Like many homeschool parents of children with special needs, who have been let down by the school system, one of the first things that I did when I brought Emily home was begin to searching for answers. Answers to questions like…
- Why was her pronunciation so far behind other children?
- Why did she hate writing?
- How to handle her emotional outbursts?
- How to keep her focused?
- And many more…
Like so many other families, who find themselves homeschooling a special needs child, we had known for a long time that ‘something’ was not ‘right’ with our child. We had even sought help from the ‘experts’ many times along the way (Health Visitor when she was two and a half for speech, Early Years SENCO when Emily did not seem to be settling well at nursery and especially the SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator) at her school). But still we had no answers. In their opinions, Emily was just not ‘severe’ enough to warrant intervention. Yet those same problems were growing more noticeable as she got older, resulting in bullying in school.
Now I had my child twenty-four/seven. I was not just her concerned mother but her teacher as well. And I need answers…and strategies to maximize her potential.
So where did I begin? First of all, I joined homeschool groups on the Internet, including one for special educational needs (HE-SP at http://www.he-special.org.uk/). Other parents have been brilliant at pointing me in the right direction.
Often that right direction was a book. Over the past six months, I have read dozens of books on subjects as diverse as discipline, ADHD, sensory processing, autism, pathological demand avoidance, sleep, and the list goes on. I have spent hundreds of pounds/dollars on these resources. Some of them were life savers and worth a hundred times what I spent on them. Others were not so good.
And that is the breaking news here at Islington Home School Mom…the thought occurred to me the other day as I was publishing my other blog (book reviews of self-published romances) ‘why don’t you review some of the books you have read about special needs?’ So from next Tuesday, 20th of March, in addition to the Friday how-to blog, I will also be adding a Tuesday book review of the thousands of resources available to parents of special needs children.
The book review will summarize the basic premise/theory of the book so you will get an idea of whether or not it appeals to you. It will also look at how understandable/readable/practical the book was. But in addition, as someone who holds a degree in health, the review will examine the scientific basis of the book. This is not to say that I will review only those books that are based upon empirical research. I have sought out a variety of options, some of which doctors, psychologists and professionals would call voodoo medicine. That does not mean though that they do have merit. Remember just a few hundred years ago it was the ‘scientists’ who proclaimed the world was flat and tried to cure patients by ‘bleeding’ them.
In fact, I have found both scientific and ‘spiritual’ works that have proved invaluable to my family. As a result, I will attempt to provide a balanced view of resources available to families. And that to me is the key…balance. Like the idea of ying and yang. I have found that the scientific works provide me with answers that I can pursue with Emily’s doctors and other professionals. But if you read further you discover that the outcomes for many of those children are not so good (poor performance in school, poor social skills and difficulties that follow them into adulthood)…despite the ‘best’ and ‘latest’ interventions and medications. If all you read is science based books, you may be tempted to throw up your hands in despair. More ‘spiritual’ or alternative theories often provide a more sensitive and hopeful outlook on the same subject. I will not make judgments on either. Because for me, I find value in both.
For instance, one scientific book that I read was about pathological demand avoidance syndrome (PDA). Yeah…it is every bit as nasty as the name sounds. It also fits my daughter to a T. But the outcomes are horrid, as adults these people are often on the fringes of society, even in legal trouble. It is not a label/diagnosis I would ever pursue or allow professionals to tag on Emily. Contrast that to the New Age philosophy of crystal/indigo/rainbow children. If you made a comparison chart of the two, the similarities are striking. ‘Questions authority, refuse to compile with simple requests, etc.’ The science sees this as maladaptive and predicts a bad outcome. The New Age views this as a gift to be nurtured…something that will change our world. Funny thing is they both agree on the same ‘parenting’ method to foster these children and achieve the best possible outcomes. By reading and digesting both, I keep my sense of hope for Emily’s future while recognizing the challenges that face us. Similar could be said of other labels such as ADHD.
My background in health allows me on some level to dissect even the ‘science.’ Because trust me, just because something is published in a peer review journal does not necessarily mean that it is not flawed in the way the research was conducted. This is particularly true when dealing with children. Although human testing of anything is strictly controlled and monitored, it is practically forbidden on children, young people and pregnant woman. As a result, the studies that do exist are weak because the scientists could not control for many of the factors. For instance, when studying the effects of ADHD medicine on children, you cannot give the medications to ‘normal’ children to study what many perceive as benefit or side effects.
I will attempt to offer a balanced perspective of options for all parents by presenting the pros, cons and examining the theories for their merit. Best part of the reviews…I will write them in the same plain old, forthright, American English that I write everything…hopefully making it easy to understand.
I will launch the book reviews next week with the one resource that has proven invaluable for me…Dr. Ross Greene’s The Explosive Child.