Home School Court Report
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Cover Story
Erasing the Barriers for Children with Special Learning Needs

Special Features

An Interview with the Forstroms

An Interview with Betty Statnick: HSLDA’s Special Needs Coordinator

National Center Reports

Will the 2000 Elections Impact Home School Freedom?

106th Congress Wrap-Up

Across the States

State by State

Regular Features

Active Cases

Prayer and Praise

Notes to Members

Presidents Page

F. Y. I.

Association News

An Affirmative Plan: Debate Tournament

S P E C I A L   F E A T U R E

An Interview with Betty Statnick, HSLDA’s Special Needs Coordinator

Betty Statnick taught in public and private schools for more than 20 years. She has served as Home School Legal Defense Association’s Special Needs Coordinator since 1995.

Betty has a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Education, plus 80 credit hours in elementary and special education (including diagnostic and remedial reading), and a Master of Education with an emphasis in Learning Disabilities. She and her husband, Joe, live in Sterling, Virginia. They have three grown children and five grandchildren.

Betty Statnick
Since 1990, Betty Statnick has been working exclusively with home school families as an educational diagnostician, consultant, and tutor.

How did you start working with special needs children?

When teaching in a formal setting, I found some of my students struggling, yet apparently giving their best. I needed to know why they were having difficulty and what I could do to help them.

What do you do as HSLDA’s Special Needs Coordinator?

The main thing I do is link our members with consultants and resources. I have also been known to give a teaching tip or two and to speak at home school conferences. To keep abreast of what is going on in the field, I’m constantly reading and often attend conferences and conventions on disabilities. For example, this fall, I attended the Learning Disabilities Association of Virginia annual conference and I expect to attend the national conference of an international dyslexia association. My antennae always stay up for new resources and consultants.

I often pray with our members—sometimes they call about professional things and they wind up unburdening their hearts. I also value the prayers of members for me. I need wisdom and guidance from the Lord as I respond to callers.

What do you say to someone who is wondering whether parents can really teach their special needs children as well as a “professional” instructor?

A parent knows his child better than any other person and wants the best for that child. He can tailor his instruction to the specific needs and learning style of his child. A parent is extremely motivated to enable his child to succeed and will persevere to find solutions that work. Through avid reading, some people become real experts in the area of their child’s special need.

What are the advantages of home schooling for special needs children?

These children can get a high degree of individualized attention—probably not possible in another setting—and are able to spend more time on task. Parents can develop lessons based on their child’s interest to “get at” his needs. Flexible scheduling and presentation allow curriculum and teaching methods to be based on a child’s learning rate and style. Parents can take advantage of “teachable moments” without having to wait for a scheduled lesson or the rest of a class. In addition, parents are better able to achieve balance in a school day between sit-down activities and movement—something that is key for an ADHD child.

Parents can teach to the child’s strengths while working on the child’s deficits. The stigma of the child’s being, say, removed from a classroom to be helped individually, or ridiculed by other children, is not there. In some instances, parents set different expectations for a child and find that he can achieve even more than he did in another setting.

Catch-up time or accelerated learning can be easily accommodated—a child may be working at 5th grade level in one subject and 3rd grade in another. Character building can be a major focus. These are just a few of the many possibilities.

What are the disadvantages of home schooling for special needs children?

Children may have limited access to some specialized equipment. The parents must pay for or even use creative bartering to obtain special equipment or services. Most families who home school have to make ends meet on one income. The parents provide constant care for the child—there is no respite.

What seem to be the most common special needs among HSLDA families?

I’d say it’s a tie between ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and various types of learning disabilities. Also, more and more calls are pouring in from parents whose children have been diagnosed with some form of autism.

What are some practical ways to help families who are home schooling special needs children?

Ask the family what you can do to help. Be willing to give of your time: run an errand or provide childcare to give the parents respite time.

Families home schooling special needs children often feel very isolated. Proverbs 14:10 says “The heart knoweth its own bitterness and a stranger does not intermeddle with its joy.” They can’t completely describe all they’re going through. They’re often misunderstood. Some children’s disabilities are not very visible.

Encourage parents. They need to know they are not alone, and that many people are successfully home schooling their special needs children. This task requires a lot of time and energy—these parents need your understanding.

Some families have several special needs children. The strain on finances and time is great. So pray for them on a regular basis.