How to homeschool your disabled child when they are not merely “special needs”, but severely mentally handicap? 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 10-year-old 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 around a 3-month age level mentally and is completely non-verbal, confined to a chair, receives her nutrition via a feeding tube, wears diapers, etc. She can express herself through frowning/crying or smiling/laughing, but 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.
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 exceptions for children with global developmental disabilities, regardless of the fact that they are like an infant intellectually.
The law does state 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)
I have had 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 information. 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, 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 parent’s 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! 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?
How To Homeschool Your Disabled Child
- 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 an audio, though, since she is only able to pay attenion (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 less 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 to celebrate each year of her life. Some were just for fun, but many were educational. Our favorites are: Abigail Spells, A Counting Book with Billy & Abigail, Abigail (a counting book), and A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women. Yes, every book is about “Abigail”!
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.
Resources I hope to add to our homeschool, aka my wish list!
I am looking into – and seriously considering – 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. Actually, Educents has several subjects from Life of Fred and other special needs curriculum options at bargain prices that would work for my disabled daughter! This Time Tales DVD is highly rated and would also work great for our daughter to watch (and listen to) for math lessons!
- 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!