Struggling Learners / Special Needs
There is a whole gamut of issues out there that make learning difficult for some children, and we parents have a hard time trying to sort out what those issues look like for our child or how to help them. Home education is the best learning option, but it can also be very challenging, time-consuming, and confusing.
Home education has come a long way over the last 30+ years and has met many challenges during those years. Many families are now sensing God’s leading to keep or bring these very special children home. In support of these efforts, MÂCHÉ offers this Special Needs section. Much of the information included is Internet-based and will help you begin your search for resources and materials that will benefit your family.
NOTE: Be aware that some of these apps are free, others are not, and may range widely in cost. Go to the websites for cost information.
All About Apps for Education www.pacer.org/webinars/stc/Justtheappshandout.pdf
Just the Apps and Nothing but the Apps from Simon Technology Center pacer. A list of 50+ apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Sign 4 Me - http://itunes.apple.com/app/sign-4-me-a-signed-english/id312882992?mt=8 Now beginners with an interest in American Sign Language (ASL) can start learning right on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. You control a 3D animated character that demonstrates ASL with a library of over 11,500 words. Just type a sentence, word, or phrase to see it signed.
Digit-Eyes - http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/digit-eyes-audio-scanner-labeler/id376424490?mt=8 Digit-Eyes enables people without vision to read barcode labels. Use your iPhone to scan UPC/EAN codes and hear the names of over 7.5 million products. Print barcodes from the Digit- Eyes website on ordinary labels. Digit-Eyes barcodes may contain text that VoiceOver reads or can be used to record audio on your phone that is played when the label is scanned.
Proloquo2Go - http://itunes.apple.com/app/proloquo2go/id308368164?mt=8 An Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) application for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch for people who have difficulty speaking. It offers natural-sounding text-to-speech voices, a default vocabulary of more than 7000 items.
Autism - Turn Taker. Uses visual and/or audio cues to facilitate turn taking and/or sharing in children. https://market.android.com/details?id=com.phonegap.TurnTaker&feature=search_result
Voice4u is a revolutionary picture based AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) application that helps individuals express their feelings, thoughts, actions and things they need. It is a perfect solution for learning and communication for individuals with autism. Voice4u includes over 150 pre-loaded icons and lets you create your own icons and categories. https://market.android.com/details?id=com.voice4uaac.android.voice4u
iSchedule for special needs https://market.android.com/details?id=com.erprules&feature=search_result A visual interactive scheduler to plan daily tasks. User can interactively keep track of tasks, finish tasks and get rewarded by stars and musical songs!
Applications for Smartphones
By combining personalized voice and images with an extremely simple user interface, JABtalk delivers a speech solution that is both fun to use and easy to learn.
Model Me Going Places
A visual teaching tool for helping your child learn to navigate challenging locations in the community. Each location contains a photo slideshow of children modeling appropriate behavior. Locations include: Hairdresser, Mall, Doctor, Playground, Grocery Store and Restaurant.
Behavior Tracker Pro
A behavioral data collection app that allows behavioral therapists, teachers or parents to track and graph behaviors.
AAC Speech Buddy
Create custom PECS Speech Sets using your own photos or images from the AACSpeech.com image repository.
30 Super Focus Foods to Boost Learning
Author: Peggy Ployhar
Published in: Texas Home School Coalition Review
Published on: May. 1, 2016
Years ago our two sons were dealing with a variety of sensory issues that manifested themselves as Asperger Syndrome, speech issues, and behavioral problems. Then we were blessed to meet Diane Craft at a home schooling conference. As my husband and I sat through Diane’s presentations, we were amazed at how perfectly she connected all these seemingly unrelated issues we had been seeing in our children to a simple explanation - an overpopulation of bad bacteria and yeast in their guts. More importantly, she provided a simple diet plan she had used with other families to heal these same types of issues.
Within two months of our boys being on the diet, people were asking us what happened to our oldest, who had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome just a few years prior. He was calm! And our younger son’s speech suddenly improved. We realized we needed to maintain a healthy gut to keep these issues from returning.
