How Homeschooling Can Work for Your Child with Learning Disabilities
When it comes to educating children with special needs, one size never fits all. Even when the diagnoses are the same, each child handles the struggle differently, responds differently, and learns differently because each has a unique learning and personality style.
As you have likely experienced, public schools have a difficult time working with children who struggle with learning disabilities. All too often, these kids end up with lower self-esteem, issues with socialization, and a feeling of discouragement as they struggle to accomplish what they see their peers able to do with ease.
Statistics on Students with Learning Disabilities
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, "2.4 million American public school students (approximately 5 percent of the total public school enrollment) [have been] identified with learning disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Forty-two percent of the 5.7 million school-age children with all kinds of disabilities who receive special education services are served in this category."
U.S. Department of Education statistics revealed that only 12 to 26 percent of learning-disabled secondary students achieved an average or above average score on assessments, as compared to 50 percent of all students in public schools. Public schools are not able to give individual attention to every student, and this makes the struggle even greater.
Given these facts, many parents choose homeschooling as an alternative. But that decision is not always easy. Parents worry that they won’t know for certain how to best help their kids, or that the children will miss out on friendships. They also wonder just how much they'll have to learn in order to fully understand what their kids need to be taught on a day-to-day basis.
For many families, however, homeschooling is absolutely the best choice. When parents are able to structure a homeschool program that meets a child’s specific needs, they don’t just change academics, they change their child's life. When that weight of discouragement and struggle is lifted, one of the first things we see is a change in how kids see themselves. We see increased confidence, better spirits, and a willingness to keep trying.
Of the homeschooling options out there for children with special needs, online learning is noted as one that works well for children who have learning disabilities. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, ”The versatility and flexibility of online learning provides opportunities for students with LD not available in traditional school settings. For example, the pace and presentation of instruction can be customized on a student-by-student basis, providing truly personalized and individualized instruction for students with LD."
Getting a specific assessment of your child's learning challenge is critical. It’s like going to the doctor when you feel ill. If you can diagnose the problem, you can treat it effectively. You may not find a cure, but you can alleviate many of the symptoms by formulating the proper treatment. Check out the stories below.
Jenna had a difficult time reading. Other kids zipped right through the various reading assignments in elementary school, but for Jenna, reading was like trying to solve a Sudoku puzzle. By the time she did figure it out, she was already a lesson or two behind. After Jenna’s diagnosis of dyslexia, her parents found an online homeschool academy that tested her and accurately gave courses and materials that challenged but didn’t discourage Jenna.
The online homeschool academy had proven success working with dyslexic children and offered both teacher and advisor support. Jenna began using special computer programs that helped her retrain how she saw and interpreted words on a page.
Adam loved to learn but had difficulty expressing it verbally and on tests. No matter how prepared he was, panic set in during tests, and he “froze.” He had the same difficulty trying to express himself to his teachers and classmates.
For Adam, being in the comfort of his family home helped ease the panic he felt in school. He could take tests at a time of day when he was relaxed and ready. Expressing himself to his parents created more ease. To compensate for the loss of socialization, Adam’s parents enrolled him in Boy Scouts and community sport teams.
Accommodations and Modifications
Sometimes, the only thing children with special needs require for success are accommodations and modifications. Those can be easily handled at home or with a homeschool partner. At home, it's easy to create accommodations to help your child stay focused and on track. Depending on your child’s needs, accommodations could include:
• the time of day the child takes a particular course or test
• sitting next to a window or a door
• having background noise while they study
• taking breaks between each subject to burn off that amazing energy
You can also provide modifications to how your child tackles academics and therefore set the stage for a better chance of success. Modifications include:
• longer testing time
• less material per course unit
• simplified vocabulary or math
• a change in material to help them grasp topics.
Knowing how complex your child’s special needs are, and how much time and effort you can commit to them, are crucial considerations when making the best decision for your child, for yourself, and for your entire family.
Sometimes that decision will mean that you do not move to homeschooling. But whether you begin the homeschool adventure or choose to keep your child in school, stay committed. Provide that much needed unconditional love and stay involved in your child’s educational journey so that you can advocate for change as new challenges or victories arise.
I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and president of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers who take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling, and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write, and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English, and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
To explore homeschooling options or to talk with a homeschool specialist, call us today at 800-863-1474! We would love to share our expertise and ideas for more accommodations and modifications with this free resource.