Making the decision to home school your child is not the easiest decision at the best of times, but what about when the weight of your decision is compounded by the fact that your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability? Firstly, do not despair that your child has been ‘categorised’ as having a learning disability. This may or may not be correct. It may simply be that the classroom that the child is in follows a teaching style not optimal for your child’s learning style. If this is the case, then more personalised and focused attention may yield very different results.
Even if your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability by more than one professional, you must remind yourself that this label should only be used as a tool, rather than an excuse. If categorising or labeling your child does not produce improved results, or worse, your child’s ability seems to deteriorate even further, then what use is this label?
Homeschooling is an ideal environment to provide the sort of one-on-one attention that may be required for your child to thrive academically, whether learning new things is a challenge for them or not. The important thing is to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t do. And, if your child has some acute difficulties, educating your child at home does not necessarily limit your resources. Acute learning difficulties may need particular strategies to overcome hurdles, so your child’s facilitation may require that you learn some of these strategies from a professional, and continue to employ them from home. Remember, even at a school specially catering to ‘special needs’ children, you will not have the time and resources to give your child the attention that you can.
If your child has an acute learning disability, you may need to contact your local General Medical Practitioner for details on what resources are available locally. It is best to at least be aware of what’s available, even before you need them!
It is important to focus on your child throughout his/her education – never the disability or perceived disability itself. While your child may have some more challenges on the educational pathway, it is important that the focus stays where it belongs. The focus is the outcome to be achieved, or the concept to be mastered, rather than the difficulties met along the way. Whatever it is you focus on becomes bigger, so ensure that it is the destination rather than the bumps along the road.
Focusing on the disability itself also practically ensures that the child will not achieve as highly as they are capable. A learning disability is a challenge to be managed rather than an excuse for not achieving. If your child gives their disability too much consideration, it will become an anchor that drags them and may become an excuse to not even try.
Remember, even though as a homeschool parent you are responsible for your child’s education, kids are kids. Sometimes, their attention and behaviour will fluctuate. This is normal and, what’s more, I suggest that sometimes you just go with it rather than trying to fight it. When your child is being extremely uncooperative, this may be your sign to take a break, step back, change gears, and focus on something else. Sometimes a change of subject will suffice. At other times you may need to take a break, have a snack or better yet, go out and do something fun.
Keep in mind, too, that if you are frustrated, your child will pick up on that frustration. Relax, keep things light, and calm. Stress inhibits the learning of new concepts.
Learning is fun, even with a child with learning challenges. By taking responsibility for their education, you are doing the best you can for your child.