Maintain a healthy gut takes a three-pronged approach: feeding the good bacteria in your gut; avoiding foods that destroy the good bacteria; and eliminating foods that aid destructive bacteria. Fortunately, God has supplied mankind with all the food our bodies need to feed healthy bacteria. Eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and good fats—while avoiding overly processed foods filled with sugars and simple carbohydrates that lack natural forms of vitamins and minerals—is the key to maintaining a healthy gut that optimizes your child’s ability to learn and successfully confront everyday issues.
Here are 30 foods to improve your children’s gut health. Enter the recipe names in the search bars of the respective websites to see the full recipes.
(1) Chocolate Avocado Smoothie Avocados are filled with easy-to-absorb vitamins and minerals, and are high in enzymes that carry toxins out of the body, and particularly the digestive system. DoctorOz.com
(2) Chocolate Pecan Granola Pecans promote colon health because of their high fiber content and anti-inflammatory properties. WithAllYourLife.com
(3) Cinnamon Coconut Flour Coffee Cake Not only does cinnamon help to naturally control blood sugar levels, but it also attacks bad yeast in the gut, reduces irritable bowel syndrome, and increases attentiveness, memory, and cognitive development. WithAllYourLife.comhttp://WithAllYourLife.com
(4) Cheese & Spinach Omelet Spinach is loaded with vitamins and fiber and is especially efficient at oxidizing free radicals in the colon. MarthaStewart.com
(5) Blueberry, Banana & Flax Smoothie Flax is the richest plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help tremendously with memory functions and brain cell formation. WholeFoodsMarket.com
(6) Oven Popover Eggs are high in choline, an essential component the brain needs to create strong signals and build cell membranes. WithAllYourLife.com
(7) Coconut Flour Carrot Muffins Coconut flour is helpful for maintaining healthy gut bacteria because of its natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, and for aiding in cell growth and repair throughout the body. WellFedHomestead.com
(8) Apple Pannekoeken Apples have been proven to raise neurotransmitter levels in the brain, which helps with memory, mood stabilization, and stress control. Cooks.com
(9) Banana Oat Muffins Bananas increase the body’s serotonin levels, improving mood. They soothe the digestive tract and help to boost good bacteria in the gut. CookieandKate.com
(10) Baked Oatmeal Oats not only boost energy levels, but also are effective in helping with digestion because of their unique blend of soluble and insoluble fibers. YourHomeBasedMom.com
(11) Roasted Lentils Lentils help with digestion regulation, make the body feel full longer, and feed healthy gut bacteria. EdiblePerspective.com
(12) Chocolate Peanut Butter Sugar Plums Chocolate contains a flavonoid that increases cellular signals in the brain. When eaten with prebiotic food, it increases how effectively the body feeds its good gut bacteria. WithAllYourLife.com
(13) Pumpkin Seed Trail Mix Pumpkin seeds are high in omega-3s and in zinc, a mineral in which many children with learning issues are deficient. CinnamonSpiceandEverythingNice.com
(14) Coconut Oil Chia Bars Chia seeds have a unique blend of omega-3s, fiber, and protein that help to detoxify the gut and decrease inflammation in the digestive tract. WithAllYourLife.com
(15) Yogurt Berry Popsicles Berries tend to have few natural sugars, making them perfect for adding color to kids snacks without the worry of chemicals or artificial sugars. CleanEatingMag.com
(16) Hummus Dip with Carrot Sticks Recent research has shown that many children with learning issues have diminished eyesight. Carrots, with their high levels of Vitamin A, are great for your child’s eye health. AltonBrown.com
(17) Kale Chips The benefits of kale are that it contains phytonutrients which boost memory, improve brain performance, and stabilize behavioral functions. SteamyKitchen.com
(18) “Cheesy” Popcorn Topped with Brewers Yeast Brewers/nutritional yeast has a cheesy taste that kids love. It contains high levels of vitamins that increase brain vitality and stabilize mood levels. GimmeSomeOven.com
(19) Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits Yogurt sold with “live and active cultures” helps to increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut. FoodNetwork.com
(20) Grain-Free Pumpkin Cookies Pumpkin is a great food that aids in a healthy immune system so kids have fewer sick days and more days to learn. TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com
Lunch or Dinner:
(21) Smoked Salmon Frittata Bites Salmon increases a child’s ability to focus. Research has proven that children who eat salmon on a regular basis show a decrease in ADHD symptoms. http://www.marthastewart.com/335400/family-style-rolled-omelet-with-spinach
(22) Chicken Bone Broth Soup with Zucchini Noodles Bone broth, made over a 12- to 24-hour period, is touted as the most healing food for the body. In relation to gut health, bone broth has been proven to heal and seal gut lining that has been damaged by long-term abuse of consuming processed foods. Inspiralized.com and WithAllYourLife.com for the bone broth recipe.
