Determining what is best for a special needs student

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Determining what is best for a special needs student

Postby aligerous » Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:38 pm


I always planned to homeschool my children (long before they were ever born). Despite this, both my children are in public school. My four year old loves school and is doing very well. My almost six year old is not.

I am trying to decide if I should pull my older son out of public school, and would greatly appreciate any opinions for or against this in situation like ours.

I've gathered my thoughts into a sort of "pros and cons" list for the sake of clarity.

Reasons not to homeschool:

1. I don't feel qualified, or capable of homeschooling him. He has a variety of developmental issues, and I have not been successful in teaching him anything school related. He behaves like he is in his own world most of the time, and is not cooperative with anything, even basic self help skills (even when he is physically capable of doing them). His teacher refers to teaching him as "like pulling teeth." The different specialists at his school spend a lot of time trying to help him and have very little success. I am unable to get him to complete his homework, and have little faith that I can do a better job than professionals.

2. I was severely bullied as a child and have difficulty making friends or socializing. I treat social interaction like something to be endured and avoided whenever possible. I cannot realistically see myself taking my son to frequent social activities if I also have to interact with people. I am seeing a therapist for this, but I don't want to gamble his future on how long it takes me to get over my social anxiety problems. I don't want to isolate my child because of my own fears. I would be capable of enrolling him in extra curricular activities, but he is so difficult to work with that doesn't seem like a good idea at this point in his development. I believe I would be able to force myself to go to something social once or twice a week, but that doesn't seem like it would be enough (and he hates being around other children so that makes it harder when neither of us wants to go). We also live in a remote, rural area, and there are no neighborhood children.

3. I work from home, and I am concerned with my ability to balance my career with homeschooling, especially when he still needs an extremely high level of supervision (similar to a sixteen month old, only he's taller and faster).

4. Everyone close to me (except for my spouse) believes homeschooling will ruin his life and mine, and due to my bias against public school, I don't want to discount their concerns when making this decision.

5. I worry that homeschooling only one child will result in problems for both of them.

6. I don't want him to feel like he missed out on public school experiences later.

Reasons to homeschool:

1. He HATES school. He has to be carried in every day. He begins crying if the subject comes up. He recently has begun tearing his hair out from stress while he is there (he has several bald spots). He tells me he spends recess standing at the fence watching the cars so he won't miss me if I come back to rescue him (even though I have never come to pick him up in that way). He will not feed himself, and the school "does not provide that service" even though he is in the special needs program. So he doesn't eat at school. He has problems gaining weight, and this is a huge source of worry for me. If he was homeschooled he would be happier and healthier (at least for now).

2. He has difficulty socializing with other children. He has communication problems (mainly due to his developmental issues) and tends to avoid or irritate the other children. I sent him to preschool so he could learn to interact with his peers, but he has only recently even tried making eye contact. He wears special sensory items (vest, hat, special seat, etc.), still struggles with potty training, is small for his age, and prefers shows for much younger children and "girl" toys. While I know this is probably at least partly projection from my own years of being bullied, I feel like he is an ideal bullying target. He already feels like an outcast, he tells me he doesn't want to go to school because "that's where the humans are" and since he "is a robot" they will break him. I fear school is only making his social issues worse.

3. The school isn't successful in teaching him. He has made a very, very tiny amount of progress in the last few years (but it is more than I have made with him).

4. I'm not convinced that public school is the best learning environment for all children. I feel that some people (such as nerdy, bookworms like myself, or my scientist spouse) learn better in smaller groups, or independently (online courses are the only reason my spouse and I succeeded in college). I was homeschooled for the last few years of high school, and it was infinitely better than the years of abuse I suffered in the classroom. I cannot think of a single positive thing I got from public school. (However, I realize that many people do enjoy public school, and even refer to high school as "the best days of their lives." I want to do what's best for my son, not what's best for me.)

I have absolutely no idea what to do. I am terrified that I will ruin both of our lives if I homeschool him. Also if it fails and I try to send him back to school he will likely be very far behind (he is already far behind). But I feel like public school is destroying him. I honestly don't see a solution that has a positive outcome for my son. I'm hoping a discussion here will help me find the best direction to go in (or maybe even a third alternative). There is not a local private school that accepts children with special needs (I checked into that already.)

Thank you for any help!

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Postby Theodore » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:57 pm

Sounds like he is learning very little in school, and school is impacting his health and will eventually impact him negatively on the social end of things as well. Better to pull him out now before he starts doing something worse than pulling his hair out. Worst-case scenario, he learns little or nothing at home, but at least is healthy and nurtured and won't hate being around people when he is finally ready to be reintroduced to socializing. There is no particular reason why he -has- to socialize as a child - there are plenty of vocations that are mostly solitary, such as staffing an outpost in the middle of the wilderness, or programming web sites (my line of work), or creating detail-oriented art pieces. And lots of children don't even really start reading until 8-10 and do just fine after that. The only real question here is whether you can supervise him sufficiently, and for that you just need to find activities he enjoys and can stay occupied with while you work. Doesn't have to be educational, per se - you could have him build things, or draw, or read books (comic books if he can't read well yet), or play dress up and photograph himself, or play Wii Sports, or plant stuff in the backyard, or whatever. I would only try to avoid computer or video games (except as short-term rewards) or TV, since those will erode his attention span.

You may not do any better than his school, but it is unlikely you will do worse. Health comes first, you can worry about his education later. It may just take him a few extra years to get started, but that isn't the end of the world.

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