Can I Do It?

Hundreds of parents who now home school their special needs children can testify that you, too, can do it. They will probably also admit to their own initial fears at the prospect of withdrawing their child from a school setting to educate that child at home.
They will tell you that they wanted their child to persevere, so they learned to model that ethic of “plugging away” and “sticking with it”—even on those days when giving up seemed desirable. (Most home schooling parents, whether the child has special needs or not, will confess that they have felt like “throwing in the towel” at some point during their years of home schooling.)
You, like them, know your child best and can teach your child at home using real-life experiences in a natural setting to make learning meaningful. You establish a “need to know.” That is taking advantage of actual—not artificial—motivation for them to learn. In the process of doing this, you can emphasize your child’s strengths while you are working on his relevant needs. What had previously been drudgery now has the potential to become a joy.
Armed with the truth that fearful feelings are normal, you can now proceed to some other concerns:
• Who is out there to help me?
• What curriculum shall I use?
• How can I spread myself around and manage to teach and care for my other children also?


Parents of struggling learners or children who have special needs are often made to feel that they need to have their children taught by a professional in order for them to reach their potential. This opinion is often presented by very loving people. The parents can’t help but ask themselves, “Am I doing a disservice to my child by teaching him or her at home? Would he/she be making more progress if he/she were in a school setting, with the professionals?”
Home schooling a special needs child is an individual decision, of course, but if you decide to home school such a child, we are here to help you be the best special education teacher you can be. With the literature, teaching aids, and other resources now available, any parent who desires to help their child learn can find that help, and eventually do a much better job with that child than any school could do.
At times there may be a need to enlist the help of some of these professionals in areas such as speech or physical therapy. However, the bulk of the teaching can be done by the parent, and is being done by parents across the nation very successfully!


Special needs coordinators: Where else can you talk to a professional about your child’s special needs in learning, just by picking up the phone? This is a very valuable service for HSLDA members. There are two special needs/struggling learner professionals available at HSLDA to answer your questions, and guide you on your way to make your child’s learning successful.
Legal advice: State-by-state laws, testing issues, progress expectations, and transferring IEP’s from the public school setting are just a few of the areas of legal advice that are available to HSLDA members, along with all the other general membership benefits.
Rental of skills tests to determine grade levels: HSLDA has copies of the Brigance Skills test available for you to rent to find the achievement levels of your child at home. Other informal tests are also available through your special needs/struggling learner coordinators.
While the bulk of the child’s education occurs at home, outside interventions for a period of time can be very beneficial in helping a child overcome some larger obstacles. These therapies are offered by professionals in your community. Their services are paid for by the family of the child. Even though it can be a hardship financially, most places offer payment plans and reductions for certain situations.
There are times when some of these services can be paid for by the family’s medical insurance. This is particularly the case if the service is recommended by the child’s pediatrician. Then a local hospital or clinic would provide the speech or occupational therapy or such, with the insurance company picking up the majority of the cost.
If the parent chooses to have his/her child’s services provided by a regional center, or public school, then there is a chance that there could be some strings attached. For example, the professionals could decide that the child is not being served well in the home school setting, but would be better served in a government-sponsored program. This is not always the case and, if it happens, please contact The Education Alliance office at 501-978-5503.
There are times when a child would benefit from therapy that is difficult to provide at home. An example of such therapies would be:
Hospital settings: Most children’s hospitals provide speech therapy services through the child’s insurance. This is weekly or biweekly one-on-one therapy or small group, and continues for a set number of weeks. This is generally done with a referral from the child’s physician.
Public school settings: If the child has been tested by the public school and determined to need speech therapy services, the child is brought to the school one day a week for about an hour for this service, usually in a small group setting. This method carries the most risk to parents, because of the involvement in a government program.
Private clinics:
• There are many speech therapists who work privately with students. They will see a child once or twice a week, and always in a one-on-one setting. They regularly test to see if services are still required. Parents take the child to the setting, and are responsible for payment. Local home school support groups are the best source of information about good speech therapists in your area.