(23) BLT Lettuce Wrap Tomatoes reduce stress, improve eyesight, and aid in brain cell regeneration. BreakingMuscle.com
(24) Sweet Potato Turkey Meatballs Sweet Potatoes reduce brain fog caused by inflammation in the brain. Food.com
(25) Cold Fermented Thai Peanut Butter Noodles Peanuts contain many minerals essential to generating new cells in growing children. Plus, the added benefit of fermented peanut butter is having a probiotic-packed food children love. WithAllYourLife.com
(26) Chickpea Pepperoni Soup Chickpeas are considered a gut healing food as they not only help with digestion but also work to balance our pH level and bacteria in the gut. WithAllYourLife.com
(27) Sprouted Chicken Quesadilla Sprouted grains are easy to digest and offer more readily available minerals like zinc and magnesium, in which children who experience learning issues often are deficient. OMamas.com
(28) Creamy Healing Broccoli Soup Broccoli contains many phytonutrients which help to naturally detoxify the body and gut without the use of a harsh diet. MegUnprocessed.com
(29) Fresh Bean Sprout Spring Rolls Bean sprouts are high in fiber and rich in minerals which improve brain development in children. WhiteonRiceCouple.com
(30) Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chili Beans Pinto beans naturally detoxify the gut from sulfates most commonly found in processed meats, creating a healthier gut in which good bacteria thrives. SproutedKitchen.com
Free to use with attribution: Reprinted with permission of Texas Home School Coalition and Review Magazine.
The Biology of Behavior and Learning
By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
Joseph was an unhappy baby. He didn't sleep for very long periods and seemed to cry all the time. He did best when he was held and rocked or walked. He spit up after feeding much more than the other babies in the family had. His parents called him their "high maintenance child." He developed some ear infections which were treated with antibiotics. With the second antibiotic he received, he developed a rash. The doctor said he was allergic to amoxicillin and placed him on another antibiotic. He got over the ear infection, but continued to be whiny and had diarrhea. After one more antibiotic he developed a white coating on his tongue, which the doctor called thrush.
As he grew, it became increasingly evident that he was intolerant to some foods. Milk gave him a stomachache and oranges gave him a rash around his mouth. In his pre-school years he was loving and sweet one moment but easily flew off the handle if he didn't get his own way. In fact, sometimes his temper tantrums were a sight to behold. As he grew, he continued to be plagued with difficulty falling asleep, stomachaches, frequent canker sores, and bed-wetting. He also had more unusual fears than his brothers and sisters. As school began for him, his mother noticed that his memory wasn't as good as his siblings. He would learn something one day and have forgotten it the next.
It was hard for him to sit still for a whole lesson, often preferring to stand while learning. Sometimes he looked like a "motion machine." Many times he appeared "spacey" while a lesson was being presented, or when asked a question throughout the day. It was like his mind was always wandering. When a lesson or project became hard for him, he became frustrated very easily and would flare up or even cry. Joseph's mom was at her wit's end as to how to help him. She had tried rewarding, cajoling, punishing, and avoiding doing homework altogether. Nothing seemed to change his attitude towards learning or ability to do it easily. He did enjoy the avoidance of school work however.
