How Do I Start?
It is a scary concept to take total responsibility for the education of our children - especially when there are special needs in the mix. And yet, many parents are doing just this. But how do we begin? Read the article below for some insights from parents who have taken the plunge to educate their children with special needs at home!
Contact the RVHEA Special Needs Representative at:
Personal Testimonies offered by those who have home educated their children with special needs
The challenges and rewards of homeschooling a child with special needs are best understood by those who have walked that path in life. Please read Monica's Story as an introduction to this page where information and support for homeschool students with special needs will be provided as it becomes available. This article is available as a PDF below.
Ten Reasons to Homeschool Your Special Needs Child
There are so many reasons to homeschool all our children, but on top of all the great benefits to homeschooling our kids there are even more reasons to homeschool our children who may be struggling. HSLDA’s (Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s) studies show homeschooling our special needs children have even greater benefits than homeschooling our other children especially through high school! Here are some of the benefits I have discovered from homeschooling our special needs child from birth through high school. This article is available as a PDF below.
Glimpses: A testimony from a "looking back" perspective
An article of encouragement that reveals with 20/20 hindsight the many benefits of homeschooling their daughter with special needs right through to high school graduation. Originally written for the OCHEC Special Edition Newsletter: ‘Learning Challenges." This article is available as a PDF below.
Resources for Families who are Home Educating their Child with Special Needs
- NATHHAN (National Challenged Homeschoolers Association Network) is a Christian organization dedicated to serving families homeschooling Children with special needs. It is based in the States but they have members all over. Their primary support is online and there are many helpful articles available. Visit www.nathhan.com.
- The Canadian HSLDA office will send out packages to members who choose to homeschool kids with special needs and can offer legal counsel as well as advice to help those with disabilities enter higher education. The Canadian HSLDA web site ( www.hslda.ca) has limited information available, but their information packages can be requested by email at
- The American HSLDA web site ( www.hslda.org) has a lot of information available. Visit the sections for the Struggling Learner.
- National Institute for Learning Development Canada (NILD) They use techniques to help re-train the brain and stimulate areas of weakness in processing, memory, attention, language and math. They provide individualized and intensive intervention teaching "how to learn", rather than "what to learn." Very homeschool friendly. http://www.nildcanada.org/
- Overcoming Dyslexia A Davis Program here in Ottawa facilitated by Carl Nigi. Not only for dyslexia this program also treats ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, dyscalulia, dysgraphia, and dyspraxia. This program has helped many homeschooling families. http://www.overcomingdyslexia.ca/
- Home Schooling Children with Special Needs - Turning Challenges into Opportunities! Available from Amazon
By Sharon C. Hensley, M.A.
Revised Edition Copyright 2001
Noble Publishing Associates
- The Gift of Dyslexia - Why some of the Smartest People Can't Read... and how they can learn by Ronald D. Davis
- Homeschooling the Challenging Child - A Practical Guide Available from Amazon
By Christine M. Field
Published by Broadman & Holman Publishers
- Learning in Spite of Labels- by Joyce Herzog Learning In Spite Of Labels helps you to teach your child so that they can learn. We are all "labellled" in some area. Some of us can't sing, some aren't athletic, some can't express themselves well, some struggle with directions, and on and on! Realizing that we're all "lablelled" helps us to work with those that have difficulties in areas we don't. Joyce's desire is to help you be the best parent/teacher you can be!
- Creative Homeschooling for Gifted Children: A Resource Guide by LIsa Rivero. Rivero discusses the issue involved in homeschooling gifted children touching upon special needs as well. Multiple references, resources and suggestions are included.
- Homeschooling the Child with Autism: Answers to the Top Questions Parents and Professionals Ask by Patricia Schetter and Kandis Lighthall. Along with answering many questions, this book also discusses how to start and maintain the homeschooling of a child with ASD.
- Waiting for Benjamin - A Story about Autism by Alexander Jessup Altman (a short story to be read with siblings of a child with autism to initiate discussion).
- Upside-Down Brilliance - The Visual-Spatial Learner by Linda Silverman
- Temple Grandin website - Temple Grandin offers a unique perspective as she is autistic. Her website is filled with FAQ, articles and a place you can ask a personal question. Not focused on homeschooling, but a great resource for parents. http://templegrandin.com/
- Learning Abled Kids - Recommended by a Mom whose son has complex learning abilities and disabilities. http://learningabledkids.com/
- Gifted Kids - a plethora of articles, ideas and tips for parents and educators of gifted children. http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/
- ADHD? Carol Barnier has a great website with ideas and resources along with Top Ten Teaching Tips for Highly Distractible Kids http://sizzlebop.com/
Because home schooling a child with special needs is definitely not only about academics!
- Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS) - Downhill skiing for children, youth, and adults with Autism, Down Syndrome, mobility issues, visual impairment... Whatever the disability you can ski! http://www.cads-ncd.ca/
Propeller Dance (for Children, Youth, and Adults) An integrated program of movement and choreography for all ages and abilities. Very welcoming. http://propellerdance.com/
TROTT Therapeutic Horseback Riding offers physical, emotional, mental and social stimulation. Good for all ages and disabilities - autism, Down Syndrome, mobility challenges, ADD/ADHD etc. http://trott.ncf.ca/
"What Curriculum should I use?" is one of the most common questions we receive. There are so many different ways to approach home education that suggesting curriculum is done with some trepidation. One of the many benefits of home schooling is the ability to adapt and custom design methods of learning. As with any child, what works for one child may not work at all for another. Through prayer, spending more and more time with your child, and much trial and error, you will discover the best ways your child learns.
I would like to recommend speaking to Louise House at The Learning House - a curriculum distributor. Louise is well acquainted with various curriculum suited for learning challenges. To speak directly with Louise call 1- 866-875-5550 and set up a time to communicate with her via phone.
As a start, here are some curricula that have been found helpful by various families.
Often children with learning challenges understand math better when it is hands-on manipulative and multi-sensory based. Math games are a great way to help the struggling learner work on math skills.
- Math-U-See has Canadian content, is manipulative focused, and mastery based. Created by Steve Demme for his son with Down Syndrome it has proven helpful for many families. http://www.mathusee.ca/homeschool.php
- Mastering Mathematics is manipulative based, includes math games, has uncluttered pages and is mastery based. http://www.masterypublications.com/Math.htm
- All About Reading – this is a multisensory program that uses sight, sound, and touch. It is mastery based, hands-on, and has skill reviews built in. It has been found helpful by many homeschool families. www.allaboutlearningpress.com/
- All About Spelling – this is the same series as All About Reading and uses the same magnetic tiles. It is multisensory using sight, sound and touch. www.allaboutlearningpress.com/
- Winston Grammar – A multisensory approach to helping students understand the structure of language and principles of grammar. Uses moving, speaking, hearing and seeing. Comes in two different levels. www.winstongrammar.com/
Some kids need a bit more practise than the core curriculum offers. In teaching any subject relevancy is a key to learning.
Remedia Publications offers supplement workbooks in all subject areas including math, reading, lifeskills and writing, designed to have practical value and relevance to students. All subjects are written at a level for struggling readers. www.rempub.com
Transitioning Through the Teen Years
What should I expect? How do I facilitate this journey? What will they be capable of?
Although some of our children may not reach complete independence, the homeschool is an ideal venue for nurturing our teens in this transitional stage. Please keep in mind God has created each one of our children for a specific and unique purpose. He will show us and our teen the best direction to take.
Areas to Consider when Home Educating a Teen with Special Needs:
- Money Management - Budgeting, price comparisons, saving money... Debit card use is one area we used. It was easier to handle than carrying cash and much safer than a credit card. Our daughter had to learn how to check the debit account and to estimate what she would need for that day. If she forgot, the consequence was she didn't have the money to buy what she needed.
- Social Skills - identifying who and how to ask for assistance when needed. Putting our teen in situations where we could supervise has been one technique we used to practise these skills. Social appropriateness, communication skills, and safe relationships and boundaries are all areas that can be worked on as part of home education. Here is a great link for a social skill checklist - http://www.professionalparenting.ca/articles/PPSocialskillschecklist.pdf
- Time Management - Breaking down tasks into smaller parts, estimating how long each part will take, working on punctuality, working the clock backwards to determine start point, use of timers, being on time for bus route pick ups, dealing with deadlines...
- Volunteering - this experience emphasizes commitment, time management, helping others, and work experience. Volunteer Ottawa www.volunteerottawa.ca has a listing of possible opportunities. The flexibility of home schooling is very beneficial to finding opportunities to volunteer, being liaison and advocate between the place of volunteering and the teen, and extra training to make this experience a success.
- Community Training - Accessing buses, grocery shopping, banking, map reading (mall and street)... Community training has become homeschooling on the road. We have deliberately put our teen in places she has to problem solve, ask others directions, read maps (IKEA, Algonquin College, museums) with our supervision and mentoring.
- Career Preparation - Begin the process of what interests the teen and how to approach accomplishing the goals. Work on preparing a résumé and interviewing skills. Research methods of employment such as:
- organizations that can help with employment and overcome barriers based on the type of disability.
- accommodations offered through colleges/universities
- apprenticeship opportunities
- gaining experience through volunteer work. Volunteer work can also help in discerning what they do and do not want to do.
RVHEA Special Needs Homeschooling Support Contact
For questions related to homeschooling children with special needs, email the RVHEA Special needs homeschooling support contact at