• Scottish Rites Speech and Language Clinic offers free testing and language services to qualified applicants.
Home settings
• The video tape and manual, Straight Talk by speech pathologist Marisa Lapish is available for home school families. (Available at It contains daily lessons that the parents can implement at home to help their child with speech issues in both articulation and speech delay.
• The Listening Program, a home program designed to help children hear frequencies they did not hear before, improves both speech and auditory processing disorders. (Available at
• Mouth Madness: Oral Motor Activities for Children by Aby Catherine Orr
• Earobics is a computer-based program to improve auditory memory and sound discrimination and is very inexpensive.
Hospital settings: If your child’s physician is made aware of your child’s need for occupational therapy for gross or fine motor development or physical therapy, a referral can be made for this therapy to take place at your local hospital, if the services are available there. This is often paid for in part by your insurance company.
Public school setting: If you have had your child tested through the public school, then they will provide the services. These are generally provided only once a week and you will need to bring your child to the school to receive the services. This is inexpensive, but does come with some risk of involvement with a government agency.
Private clinic: If you suspect that your child would benefit from occupational or physical therapy intervention (very common with autism, and very special needs), you can explore the services provided in your community by calling the clinics listed in the phone book, checking with your support group , or asking your child’s physician.
Home settings
• It is possible that after watching several therapy sessions with your child, you may feel confident continuing these same activities at home, if your child is cooperative. Some parents also pay for the therapist to come into the home. For private therapists who are stay-at-home moms, working just a few extra hours a week, this works very well, and they will train you to work with your own child. You can also inquire at a private clinic, if an occupational assistant could come into your home and work with your child. That is generally less expensive.
• Interactive Metronome has home programs that are similar to the ones used by occupational therapists used in clinical settings.
Private clinics: If you suspect that your child has a visual tracking problem, you can have your child screened by a developmental optometrist. If vision therapy is recommended, you can take them to the optometrist’s office for weekly or biweekly visits, and continue the exercises at home.

Home setting:
• Some vision therapy offices will show the parents how to do the exercises at home, eliminating the need to come to the office for continued therapy. This is far less expensive. Other parents have found that if they do the exercises and retraining in brain integration therapy, there is much less need for vision therapy services.
• HTS (Home Therapy Systems) is a computerized program that helps reduce symptoms of eyestrain. For those who don’t have the time or finances for in-office vision therapy.
• PTS (Perceptual Therapy Systems), is a home-based computer therapy program to improve visual processing
Public setting: In public schools and regional centers a specific method of modifying the difficult behaviors of children with autism, PDD, or other disabilities that affect behavior, is employed. ABA, as it is commonly called, is used with the children on a daily basis, in a special education, self-contained setting. This has the advantage of giving the parent some break time from the difficult behaviors, and allowing the child to be exposed to other authorities. The disadvantage is the risk it carries of having a government agency involved in our child’s life.
Private clinics: Local clinics often provide the intensive behavior modification program called the Lovaas method on a daily basis. A parent takes the child to the clinic each day. This is paid for by the parents, or possibly with some help from an insurance carrier.
Home setting: Some parents use the home consultation program that Lovaas offers. Therapists come into the home daily to train the parent to work with their own child. This can be very helpful for parents who need this type of intervention for their struggling children. Again, if the child’s physician sees the need, and makes a referral, the parent may receive some help in paying from an insurance carrier.
• The National Association for Child Development is one organization that employs this brain-based therapy, which can be done at home with the guidance of neurotherapists. It is quite expensive, but parents who do it report good results.
• Brain integration therapy, can be done at home with your child, and the other children at home also. It is very inexpensive, but is an independent program, totally parent-led.
• Brain Builder is a neurobic, computer-based training program designed to build memory and thinking skills
• Lindamood intensive phonics program is designed by speech/language specialists. This sequential system of teaching phonemes can be very effective for children struggling to learn to read. It is usually provided by local clinics, and is expensive.