Joseph was likely suffering from a lack of the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is the brain chemical that keeps us focused, instills a sense of well being, and helps us fall asleep easily. How had he gotten this deficiency in serotonin? That is a very interesting story. Dr. Michael Gershon, a neurobiologist and medical researcher from Columbia University in New York, discovered that ninety-five percent of this brain neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced in our "gut." In fact he has a book called The Second Brain, in which he describes this intricate relationship between gut and brain functioning.
How was Joseph's gut health compromised so that he could no longer make enough serotonin to keep him feeling well? In our intestines we have both yeast and healthy bacteria. When the mother takes an antibiotic while she is pregnant, or the child takes an antibiotic, the yeast in the intestines begins to overgrow because the good bacteria in the gut is eliminated right along with the bad bacteria that was causing the ear or other infection.
When a child has too much yeast or mold in his body it often will often "come out" of the body in the form of diaper rash, hives, thrush in the mouth, canker sores, or athlete's foot. When the yeast in the gut overgrows it causes tiny perforations in the mucosa lining of the gut, creating some damage to the lining. It is in this area that the body makes the calming, focusing, feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. This slightly damaged gut lining, sometimes referred to as the "leaky gut syndrome," also allows some undigested food to pass through into the blood stream, and food allergies are created. The longer this unbalanced environment is allowed to continue, the more allergies will be created. With this knowledge, what could this mother do to help her child feel better, act better, and learn better? She knew he was a smart, good-hearted boy who wasn't happy with the way he was acting and learning.
One of the first things that Joseph's mother did was to begin to replace the good bacteria that had been destroyed by the antibiotics. She got a good acidophilus in capsule form called Primadophilus that was in the refrigerated section of the health food store. Since Joseph didn't like to swallow pills very much, she opened this capsule and put it into his yogurt three times a day. She didn’t use the chewable or liquid form because she knew they would be too weak to help Joseph. Even though Joseph was allergic to milk (remember the stomachaches and crying) he could handle some good yogurt without any reactions. Sometimes she put Primadophilus into juice. It had no taste so he didn't mind it.
She started noticing some small changes in him, even in that first week. His voice wasn't as loud and he wasn't constantly needing to make those annoying noises with his mouth all the time. He began to fall asleep more easily. He seemed to be much "mellower," being able to handle frustration without getting as upset. Even his brothers and sisters noticed that he wasn't as mad and touchy as he had been. He began to be able to pay closer attention to the lessons that were presented. Joseph's mother was beginning to become encouraged.
If yeast overgrowth really was the cause of Joseph's compromised gut and ability to produce enough serotonin, how else could she help his body overcome this unbalanced gut ecology? She decided to add a natural anti-fungal to his acidophilus regime. She went back to the health food store and picked up some Grapefruit Seed Extract by Nutri-Biotics. She bought this in both the tablet and capsule form since she didn't know if he would swallow any tablets yet. At first she opened the capsule and put the contents into some peanut butter with honey, three times a day. After a while, he decided that the tablets were small and easy to swallow. That made it easier for Mom.
Meanwhile, she looked for ways to reduce sugar and carbohydrates in his diet, knowing that these foods directly feed the yeast in his body. She changed from cereal for breakfast to eggs, peanut butter, protein shakes, even left over dinner, since she knew that protein-containing foods not only starve the yeast, but keep the child's blood sugar level more stable during the day. She stopped serving so much juice, using water or milk (in Joseph's case, rice or soy milk) to drink. She kept cut up vegetables and dip around for snacks, along with more nuts and sunflower seeds. Soon she began to see a new Joseph. His disposition became much sunnier.
The biggest relief to Mom was that his learning became so much easier because he could attend to the lessons and remember what he had learned from one day to the next. He still liked to fidget but was no longer considered a "motion machine." As his school day became easier, he began to become more confident in his ability to learn. He began checking books out of the library like everyone else and reading them to himself at night. Joseph's gut was being healed and could now be the manufacturing place for serotonin that it was meant to be.
Dianne Craft has a Master's Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado. Her website www.diannecraft.org has information about her tape series, The Biology of Behavior, that gives more insight into natural remedies for children.
Is My Child Just a Late Starter? (When Reading Doesn’t Start Easily)
By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
Finally receiving the new curriculum for the year can be an exciting time for a homeschooling mom. After having taught three previous children how to read, moms often look forward to teaching this fourth child.
But, what if your fourth child is the same age as your other children were when they were eagerly reading, but is not interested in learning to read, or is having great difficulty learning to read? Do you have this child tested? Do you wait? Will the reading just “click” at some point, if you wait long enough? How does a mother know if this is a “maturity issue” or if this difficulty is a sign of a learning disability?
As a special education teacher and homeschool educational consultant, this is how I approach the “maturity issue”. These are the “red flags” I look for in a seven-and-a-half-year-old who is either avoiding or struggling with reading:
Research shows that boys tend to mature later than girls. Thus, if a seven-and-a-half-year-old boy is not interested in reading, I would tend to just give him six more months to let his nervous system "mature" before I try formal reading lessons again.
Being a nutritionist, besides an educator, during this waiting time I help the child’s nervous system to mature using natural means. Relying on the research done by Dr. Jacqueline Stordy in her famous studies relating the nervous system maturity (particularly in males) and essential fatty acid deficiency, I will often give this child some fish oil supplements. This helps to move the maturing process along nicely (for supplement details see “Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain”, www.diannecraft.org).
Does your child have a desire to read? If the desire to read is not there, then I would give him, or her, six more months for his nervous system to mature. However, if this child wants to read, but can't remember sight words or the sounds of the letters, then that is a red flag that there likely is a learning block that is present. I would begin interventions.
Some children have a significant speech delay and are struggling with remembering letter names or sounds. If that is the case, it would be a good idea to check into some reading intervention. An Auditory Processing problem often accompanies a delay in speech. An Auditory Processing problem can be greatly helped by using an intensive phonics program that uses more right brain teaching strategies, or tiles, or other methods that are out of the “norm” for regular reading instruction.
When a child easily learns to say and sing the alphabet, and easily remembers the names and sounds of letters, but is not interested in reading, then I would just consider this a maturity issue.
However, if your child has an Auditory Processing problem, learning to say or even sing the alphabet correctly can be difficult. For them, remembering the names of the letters when looking at them is also very difficult. That is when I would begin interventions.
5. Listening to Stories
If your seven year old is not even interested in listening to you read a story, I would first give that child six more months for his nervous system to mature. However if he loves to listen to stories read by mom, or on tape, that child is showing that he is ready for learning, and would like to learn how to read himself. If he is struggling with the reading process, then I would see that as a red flag, and start interventions.
6. Reading or Writing Reversals
We often think that reading and writing reversals are "normal" in the learning process. It is true that when children are first learning to track their eyes from left to right over the page as they read, and writing letters with the correct orientation, they may make letters backwards or read letters or words backwards. However, after six months of practice, the majority of children cease making reversals. Brain research now shows us that when a child struggles with this “left to right” process past age seven and a half, this is usually a symptom of a more pervasive issue of a poorly established midline. While this can be corrected at home using various exercises, it is important that the parent see this as a red flag and do those interventions. Without the interventions, the child likely will have to struggle longer than necessary.
When we have a “late bloomer”, we often receive much advice from other moms. Much of this is very helpful. However, we also inevitably hear the story about a child who didn't learn to read until age 11 or 12, but is a good reader now. Do some "late bloomers" learn to read by age 11 or 12 without interventions? This certainly happens. Then why not wait all the time? Often the price the child pays in lowered self-esteem for so many years, while all others are easily reading, can be too high. We now know more about how the brain processes information, and have access to wonderful early interventions that take the chore out of learning.
Bottom line: Learning doesn't have to be so hard!
