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  • Writer's pictureCoach Patty, HealthSmart! Kids

8 Tips for Homeschooling Your Child with Special Needs

Updated: Jul 13


A woman helping a young boy with drawing

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While homeschooling can be challenging for any family, it can be especially demanding for parents of kids with special needs.

Our kids with special needs have unique learning and behavioral differences that can make a typical classroom setting challenging. Sometimes, after facing ongoing difficulties in traditional schools, homeschooling becomes the best choice to support their growth and happiness.


As a fellow homeschooler of a child with special needs, making the transition to teach my son at home was initially one of the most difficult decisions I ever made, and yet it turned out to be one of the best decisions ever for him and our family.


Some children simply learn better at home. While teaching your child at home can have its challenges, it can also be incredibly rewarding. With your child's unique needs, they may thrive in a home learning environment.


Here are 8 Important Tips for Successfully Homeschooling Your Child with Special Needs


1. Maintain Appropriate Expectations


There is a learning curve for you and your child as you both get used to the homeschooling routine. Be ready to modify your teaching style as necessary to promote your child’s success. Recognize that we all have bad days, so expect to accomplish less abstract teaching on those days, and opt for fun learning activities that will promote good feelings of accomplishment and self-worth for your child.


2. Have a Structured Schedule, But Be Flexible


A common mistake with homeschooling is trying to make your home learning environment look like a school setting. Remember to embrace the unique learning style for your child. Come up with a workable daily schedule, and find an appropriate amount of work for your child each day to minimize frustration and promote success.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Get the complete organizing system for your homeschool! (Serves as great documentation for annual state recordkeeping, too!)



3. Use Visual Learning Tools and Hands-On Activities


Most of us are visual or kinesthetic (hands-on) learners. When teaching your child at home, work to incorporate visual tools like written schedules, pictures, posters, etc. to help solidify information. Plan to also provide many opportunities for your child to ‘learn by doing’ with various manipulatives to practice new skills that are being taught.


4. Alternate Mental and Physical Activities


Allow your child to take frequent breaks between lessons, with regular opportunities to get up from the desk or table to move around. Try to promote physical movement, whether it's games or exercises in between more difficult thinking tasks like math and other subjects that require full brain power. Giving your child a chance to burn off some steam will help them to regroup and focus better.


5. Minimize Distractions in the Learning Environment

Pay close attention to the environment where you expect your child to learn. Make sure the lighting, sound, and room temperature are just right so your child can learn their best. Reduce unnecessary distractions in the learning environment to improve your child's concentration and ability to perform their best.



6. Use Your Child’s Favorite Topics in Your Lessons


Your child will be more interested in learning and will likely be better able to understand information when you add in familiar favorites for them. My son loves movies, so I often included activities featuring his favorite movies and characters to spark his interest. Incorporate your child's much-loved topics and themes into daily lessons to keep learning fun and engaging.


7. Choose an Eclectic Curriculum


Children with special needs often do better when the curriculum is hand-picked, meaning an eclectic style of teaching and materials are used. Try to use multiple resources that are developmentally appropriate for your child. By piecing together an eclectic curriculum, you are likely to find what works best for your child, and you can add and change resources as needed.


An important part of a homeschool curriculum for our kids with special needs is teaching them practical social skills and life skills. We had good success with these activity books by Darlene Mannix:


social skills activities book



and this one addresses Life Skills

life skills activities book


These are primary level activity books, but she also has secondary level books on these topics. These were easy to use and oh-so-helpful for our homeschooling journey.



8. Take Care of You


Being with the kids all day means that you don’t get much down time. It’s important to take time out for yourself to recharge your batteries, even if it’s a cup of tea for five minutes. Align yourself with other parents who will understand what you are going through, as they will be able to offer valuable support. There are various local and national home school information and education groups for families, so explore your resources and find what works best for you.


It can be a lot to take on homeschooling your child with special needs as an additional part of parenting. While teaching your child at home can be challenging, the rewards for both you and your child make it all worthwhile.


Best wishes on your homeschooling journey,

Patty

Picture of Patty Canton HealthSmart Kids blog




A father and his daughter playing with building brick toys

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.







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