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Yes, You Can Homeschool Your Child With Special Needs


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If your child has learning challenges, homeschooling may seem intimidating, but you can homeschool special needs! In fact, it may be the ideal setting.

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

Seven years ago, my son was diagnosed with autism. We had already been homeschooling for more than a year. That was a decision that we made based on many of the same reasons that ultimately led to his diagnosis.

As a former special education teacher, I was confident in our decision to withdraw him from public school. So, I was surprised that almost everyone else saw it differently.

Homeschool Special Needs

“When will you be putting him back in school?” his doctor asked as if it were a given.

“You’ll need the services only the school system provides,” a well-meaning therapist repeatedly told me.

“Maybe this is just too much for you to take on,” my family said, worried about my son and me.

Seven years later, I am grateful to say that homeschooling was one of the best decisions we ever made for my son’s development and education.

Homeschool Your Child With Special Needs, Shawna Wingert Not The Former Things

Last week, I received another email from a desperate mom. She was trying to figure out if she should homeschool her child with learning differences. Like me, she has received a lot of feedback about her decision, most of it assuming she needs the school system to help her daughter learn.

“I am not sure I can do this,” she honestly wrote. “Everyone seems to think it’s just really not possible.”

Questions like this are the reason I write about homeschooling children with unique needs. I want you to know it is possible. Not only is it possible, but for many families it is ideal!

Yes, You Can Homeschool Your Child With Special Needs

The hardest part of homeschooling a child with special needs, in my experience, is deciding to homeschool a child with special needs.

For me, the weeks leading up to withdrawing my child from school were, by far, the most stressful as his education is concerned. I was anxious and continuously played out the worst case scenarios. I asked every single person I could think of what they thought. And, I scoured blogs and read as many books as possible.

As soon as I started feeling comfortable with the decision, I would panic and start the worry cycle all over again.

Homeschool Your Child With Special Needs, Shawna Wingert Not The Former Things

Here is what I wish I could go back and tell myself as we were deciding to homeschool my child with special needs.

You Can Do This

Seriously, in those first years post-diagnosis, it felt like the world was conspiring to tell me I couldn’t homeschool my child, because of his special needs. Everyone said the same thing – he needs the services and experts.

What I know now is that services are readily available and accessible privately, especially when you homeschool and can meet the OT at 11 a.m. or speech therapist at 1 p.m.

I have also been able to learn precise and strategic ways about the best educational options for my son’s needs. I can focus all of my attention and effort on his specific needs. An expert in school still has to generalize to meet the variety of needs in her classroom. I don’t.

homeschool special needs

It Won’t Be Easy, But Neither Was Public School

Bullying, homework, constant communication with teachers, and even getting my child out the door every day was exhausting. Now, looking back, I can honestly say that although my child was away from me for almost seven hours every day, the last year he was in school was far more stressful and difficult for me (and him!) than any of our homeschooling years.

Learning at home means we are working with his needs, rather than against them. This fact makes daily life infinitely easier on all of us.

There Are Other Families Like Yours

In the beginning, I felt like I was the only one homeschooling a child with special needs. It was terrifying. What I know now is that many, many families homeschool a child with differences. It’s one of the reasons I appreciate being able to connect here online.

You Are Going To Love it

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how much I have grown to love homeschooling my children. The time I can spend with my kids, the ability to truly focus on their individual needs, and, the chance to encourage them and build confidence make homeschooling one of the greatest gifts of my life.

I would not trade the years we have spent homeschooling for anything, no matter how difficult some of the days have been. {I’m looking at you pre-algebra.}

If you are a mom considering this option, please, let me encourage you. Homeschooling is a viable educational alternative to a formal classroom setting. Not only that but for many of us, it is the best possible option.

Yes, you can homeschool your child with special needs!

Do you homeschool a child with special needs? What encouragement would you add to parents considering it?

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Author profile

Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned writer, speaker and consultant. She is also a homeschooling mom of two brilliant boys with differences and special needs. Shawna has written four books for parents of special needs – Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos and her latest, Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. She has also been featured in special needs discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, The Huffington Post and Autism Speaks. You can find her online at DifferentByDesignLearning.com. You can follow Shawna and Different By Design Learning on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

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3 Comments

  1. My favourite part of this articles (which I loved and appreciated fully!) was that you had rock climbing and Lego pictures! So often we focus on the “school subjects” in a school system way and don’t see the whole life leaps and bounds that our kids (especially those with special needs) are making.

  2. Love this, thank you! I would be very interested in how anyone has been able to homeschool a mix of special needs kiddos alongside neurotypical/ not special needs child. Is THAT possible? Right now I homeschool only my neurotypical child (the eldest), while his 2 siblings with autism go to their respective schools. One of them can’t stand school and it’s so hard to drag him there! I see myself wanting to homeschool him for all the reasons you listed above, but wonder how it’s even possible to give them both enough of what they need.

    Thanks for this great article!

  3. Great article!
    Any tips resources for homeschooling a child when reading, writing, & arithmetic are not on the agenda? When walking, talking, & potty training may not be achievable? He currently crys, giggles, scoot/crawls, & climbs onto the sofa. He likes Baby Einstein & tickles.
    Thanks!

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