"No parent has ever said that they started interventions too early with their child." --Sally Shaywitz, MD, Overcoming Dyslexia
"Reading and writing are natural, if there are no learning blocks." --Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP, Brain Integration Therapy; Right Brain Reading Program
Dianne Craft is a former homeschool mom who with a master’s degree in education. Her books, The Brain Integration Therapy Manual, The Right Brain Phonics Reading Program, and her DVDs, Understanding and Helping the Struggling Learner, Teaching the Right Brain Child, Smart Kids Who Hate to Write and The Biology of Behavior have helped hundreds of families remove learning blocks in their struggling children at home. Visit her website, www.diannecraft.org for many articles on children and learning, and to download her FREE Daily Lesson Plans for the Struggling Reader and Writer.
Special Needs Mom: How To Be a Friend
Author: Melissa Smith
Published in: Review - Spring 2017
Published on: Apr. 17, 2017
When my family moved to Texas over nine years ago, God planted us in a neighborhood two houses down from a family with special needs. As we raised our children together and grew in friendship, I learned a lot about building relationships and came to understand the unique challenges that special needs families face. My family has been abundantly blessed through this relationship.
The road to friendship, though, wasn't always smooth. In hindsight, I can see how God's grace held us together and taught us how to love each other well. There were many points where our friendship could have broken down. Unfortunately, beautiful friendships are often times lost because of fear of the unknown, preconceived notions and lack of communication.
Finding an entry point to a relationship can be one of the challenges. At our first play date, the mom let me know her boys had autism and let me ask questions. This open door to communication has served our friendship well over the past decade and set the stage for us to talk through issues. And challenges did arise.
Most of us lack knowledge about developmental disabilities and how they affect the daily lives of families. Therefore, what may seem like insensitivity or callousness may just be lack of information.
My children and I did not know what it meant that first time one of her sons jumped around and waved his hands in the air. I also did not understand the exhaustion she felt at always having to advocate for her children. There were so many words that were new to me yet part of her daily vocabulary. How do you bridge such a gap?
It took time and a lot of communication. At times, I feared that my children would ask questions or make observations that would cause awkwardness or wound our new friends. Sometimes they did, and our friends forgave us.
In my ignorance about the struggles the mom faced every day, I feared offending her with my questions. But, she graciously dropped any defensiveness and fear of rejection, and I ditched my fear of the unknown and assumptions. She helped me look past the surface to find common ground.
One of the first things I learned is that a special needs parent’s love for their children is beautiful and strong. These parents know how to work hard, sacrifice themselves and give generously. I admired those things in my friend.
However, as I tried to interact with them and enter their sphere, I found they often had a hard time asking for and receiving help. So, trust came slowly. It took me a lot of time to realize why. They must constantly advocate or intercede for their children in a world that does not understand them and often does not accept them. That’s difficult for any parent.
There was give and take in our relationship. And, over time, my children and I learned to speak her children's language. When her son jumped around and waved his hands in the air, he was happy—immensely happy. My children could laugh with him and join in his joy. The mom even learned to trust me with her children and let me help her so she could rest.
The special needs families we have been blessed to know over the years possess wisdom, strength and grace forged in the fires of difficulty and advocacy. Their children have gifts and abilities that have inspired and taught my children to see the world through someone else's eyes.
Altogether, these amazing families and their children have deeply impacted our lives. Their selfless love is beautiful and sacrificial. Being near these families inspires me to love deeply, to persist vigorously and to give grace readily. They model this daily, and the fruit shows in their children.
Whether in the hills of North Georgia, the bayous of Louisiana, the mountains of Colorado or the wide plains of Texas, Melissa Smith finds joy in the simple moments of life and the majestic beauty of God's creation. After a few years teaching high school English, God redirected her to stay at home to raise her children. She now lives in Texas where she home schools her three children, enjoys photography and reading whenever there is a free moment—leaning on Christ as she learns to laugh at the days to come.
This article is reprinted with permission of Texas Home School Coalition and the author. It originally appeared in Review magazine. Visit THSC.org.
This page is still under construction. Check back for more information about our new Facebook group for struggling learner/special needs families.
