Questions and Answers for Parents of Special Needs Children
What does Home School Legal Defense Association 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 greatly impacts his or her ability to learn.
Do I have the right to homeschool my special needs child?
Parents who wish to homeschool a special needs child have the right to do so under the protection of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. This includes parents who presently have their child in an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) set up by their public school’s special education department.
Parents may feel intimidated by school officials and teachers and are often led to believe that they have fewer constitutional rights to homeschool a special needs child than any other child.
Even though the Constitution protects the right of parents to homeschool, most state legislatures have passed statutes regarding homeschooling. These laws typically come under the compulsory school attendance statutes for the state, and may contain stricter provisions for families homeschooling special needs children.
Do I have the right to therapeutic services offered through the public school?
It depends on the state you live in and the severity of your child’s need. Please be aware, however, that HSLDA generally recommends that families obtain services provided by private organizations or individuals.
What if our family cannot afford to have related services done privately?
The most important consideration is that the special needs of your child are being met. HSLDA members who cannot afford private services are encouraged to contact our Special Needs Coordinator to discuss this.
Does HSLDA require families to use a consultant?
No. However, HSLDA does recommend at least quarterly contact with a consultant if the child’s needs are severe enough to warrant assistance.
How long should families retain the assistance of a consultant or educational program?
It depends. In general, if the special learning need is remediable through homeschooling, you should maintain this assistance until your child is functioning close to grade level. If the special learning need is such that it cannot be corrected, you should probably continue to receive assistance throughout your homeschooling experience or until your child is no longer of compulsory school age. The answer to this question may also vary depending upon the specific statutes and regulations in your particular state.
Must my consultant be currently certified?
No. Parents should not be concerned about whether the consultant is currently certified or certified in their state—only that he or she has credentials and experience in the area of the child’s special need.
What if my consultant is making too few or too many recommendations for me to follow?
It is important to communicate your expectations to your consultant at your initial meeting. If you are a beginning homeschooler, you might want a significant amount of oversight and recommendations from your consultant. If you are an experienced homeschooler, however, you might want a consultant who has a hands-off philosophy. If you find that you are not compatible with the consultant you have chosen, you can locate someone else.
Can I obtain the services of a consultant from another state?
Yes. However, it is best to have a consultant who has met you and your child and is able to meet with you in person. If you choose someone in another state, consider sending samples of your child’s work to that person and then having a follow-up telephone consultation.
Am I legally required to have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for homeschooling?
The public school system uses IEPs to set up individual teaching plans, obtain related therapeutic services, and make needed transportation arrangements. Homeschooling is a different educational arena. Children no longer have to be transported to class, therapeutic services are done privately, and homeschooling offers individualized education for all students—not just special needs children.
We suggest that parents exercise responsible homeschooling by planning and evaluating each child’s progress. For clarification purposes, we designate an IEP for a home educator as a Student Education Plan (SEP).
In addition to legal representation, what services does HSLDA provide for member families who have children with special needs?