• PACE program (Processing And Cognitive Enhancement) is clinic-based, with additional exercises to be done at home. It is geared more towards visual processing deficits, but includes other areas also. It is usually proved by local clinics and is fairly expensive. Home programs are less expensive.
• Learning Rx is a clinic-based program that uses exercises to stimulate better visual and auditory processing. It is an intensive program that is clinic based and expensive.
• Brainworks (formerly SOI) is a clinic-based program aimed at helping a child with balance issues, visual issues, etc., through exercises. It is usually provided by local clinics and is fairly expensive.
• Interactive Metronome is a clinic-based program that helps a child or adult gain better rhythm, timing, etc., to aid in reading and many life activities. It is fairly expensive. Home programs are less expensive.
• Sylvan Learning Centers, a tutoring clinic, is designed to help a child gain reading or math skills using regular curriculum and techniques. The centers help children who just need more exposure to systematic teaching in various subject areas. It does not correct processing skills (visual, auditory, visual/motor). It is expensive. Sylvan now offers online tutoring for home use.
• Brain integration therapy for children is a home program that can be used with all the children in a family, to make processing skills (visual, auditory, visual/motor…writing) easier. It is inexpensive.


How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and on to Learning by Carol Barnier
• No More Ritalin by Mary Ann Block, DO
• The Parent’s Guide to Attention Deficit Disorders by McCamey and Bauer
• Help For Your Hyperactive Child, by William Crook, MD
• Smart But Feeling Dumb by Harold Levinson, MD
• Audio tape, Is It Really ADD? by Dianne Craft
• Teaching the Tiger by Dombush and Pruitt
• Website article, Natural Alternatives for ADD/ADHD, Dianne Craft
• Crazy Makers, Carol Simontacchi, Feeding Your Child’s Brain
• Sharper Brain computer program
• Play Attention computer-based interactive program with the same technology as NASA uses for pilot training.
• Excellent website information: National Home Education Network
• Homeschooling the Child with ADD or Other Special Needs, by Lenore Colacion Hayes
• Email support group: Homeschooling Spirited Kids at
• Inside the Brain of the Hyperactive Homeschooler, by Israel Wayne
(see Speech Disorders)
• This largely biological disorder responds dramatically to diet and supplement implementation
• Brain integration therapy by Dianne Craft (helps special-needs children use their right brain to see the big picture)
• Sensory Integration and the Young Child, by Jean Ayres
• The Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz (sensory disorder is a big part of the picture)
• Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments, by Brenda Smith Miles & Jach Southwick
• Upsidedown Brilliance, by Linda Silverman, Ph.D.
• Asperger Syndrome: A Guide For Educators and Parents, by Brenda Smith Miles & Richard Simpson
• Excellent website information: National Home Education Network.
• Different Roads to Learning Catalog
• Autism, by Stephanie Marohn, the biological basis of autism
• Children with Autism, by Michael Powers, Psy.D.
• Children with Starving Brains, by Jaquelyn McCandless, MD
• Autism Research Institute, Dr. Bernard Rimland
• Auditory Integration Training (sound therapy)
• The Listening Program (brain training with music)
• Important nutritional and diet strategies for this mainly biological issue, (defeat autism now),,,
• Homeschooling Children with Special Needs, by Sharon Hensley (Available at
• Newsletter, PREACCH for parents home schooling autistic children
• Newsletter, SHEPHERD BOY
• Newsletter, NATHHAN NEWS
• Label and Learn for the mostly non-verbal child
• The Lovaas Institute, an applied behavior analysis approach to modifying a child’s behavior at home
• Huge amount of information regarding help for children with autism,
• Excellent website information: National Home Education Network
• Brain Integration Therapy for Children, by Dianne Craft
• Auditory training through music programs, available at,, and
• Help for Auditory Processing, by Lazzari & Peters, available at
• The Central Auditory Processing Kit, Mokhemar, available at
• Teaching the Right Brain Child video, alternative teaching methods for children with auditory processing glitches by Dianne Craft, available at
• Straight Talk video and manual by Marisa Lapish, speech pathologist, available at, covers speech and auditory processing issues
• Earobics computer based program to improve auditory memory and sound discrimination
• Teaching the Right Brain Child video tape by Dianne Craft, available at
• Right Brain Children in a Left Brain World, by Jeffrey Freed
• Understanding and Helping the Struggling Learner video by Dianne Craft, available at
• Teaching Reading To Children With Down Syndrome available at
• National Association for Down Syndrome provides info dealing with the special metabolic need of DS children.
