Special Needs Homeschooling

Check out the Speech Impairment Page... loads of links there and a day in the life of a speech-impaired child (and his mother!). Also new: Luke's Autism Page

I want to take this time to recommend a WONDERFUL resource for homeschooling your
special needs child: NATHHAN.com

National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network

When Our Idea of "Best" Isn't God's Plan
...Our Experience with Raising a Special Needs Child
by Kelly Midkiff

I never used to like that term. I mean really—everyone has "special needs" in some form or another. I learn best through hearing and doing, my son through seeing things first-hand. My husband can remember anything read to him, but I have to read it for myself if I want to retain the information. Isn't that a "special need"? During my years as a tutor for children with learning disabilities like dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, etc., I accepted the fact that learning disabilities are real—they are as tangible as a physical handicap and can be just as debilitating.

When you tried without success to learn to tie your shoes, your mother might have quoted the old adage, "Can't never tried." When you did your best but just couldn't master writing a cursive "Q", you might have been encouraged to practice more. Eventually you learned to tie your shoes and can even make a cursive "Q" if the need arises. But if you were born with a learning or physical disability, these tasks create special circumstances that require understanding, patience, empathy and creativity. You are a special needs child.

Always one to search out an answer to any problem, I came up with creative ways to teach reading to dyslexics, handwriting skills to dysgraphics, and multiplication facts to ADD kids while they were bounding on a mini-trampoline. As the teacher, we could and would overcome any obstacle! However inspiring, my enthusiasm and optimism kept the emotional side of these issues at arms length. The ways things are is just the way things are. Why cry over spilled milk?

It wasn't until our Luke was diagnosed with severe apraxia and sensory integration dysfunction that I learned just how devastating a disability can be to a parent. No matter what the training, vocation or preparation, there is nothing like realizing your child will never be "normal" Luke is facing at least one surgery to correct weak eye muscles associated with apraxia. He has problems with his feet that require braces in his shoes. He might need hip surgery to correct dysplasia. He has a genetic heart condition that might need corrective surgery. Our three older children are "perfect"—no physical disabilities whatsoever. I felt like I had been hit by a speeding car that came out of no where.

When I finally accepted the fact that Luke isn't "normal" like our other children, I cried for 3 weeks. I mourned all the things he could not, and perhaps would not, ever be able to do. He is our 3rd boy—he was going to be the fourth part in Daddy's own little men's quartet! We are a family of singers and he isn't going to be able to speak as others do! How will he earn a living? Will there ever be that special someone to love and accept him as he is? "Lord, this is a mistake—I'm sorry but You just have to 'fix' it." That was my hearts cry.

Luke is our youngest and I often compare having a special needs child to being a first-time parent all over again. Only this time I realize how unprepared I am—how inadequate I am. I am wise enough to know that I alone am not enough for him to succeed in life. I suspect it is like this with most parents. We want what IS best for our children in combination with what we THINK is best for them. When we realize that our idea of "best" isn't ever going to be accomplished we fall apart. Our visions are crushed, our Utopia collapses. Dreams of little Johnny being another National Spelling Bee champion or winning the Nobel Prize are gone. He will never win an Olympic Gold Medal or earn a National Merit Scholarship. He won't grow up to build houses or mend fence or follow Grandpa and Daddy into the Army, Navy, or Marines. We feel as though a life has ended—the life of who we wanted our child to be doesn't exist anymore.

In this respect, having a child with special needs isn't that much different than having a "normal" child. We just have to face the music sooner that they are their own persons—created as they are with unique giftings and interests only their own. We have to come to terms with the Lord's plan for their lives and trade that in for our own desires for their future. Without Luke I think I would have faced this end of dreams as most people do when our children don't go down the path we plan for them: when they leave our home for their own, or take a road we would not wish them to travel.

As if dealing with the special physical, emotional and educational needs isn't enough, the plot thickens if you are a homeschooling parent. You are faced with the haunting suspicion that you just might not be your child's best teacher. Maybe this fear re-surfaces from when you began walking the homeschool path. Perhaps it is brand-new for you and frightening in the largest sense of the word. We wrestle with the "Am I qualified to teach him?" questions. Socialization might be an issue once again.

What do I do now? What about . . . ? I don't know how to . . ! What if . . . ?

The answers to these quandaries lie exactly where they did when we first battled them. They were there when we first found out we were going to be parents; when we held our little one for the first time, when we began to think about homeschooling him, when the reality of kidnappings and terrorism first ricocheted across our minds. This poem by Annie Flint has ministered to my heart over and over again in the dark hours of discouragement and inadequacy. For those of us with special needs children it holds a depth of meaning and poignancy I haven't found elsewhere.

He gives more grace when the burdens grow greater.
He sends more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed 'ere the day is half done;
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure.
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again."
   - Annie Flint

There are always questions and doubtings lying at the beginning of life's unknowns. Peace comes when we realize that the answers lie down the path a little way. And, just like faith, you will only find them if you forge ahead—sight unseen.

