I think that’s ridiculous…
But what I am saying, is that gaps in their ability to learn or do something matters. If they’re unable to read well, that’s going to affect how well they do math problems, for example. If they’re unable to write well, their job applications will suffer in the future. There’s a lot to be said about how all the subjects we learn are interdependent.
2.They don’t get held back when they don’t need to be
On the flipside, repeating an entire grade simply because they’re failing in one or two specific subjects is an injustice. They lose the chance to learn and grow in other subjects in which they’re not behind. Held back from their full ability, behavior issues could spiral out of control. Either that or they may learn to hate school altogether because it’s just so unbelievably boring. When you homeschool you can spend a little extra time in just the subjects in which they need extra practice. Learning remains fun rather than becoming a bore.
3. Self-esteem is less likely to suffer
Whether held back or not, the public school system is a potential disaster for the self-esteem of children with special needs.
Repeating a grade in school can do a number on them emotionally. Making new friends is the obvious first problem. Second, dealing with the mean comments kids sometimes make about being held back. Children with special needs shouldn’t have to explain, on their own, to peers that they have dyslexia and trouble reading, or that they just don’t get math.
If not held back, merely floundering and surviving in work above their heads is embarrassing. It produces needless anxiety and causes so much self-doubt. As someone who experienced these struggles but tested well enough to “fake it” all the way through school, I can personally attest to that.
Imposter syndrome takes over. You’re smart, and you know that, but you’re also aware that you can’t do what you’re supposed to be able to do. How everyone else is managing to get through escapes you completely. “Why can’t I do it? What’s wrong with me?” Those are your thoughts on repeat. Living in constant fear that everyone is going to figure that out any day now, you gladly let them think that you’re just lazy and not trying. Before too long, you just give up for real.
We are all fearfully and wonderfully made
Each of us is so unique. We have different lives and futures ahead of us. While we all need solid foundations in reading, writing, and math, we don’t all need the exact same education. We’re not destined for the same jobs or careers! We don’t have the same abilities, nor desires even. Personally, I think that’s a necessary thing for society to function well and beautifully. So why hold our children with special needs to this cookie cutter standard? We risk extinguishing their spark in a world that’s already harder for them.
Jill Camacho blogs at Autismhomeschoolmama.com She is a Christian, veteran, mom to two boys, and creator of social skills & homeschooling resources. Her desire is to equip and empower parents to homeschool their special needs children.