Do you have a homeschool student with special needs? We’re reposting this article from August 2021 with seven tips on how to help your child thrive at home.
Are you homeschooling a child with learning challenges or special needs? Whether you’re new to homeschooling or an experienced pro, you know the difficulties of special learning situations.
We are here to help! In this post, I’ll share some ideas and resources that will improve your homeschool and your child’s learning experience.
I have six children and some of these ideas are ones that I used for my children, some of whom had anxiety, ADHD, or were on the autism spectrum. These ideas certainly don’t replace any therapies that your child may already be having, but they may help your school day run more smoothly.
1. Keep a consistent schedule
Especially for my kids who dealt with anxiety or ADHD, I found that keeping a consistent schedule helped them immensely. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it reduces some of the anxiety of the unknown and gives kids a framework for their day.
2. Allow movement
Kids with ADHD do better if they are not expected to sit still during seated schoolwork such as math, handwriting, or listening to books being read aloud. Here are some examples from my own experience:
- My youngest son has an exercise ball that he sits on during reading time.
- My oldest son learned his alphabet and letter sounds by jumping from A to Z on paper letters that I taped to our floor with masking tape.
- My middle son drew pictures related to what I was reading to him.
The truth is that if I tried to have them sit still, they could not pay attention to what I was trying to teach them. Moving actually allowed them to concentrate better.
3. Give kids a quiet place to study or take a break
In our busy family of multiple children, it was often a bit noisy, which is overwhelming and distracting for some children with learning challenges. I made sure that my son on the autism spectrum could go to a quiet place to refresh himself and do his work when the hustle and bustle of his brothers and sisters was causing him stress and making focus difficult.
4. Use technology
Integrating technology into your homeschool classroom is a great way to help your special-needs learner thrive. Here are a few ideas:
- Kids with dyscalculia may benefit from using calculators at a younger age to help them compensate for their challenges with math.
- Kids with dysgraphia may be able to complete their composition assignments more easily using a word processing program.
- Kids who are delayed readers may enjoy books more if they can listen to an audiobook.
- Kids with ADHD may be able to improve their executive functioning using a digital assistant.
- Kids with anxiety may benefit from apps for relaxation.
Edutopia has a great listing of apps for kids with special needs here.
5. Build in breaks
Breaks help kids to regroup and get ready for the next school subject. We always took a mid-morning break to allow the kids some outside play time and to eat a snack, then went back to school until lunchtime.
When blood sugar gets low, concentration and the ability to self-regulate is much more difficult. Movement also allows the brain to rest and be ready to deal with academics.
6. Allow choices
My oldest daughter was often resistant to the schedule that I created and she wanted to do her schoolwork in a different order than I had laid out. To help her to be less resistant, I allowed her to do some of her daily work in the order of her choosing. As long as she completed her work during our school hours, it didn’t matter much to me in what order she did it and it eliminated the pushback that sucked the life out of school for her, me, and her siblings.
7. Get support for yourself
Homeschooling is a rewarding and challenging lifestyle under the best of circumstances. If you are homeschooling a child with learning challenges, you are going to need extra support from people who are in the same boat or who have already gone before you. A few that might be useful are SPED Homeschool, Homeschool.com’s Special Education Toolbox, and the Exceptional Lives Resource Directory.
You can successfully homeschool kids with all kinds of learning challenges and you may find that your kids do much better at home than they did in public school. If you’ve always homeschooled and along the way you discover that your child has a learning challenge, I hope that this post encourages you that there are resources available and techniques you can use to continue to homeschool your child.