• National Association for Child Development offers neurodevelopment program that can be done at home.
• Information for new parents
• Woodbine House (800.843.7323) Special Needs Catalog
• Riverbend Down Syndrome Parent Support Group offers dietary info.
• Kirkman sells nutritional supplements.
• Excellent information: National Home education Network
• Brain Integration Therapy Manual by Dianne Craft available at
• Handwriting Without Tears Manual by Jan Olsen, available at
• Understanding and Helping the Struggling Learner video by Dianne Craft
• Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
• Homeschooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley
• Learning in Spite of Labels by Joyce Herzog
• The LCP Solution: The Remarkable Nutritional Treatment for ADHD, Dyslexia & Dyspraxia by Jacqueline Stordy, Ph.D
• Right Brain Phonics Practice Book (simplified color-coded phonics method) by Dianne Craft, available at , inexpensive
• Go Phonics Reading Program is a complete program that goes fairly quickly.
• Merrill Readers is a complete program that moves very slowly with much success. It’s available at, and
• Right Brain Sight Word Cards (36 sight words made by a successful dyslexic child) by Breanna Gates and Dianne Craft
• At Last! A reading Method for every Child by Mary Pecci, available at
• Reading Mastery program by SRA, available at
• Primary Phonics Story books, available at
• Lindamood Home Phonemic Awareness program, intensive, and pricey, but very good. Available at
• EPS reading program, available at
• Online support groups for parents at Yahoo! Groups
• Wilson Reading System
• Fast Track Reading Program for older students who are two years behind.
• REACH System for older dyslexic children.
• Homeschooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley, available at, an excellent resource
• When Slow Is Fast Enough by Joan Goodman
• God’s Special Child by Donna Adee
• Slow and Steady Gets Me Ready by June Oberlander is a parent’s handbook of weekly developmental activities from birth to age 5. Available at
• NATHHAN is a homeschool organization for special needs children.
• LinguiSystems provides teaching tools for kids with special needs.
• Kirkman sells nutritional supplements for special needs children.
• Excellent information: National Home Education Network
• The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz
• Sensory Integration and the Young Child by Jean Ayres
• Brain Integration Therapy Manual by Dianne Craft
• Is Your Child’s Brain Starving? by Michael Lyon, MD
• Crazy Makers by Carol Simontacchi discusses how to feed your child’s nervous system.
• Homeschooling Children With Special Needs by Sharon Hensley, available at is an excellent resource.
• Straight Talk video and manual by speech pathologist Marisa Lapish (home program), available at
• Childhood speech, Language & Listening Problems, by Patricia Hamaguchi
• Speech Language Catalog from Woodbine House
• Label and Learn sign language to start with some communication
• Super Duper Publications sells many speech and language materials.
• Help for Articulation by Lazzari, available at LinguiSystems
• Mouth Madness: Oral Motor Activities for Children by Catherine Orr
• Home schooling Your Vision Impaired Child website
• Six Friends, resources for Christian families living with a visual impairment website
• Resources for Parents and Teachers of Blind Kids website
• Support group for families who are home schooling a blind child at Yahoo! Groups



When parents suspect that their child is struggling with a processing problem, their first inclination often is to get the child tested by professionals. The intention is to find out what the processing problem is, and mainly, how to instruct this child differently at home, to make the learning process easier.
The public school system special education team administers psychoeducational testing to students who live in their geographic area. These tests generally include a cognitive test to measure IQ, an achievement test to measure grade levels, a speech/language test, social worker evaluation and possibly a Conners Behavior Scale test for ADD/ADHD. Even though this testing is free to the parent, it can come with a higher cost: interference from the public school system in your child’s home education.
