You're homeschooling your special needs child(ren). You sat through many meetings listening to everything that is wrong or hard to do for your child. There was likely a list. You probably advocated for more, or different supports for your child. They may or may not have listened to you. You probably felt frustrated, possibly angry, and might have cried (out of sight of your precious child) because of the stress of it all. This might have been a yearly occurrence, if not more often than that!
I'm *SO* sorry.
My child is currently 10 years old; he'll be 11 in December. He has a list of diagnoses including Cornelia de Lange, hypotonia, childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), mixed expressive receptive language disorder, blah blah blah, etc, etc. We didn't know if he'd ever walk or talk. He was the size of a 12mo old for three years. He was labeled "FTT" or "failure to thrive" and "GDD" globally developmentally delayed. We saw specialists, did all the therapies and I can remember the first time he was able to climb the ladder at the park well past age three. I cried! I didn't cry because he was all these labels that other people gave him. I didn't cry because he didn't compare well to other kids his age. I didn't cry because someone else thought he couldn't do it and I knew he could. I cried because I *rejoiced* in his accomplishment. He was pretty darn pleased with himself as well!
Here's the thing, fellow parents: if my child was in a brick school setting, he would be failing. He'd be excluded, separated, frustrated and *constantly* reminded of his challenges. His "problems." Talking. Running. Sitting up for over 30 seconds. Writing. Reading. Using the restroom. Would he be bullied? Would he be safe? Would he have friends? Would he be able to do any work? Sit at a desk?
Can you imagine what that does to a child?
At home, my son is thriving. He's currently potty trained, learning to read, writing words, building wood projects, doing our co-op, and I'm presently watching him fight with his brother for the Star Wars spoon for cereal. He is included in everything we do. He's *known* and with that knowing comes FREEDOM. He's free to be himself and wear a helmet wrapped up in bacon duct tape for six months straight. He's free to not wear scratchy shirts, or pants with holes, or sit next to hot food because the steam scares him. He's free to learn what he and I want, in the best ways for how his brain works. He's not been bullied. A handful of times when a child asked, "How come he talks like that?" we were right there to say, "This is Nick. Sometimes he's hard to understand but he's 10 and super fun and silly. He loves to play." Off they went. My other children protect him. They accept him. They honor who he is. They accept other special needs children as well because it has never occurred to them *not to.*
He is not defined by what is "wrong with him."
Labels are necessary to get all the appointments and therapies. That's just the truth, labels have their uses. In a public-school setting, labels are needed to define your child. They need to know what's different so that they can provide supports to fill in the gap to normal. "Normal" is whatever the latest/greatest educational tool says it is. That IEP is the gap filler for "normal," and it has no place in a homeschool. IEPs are what is needed *in that educational setting* for your child to be "normal." Do you see where I'm going with this?
I don't need to force my child to sit at a desk, or write a paragraph when he can't, or ask to use the bathroom. I don't need a plan for how he's going to get from the house to our van. I don't need to fit him into the box of whatever I'm teaching and have other people do it for him because it's assumed he can't. I don't need to force other children to accept him. I don't worry if my precious child is understood, or safe physically or emotionally. I could go on and on, but I'm hoping you see my point. I don't need an IEP because I am his IEP, in our life. I know exactly what he needs and provide it. I have the job of creating an educational plan that is so much more than what he can't do.
It's hard work. I wouldn't change a thing.
By Amanda Weeden
Amanda Weeden is a leader in Granite State Home Educators and Christian Home Educators NH and Southern Maine. She supports special needs homeschooling families as a Special Needs Homeschooling Advocate and is currently the Special Needs Homeschooling Representative on HEAC (Home Education Advisory Council). She lives in Rochester with her four children and husband, loves people and really loves Jesus.