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7 Reasons I Homeschool My Child with Special Needs Instead of Sending Him to School

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When my son was three-and-a-half, I took him for an evaluation through the local school district. The social worker said to me, “I understand why you’re concerned, but I can’t check off enough boxes for autism. His coping skills are good enough for now. My recommendation is to put him in a regular preschool room. Either they’ll never know he’s in the building, or his world will fall apart.”

His world fell apart.

It was probably the worst six weeks of our lives. Too much noise and too many kids overwhelmed my son’s system, turning him into someone else. I made the tough decision to put him into the developmental delay prechool room in the district.

It worked. A smaller class with a higher adult-to-child ratio provided my son with a better setting. BUT

But as is common with many kids on the autism spectrum, the teacher got the great kid and I dealt with the fallout. The second year was rough. Getting him onto the bus–a one-hour ride for a few miles–and dealing with him after school challenged me. I basically had to leave him alone for an hour after school to let him decompress. He eventually started bring home regressive behaviors.

I never intended to homeschool my children, despite my experience as an elementary classroom teacher. That year, when the regressive behaviors became too much, we pulled my son.

This is why I homeschool my son with special needs…

  1. Click to discover why one mom homeschools her child with autism! via jennyherman.comTo reduce regressive behaviors–The behavior of special needs kiddos often ebbs and flows. One month your child may be making fantastic progress in a specific area, and then the next you wonder where the progress went. In my son’s case, he was a big mimicker at the time and I’m guessing a little bored. He was reading small words and the class was learning colors. Thus he started mimicking other children and regressing in his behavior. He’d never been a rocker (using rocking as a self-stimulatory behavior to deal with excitement or for calming), but I remember distinctly one day he sat on the couch and started rocking, “Look, Mom! Look what so-and-so taught me to do.”
  2. To give him a better sensory environment–Many things in a regular classroom overwhelm children with sensory needs. My son’s ears hear things better than most people. Currently, his brother’s humming or tapping drives him crazy, even in another room. I cannot imagine him in a regular classroom with twenty to thirty other children, flourescent lights humming, posters to distract lining the walls, etc. He also went through two to three years of a crashing phase. He needed to crash on the couch or jump into a pile of blankets. You can’t really do that in a typical classroom.
  3. To give him a safe place to practice skills–Life often overwhelms children with special needs. When I homeschool, my son can practice new skills at home first. After he gains confidence, he can use those skills with a small set of people, perhaps even just one. Again, as he gains more confidence, I can expand the number of people he interacts with as he uses his new skill.
  4. To be able to move at his pace and modify–Homeschooling allows children of any ability to move at their own pace. You’ll often find students using materials in a variety of grade levels. When my son hits a roadblock like multiple-digit multiplication, I can step back. We can do fewer problems at a time. I can put one problem on a note card if I want. We can take a break from that topic and do some other kind of math. Likewise, when he is ahead in an area, that’s ok, too.
  5. To lower potential for bullying–Notice I did not say eliminate bullying. Bullies are everywhere, not just school. I know my son will face mean kids. Bullies often target kids with special needs, and by homeschooling him I reduce the amount of bullying he has to face.
  6. To utilize his interests–Kids on the autism spectrum often hone in on one or two special interests. Another great thing about homeschooling is that I can use my son’s interests across most subjects. If he’s stalling in math, I can create Minecraft math problems. He’ll easily sit down on his own to write a new Minecraft story. I’ve assigned Minecraft challenges to get him to illustrate something he’s learned or incorporate multiple skills in building something. Once he read a book on the Bismarck (a German ship during World War II) and I had him do a Venn diagram.
  7. To reduce anxiety–Anxiety runs high in kids with autism. In addition to the overwhelming sensory issues they deal with, they may have anxiety over social interaction, racing thoughts, and much more. Homeschooling offers him the ability to go in a different room and calm down, to get some essential oils or relax with Minecraft. I can help him work through anxiety throughout the day and teach him coping skills, such as deep breathing, prayer, and talking to himself about his anxiety. I can also stretch him when it’s appropriate. Be watching for an upcoming review of Dr. Temple Grandin’s new book The Loving Push (affiliate link).

I truly believe homeschooling is the best option for my son with autism. Teaching him at home provides me with opportunities to stretch and help him. I am able to utilize his interests. I can create an effective learning environment and reduce stress. My homeschool world is not perfect, but it is definitely a great way to educate my son.

If you’d like to read more about special needs homeschooling, check out these posts from my autism mom friends:

Click on over to read expert Gabriella Volpe’s guest post to help you as you start homeschooling your child with special needs!

Why do you homeschool your child with special needs or why are you considering it? Tell me in the comments!

Need some help with special needs homeschooling? I’ve got some resources for you. If you choose to purchase, I make a small commision at no cost to you.

