A Capital Letter Syndrome Doesn’t Make a Child Less Than

Marching to the beat of his own drum.

I knew.  I knew from early on that my son marched to the beat of his own drum.  I tried to to make him march with the other kids.  I didn’t want him to think something was wrong with him.  I tried all the parenting advice and discipline techniques.  Nothing seemed to matter.  I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

A Capital Letter Syndrome Doesn't Make a Child Less Than

The school nightmare

School was a nightmare.  He’d burn up all his energy on trying to “be good” only to fail and fall short of the teacher’s expectations.  He never brought home that coveted green smiley on his behavioral chart that said it was a good day.  I could see it in his eyes, he felt less than.  Less than the other kids his age, less than good, less than what people want.  It broke my heart.  I hated that stinking behavioral chart.  I hated that people refused to try and understand my sweet boy.

Soon we realized that traditional public school made things worse.  When he was in third grade, my husband and I made the choice to homeschool all our children.  I will never forget the day early in our journey that he leaned against my shoulder and said “Thank you for homeschooling me, Mommy.  I felt so stupid in school”  I cried that day and still remember it so vividly.  I replay that memory when we’re having a rough day.

Being your Child’s Advocate

I knew that I was going to have to be my son’s biggest advocate.  From the time we got his SPD diagnosis in first grade until just recently, I’ve had to explain everything it means and what it doesn’t.  I’ve had to undo society’s idea of what perfect children should look like.  My son was perfect.  Exactly the way God made him.  Just because he doesn’t do everything like the masses doesn’t make him somehow less than.  I am actually proud that he doesn’t.  And now, even at 14 years old, I will still fight anyone that tries to force that square peg into that round hole….or lovingly point out how mistaken they are.  It’s a toss-up, really.  😉

Want to hear more of what Lori has to say on the subject? Listen to this week’s podcast episode:

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Lori Shaffer

Special Needs (Capital Letter Syndromes) and Homeschooling Director

Lori Shaffer is married to her childhood best friend, Jacob.  She is a stay at home missionary and homeschool mom to their three children.  She is passionate about advocating for teen moms and women and children that have been abused and giving them hope and encouragement.  Most days she can be found drinking coffee, working out with Kathleen, or hanging out with her family.

Follow Lori on Social Media:

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Instagram joint fitness account (Kathleen and Lori)-

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Homeschooling Special Needs Children

*This is condensed from a talk I shared at the THESIS Mom’s Tea.

 

Special Needs-In the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.

Special needs impairs the child’s ability to function in day to day activities at home and school. I call them capital letter syndromes. ADD, ADHD, SPD, Asperger’s, Autism, Attachment Disorders.

special-needs

Should you homeschool your special needs child?

“Objective studies demonstrate that parents are providing a superior form of education for their special needs children by teaching them at home. Contrary to the claims of the education elite, parents do not have to be specially certified or have special qualifications to teach their handicapped children at home.

In fact, in one of the most thorough studies performed thus far on the subject, Dr. Steven Duvall conducted a year-long study involving eight elementary and two junior high students with learning disabilities. He compared one group of five students that received instruction at home with a group of five students who attended public schools. He was careful to match the public school students to the homeschool students according to grade level, sex, IQ, and area of disability. Using a laptop computer, Dr. Duvall sat in on teaching sessions and took an observation every 20 seconds, creating tens of thousands of data points that were then fed into a statistical analysis package. Normally his research included a second observer who double-checked Dr. Duvall’s readings.

Dr. Duvall recorded and analyzed academically engaged time by students during instructional periods. He also administered standardized achievement tests to them to measure gains in reading, math and written language. His results show that the homeschooled, special needs students were academically engaged about two-and-one-half times as often as public school special needs students! He found the children in the public school special education classrooms spent 74.9 percent of their time with no academic responses, while the homeschool children only spent 40.7 percent of their time with no academic responses. He also found that homeschools have children and teachers sitting side-by-side or face-to-face 43 percent of the time, while public education classrooms had such an arrangement for special needs children only 6 percent of the time. This was a tremendous advantage for the homeschoolers.

His study further demonstrated that the homeschool students averaged six months’ gain in reading compared to only a one-half month gain by the special public school students. Furthermore, the homeschool special needs students during the year gained eight months in written language skills compared to the public school counterparts who gained only two-and-one-half months.”

Dr. Duvall summarized, “… This study clearly shows that home schooling is beneficial for special needs students.” 1 (All info gleaned from HSLDA.org)

Four points about homeschooling special needs children.

  1. Go with your gut and don’t let outside opinion bully you into doing something that isn’t right for your child. You know best. You probably were the first one to have an inkling that something wasn’t quite right. Mom’s have the insight into their children that no one else has. If someone else says, “oh, my kid does that.” and you know that what they are talking about is an occasional meltdown and your kid can’t make it through two minutes of a certain environment without melting down ten times, trust your gut, not the lady you met at the playground for five minutes. Find someone who empathizes and talk to her. Look for info and follow the trail of research for your child. You are his advocate. It's not about

2.  Homeschooling special needs children is tough. Make sure you take time for fun for both you and your family. It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence to keep going. It’s about what you have under your belt, not what you don’t. It’s about grace in the journey, educating your child and enjoying the trip.

