Many families with children that have autism or other disabilities often make the choice to homeschool their children. They have found the the best educational setting for these wonderful children is at home. Often these children are very curious, even gifted learners, at home they are free to explore the topic of interest to them. Also since peer relationships are not their strength, they are not distracted from learning by the constant need to interact with their peers.
The one thing that all of these children have in common is that they easily experience sensory overload. At home these children can be in a more comfortable enviroment.
I am planning to start a monthly newsletter that will include information and resources to help families not only that have the challenge of raising a child with autism or autism spectrum disorder but also some help with education options. I know that homeschooling is not for every family but for the ones that choose to I sure can always use more resources and hopefully I can help with that.
Currently in America, hundreds of families are homeschooling children whose special needs range from attention deficit disorder to severe multiple handicaps. Parents often find that when they bring these children home to be educated, they come out of the "deep freeze" that has kept them from making significant progress in traditional settings.
Parents can offer their children individualized education, flexibility, encouragement, and support.
However, the decision to homeschool a child with special learning needs is a weighty one. Parents may meet pressure from the school district, or even the state, to enroll their child in the "system." Many encounter criticism from well-meaning family and friends, and most must deal with their own fears of inadequacy. Nevertheless, in record numbers, parents of special needs children are choosing to home educate, and most are finding that the rewards far outweigh the costs.
HSLDA’s attorneys have helped special needs families across the nation protect their right to homeschool when officials go out of bounds. Members should contact us promptly if they encounter any difficulties. HSLDA’s Special Needs Coordinators, Betty Statnick, Dianne Craft and Faith Berens, will be available for consultation. And HSLDA supplies our members with a list of resources and names of professionals qualified to assist in testing and/or setting up a plan for teaching.
http://www.hslda.org/strugglinglearner/default.asp Click Here for more information on HSLDA.
Parents choose to enroll their children in home school programs for a variety of reasons. Some feel their child’s needs are best met at home, some desire the small structured environment, some do not want their child exposed to the standardized requirements of public school, or it could even be that the child is involved in an activity or job that requires them to have an extremely flexible schedule.
Home Schooling and Special Education
If you believe your home-schooled child has a learning disability, you have the right to seek an evaluation and services. However, it does not mean the public school district is required to provide therapies and intervention programs.
The level of responsibility that the school district has for providing special education services to eligible home-schooled students depends on whether the IEP team determines that services should be provided.
Requesting a Special Education Evaluation
If you want to have your child evaluated, you should contact the public school district that you reside in. Attendance boundaries determine which school district is responsible for evaluating your child. It also needs to be the public school, not a private school. I’d suggest you contact the Director of Special Education. Tell them that your child is in a home school program and that you’d like them evaluated for special education. They may have some questions for you. For example, has your child ever been enrolled in public school? Has your child ever had an active IEP? If you have an old IEP, it would be helpful to provide this so the district can see what services your child has received in the past. They may also ask you to provide proof of residence with a utility bill, bank statement or rental agreement.
Once a home-schooled child is referred for a special education evaluation, the local public school is required to complete the evaluation within 60 days. You can make your request either in person, over the phone or in writing.
The IEP Process
The district will follow the IEP process outlined in the law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. This includes:
Meeting with the IEP Team
The evaluation may take place in your home, or at an agreed upon place, like the district office. Once the evaluation is completed, a meeting will take place with the IEP team. In the case of a home-schooled child the team usually consists of the person or persons who completed the evaluation, a school administrator and the parent. Here, the results of the evaluation are explained and recommendations are discussed and agreed upon.
Legal Obligation to Provide Services
Because the child is home-schooled, the district has no legal obligation to provide services to the child unless the IEP team deems the services or programs as necessary. In order for the programs to be implemented, the parent of the child must give consent.
For example, if the IEP team determines that a child would benefit from occupational therapy and the parent agrees to services, the team can write an IEP and agree on a place where the child can receive these services. However, if the IEP team recommends a program that is offered at the school as part of the curriculum, the district is not required to provide the service since the child is not enrolled.
Options for Receiving Services
If the evaluation finds that your child is eligible for a service you think would be valuable to your child, you can consider enrolling them part time in the public school so they can receive services. For example, the student could be enrolled for 2 hours on Monday and Wednesday’s so they could receive reading support from a specialist. Or, if your child is older, you could enroll them in an elective class or physical education class so they are on campus to receive support services.
If the services can be provided at the district office, you can ask to arrange a regular time every week so your child can attend the support program.
If you choose to implement an IEP and find later that the services are not in conjunction with the home school program you are providing, you can always choose to terminate your consent and the services will discontinue.
1. Deschooling Most experts seem to feel that the beginning of home schooling for a child with an ASD is to "deschool". The technical definition of this would be for your child to 'unlearn' all the negative socialization experiences he had had in school. Many veterans point to this as a time for you to observe your child and for your child to really explore areas that interest him. Learning must again become fun.
2. Keep a journal You might want to consider taking notes at this time. What helps your child focus? What are his favorite things and what is he doing when happiest? Where does he excel?
3. Contacts While deschooling, contact local organizations, and support groups. Try to make contact with other parents who understand both autism and home schooling.
4. Read books beyond autism! Many people have sited this an a very helpful and important step. A few favorites are: The 7 Kinds of Smart, and The Way They Learn
5. Ditch your preconceptions Try to approach the process with an open mind. Think about your end goal and then work backwards: What will get you to your end goal with your child? It is likely to look different than traditional schooling would be and that's just fine!
6. Determine where your child is on checklists and evaluations. Set a goal and then work towards that goal. On the other hand. . .ditch the checklist if it is too frustrating. In states where there is a lot of paperwork, you can document your child's progress towards the goal and why you stopped pursuing it.
7. Locate needed therapies and services for your child. There are a variety of resources available and with a little leg work at the library, I've heard of many parents providing needed therapy at home as appropriate.
Remember that this is a journey. You are allowed to change course. You need to let your child show you how he'll learn best and chances are you'll see him soar!
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