I recommend you grab a copy of Homeschool Made Easy by Lea Ann Garfias and The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles by Carol Barnier. The first is a developmental approach to homeschooling and will reduce your anxiety. The second gives you an abundance of ideas for out-of-the-box teaching, sorted by subject. Even if you homeschool, you will find The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities & More! extremely helpful. Another book I expect to be great but have not read is Special Education At Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-the-Box Learners by Shawna Wingert.

I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just click the picture below and I’ll send it to you for FREE!

Grab your FREE ebook of 75 tips! via jennyherman.com

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Jenny Herman

Jenny Herman wants to live in a world where dark chocolate dispensers reside on every corner. As a homeschooling special needs mom, she’s been featured in Autism Parenting Magazine, Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids: Mostly True Stories of Life on the Spectrum, and various blogs. If she survives the onslaught of testosterone in her home, she may take a moment to blog, read a book, try a new recipe, or loom knit a gift. You can find Jenny’s book The Power of One: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life on Amazon.

15 thoughts on “7 Reasons I Homeschool My Child with Special Needs Instead of Sending Him to School

  1. Jenny, so much of what you’ve written echoed with me. I was forced to take my 10 yr old out from school (by the school! after 6 yrs) but it was the far the best decision ever. I no more cringe when the phone rings and my kid is able to pace himself and interleave with sensory activities. He and I are so much happier! I now recommend homeschooling to everyone I meet…for special as well as regular kids. Thanks

  2. I agree, agree, agree!!! My daughter is going into 5th grade and I am seriously considering homeschooling for middleschool…and you hit the nail on the head! Thanks for sharing!♡

  3. EXCELLENT ARTICLE! I also homeschooled my autistic son, for very much these same reasons, and am currently homeschooling my daughter who suffers from severe social anxiety and depression. The last school she went to, even when informed about her issues, still chose to label her as defiant with plans to send her to an alternative placement in a school for children with behavioral issues!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Jenny Herman, it’s me Jenny Sherman. (That’s fun to say.)

    I’m also a former elementary school teacher turned homeschooler. Actually, I just resigned in June!

    Each of these reasons for homeschooling your son tugs at my heart. I’ve had particular students who I strived to tailor my classroom for. Their needs were so great, and I could only do so much within my mainstream classroom. It was tough. But I was always looking for ways to make things better. There were several times when I wished I could teach a student one-on-one to give him the individualized education he would thrive on. Homeschooling can offer that opportunity. Good job, Mama!

  5. We decided to homeschool Angel because the principal and the supt. told us that they had made the decision that Angel HAD to go to kindergarten even though her doctors and all said that she was NOT ready. Then they proceeded to explain that they had Masters degrees in this and that. And we stood up and said, Our degrees are MOM and DAD and that trumps yours. They were obnoxious people! We are in our 2nd year of homeschooling and our 6 1/2 year old who has a 2-3 year old mentality is reading and learning quite well. School is different at home but it is a freedom like no other for us.

  6. Excellent article! Special needs kids often do not get the support they need in public schools and I agree that homeschooling them is usually the best choice if at all possible. I learned that very quickly in my son’s kindergarten year, as he is my first child that has special needs. My son was diagnosed only this past year, and when I informed the school, once they had my Dr’s note of diagnosis, they sent him home for 2 weeks until they had all their legal paperwork together for me to sign before they’d allow him to come back. That paperwork basically was legal documents saying that I couldn’t sue the school board if he should be injured or die while there. So yes, liability comes before the child, pretty sad I learned. I’m choosing to homeschool my 6yo special needs child this fall because of all the reasons you stated and a few of my own. I know it won’t be easy, but it’s the best choice for our family, and that’s what matters.

  7. Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!!! Our older daughter (soon 16) is probably 80% typical, with the occasional shade of SPD, buckets of dycalculia, and truckloads of dysgraphia. Our younger daughter (newly minted 13) has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and SPD. We homeschool both. They have made me be more creative than anything ever! Finding ways to help them be successful has been a part-time job for me!

    I thank God daily for being able to homeschool. I firmly believe that , especially for our younger daughter, it’s the only way she’ll be able to graduate. She has hypotonic CP, which means she is weak and floppy and quickly fatigues. She has maybe 3-4 good hours a day. If she went to school, she’d be ready for a nap by second hour. At home, she doesn’t have to spend so much time getting ready, take a 45 minute bus drive, walk 10 minutes every hour, deal with so many kids and accompanying noise, or be gone 9 hours of the day. At home, if she needs to nap after math, she can. In fact, were she in regular school, she’d be in 7th or 8th grade right now, based on which school system, because her birthday is so close to the cut off. But here at home, we’re starting her on high school so she’ll have five years to do four years of work. That would only be possible here at home.

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