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Mar 11, 2013

Building a Network of Support for Families Homeschooling Children with Special Needs

Faith Berens

Recently, we have had many inquiries about how to find support groups and local resources that are specific to special needs. One mother shared her heart’s cry stating, “I need more than an expert to give me suggestions, I need friends with which to meet regularly.” Are there others out there who have this same need? I’m sure there are.    

While many families are already involved in a home school support group, our department often hears from parents who say that they don’t feel like their family “fits in”. They sense others within their support group may not understand or cannot relate to their unique challenges associated with home educating a child with special needs, particularly students with severe behavioral and learning needs, such as children on the Autism spectrum, Down Syndrome, or behavioral disorders.  At other times, members report that their children are not included in the group, requests for accommodations are not met by co-op teachers, and a general lack of understanding or compassion seems to exist. 

When I hear these things, it saddens me because I know that families are hurting and in need of support, community, encouragement, and a “safe place”.  I think for the most part, it is not that people intend to disenfranchise and treat those with learning differences, physical, behavioral, or mental challenges badly, but rather are acting out of fear, lack knowledge, insecurity, and are quite frankly unsure of how to help.

I would like to encourage folks who are involved in support groups and co-ops to follow Jesus’ admonition to “let all the children come”. 

Let’s get the conversation started:

What can we do to reach out and include those with disabilities?  What are ways that you all out there are making an effort to include children with various exceptionalities in your groups? We would love to  hear your comments and ideas.   

Places to find support groups:  

1. Look for on-line support groups, chat groups, bulletin board discussion groups, and blogs. While these definitely are not the same as having a support system in your own neighborhood, they can still be a good way to find ideas, exchange experiences, and to connect with others who are walking a similar path.

Here are a couple to check out: 

Yahoo Groups

Special Needs Homeschooling on Facebook

2. One can also find private, learning consultants that offer support and resources for families.  Many will offer consultations from a distance, via web-cam, phone, and email exchanges. 

Here are a few, very well known private consultants who offer support and resources: 

Joyce Herzog

Sharon Hensley/Almaden Valley Christian School

Dianne Craft

Judith Munday    

Kathy Kuhl     

Eckenwiler Family            

Places to Find Support Groups: 

  • Respite Care—Nathaniel’s Hope
  • Check out local Churches—many have disabilities ministries
  • National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network, NATHHAN/CHASK
  • Key Ministry an organization whose mission is to  help churches serve families impacted by disability. 
  • HSLDA’s Support Groups Lists

Recommended Books: 

  • Just the Way I Am:  God’s Good Design in Disability by Krista Horning
  • Let All the Children Come To Me: A Practical Guide to Including Children with Disabilities in Your Church by MaLesa Breeding
  • Homeschooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley
  • Homeschooling the Challenging Child by Christine Field

Please share your comments and ideas:

For those of you homeschooling children with exceptionalities, how and where have you found support? 

If you have begun your own special needs support group and have ideas to share, please do so, we would love to hear your comments and ideas! 

-Faith

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