Homeschooling A Child with Special Needs
I believe that all children have special needs and all children learn in their own methods and need to be treated as individuals. I too, understand, having a background in Occupational Therapy, that some children have extra special needs that can make learning and living more challenging. I have come to really appreciate this more form an insider’s perspective over the past year.
When I began homeschooling my first child, I did so in part because of his personality. He learned to read early and enjoyed everything academically. He would become interested in something and would focus on his interest to an extreme for a long period of time. He attended a morning out preschool as part-time daycare from the time he was one until he was four. I saw how he was not learning anything “academic” in his “preschool” but he was there for part-time daycare and not for preschool. Having a “late birthday”, November, made him older than his preschool peers and combined with his early reading and writing abilities, exaggerated the fact that he was not learning anything in preschool and that kindergarten would not be a good fit for him. Homeschooling him was and continues to be “easy”.
Before you stop reading or shout things at me through the computer, let me tell you about my second child. I must say that I do not think it is good to “compare children”. I do so only to illustrate my experience. We become parents with our first child and our view of parenthood often centers around that child, maybe more so the older your first child is when your second child comes along.
My daughter, born 4 years after my son, came into the world where her older brother was reading and writing. He liked to tell her how to do things and do things for him. She is an independent child, always has been and resisted her older brother’s attempts to show her anything. She wanted to do it for herself!
I found incorporating academics into life a challenge with her. Academics came easy to my son and he was drawn to academic endeavors. Over the years, I became more of an unschooler and yet, continued to struggle with meeting my daughter’s needs. She did learn to read about age 6 and her ability to read books lessened my worries. As with my oldest, I felt once she could read, she could learn anything she wanted to and continued our ongoing trips to the library letting her check out whatever she would like and showing her the nonfiction section as well and helping her find books with her interests.
Yet, we continued to have “head butting” experiences and my ideas were frequently met with strong resistance from her. Things seemed to be ok but as she got older, and I wanted to engage more with her as I did with my oldest, I met more resistance. She even began to have issues getting out of the house on time to go to things she enjoyed doing, like a dance class. And then, last year in early 2010, her irrational fears and compulsions like over hand washing snowballed into something that overtook her life and ours. Her easy-going, type B, extroverted personality turned into a child with excessive stress, fear, discomfort, unusually angry, physical outbursts of rage and unreasonable behavior.
Those early months are in some way a blur and in part magnified in my memory. We have come a long way on our journey and yet have a long way to go. I don’t even pretend to imagine what life has been life for her but know it is far more challenging than how it has been for me and it has been the most challenging thing I have experienced as a parent.
I believe that our homeschool journey is just a part and intermingled with our life journey, something that is not separate nor needs to be separate, Yet, because of her issues with OCD, I see how more structure and being engaged in more activities would be helpful to her and lessen her stress. Over the summer at the height of our new challenges, I called a friend who could knit and crochet and invited her to come along with one of my daughter’s friends because my daughter had expressed an interest in wanting to learn to knit. My daughter and her friend leaned to knit and crochet. We had a few more gatherings with my friend assisting the girls. I took up crochet after a 30-year absence and finally learned to do more than a single crochet chain. My daughter and I both had a new hobby and one we could share. Because of her issues, she went long stretches of time where she did not pick up her needlework because it was in her room where she could not go. But over time, this became less of an issue and she was able to help some others in girl scouts learn to crochet as well as teach some other friends.
I see the value of helping her pursue her interests in a way that works for her and know I need to put more energy into these types of endeavors. This kind of thing came easily with my oldest child but not with my daughter. I have needed to put more effort and energy into assisting her with her pursuits for a long time and now, it is apparent that I really need to for her sanity and mine! I know others are challenged with children with special needs and sometimes take their children out of school to homeschool them or decide to homeschool because of their child’s special needs or learning differences. For me, it has been a different journey in that my daughter was born into a homeschool family and her issues have not been there from birth and not even from “school-age” at least not to the extent that has interfered with our lives.
We are on a journey and each child brings new aspects, challenges and adventures. I share my story to reach out to others going through challenging circumstances in whatever form that is. And to bring to light a different kind of challenge that is less common and perhaps more difficult to understand and presents its own challenges to a homeschool family. I also see the personal value in sharing my story because the experience has been isolating. I hesitated to share too much to honor my daughter’s privacy, but after all, we have been through, I know secrecy is not helpful and if sharing my story can help me which in turn can help my daughter as well as help another going through something similar than it is imperative that I do so.
To see more about our personal journey you can visit my blog: