expert advice MORE
Homeschooling and LD
Q: My seven-year-old son and I are exhausted! This is his third school so far! It took five months to get complete testing done by the school district. He's very bright but has emotional difficulties coping in the classroom. I want to homeschool him because he does well in a low-stimulation environment and he responds great to the one-on-one attention.
The psychologist and many others disagree. They think I'll isolate him and he'll never get along with his peers. But when he's anxious and totally frustrated, how can he be expected to "socialize?" The current school refused to implement any interim interventions until the IEP was complete! So he sits in the classroom all day not doing anything because he's on the verge of tears. He comes home totally exhausted. He's irritable in the morning and it continues all day.
I'm really torn -- do I follow my heart or listen to the "experts"? My heart says give homeschooling a try for at least six months to one year and see how he progresses. If at some point later he wants to return to public school, then I'll let him.
A: I certainly understand your desire to remove your son from a stressful environment and try to teach him at home. I don't understand why some interim measures were not taken while the school was waiting for the testing to be complete. My main concerns now are that although your son may be calmer and happier at home, I don't see this as a way to teach him how to socialize with his peers. He probably needs support from a professional who is trained to meet his needs. Also, if there are learning issues as well as social-emotional ones, I would hesitate to advise you to try to teach him on your own.
If the IEP is now complete, there must be a plan for teaching your son appropriate social skills as well as making accommodations for him while he learns how to relate to others in his class. It is critical that both pieces be included in any educational plan written for him. You need to fully understand the recommendations written on the IEP and make sure that your son's progress towards meeting his goals are being carefully monitored by the school. By law you should be regularly informed about his progress periodically through the year. For more guidance in this area, have a look at Lawrence Siegel's book, The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child. Siegel gives parents very concrete ideas about how to work the system to get the best intervention plan for their children.
It would also be helpful for you to connect to other parents who are facing the same issues about homeschooling vs. special education services. Try contacting CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders) at 1-800-233-4050 or have a look at their website. There are branches of CHADD's parent-support groups across the country. You should be able to find one near you where you can get some additional guidance. Good luck!
More on: Expert Advice
For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.