Parents of special needs children have a difficult row to hoe…one fraught with worry, sleepless nights, and a seemingly never-ending list of doctor and therapy appointments. Some hope that public schools will help address their child’s needs. Some avoid the school system and go for the tailored education approach. There is no right or wrong path to take…only the one that is right for your family.
If the special needs student attends traditional school, they will be given an IEP – an individualized education plan. This is a legal document that defines what a student needs according to his or her diagnosis. It outlines a special education program that provides tailored instruction and support services, such as speech or occupational therapy.
Within the homeschool, an IEP can also be a valuable tool. By sitting down and taking stock of the student’s needs – really taking stock and writing it down – you can evaluate where you’re at, where you want to be, and design a plan for how to get from point A to point B.
Crafting the Individualized Education Plan
When crafting the IEP, consider the following:
- What are your student’s biggest struggles? Include academics, motor skills, and life skills.
- What is your student’s preferred mode of learning? Visual, audio, kinesthetic? How can you tailor lessons to that learning mode?
- Realistically, where is your student today? Where would you like your student to reach? (Be realistic.) Which ONE goal would make the biggest difference in your student’s performance, either in the classroom or in daily life?
The first thing you’ll want to do is take an honest look at where your student is performing. It doesn’t matter how many grade levels behind that may be, just record the level of current performance in each subject. This will give you a realistic picture of where you are.
Second, list any support services that you will need, such as speech, physical, or occupational therapy. This plan is appropriate for students with mild to moderate special needs, as students will severe special needs most likely have been working with a provider since shortly after birth. Also address any life skills you’d like to see addressed.
Create academic goals for your student. Make them realistic, or you’ll be setting both you and your student up for frustration. For example, if he is six grades behind in reading level, aim for growth of two grades per year. You might be surprised and find that you have a ‘jumper’ – a late bloomer who ‘jumps’ six grade levels in one year! Write down your goals, and include strategies for how you will meet them.
Create life skills and support services goals for your student. Write them down, addressing strategies for how you will meet each. For example, ‘Speech Therapy, 30 minutes three times a week’. Some of these skills and goals may seem basic, but when you’ve identified the need and written it down as a goal, you’re more likely to address it!
At the end of the school year, reassess your student to see which strategies worked. Given the informal nature of homeschooling, feel free to continually reassess and alter therapy / strategies as needed. This is one of the perks of the individual attention you can offer at homeschool.
Some homeschooling families are fortunate enough to have speech and occupational therapy services offered through the school. For these families, they have created an IEP with the public school as part of the process for obtaining these services. Oklahoma is not a state, however, that provides educational support services to homeschoolers.
Once you have determined your student’s needs, see if your medical insurance (including state insurance) will cover any of the services. If they will, your family doctor can refer you to a provider. If they will not, you can begin working with your child at home until the situation changes. Check out Speech Therapy for Homeschool and Occupational Therapy in Homeschool for free / frugal therapy ideas.