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How Parents Can Navigate the Complex World of Special Education Homeschooling

The popularity of homeschooling in the US has been growing steadily over the past few decades, with more than 1.7 million students aged between 5 and 17 years old being reported as homeschooled, according to data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics. Thanks to advances in technology, homeschooling is becoming a viable option for more parents, particularly those who have kids with special needs. If your child has cerebral palsy (CP), homeschooling is a great option as it allows them to learn in a familiar and comfortable environment where they're under no pressure to perform from teachers and other students. It also gives you the freedom and flexibility to come up with a curriculum and schedules that meet your child's unique needs. But, since no amount of love can turn you into a special education teacher overnight, you must approach it carefully so that you create a conducive learning environment at home for your child and set them up for success.

Create a schedule 

Too many changes in routine can be confusing for your child and cause feelings they can't understand or describe such as fear or frustration. Your child may find it difficult to adapt to such changes which, over time, could lead to behavioral problems. To prevent this, provide a comfortable and predictable environment to help your child feel more in control. Try to keep them busy throughout the day by maintaining a structure that they can easily follow. Establish consistent schedules for meals, playtime, chores, schoolwork, physical activity, bedtime, and waking up. If your child is using a computer or any other electronic device, have a designated time for that so that you maintain healthy screen time. Don't forget to take some time to connect with nature and get fresh air. 

Use available assistive technologies 

Over the years, scientists have developed various assistive technologies that improve communication, enhance learning, and allow children with CP to participate in more activities. When properly deployed, these technologies can make it easier for your child to learn at home as well as enable them to participate in online learning with other students. For example, if communication is an issue for your child, an electronic communication board or speech generating device will make it easier for your child to communicate with others.

Similarly, typing and writing devices can facilitate your child to write if they are unable to hold a pen or use a keyboard. An assistive listening system can also come in handy if your child has a hearing impairment. If you struggle to set up or use these technologies, you can learn from multiple cerebral palsy resources available online as well as parents or teachers who've used them before. 

Get help when needed 

In a school, there are many people involved in the education of children with CP, including one-on-one professionals, special education teachers, and general education teachers. Since you can't step into all their roles, knowing where to get help when you need it is key. For example, you can hire a private tutor to come to your home now and then to help in improving study habits and ensure that your child is on track with their education.

You can also hire different types of therapists to help your child improve their everyday skills and gain more independence; speech and occupational therapists can offer their services remotely while a physical therapist can come to your home. Homeschooling a child with CP can also be quite expensive, especially if your child needs various assistive technologies. To ease your burden, you can look into charities and government programs that provide financial assistance for children with CP.

Keep track of progress 

It's important to document everything you do when homeschooling so that you have a record of what you've been doing and what needs improvement. Having organized records will help therapists, doctors, specialists, and teachers check progress and adjust interventions as needed. It also serves as proof of your child's education when they're making college and job applications in the future. Such records can include audio and videotapes, photos of projects, papers that you accumulate over the years, tests, final grades, and curriculum studied. 

Homeschooling is a great option for children with CP as it allows them to learn at a comfortable pace in an environment that they're familiar with. But, before you commit to homeschooling, make sure you're ready to provide the devotion, care, and patience required to give your child the high-quality education they need and deserve.

Written by Jennifer McLee

Education World Contributor

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