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Homeschooling Kids with Special Needs
Q: I have two handicapped children. One had so many problems with peers at school that she dropped out in the ninth grade. She wants me to teach her at home. I don't know how to go about it. The state of Florida tries to make it very hard to do this. Can you help? I also have a son with ADHD. He is having problems at school. All they want to do is put him in special classes (ESE). He is on medication and is doing better then before, but it is one major fight. If it gets too bad, I would want to teach him at home. He is going into the sixth grade. Is there anything on the computer that I can do? Thanks for any info you can give us.
A: You might try going to Yahoo to search for information about the legal and practical aspects of educating a child at home. Be aware, though, that since your daughter has special needs, the school system, under Federal law, has the obligation to provide services to her until she turns 22. This means that if she's willing to consider it, she might be eligible for a special alternative high school program or for home tutoring. This is especially true if you feel (and can substantiate) that your daughter dropped out as a consequence of the school not adequately meeting her special needs. If, on the other hand, your daughter elected to drop out even though the school offered her an exemplary program, the school has no formal obligation to help. They may be able to put you in touch with a GED program that would make it possible for your daughter to earn her high school diploma by educating herself or being taught by you at home.
Since you did not say much about your son's problems, I would suggest that you request a meeting of all the professionals at the school who are responsible for his education. Has your son had a comprehensive evaluation to determine what's getting in the way of his success at school? Do you understand the results of the testing? Do you agree with the findings of the school? If they feel that putting him in a special class would meet his needs, have they convinced you that that is the best option? If you need help making sense of what's going on with you son at school, call the Department of Education in your state and ask them to help you find an advocate (someone who can help you understand what your son's legal rights are, and who can help you make more sense out of what is often a very confusing situation). Schools are required to provide a program that adequately addresses the special needs of a child. Before you make the decision to homeschool your son (which involves a great deal of time and energy), look into all the options the school can offer. What about inclusion in a regular class with consultative services from the special education teacher? What about an aide in his classroom to help him (and other students) stay on top of things? What about summer programs that might help strengthen his skills prior to next fall? While homeschooling is a great option for lots of kids and families, take the time to explore all the options. Don't jump out of the frying pan into the fire!
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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.