The Home School Court Report
VOLUME XXI, NUMBER 3
- disclaimer -
May / June 2005


FEATURES
Nourishing your special needs child

What Does HSLDA consider a special need?

HSLDA cares about special needs families

The Special Needs Fund

How Can I Help?

Helpful Resources
20-year tribute

Homeschool leader comments

DEPARTMENTS
Doc’s Digest
From the heart

Opportunities abound

For more information

HSF Mission Statement

From the director
Across the states
Active cases
Around the globe
Members only
About campus

Patrick Henry College dominates moot courts
President's page

ET AL.

On the other hand: a contrario sensu

Prayer & praise

HSLDA social services contact policy/A plethora of forms

HSLDA legal inquiries


 «
  A WORD FROM MIKE SMITH  

» 


PRESIDENT'S PAGE

Freedom to thrive

J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association
Across the spectrum of income, background, and abilities, children thrive in homeschooling's nurturing environment. But perhaps no group benefits more from the homeschool experience than special needs children.

Although public schools receive increased funding for children who require special education, Home School Legal Defense Association member families tell us that public school special education programs often cannot meet the needs of their children. Each year, between 10% and 15% of HSLDA's member families indicate that their children have special needs. These parents point out that the reduced size of special ed classes is sometimes not enough to provide the individualized instruction that will help their children succeed. And parents report frustration with increasing pressure from school officials to address behavioral issues by placing their children on medication.

When HSLDA started in 1983, our goal was to make homeschooling legal in every state. It was—and still is—our position that parents with special needs children should have the same liberty to choose homeschooling as any other family.

However, some in the public school establishment disagreed, asserting that special needs children require teachers with special training and experience, and that failure to provide a teacher with special qualifications should be considered educational neglect.

HSLDA recognized that the defense of cases involving special needs children would require additional expert witness testimony to convince courts that our member families were providing a comparable or equivalent education to what their children would supposedly be receiving in the public school. So we commissioned Dr. Steven Duvall, a special needs coordinator for a public school in Kansas, to do a study comparing homeschooled special needs children with special needs children in public school. After a year of observation and evaluation of these two classes of students, Dr. Duvall concluded that the homeschooled children did as well or better in every situation as children with similar special needs in a public school setting. This study was very helpful in establishing the credibility of parents being able to teach their special needs children at home regardless of official training or certification.

Several years later, we asked Dr. Duvall to conduct a more specific study of homeschooled special needs students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and public school ADHD students. The study sought to determine whether a home instructional environment facilitated the acquisition of basic skills. The results were once again favorable. According to the study, homeschooled students were academically engaged about one and one-half times as often as public school students. Additionally, homeschooled students made more progress in reading and math, and about equal gains in written language. Dr. Duvall concluded that parents could create a powerful instructional environment for their children at home.

The key variable in that study appeared to be student-teacher ratios. Homeschooling's low ratio translates into individualized instruction. This is good for all students, but especially for children who learn differently or have learning disabilities.

I want to applaud those of you who have taken on the challenge of teaching your special needs children. Not only are you providing them with a platform to greater academic success, but you are also providing tremendous social benefits. Having to face taunts and jokes makes it especially difficult for "special" children to attend institutional schools. Your decision to teach them in a warm, loving environment while they are young and vulnerable is commendable.

HSLDA is committed to advancing and preserving your right to teach your special needs children at home. Through our special needs coordinator, we desire to support you and encourage you to persevere.

Additionally, we want to continue to ease the financial burden on our member families with special needs children. The Home School Foundation's Special Needs Children's Fund is designed to help meet the financial challenges of educating children who struggle with learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, hearing or visual impairments, and severe disorders and syndromes. We will provide up to $1,000 per child, with a maximum of $2,000 per member family.

Protecting families with special needs children is one of the reasons why our mission at HSLDA is so rewarding. It is not only a pleasure, it is a privilege to serve you.