This week in our on-going look at whether homeschooling is the right choice for you special needs child, we will look at what ‘resources’ you need to provide your child.
According to Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities 2007, Local Authorities (LA’s) can reasonable expect you to provide “access to resources/materials required to provide home education for the child – such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults.” (Section 3 Paragraph 15)
For most of us this is pretty basic stuff. But let’s break it down a bit further by giving examples:
- Papers and pens – should cost you less than a ‘tenner’ at the pound shop, if you don’t already have them hanging around the house, which most families do anyway if they have children in school.
- Books and libraries – So even if you don’t own an extensive collection of books (note there is no mention of text books…because they simply are not required), as long as you have a library card you are good to go. Most local authorities/councils still offer FREE library cards, especially to children, even in these budget strapped days.
- Arts and crafts materials – This can be anything from recycled soda and milk bottles to paints, glue and scissors. But again most of us already have these things around the house if we have young children. Yet even if you don’t most can be picked up for a song at the pound store or online. How much is up to you. You certainly don’t have to amass the collection that we have (see picture of our Maker boxes…Mr. Maker and Disney’s Art Attack eat your hearts out). But with her sensory seeking behaviors, Emily thrives upon ‘messy play’ so this is an important investment for us…we made tie-dyed shirts this morning.
- Physical activity – Again this one is readily available for most everyone. If you live in a big city, there are parks, usually within walking distance. And if you are lucky enough to live in the country, just strolling around counts. Don’t forget the balls, jump ropes and whatever else you child probably already has in his or her toy box.
- ICT – In other words computers. Alright this one might be a bit more daunting and expensive. But do note that it does not say for exclusive use by the child, something that even schools do not provide. So an old family desk top PC on the kitchen table counts. If you are reading this blog, then chances are this is not a problem for you. But even if you did not have a computer in the home, many older models are available for FREE through swap/recycling website such as FreeCycle. And worse comes to worse, computers and the Internet are almost always available at your local library and many community centers.
- Opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and adults – Depending on your child’s situation this one can be a bit more tricky. For some children on the Autistic Spectrum, interaction with others is not easy. Even for Emily with her Sensory Processing Disorder, she finds interacting with her peers difficult, often resulting in bullying. But she adores ‘helping’ younger children and older people. The key wording here is…appropriate…and who better to know what is and is not appropriate for your child than you.
Of course, these are just the most basic/minimum requirements. Many parents, who choose to homeschool their special needs child, runs into more complex issues of finding, accessing and paying for auxiliary treatments/therapies that children would normally access through schools. I say all of that tongue in cheek because as most parents of special needs children who have chosen to homeschool will tell you…what their children need and are entitled to receive as accommodation in school and what they actually get are two very different things.
Nevertheless, I admit that not all families will have access to some of the therapeutic resources that we have purchased for Emily in the past few months; things like her min-trampoline, chewy sticks and hour-glass timers. We have invested hundreds (thousands of pounds) in giving her the maximum access to anything that will help her to learn and achieve her maximum potential. That said, I am a single mother, who receives DLA and carer’s allowance and most of those purchases were made out of that money.
But remember too that just because your child does not attend school does not mean that he or she is not entitled to receive certain assessments and therapies through your local NHS. We have found our GP and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service to be very helpful. But I recognize that to some extent this is a post code lottery. The old adage…the squeaky wheel gets the grease…does apply though. Stay on them, call often and while I don’t encourage you to ‘make up stories,’ don’t forget to mention to them how your child’s condition is affecting things like learning, behavior and bullying. These can sometimes move the process along or move you to the top of the waiting list depending upon the severity of the issue.
The truth is that the most valuable resource you have to offer your special needs child is YOU. You have an understanding, empathy and concern for your child that no professional can match. When we take the time and apply whatever resources we have (and you can see from this list…almost anyone can meet the minimum set forth by law), our child can flourish in a homeschool setting.
Join me next week for the final installment of this series, when we all get a reality check and look at that most difficult of resources…our time and energy to do this thing right.