How to homeschool your disabled child when they are not merely “special needs”, but severely mentally & physically handicapped? What if they are not capable of completing worksheets, written assignments, oral reports, etc.? It can feel overwhelming or impossible, but it is easier than you may think!
I have a daughter who is severely physically and mentally disabled. Her condition is very similar to a child with severe cerebral palsy, but that is not her diagnosis.
She was last evaluated to be at a 3-month age level mentally and is completely non-verbal, confined to a chair, receives her nutrition via a feeding tube, wears diapers, has severe movement disorders, etc. She can express herself through frowning/crying or smiling/laughing, but she has very little control over her body so we really have no way of knowing how much of an “education” she is taking in.
Yet, we have chosen to homeschool from the beginning. Scroll down to read how we homeschool our disabled daughter.
Need Homeschool Encouragement? Read: 9 TRUTHS ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING WITH SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN
So, what do you do when your state requires your child to be “enrolled” in school (home, private, or public) at age 8, taught a list of 11 subjects over the course of each school year, and get an assessment annually? Unfortunately, there are no explicit exceptions for children with global developmental disabilities, regardless of the fact that they are like an infant intellectually.
Thankfully the law (in my state) has a clause that helps my daughter … “The standardized test administered or the annual academic progress assessment written shall be made a part of the child’s permanent records. If, as a result of the annual test or assessment, it is determined that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent shall make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency.” (emphasis mine)
The law also states that “all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent except for matters specifically referred to in Chapter 28A.225 RCW. The homeschool law also states that the legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally construed.” (check with your state’s laws)
Our law allows me to be creative in educating my disabled daughter. Since she cannot write, talk, or express that she has learned anything, I have simply done my best to surround her with academic information & an enriching environment.
Every day she is right in the middle of all of her siblings as they work through their textbooks, read out loud, or do projects. She can not participate in arts and crafts projects on her own, but that hasn’t stopped us from helping her be involved when possible.
Because homeschooling has been such a blessing to us and I don’t want other parents of disabled children to miss out, I am sharing some resources that have been helpful to us. You can use my ideas to teach your own severely disabled child or use them to supplement your healthy children’s homeschool curriculum!
Oh, and my other children have definitely benefitted from the more relaxed style of teaching that I’ve learned to embrace because of my oldest daughter. God has a way of working all things together for our good, doesn’t He?
Relaxed Homeschooling Resources
How To Homeschool Your Disabled Child
Focus on helping them absorb information by adapting curriculum and resources to fit their needs. For us, this means using audio & visual aspects and simply including her in our activities by doing everything within the same room as her.
- Audio and DVDs. Our daughter is not deaf, so anything she can listen to is a plus. She is also not technically blind, so we do use DVDs as teaching tools. They function mostly as audio since she is only able to pay attention (or keep her eyes on the screen) for a few minutes. The audio and DVDs we have in our home are well-loved by all of our children.
Some that we love are:
- Books of all types. Reading is one of the main ways we learn as a family. I have been very happy since switching to a literature-based history curriculum a couple of years ago. We also made the switch to more literature-based math and science curriculums this school year. It’s been really great for us!
We use way too many books to list them all, so I’ll just list our top favorites.
We read a wide selection of literature that correlates with the levels and year of Tapestry of Grace we are currently using. History has become my favorite subject to teach, thanks to ToG.
I have also been inspired to add in even more quality living history books for the weeks of homeschool when we need fewer textbooks and more real books.
I have put some time into researching and finding children’s books that teach a variety of subjects. For our daughter’s 10th birthday, we gave her 10 books with her name in the title to celebrate each year of her life. Some were just for fun, but many were educational.
Bonus parenting tip: search Amazon for “children’s books about <child’s name here>” and see what is available. They make great gifts! (less common names are harder to find, of course)
We use the Christian Liberty Nature Readers for science.
We also use Life of Fred for math. I love that they are all fun stories. Typically, the child would read them for themselves and work through the problems. But in our case, I love that I can read them to our disabled daughter without a lot of busy work or writing assignments required or expected.
I have my other children read to her which gives them reading practice while she benefits from it, too!
- Field Trips and Experiences
Though we deal with compromised immune systems in our family (not just our daughter, but myself and our other children), we have done our best to bring our children on “field trips” or provide experiences for them over the years. Our daughter is right there with us!
The zoo, museums, nature trails, wildlife parks, the ocean, etc. If it’s handicap accessible and has a low risk to our immune systems, we’ll go! Outdoor experiences in fair weather are the best!
The bottom line is, you can home educate your disabled child! You just have to think outside of the curriculum box, get a little creative, and make the most of it. It really is not a matter of if you can, but simply a matter of learning how to homeschool your disabled child!
- Think about how you can adapt educational experiences and resources to accommodate your disabled child and help them absorb an education.
- Think about input more than output – in other words, they may not be able to communicate what they understand or the knowledge they’ve gained, but that doesn’t mean they are not receiving an education!
I hope & pray that all states allow disabled children to be homeschooled so that they can receive a richer, safer education and quality of life! I am thankful that our home education law allows my daughter to be home in a medically safe environment while surrounded by the ones who love her most – it is where she is happiest!