That moment when a parent learns that his or her child has special needs can feel like being stuck in the tracks, while an oncoming train of information is running full steam ahead. If you’re that parent, a major decision you’ll have to face is education.
There are many options, but if you decide to home school, you may be feeling apprehensive. Don’t let the lack of experience or credentials lead you to believe you’re not qualified to do this. You are a greater expert on your child than you think.
Here are five tips:
1. Study your child.
You will be a student first before becoming a teacher. By studying your child, you will have a firmer grasp on his temperament and learning style. Doing this will shrink down the mountain of available curriculum, and you can concentrate on what works best for your child.
2. Split up your day.
My child was first diagnosed with a language disorder and, later on, with auditory processing disorder. My biggest mistake when I first started home schooling was trying to get our work done as quickly as possible to avoid any resistance, like when you gulp down that nasty medicine because it’s easier than torturing your taste buds with little sips. But it doesn’t work that way with a special needs child. Little sips of work with lots of small breaks sprinkled in between will grant you a more productive school day.
3. Spend one-on-one time.
One of the biggest reasons why you probably want to home school is because your child thrives on one-on-one interaction, whereas a busy classroom of 30 plus kids may leave your child ignored at best. If you have more than one kid, set up rotating “stations” of independent activities, like computer games, reading or workbooks, and make one of those stations for “Mommy and me” time. That way, everyone can have one-on-one time with you.
4. Set up your child for success.
Another mistake I’ve made was presenting lessons solely in a lecture format, containing little or no visual aids, even though my kid was a visual and kinesthetic learner. When preparing schoolwork for your child, set him up for success. Slowly challenge him in areas where he is weak, but not to the point of frustrating him. And then pair it with activities that will call on his strengths.
5. See each day as a new day.
When you’re home schooling a child with special needs, today will not look like yesterday or the day before. That science experiment may not have piqued your youngster’s interest as you thought it would. That very engaging math lesson just went over his head. An unavoidable meltdown caused you to end school early. Though you didn’t complete anything in today’s lesson plan, the learning doesn’t have to stop. So close those school books, just for now. Snuggle on the couch with a favorite story book or bake some cookies together. Tomorrow will be a new day.