3. Find what works for your child and don’t be harassed by “What your Child Needs to Know books” or academic texts. Teach at their pace and level for best results.  If you set the bar too high, you will both always be frustrated or at war. Comparing kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf.  It drains the life blood right out of you. Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates.  Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays.  Get help for your special needs child if you need to.  Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him.  I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children.  I want my children to reach their potential.  I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.

If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare.  CELEBRATE!

If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid.  CELEBRATE!

If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered. CELEBRATE!

4. Social/emotional education is just as valid and necessary. If you have an Aspie, three grades ahead in math doesn’t mean they’re doing that well in every area– it’s okay to work on other things. Role playing, social books, practicing outside the moment (training) helps. Before I took my kids to the library for the first time, we practiced at home. We used our schoolroom/dining room/ library for the library. We practiced whispering and finding books. Our tiny local library had a system for the kids. There was a tub of wooden rulers on the table and each time a child took a book off the shelf to look at it, he marked it with a ruler so he could return it later. I think we practiced that part a little too much, because after mere minutes in the library the shelves were full of rulers and the kids had huge stacks of books, none of which they really wanted! Be careful what you emphasize in practice. For the kids who need help practicing social skills or who can’t handle too much stimulation in public, lights, sounds, etc., it is better to talk them through exactly what is going to happen.

All of these are great practices for any of your children. Those who have special needs may need them more, but every child needs an advocate, someone who will take the time to practice outside the moment, someone to cheer them on and celebrate with them. It doesn’t hurt to help all of your children to sort out what is socially acceptable.

Don’t forget Mom and Dad, that you are the parent. Take the reigns. If you think homeschooling is best for your special needs child, then the evidence is for you not against you. Find a support group or a homeschool co-op that offers what your child needs.

When your Child on the Spectrum Needs a day off

Ania and I were packing up the cooler and getting ready to head out the door to hike at Cooper’s Rock State Park, about an hour from our home. Youngest son decided at the last minute he would rather stay home. I mentally went back over the week’s events before I gave him the okay. It had been a busy week. Two trips to the local fair, one for a few concerts (and some rides). another for barrel racing and demolition derby, an eye appointment with news that he needed glasses and helping his older college-age brother move in and get somewhat situated. I was tired from the long week, but not overwhelmed. I could tell he was. He normally loves climbing on rocks, but it wouldn’t have been a fun outing for him this time. He was overloaded.

Sometimes kids on the spectrum don’t want to come out of their comfort zone at all. They would rather stay home and stick to their routine, play Minecraft or other video games and not have the stress of social interaction. They may want company some days, but only if they call the shots. Company overwhelms them because it requires social interaction. If a child on the spectrum doesn’t know how to walk away from the bustle of an extended family gathering, he may shut down the next day. Kids on the spectrum don’t bounce back quickly from extended social time.

So, where do you draw the line? How do you balance outings with time away from the fray? It’s different with each child. It’s important for us parents to read the signals and help the child regulate. When he is able, he needs to recognize the signals with some help from parents before he can move on to self-regulation. Some kids on the spectrum will grow into adults who need a trusted friend or spouse to help them watch for the signs of overload. It’s not a weakness. It’s a strength.

Think of it like waves. The waves come on the shore, then they recede. When they recede,they gather strength to surge onto the sand again. Life is busier than it has ever been. Our schedules are full to the max and if we are not careful, we can push our kids on the spectrum to meltdown mania. They need time to de-stress. They may need a day off with no demands. If we make this a priority, it will not only benefit us, but the whole household will be happier, calmer.

barbed wire rest

If you feel as if your family is drowning in a busy schedule and your child or children meltdown all the time, you may need a rest day. Not a day to stay home and do a bunch of other stuff that requires them to participate, just a good old fashioned day off. One where a kid can lie on the ground and watch the clouds go by. One where a kid can build a blanket fort and read books with a flashlight. One where he can pretend for hours. A day to eat dinner on the back deck and stay there talking, laughing, waiting for the fireflies to make their evening debut. A day where the clock doesn’t dictate. A day where Mom can sit down and see all the things a kid has designed on Minecraft and listen, really listen. These sorts of days don’t just happen anymore. Years ago, when I was a child, they  did. Now we have to plan them.

Most kids are under too much stress these days. It’s not just kids on the spectrum who need a day off. We all do. Watch for the symptoms of stress in your kids on the spectrum. Be the regulator. Take your foot off the gas and just idle for a day. Stay home. Watch the grass grow. Walmart will still be there tomorrow. So will everything else. If you don’t do what you planned in pen on your calendar, will it really matter ten years from now? Kick off your shoes and help your child de-stress by being the example.

*If you need some help warming up your pretending gears, check out this book to get you and your child going-