Create an Atmosphere Where Special Needs Children Can Grow & Thrive
Many homeschooling parents find themselves in a situation where they are educating special needs children.
What are special needs?
Every child comes with challenges for his or her parents. But certain challenges are called special needs.
Special needs can be medical challenges such as diabetes or cancer, physical challenges like a missing limb, emotional challenges such as depression or PTSD, or mental challenges like learning disabilities, autism, or Down’s Syndrome.
Whether children are facing medical, physical, emotional, or mental challenges, they need to be handled with special care and kindness.
That’s why God put them in your family.
God Sets Special Needs Children in Families
God doesn’t make mistakes. He sets children in families. Children receive parents. Parents receive children. Our loving Heavenly Father has a beautiful plan.
Often, we can feel overwhelmed so it’s important to remind yourself daily that God doesn’t make a mistake. You are the perfect parent for THAT child even when you feel inadequate or frustrated.
If there are siblings, God positioned them in the perfect place.
Unconditional Acceptance by the Family
The family is part of God’s beautiful plan!
A loving home transforms lives, brings out the best in one another, and helps to heal broken places in the heart.
As a parent, invest time in creating a loving atmosphere in your home. All families can excel at loving one another.
My friend Howard is on the spectrum, and his family loves him so much. They are a close-knit family that enjoys spending time together. I have never heard anyone complain about how long it takes Howard to do something or make a decision. As the years have gone by, many of the challenges he has faced are behind him. With love and patience, his mother and siblings have read to him, helped him focus, kept the home quiet when he was doing schoolwork, and valued him as a person. When people find out now that he is on the spectrum, they find it hard to believe. Howard is warm and friendly. He can speak in front of an audience. He takes care of younger children. He makes decisions much faster than ever before.
Does Howard still face challenges? Yes!
However, Howard has overcome so much and will continue to overcome. He sees himself as a valuable person who has a call on his life because his family has seen him as a treasure they love and respect.
Four things a family can do:
- Love unconditionally.
- Place high value on one another so that your special needs child is part of a group that loves one another.
- See every special need as an opportunity to display God’s grace—His grace is sufficient for you. There are no testimonies without trials and challenges.
- Serve one another.
Unconditional Acceptance by Extended Family, Church Family & Friends
Church families and friendship are part of God’s beautiful plan. As we grow together in the Lord, we can also do life together. In the context of healthy friendships, lives are changed. Special needs children learn to build relationships outside the family, and church members learn to show compassion in practical ways.
Church families can show…
- Practical help when needed
Church members can often fill in the gap. In our church, Dads reach out to kids without dads, including them in father-son outings.
Often friendship is cultivated in church or homeschool co-ops.
Our homeschool co-op has welcomed many special needs children over the years. We have welcomed seizure dogs, too! In cultivating a welcoming atmosphere and respectful attitude, we have seen special needs children thrive!
For tips on how your homeschool co-op can be welcome special needs children, read 6 Ways for Your Homeschool Co-op to Be Special Needs-Friendly.
Creating an Atmosphere Where Learning Is Possible
At home, we want to cultivate an atmosphere that makes learning not only possible but a pleasant experience.
Let’s look at the unique needs of our special needs children, as well as some tips that work for all children.
Unique Needs to Learn
When someone has a special need, it often creates a need for specific environments. For example, Howard is easily distracted so he needs an orderly, as-silent-as-possible place to study. This can be a challenge in a large, bustling household but worth the effort to make it happen.
For Debbie who is diabetic, health needs of sleep, healthy diet, and regular exercise are extremely important. In addition, there is blood sugar testing and insulin shots each day. Mom has to watch carefully if Debbie has a temperature because infections can throw her blood sugar out of whack.
Robert is pretty mobile in his wheelchair but does need a room where he can easily wheel over to books, paper, the computer, and other study needs.
Work effectively to cultivate a place that works for your special needs child’s unique requirements.
Learning Environment That Works!
Here are some tips that work for all children.
- Have a schedule that is flexible yet consistent. This provides a sense of order and security.
- Let children work at their own pace. Don’t hold them back or push them ahead to the next chapter before they understand the material.
- Take a break and move around during school hours. Getting the blood moving helps children to think more clearly. Plus, we all need a break!
- Have realistic expectations based on your child’s ability. We all learn differently and at our own pace.
- Provide a supportive setting and be kind. Allow children to try, fail, and try again without feeling shame or embarrassment.
- Gently push students to go beyond their comfort zone to new horizons.
For encouragement from God’s Word on homeschooling, read 6 Things I Learned about Parenting & Homeschooling From Jesus In Luke 8 & 9.
Strength to Parent & Teach
No matter what challenges you face as a parent, remember that you are not alone. Jesus gave his disciples a mission in Matthew 28:16-20. He called them to make disciples. The word disciple means “student” by the way. We are called to make disciples, to raise our children in the Lord.
Jesus’ call to the disciples was preceded by a reminder that Jesus has ALL authority in heaven and on earth.
The call to mission was followed by a reminder that He will be with us always.
The mission to educate a special needs child can be hard, but you are not alone. The Lord is with you, and He has authority to step in and do miracles whenever you ask in prayer.
God bless you on your mission!
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling,
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Celebrate Thanksgiving, Travel God’s World Geography, Travel God’s World Cookbook, and HIS Story of the 20th Century. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Read her blogs at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.