The criteria used to determine if a child is qualified to receive special education services used to be a “discrepancy scale” only. This meant that the child’s IQ and achievement levels were found to be around 15 points apart. When that level of discrepancy occurred, it was determined that the child had a disability that was interfering with his true learning ability. The criteria that schools are moving towards now is to use various tests to determine if a child is “resistive to learning” (the new term), and needs various interventions such as reading, writing, or math tutoring in order to achieve up to grade level.
The problem with public school testing for home schooling families is twofold:
1. The tests “quantify” the problem, but do not give the parent any recommendations for remediation at home, aside from common suggestion, including:
• Sitting closer to the teacher,
• Using hands-on teaching methods,
• Giving the child something to fidget with,
• Breaking longer assignments into smaller units,
• Giving clear deadlines,
• Allowing more time for tests,
• Providing a quiet room for testing,
• Using a word processor for longer written assignments.
Common services offered by public schools include:
• Speech therapy once a week (in a small group),
• A special education resource room for help with reading, or writing, or math three to five times a week,
• Occupational therapy once a week,
• Meeting with a psychologist or social worker once a week for behavior management.
Other than the use of the school professional services, many of these suggestions generally have already been implemented at home by the frustrated parents.
2. After the testing has been completed, a meeting is held in which the test results are revealed to the parent. During this time, the child’s needs are outlined, and the parents usually are strongly encouraged to sign an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for services provided by the public school. It’s tempting for parents to agree, since the services are free. However, they are not free in the fullest extent. The IEP is a government document authorizing the school system to use their means to meet the child’s educational and emotional needs. The government then becomes responsible for the child’s remedial education. The child needs to be registered with the school system as a student in order to receive these services. Many times the parent is strongly advised to enroll their child in school, so that the full education can be provided…not just the special services.
If the parent declines to sign the IEP—rejecting school services—sometimes that is where the process ends. Other times, and more often than we would like, the school district advises the parent that the only way for this child to make the progress that needs to be made is to avail themselves of the school’s services. If this doesn’t happen, they insinuate, it could constitute neglect.
This, of course, is a very uncomfortable position for the parents to find themselves in. They never expected to encounter so much interference; they just wanted to find out how to better teach their child at home. It is for this reason that it is strongly recommended that parents secure testing outside of the public school setting in order to pursue the needs of their struggling learner. As we will see later, many times formal testing is not even required to find out where the child’s learning problem is, and how to work with a special needs child.
The telephone directory for every city lists various centers or individuals who perform psychoeducational testing for IQ and achievement. Your statewide home school group also often has names of local testers who are home school friendly.
Even with private testing, parents face the question of how best to educate their child. Tests alone do not answer this question: They are designed to reveal a child’s learning level, strengths and weaknesses—to “quantify” the problem through a standardized set of scores. And those who administer private tests generally make the same instructional recommendations as public school officials, with one exception.
Private consultants often recommend various outside services including:
• Private Speech Therapy
• Private Occupational Therapy
• Outside tutoring such as one provided by a reading clinic in your area.
Parents generally must pay for these services themselves, unless their child’s pediatrician recommends them. If that is the case, often the parents’ insurance company will pay for all or part of the therapies.
Unfortunately, there are times when parents spend much money on testing, only to find they still lack direction as to how to instruct their child differently, to make the learning process easier.
These valuable consultants do not do psychoeducational testing, but rather tend to rely on the achievement testing to find the child’s present grade levels in subjects, and to find the child’s strengths and weaknesses in learning. If they do use some cognitive measure, they generally use the Woodcock Johnson Cognitive Testing as opposed to the more in-depth WISC IV testing.
The reason is that the Woodcock can be given by anyone with a college education, whereas the WISC IV requires extensive training and education to administer. What is the difference? Technically, the differences are huge. Practically speaking, for home schooling purposes, the differences would be negligible, since the focus of all testing should be on the interventions or change in instructional practices for the child, versus the test scores achieved.