Websites /Online Articles
- The Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented - www.mcgt.net/
- Twice Exceptional Newsletter - www.2enewsletter.com/
- Hoagies Gifted Education Page - www.hoagiesgifted.org/
- Resources for Gifted Children with Special Needs - Comprehensive list of books, resources, websites, curriculum, email lists etc. for the “twice exceptional child”. http://www.uniquelygifted.org/
- Gifted Homeschoolers Forum - www.giftedhomeschoolers.org
- Michael Clay Thompson - www.rfwp.com/pages/michael-clay-thompson/
- Beast Academy - www.beastacademy.com/
Home Educating the Special Needs Child
By John Tuma, former MACHE board member
Providing an education for a child with special needs will have its challenges regardless of the educational approach taken. Homeschooling provides a wonderful educational opportunity for these children and their families, and I would go as far as to say that it is the best educational option for a child with special needs.
My personal involvement with the educational system included being diagnosed as having dyslexia; becoming involved in advocacy for the development of special education programs in school; and later, following graduation from law school, becoming a legal advocate for families of children with special needs. As a legal advocate, I would advise parents navigating the special education system of one overriding element to a successful education plan--identify the most committed, caring, and compassionate teachers at the school and demand that they be on your education team regardless of their qualifications. Those individuals would always be the ones searching hard to find the best solutions and would not be afraid to experiment to find real avenues for success.
Though professionals will have knowledge from which you can glean to help make your child’s educational experience successful, no professional can match the commitment, care, and compassion parents have for their own children. Therefore, parents should feel confident that they are equipped with the most important elements to successfully educate their special needs child.
The federal special education law was not created to force parents to care about the education of their children with special needs. Instead, Congress found that public schools were turning away or simply “warehousing” children with special needs. The solution was to empower parents to have specific rights to force a public school district to provide a free and "appropriate" education for their child. Unfortunately, when the federal government passes laws, the provisions are washed through several layers of bureaucracy and the results are not always what was originally intended. Therefore, on occasion, school districts can use the special education law to interfere with the rights of parents to freely home educate their child who has special needs. Don’t hesitate to remind those officials that these very laws were meant to strengthen parental rights for the protection of our children.
We hope the following resources will be helpful to families taking on the rewarding challenge of educating their special needs child.
- MÂCHÉ is a wonderful local resource for any questions or information you need.
- The National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN) is another good resource. They can be contacted at PO Box 310, Moyie Springs, ID 83845 or at www.NATHHAN.com
- We strongly encourage all families and particularly the families of children who have special needs to become members of HSLDA. They will be helpful to families who may face legal challenges and the membership also allows access to a special needs coordinator. www.hslda.org
Please contact MÂCHÉ with any questions or concerns you may have regarding available resources in Minnesota and any difficulties you may be having with public school officials or county social service agencies.
KIM URY is MÂCHÉ’s Special Needs Coordinator and an educational special needs consultant. She has a Master’s of Arts degree in Adlerian Counseling and Psychotherapy with an emphasis in Marriage & Family Therapy. Her background is in life coaching, tutoring and teaching social skills. Her primary role is homeschooling her teenage son who has Aspergers. Kim co-leads a homeschool support group in the southeast metro and leads a special needs support group in Woodbury. With over a decade of experience, Kim is passionate about helping people succeed. She actively advocates for every person who crosses her path. She offers hope, realistic goals and practical solutions. Kim enjoys gardening, reading, and volunteering.
If you would like to talk to Kim about issues with your special needs child, contact her through MÂCHÉ at email@example.com.
By John Tuma, former MÂCHÉ board member and attorney
Q: Do I need a teaching certificate or special licensure to homeschool my child who has a disability or special need?
A: No. Your requirements are no different than any other homeschooling parent. (See Section 7 of the MÂCHÉ Handbook for the basic requirements.)
Q: Does the law require me to provide any special testing for my child who has a disability or special need?
A: Essentially no. Minnesota Statutes 120A.22 Subd. 11 requires homeschooling parents to give all their children a nationally norm-referenced standardized test annually. Again, this requirement is no different for a child with special needs. This statute also requires parents to "obtain additional evaluation of a child's abilities and performance for the purpose of determining whether the child has learning problems" if the child scores at or below the 30th percentile on the total battery score for the child's age level. This additional special needs testing does not have to be done by a public school. Unlike the normal standardized test, you do not need to seek approval from the superintendent regarding what additional testing must be done.
