St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Homeschooling special needs and difficult children

Home schooling helps for the special needs or difficult child:

I do not claim to be any expert when it comes to special needs or difficulties in a child’s disposition when you are attempting to home school them. But I do know we all go through times where we feel like throwing in the towel and sending them off to a school.  Many times it is because we just don’t know what to do for and with them any longer. 

There are so many ways to work with both special needs challenges, and a difficult child, who may not be responding to the typical disciplines or growing out of the bad behaviors.  I will list just a few things that I have found along the way as I am currently home schooling my youngest two who have particular challenges.

First, evaluate their diet.  Are they getting too much sugar?...too many artificial colors?  In children who may be more sensitive to additives, artificial colors can cause them to be unable to focus, or control themselves better.  I find the “blue” colorings to be the worst.  Just some thoughts……And are they getting a balance of good nutritional choices at meal and snack times so their blood glucose levels stay more even and not bottoming out or spiking up?

Routines are important, but not to the point of being super rigid.  Do allow some flexibility ….in other words, “chill”!  But…do keep them on a schedule or sorts, some structure that is dependable and a decent bed time.  I find my boys need to unwind their minds from the activity of video or computer games at least 2 hours before sleep, else they seem to ruminate those action games over and over in their minds with the images – granted they don’t play anything violent or horrifying…just fun stuff.  Still, the high tech graphics and new technologies seem to penetrate their minds deeply with images ….Before bed is the time to wind down with some good readers…and prayers.

Re-think physical punishments such as spanking and washing out mouths with soap…sometimes these have more of a negative effect that causes more anxiety that then results in worse behaviors…Find less coercing ways of discipline, and more rewarding ways….More on that below.

Revoking privileges and grounding may help encourage better behavior; rewarding with a favorite snack or candy that they normally do not get regularly, at the end of 2 weeks of “done well” school  -- or a special item, small toy, or taking them out to a favorite place to eat (or a movie, you name it) at the end of a month of well done school…might be more useful a tool than constantly having to punish.  Positive Motivators are what need to be looked for that will work.

Ignoring some behaviors that maybe just don’t rank up there…sometimes you have to pick your battles.  One of our son’s therapists said just give a look of disappointment and stay un-reactive about it.  When the behavior begins to not draw attention, even negative attention, oftentimes it will stop.  Parents have to be patient with this one.

When you have a “very active” child that can’t sit still long….don’t make them.  Help them stay on task for 15-20 mins, (sometimes that is even too long), but attempt to make that a goal;  have them do two pages of their math, then take a 10 min break to bounce on a sensory ball, or run around outside….seriously, it stimulates their processing abilities and helps them settle down at the same time.  Sometimes letting them do what comes naturally and fitting the schooling into it, helps immensely.  Otherwise you are working so against nature if causes conflict and turmoil daily.

Make it light and bright….you might need to use a sun lamp or something to help get through some of the more dreary months that have an ill effect on both you and your students.  And get them outdoors as much as possible.

Also, make a determination if your child needs to be evaluated for a disorder if they haven’t already been diagnosed and you suspect something is up.  Sometimes just shedding light on what could be going on with them will make an enormous difference in help that is available and how you can personally tailor helps and school for them.

Re-think how you school these particular children.  I had to do so two years ago.  I re-modeled our school structure and got it down to what was most important that they really learn that year (or just that semester), and how I could improve the environment in our schooling area or home. I spent nearly $150 on used literature, art items, a few more wicker baskets to hold things in, several big comfy floor pillows to place in a special reading area…We would begin the day there, with morning devotions and reading edifying literature together that taught a moral lesson and discussing it.  I did not forget myself in this… was it ME that needed an adjustment as well???  Well, it was a little of everything for sure.  Once I broke out of that “model of schooling” I thought I HAD to be doing like I had been doing for the last 13 years, then I was better able to address my boys’ needs overall, incorporate their therapies and academics and be much more content.  Watching them progress and better behaviors develop has taken work and patience, but it can be done.   It will NOT happen overnight…but with patience and God’s help, it will happen. 

Respect the differences in your child(ren), and know that there are ways to address those differences with the flexibility of home education.

God bless you!



Megan@TrueDaughter said...

Wow. You blow me away. I really only have one who is sort of a pin in the you know what, and it's not much compared to what you deal with - and I still want to send him to school most days!

Home School Mom: Denise said...

I know you mean *pain* and not pin, although a pin in the you know what would be just the same! lol!...:) Believe me, once my one's medication was adjusted a couple months ago, things have calmed down some...but we can never have an entire week without some anxiety related drama, or a full session at our co-op completely free of some horrible moments. Last week he was great, played volley ball, let them talk him into doing things and was a happy, completely the opposite!!!..and some tears. So, it's a work in progress for sure!
Hanging in too!

CeAnne @ Sanctus Simplicitus said...

I'm just reading through you blog and catching up :) This was my day today and we are trying to rethink our plan. Special needs kids are very challenging! Especially when they like to out smart you and change tactics!

Home School Mom: Denise said...

CeAnne, I wrote this piece for my blog but also for my homeschool co-op as many were asking for encouragement that had some challenges they were facing. Since I wrote this my own more difficult son (12 yr) with OCD/anxiety and heightened sensory issues, has stabilized much better and things are smoothing out and he has progressed with his school work better. He had gained 15 pounds and grew an inch+ in 3 mos time and was a bear! I'm glad we have met and I hope to see you in cyber space more often now :)