Growing at home
Nourishing your special needs child
What does HSLDA consider a special need?
Generally, we define a special needs child as one who is working two or more years behind grade level in his subjects, a child who has been receiving special education services, or a child with any other disability that impacts his ability to learn. Some children may have physical disabilities that do not impact their ability to learn or may have special needs in the form of giftedness. This article, however, focuses on the first three categories.
HSLDA cares about special needs families
Home School Legal Defense Association is committed to helping our members successfully homeschool their special needs children. HSLDA Special Needs Coordinator Betty Statnick provides names of homeschool-friendly professionals who have experience with special needs children, lists of helpful educational resources, and information about test rentals. HSLDA members are invited to contact Betty with any questions about homeschooling children with learning disabilities. She can be reached through our office by calling 540-338-5600.
The Special Needs Children's Fund
"Special needs kids need one-on-one attention," says Chuck Hurst, director of the Home School Foundation. "Homeschooling is an excellent way to give a child this attention, but many parents cannot afford the private services and equipment their child needs."
That's why the Home School Foundation started the Special Needs Children's Fund. Hurst explains the vision behind the fund: "Parents of special needs children often feel that they're between a rock and a hard place, and we try to help them find a place where they feel at liberty to do what's best for their children."
The Special Needs Children's Fund gives parents a boost toward meeting educational expenses, which include testing, professional services, specialized curriculum, and equipment. If you are a parent of a special needs child, struggle financially to meet his needs, and are a member of HSLDA, you may apply for a grant each year. In an average year, HSF receives applications from 100 families, and so far, the organization has been able to provide financial assistance to all applicants who qualify for a grant.
Chuck Hurst has talked with numerous parents who are homeschooling their special needs child. "It really works for them. We want families to have peace of mind that they can do it!"
If you are interested in learning more about the Home School Foundation or would like to make a donation to the Special Needs Children's Fund, visit www.homeschoolfoundation.org/funds/specialneeds.asp, email us at email@example.com, or call 540-338-8899.
How can I help?
Maybe you don't homeschool a special needs child, but you want to encourage parents who do. There are several ways you can help.
Tom Bushnell says parents with special needs children often struggle with burnout. He suggests that other families look for opportunities to help supervise a special needs child, giving the parents a free afternoon or day. This is an excellent way for adults and older children to serve both the parent and the child. Since many special needs children are still developing the social skills necessary in making and keeping friendships, they need others to take the initiative in loving them and spending time with them.
Homeschooling dads can be a great encouragement to their wives and children. Norman Wallace, homeschooling father and husband of Sharon Wallace, says he is sensitive to his wife's needs as a homeschooling mother. If Sharon needs help, "I'll just jump in and do it," he says. Norman helps by doing the grocery shopping or taking his sons on outings to give his wife some time alone. Instead of spending extra time at work, Norman comes home to spend more time with his children.
Maybe you're a director or member of a homeschool group. As a group, you have the potential to provide tremendous support for homeschooling parents and their special needs children.
Four years ago, when Mary and Raul Hernandez began attending Calvary Chapel Christian Academy, a homeschool independent study program and ministry under the direction of Calvary Chapel Montebello in Montebello, California, Mary was impressed by the kindness of the other children toward Raul. Co-director Virginia Mendoza calls the group a "strong social network" of families. "We're there to help homeschooling parents spiritually and financially as much as we can and be there as a support for them," she says. Many of the families in the group have ministered to Mary and her son. Mary encourages families to look for ways to reach out to parents like herself: "When people help, you feel, 'I'm not by myself! There is help.'"
"It's a sacrifice of one's own personal agenda," says Virginia. But by reaching out in love to needy parents, Virginia says, "that's when God is glorified best."
The following resources may help as you begin homeschooling your special needs child. For a more comprehensive list, see our free booklet at www.hslda.org/hs/specialneeds. HSLDAmembers may also contact Betty Statnick at 540-338-5600.
- Home Schooling Children With Special Needs: Turning Challenges into Opportunities
by Sharon Hensley; published by Noble Publishing
Hensley, M.A. Special Education, homeschools her three children, including a daughter who has autism. Her book offers encouragement, disability definitions, testing/IEP information, curriculum recommendations, and tips for teaching special needs children at home.
- Strategies for Struggling Learners: A Guide for the Teaching Parent
by Joe and Connie Sutton; published by Exceptional Diagnostics
This handbook explains the scriptural basis for home education. It provides brief descriptions of learning disabilities, information about testing and writing IEPs, and precise teaching tips. Both authors are professors of special education at Bob Jones University.
- Learning in Spite of Labels
by Joyce Herzog; published by Greenleaf Press
Joyce Herzog has a master's degree in learning disabilities and many years of experience as a special educator. Her book includes information about learning styles and IEP development, as well as practical guidelines and teaching strategies for working with special needs children.
- Gifted Children at Home: A Practical Guide for Homeschooling Families
by Janice Baker, Kathleen Julicher, and Maggie Hogan; published by The Gifted Group Publishing
This book discusses characteristics of gifted children, curriculum considerations, and parenting issues. Resource lists are also included.