Many private home school consultants bypass the more formal, standardized testing such as the Woodcock/Johnson and instead use more informal tests, such as the Brigance test or their own tests. Their goal is to determine grade levels and weaknesses in the learning process so that the emphasis can be on correcting those weaknesses using both therapies and instructional practices in the home.
It is recommended that all parents of children with special needs use the services of a consultant to help determine levels of functioning and progress made throughout the year. Most importantly, consultants can help provide instructional techniques that the parent can use instead of the typical curriculum that works well for the other members in the family, but not for the struggling learner.
These consultants help the parent explore many different methods to help their child get past the learning blocks that are preventing him from succeeding. They can serve as your encourager, instructional guide, and vouch for the progress your child has made each year, if this should ever be called into question by any officials.
How can you find a good consultant to partner with you in your endeavors? First, seek out the recommendations from your local support group. They have first-hand experience, and know the names of the people currently providing this service. You can also check with HSLDA’s consultant database. You can contact them at or 540-338-5600.
The checklists provided in this packet were designed to serve as a guide for parents to determine where their child’s learning is “blocked.” Home school parents are the ultimate “do-it-your-selfers.” If parents study the material presented, an understanding of their child’s struggles can be gleaned from the checklists. After all, the parents have observed their struggling learner more carefully than any tester, no matter how long the testing time allotted is.
This packet also contains many suggestions for a significant change in teaching strategies for the struggling learner. Thus, the information provided in these pages serves as an informal tutorial for parents, as they search for the reason why their child is struggling with the learning process. It does not have to be so hard anymore to determine the cause of your child’s struggles, and to find some very good avenues to pursue in overcoming them.
For parents who want to do a more formal testing at home, HSLDA provides the Brigance test for rent. This test will give grade levels that the child is presently on, and give some idea of the processing problem. It does not, however, give any strategies for teaching or instruction that would correct the processing problem.
End-of-the-year tests can be a helpful source of information concerning your child’s strengths and weaknesses in subject areas. If you give the same test each year, you can chart your child’s progress, or lack of it, and adjust your teaching emphasis and style. Some home schoolers do not consider end-of-the-year tests their friend, but they can be. They give parents the feedback they need, to see if they are spending enough time on a subject, or if they need to make curriculum changes, or instructional changes for next year.
End-of-the-year tests serve three purposes for the home schooling family:
• They give the child practice in test-taking (a skill that will be needed all their lives).
• They provide important information for the parent/teacher, so that adjustments can be made in curriculum, content, instructional time, etc., for the next year, if necessary.
• They give encouragement. Many home schoolers doubt that their children are making substantial progress each year, because the daily struggles overshadow the view. They are often pleasantly surprised to see the steady growth in reading, spelling and math, as they test their children at home.

Where can you get these tests?
1. The California Achievement Test (CAT), the most well-known end-of-the-year tests, can be obtained at Christian Liberty Academy ( This tests levels 2nd -12th grades.
2. You can also get a good home test from Seton Home Study School ( This tests levels K-12th grades. No special qualifications are required to give these tests. They are very inexpensive.
3. You can get the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills from The Sycamore Tree ( It tests levels K-12 grades. Along with the scores, you will receive a professional critique.
4. You can get a norm-referenced test from Bob Jones University Press ( You can choose from either the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) or the Stanford Achievement Test 10th Edition (SAT10). They both test levels K-12 grades.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this packet was obtained from the Home School Legal Defense Association website, Neither the Education Alliance nor HSLDA warrant this information. The reader must evaluate this information in light of the unique circumstances of any particular situation and must then determine independently the applicability of this information.
Being listed as a resource does not constitute an endorsement by HSLDA or the Education Alliance. The list of resources is not intended to be an exhaustive inventory of all available materials, but rather a sample listing of resources.
Health information provided on these pages is meant for educational purposes only, to assist home schooling parents in their research on how best to instruct their special needs children and struggling learners. The information is not intended for use in diagnosis or treatment of health problems, or to prescribe particular therapies, medication or nutritional supplements. For specific medical advice parents should consult licensed physicians and other certified health professionals.