At the time of this writing, our youngest son Luke has been diagnosed with a severe articulation disorder: verbal/oral apraxia. In a nutshell, he has a vocabulary of 6-10 words and is now communicating mostly through sign language. He will be 3 in March 2004 and should be speaking many more words and even some two words "sentences". He is not.  This isn't a case of delayed speech, or of laziness, sibling interference or any of the other well-meaning suggested given by family and friends. This is a condition that will take months - possibly years - of intensive therapy to correct.

As soon as we received a referral from our pediatrician to have his speech delay investigated, we contacted our local Early Intervention Program. In Missouri it is called, First Steps. I have been so wonderfully pleased with the decision to do this. From this one contact LUke has been evaluated by 4 professionals in four different ares. He was diagnosed with Dysfunction of Sensory Integration as well as Oral Apraxia. All of my fears about having someone "from the state" come into our home were put to rest during our very first meeting. My husband and I had and HAVE complete and absolute control over what happens with Luke. This includes the amount of therapy he recieves, where he recieves it, and who delivers it. What a blessing!

I admit, when I first realized that something might be "wrong" with Luke I was terrified. That passed quickly to anger at the unfairness of it. Our other 3 children were fine - why Luke? Then guilt - had I taken some medication during the pregnancy that had caused this disorder? I should have eaten better, exercised more, take a better quality vitamin supplement, reduced the stress in my life...and on and on it went.

Right now, I have peace about whatever it is that God has planned for Luke. Obviously this speech delay plays an important role in his place in the world. And undoubtedly it is having a huge impact on the lives of his family. I probably won't know why Luke's speech has been challenged until I get to heaven. But that's OK. All I NEED to know is that Luke is no less my child today than he was before the diagnosis. I love him even more. . . and a year ago I didn't think that was possible. Talk to me again in a year  - I have hopes of sharing more impossiblities-come-true.

One Year Later:

Well, as I mentioned in the articel above, I have impossibilities to tell you about! Luke is now almost entirely free of his sensory integration dysfunction! His speech, though still not completely intelligible, is MUCH better. Even some people outside our family circle can understand him! Praise the Lord!

Since then too, Luke has been diagnosed as autistic. Here too the Lord has worked miracles! We discovered gluten and casein free living which brought huge strides in Luke's behavior and speech. Then through some research we discoverd the wonderful world of enzyme therapy. That's a fancy way of saying that we learned "WHY" Luke can't digest gluten (from wheat, etc.) or casein (found in milk and dairy products). This is founded research my friends! Do NOT brush it off as a "fad" . It most certainly is NOT. For awhile now Luke has been eating enzymes with his evening meal. He sleeps better because his digestive system isn't burdened by the gluten and casein he can now eat. This isn't nearly as complicated as it sounds here but it does deserve it's own page! That page will be up and running within the month.

CM & Special Needs
An awesome page on homeschooling your special needs
child using Charlotte Mason's methods.

Speech Impairment Links:
Luke's Page
Do To Learn

Straight Talk About Dyspraxia

Homeschooling & Special Needs

Five In A Row
Homeschool Support on the Internet
Special Needs Forum
More Special Needs Links
National Association For Child Development
Virtual Homeschool Special Need Resource Page
Unschooling Your Special Needs Child
Homeschooling Kids With Disabilities
Ten Steps to Sucessfully Homeschooling Children With Special Needs
Special Ed. IEP
Charlotte Mason Special Kids E-group
Family Friendly Fun .com
Homeschooling Autistic Children
How I Homeschooled My Special Needs Child
Blindness Support Center
Pediatric Vision Screening
Homeschooling Language Impaired Children
Deaf-Info website
American Sign Language
Homeschooling Your Deaf or Hard-of Hearing Child
The Myth of Learning Disabilities
Disability Ministry in Your Church
Mission: To support, educate, disciple and encourage parents who choose to home educate (full time and part time) their children who have learning disabilities.

Toilet Training Special Needs Kids
Toilet Training Autistic Spectrum Kids
Toilet Training Special Needs Kids
Even more Toilet Training Tips!

Dietary Implementations: GFCF Links
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
What is Gluten?
GFCF Family Page
Autism & Gluten
Milk Allergy
No Milk - Intro to Becoming Milk Free
Yogurt is OK if It's Homemade
GF Recipes
GFCF Recipes
WheatFree Recipes
GFCF Products
Gluten and Autism
Gluten and Celiac

Frequent use of Antibiotics Links:

Candida Albicans
Dr. Greene on Frequent Antibiotic Use
Dr.Greene on Ear Infections

Sensory Integration Links:

A Sensory Room
Sensory Integration Network
Home Activites
Newly Diagnosed
Play Away Toys
OT Resources
Sensory Integration Activities
Sensory Integration Dysfunction
SID Family Website
Sensory Exercises
Sensory Frequently Asked Questions
Skill BuildersOnline

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