Q: My child currently has an individual education plan (IEP) at the school where he/she receives special education services; can we still use the school's services if we homeschool? A: Minnesota Statutes 125A.19, Subd. 4(b) requires public schools to provide special education services to nonpublic school children in their district if the parents request services. The district can provide the services at the location of their choosing so long as the services are appropriate. At present, the district does not have to provide special education in the nonpublic schools unless, at their discretion, the district chooses to provide the services there. The district is required to provide transportation to the location of the special education services. In most cases you cannot require the district to pay for special education services that are provided by a third party (such as a private tutor or a therapist through your healthcare provider) unless they agree to those services and there are no appropriate services available at the public school. If you avail yourselves of these public services, it would be wise to join an organization that advocates for the disability of your child to ensure you are informed of the types of appropriate service.
Note that both the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and MÂCHÉ urge caution when considering use of services offered by the public school. There is an understandable tendency among those providing services for special needs children to try to direct all the education you are providing your child and to potentially invade some of your privacy.
Q: My child currently has an IEP at school; the services are unsatisfactory and I want to homeschool my child. Am I legally bound to abide by the IEP?
A: No. Nonetheless, you need to recognize that those providing services to those with special needs are oftentimes very passionate about their work and may take it personally if you withdraw your child in such a situation. On occasions school officials have filed child neglect charges against families who have chosen to remove their child from the public school system. It may be helpful to call an IEP team meeting prior to the withdrawal of your child from public school system in order to create some closure. This is not an opportunity for the district staff to give you advice, but a chance for you to clearly advise them that you have a placement plan for your child and no longer need their help. Have a well-developed plan of what services you are going to obtain separately from the public school and make it clear that you plan to place your child in another more suitable education at your own expense. This will allow the administrators who are responsible for the budget to see that you are taking care of your child. The administrator will be less likely to want to proceed with expensive litigation to meet their federal mandate despite the possible hurt feelings of the well-intentioned staff.
Q: Can I as an untrained parent really provide the necessary services for my child with special needs?
A: Absolutely yes! As an individual who proceeded through the public school system labeled “learning-disabled” and from several years of providing legal advocacy for families with special needs children in public education, I recognize that the decision to home educate a child with special needs is a challenging one, but almost always the right one. From what I've seen of the choices that are available, a parent cannot lose by providing focused, loving, one-on-one instruction to their child. Nonetheless, it is a decision to be made with much prayer, study, and support.
Finally, individual homeschooling families and support groups should, as a Christian witness, seek out ways to help families with special needs children in their church and community. “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up . . .” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
There are many resources available for special needs families, and MÂCHÉ has accumulated hundreds of these resources together into one place - the MÂCHÉ Online Handbook. The Online Handbook is available to MÂCHÉ members and can be downloaded to put into a 3-ring binder.
The resources listed in its 200+ pages of home education information include links, books, organizations, and individuals who are available to help special needs families. Some of the special needs topics covered include:
- Adaptive recreation
- Assistive technology
- Attending church
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Autism Spectrum disorders
- Curriculum & supplies
- Developmental delay
- Down Syndrome
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- General learning disabilities
- Gifted children
- Hearing impairment
- Lending libraries
- Math difficulties
- Reading difficulties
- Sensory Integration Dysfunction
- Sensory Processing disorders
- Service dogs
- Sibling issues
- Speech/language impairment
- Special diets
- Testing services & private administrators
- Tourette Syndrome
- Transitioning to adulthood
- Tutoring & therapy
- Visual impairment
- Website resources
Special needs families need all the help, information, and encouragement that they can get. Take advantage of the great resources found in MÂCHÉ's Online Handbook. (... as well as the big discounts applicable to conference fees, and more.) For more information about or to purchase a MÂCHÉ membership, click HERE.
MÂCHÉ is accumulating a list of support groups particular to special needs families. At this point, there are two on our list. If you know of another support group that you would like to see listed here, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The groups we have listed at this time are:
Group Type: Special Needs