The rollercoaster known as special needs homeschooling has more twists, turns, and plunges than “typical” homeschooling. Sometimes progress is slower than a turtle stuck in mud and other days your child surprises you with leaps of achievement. You have days of hiding while your child has a meltdown and days of shouting to everyone how far your child has come. There are occasions you have to help your child through what would be easy for his peers and times when he surprises you in his willingness to try something new.
In my Kindle book The Power of One, I talk about the power of one tweak in special needs homeschooling. Tweaks do not solve all problems, but they certainly help. Here are five tweaks to use as you homeschool your special needs child.
1. Tweak your expectations.
This is first because it’s important. If you have the wrong expectations, you’ll be sorely disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with stretching your child, but she also needs to have the tools to succeed when she’s being stretched. If you’re experiencing frustration, stop and consider if this could be part of your problem.
2. Tweak your content.
As an autism mom, life skills and social skills are a big part of my homeschool. For example, my son with Aspergers is currently extremely germaphobic. It took him twenty minutes the other day to overcome his anxiety and get a trash bag out of the can and into the apartment building hallway. I had to help him consider options to work through this stressful situation. That’s part of his homeschooling.
3. Tweak your structure.
Structure is very important for many special needs kiddos. Knowing what comes next gives comfort. However, sometimes you need to stray from the structure. Back to the trash example. I had to give my son time in the shower to calm down. There is no way I would have gotten any kind of successful learning out of him after that kind of anxiety.
4. Tweak your methods.
I find lots of ways to mix things up in our homeschool. We do a lot of hands-on, games, and project-based learning. This keeps my boys interested. It also cuts down on the overwhelm that comes from staring at an entire worksheet of problems.
5. Tweak your curriculum.
Recently we had to take a break from multiple-digit multiplication. My Aspie is really good at math facts, but the number of steps required to complete a problem often cause him to shut down. We did lots of math facts review activities and actually jumped ahead in Math-U-See to the next book. After quite a good break, I asked my son if he was ready to try again. He said he was. But guess what? He still isn’t. I decided it just isn’t worth forcing his mind to do something it’s not ready for. He’s going to learn computer programming for a while instead.
The power of one tweak in special needs homeschooling.
These five things—tweaking curriculum, methods, structure, content, and expectations—have helped me and my sons be more successful in homeschooling. Do I still have rough days? Oh my, yes! But, I know these tweaks cut down on the number of rough days we have. I hope they help you as well.