Homeschooling a special needs child can present some unique challenges and obstacles. Special needs parenting in general is just a whole different ball game. Special needs children require parents to be “on” constantly and they just take parenting to a whole different level.
But all things that are hard are not bad. Just hard.
Think there is no perfect curriculum for a typical learning child? Try finding a perfect fit for a special needs child!
As I ponder our days there are several key areas that are important to making it through and enjoying the learning time we have together.
Starting the Homeschool Day
1. Faith – I know it sounds a bit trite, but it is true. Everyday, and especially the hard days, it helps me tremendously to keep in mind that God has a bigger plan. There is a reason that God placed these particular children in our home. I know that God will place the resources, tools and people we need at the right times.
2. Coffee – Enough said.
3. Exercise – Even though most days I don’t really want to exercise, I do it. It has become something of a sanity saver for me. It reduces stress, anxiety and just over all puts me in a better mood for the upcoming day.
My morning trifecta – coffee, Jesus, and exercise!
Support Throughout the Day
4. Supportive Husband – Truly, this isn’t #4, it’s right up there after Jesus. I can’t stress enough how working together as a team with parenting our children, all of our children, is imperative for us. He truly supports our homeschool vision and is an integral part of our homeschool day, even if he is out of the house. I couldn’t do it without him!
5. Siblings – Even on the days when my kids are driving me batty with their squabbles, I’m so thankful that they have each other. As much as they can be unkind, petty, and selfish – they can also be extremely helpful, loving and kind to each other, especially their special needs sister. I have seen them stick up for one another when a neighbor is being unkind and I have seen them go out of their way to do something for their sister, even when they preferred to be doing something else. As much as they help her with life, she is helping them even more. They are more empathetic and less judgmental of those that are different.
Those are all good and important facets of homeschooling, but I’m a practical girl and I like practical tips! Now on to more concrete tools:
Specific Items for Special Needs Homeschooling
1. Reading Kingdom – As much as we try to limit screen time in our home, I have found that my daughter has a super short attention span. She is very capable of learning, but keeping her attention long enough is my big challenge. We have been using Reading Kingdom for a couple of months now and we are seeing some progress. For some reason I felt a little like I was cheating by using an online reading program but then I thought that’s dumb! We homeschool so we can use the resources that work best for each child. She is specifically using the ASD Reading portion for children with learning disabilities and two other kids are using the regular Reading Kingdom. Because y’all. We are still doing reading instruction around here!
2. Read Aloud – It’s not a big surprise that reading aloud is a huge part of our day. I always let my daughter do something with her hands while she is listening. Also, we have bean bags in our family room and those help with the fidgets as well. Listening to read alouds are beneficial to everyone.
3. Planned Screen Time – Aside from her on-line reading program we do have times in the day when she has screen time. Honestly, more than I would like, but sometimes it is the only time she stays in one place and the rest of us can relax for a bit. It can be a sanity saver some days.
4. Head Phones – If you have a child with any sensory issues you know that thunderstorms, fireworks and other loud noises can be very distressing. There have been many nights when our daughter has fallen asleep with headphones on!
5. Supportive Therapist – We are lucky to have a therapist who is also a homeschooling mom. Not only is she great with our daughter, but she understands the unique challenges of homeschooling and supports our vision.
6. Time-outs – Not for your child, but for you! Making time for breaks is imperative. Time for yourself, time alone with your spouse is a necessity. Make it a priority as often as possible. Your marriage and your family as a whole will benefit tremendously.
7. Multi-Function Eye Cream – No, this isn’t a joke! A good eye cream can undo a multitude of late nights and early mornings. You can say goodbye to under eye circles and crows feet and hello to refreshed looking eyes.
8. Life Skills – Teaching all of our children life skills is an important part of our overall homeschool philosophy. It’s vitally important to work on some of those same skills with our daughter. She is learning to make scrambled eggs, help with other small tasks in the kitchen, taking a shower on her own etc.
Our days are far from perfect and I often feel like I’m failing as a mom and an educator. Brush your teeth people! Our daughter does bring us immeasurable joy and her small successes are so rewarding.
Looking for a gift for your special needs child? Check out our favorite gift ideas such as games and other learning activities: Gift Giving Guide for Special Needs Children
More Everyday Tool posts from iHN – Everyday Tools for the Homeschool Mom