Sharon Wallace is the administrator of Bethel Baptist Academy, an Independent Study Program (ISP) in California specifically geared to serving and encouraging families who choose to home school their special needs children. Many ISPs are unsure of how to handle-or even wary of accepting-these families, so Sharon is delighted to offer an alternative. Now in its third year, Bethel Baptist makes sure that parents complete all the necessary paperwork to cover their federal and state legal bases.
God has certainly positioned Sharon to recognize the need these families have for support. Of her four children (Joshua, 12, Timothy, 10, Benjamin, 8, and Simeon, 5), both Timothy and Simeon have special needs. Timothy had his first epileptic seizure, as a result of tuber sclerosis (a condition in which tuber-like tumors grow in the brain and other organs), before he was a year old.
|Norman and Sharon Wallace have firsthand experience with the financial challenges facing parents with special needs children.|
Sharon and her husband, Norman, had already felt led of the Lord to home school their children, but Timothy's condition confirmed to them that they had chosen the correct educational route. "No one else would be as committed to meeting his educational needs as I am," Sharon explains. Indeed, she has made remarkable progress, as shown by Timothy's ability to read at a first-grade level. Since he's not beyond the first grade mentally, he likely would not have attained this level of proficiency without one-on-one attention.
Because of her experience with Timothy, Sharon immediately recognized Simeon's symptoms, and was more prepared to help him. She developed her own methods for teaching him to roll over, crawl, and walk. "The Internet is a wonderful resource for those who want to research their children's disorders," she said.
Sharon first contacted HSLDA when preparing Timothy for an evaluation several years ago. At that time, Betty Statnick, HSLDA's Special Needs Coordinator, suggested that Sharon use Curriculum Associates' Readiness Skills with Timothy. Betty then went further and persuaded HSLDA to purchase the costly program and lend it to Sharon. Since then, other families have also benefited from borrowing HSLDA's copy of this text. Another expensive diagnostic tool HSLDA has made available for members' use in evaluating their pre-K to 9th-grade special needs children is the Brigance test. Thus, Sharon sees the Special Needs Children's Fund as an extension of the services HSLDA has offered in the past.
"It can be so tempting to take government funds when you really need that wheelchair, or that speech therapy; so having a private alternative available for families to meet those provisions is so important," she said.