Unschooling special needs kids - Mothering Forums
Unschooling > Unschooling special needs kids
zalesmom's Avatar zalesmom 10:34 PM 02-18-2013
Hi! I'm looking for some support. I have a nine year old son with special needs. At four years old he was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. I've never felt these labels fit. We are home learners at heart but when he was 5 we put him on kindergarten. I was really stressed at the time and thought the system might help us. His half year of kindergarten was amazing. Then we moved. The new school was a special needs school. It was a horrible experience I tried for a over a year to make it work. Then we pulled him out. It was the best decision we ever made for him. But despite having a therapy space in our basement and running our life around his sensory needs I'm really struggling. So a year ago we saw our pedeatrician and requested a reassessment. She thinks its aspergers and so do I. We were wait listed for over a year and finally got to the two day comprehensive last week. They were so school biased. They said that they couldn't determine if his lack of social skills was because of a disorder or if it was because he lacked the benefits of formal education. Among other things.
So the end result was the same diagnosis with the suggestion of meds and behaviour therapy. My husband and I aren't comfortable with those options or the diagnosis and were feeling very burntout stressed and stuck. I'm pretty sure that our son is going to be a remarkable adult, if we make it through the next decade. Is anyone else dealing with similar??

Momsteader's Avatar Momsteader 12:01 AM 02-19-2013

Hi zalesmom! I have a 16 yo kiddo with Asperger's/Tourettes and he IS an amazing kid! I know he'd not be as confident and well-adjusted today if he'd been in public school. He is actually remarkably social now--on his own terms. But, it took a long time to get there. It was nice and not stressful for him though. We could decide what interactions we wanted and how long to stay. We took his lead on it, and it's played out beautifully. He did do pretty extensive ST, OT, PT, and play therapy from the ages of 4 through 8. But, it was nice, because since we were homeschoolers, we were able to get a waiver for our private insurance to pay for therapy rather than through the school district. It was SO worth it, because he got multiple sessions each week for each type of therapy rather than the once or twice a month the district could provide.  He also had the same therapists and was able to form some attachments to them which was really beneficial to him.


I don't think a 'lack of formal education' has anything to do with it! I've found that my son, able to develop at his comfort level, has outstripped all of the expectations of his therapists. In school, they suggested heavy supports to get him mainstreamed. At home, we just went with what worked at the time. He was a very late reader--not confidently reading independently until age 12. However, when he was evaluated at age 9, he had the vocab and comprehensive of a college freshman (thank you read alouds and audio books!) yet he read at a kindergarten level. It wasn't until he was 11.5 that it all clicked for him, and he advanced through all the levels of his reading program in less than a month (really I think it was bout 2.5 weeks!). He just voraciously sped through and couldn't get enough. He exclaimed that it was JUST like a movie in his head! He now reads multiple books a week. His hand-writing is still weak (he has always had some right sided weakness even after PT), but he is very into art now and that is improving his handwriting. All in due time. 


I know that for him, having an environment where he could grow and progress at his own rate has been invaluable. He's often commented on it now as a teen that he loves being at home. He's traveled to a dozen countries, joined the volunteer fire department, really into Parkour, and is a respectful, awesome young man. I can confidently say that he would NOT be where he is today if he'd been in the system of public school. Even when he's been 'behind' on things per the school charts, he's never FELT behind. He's been allowed to develop at his own pace, and he always 'catches up'. His confidence is intact. That is something that I could never reteach or fix if he'd been broken in the special education system. 


Are you feeling stressed and stuck at putting him into school? Or at home? What specifically is making life difficult right now?  I know that for me, letting go of expectations that he must do x at x time and x grade level and x lesson really made life easier. I realized, he WILL learn what he needs when he needs to know it. He may not be on the typical trajectory according to his school aged peers, but I think he's actually leaps and bounds ahead of them in so many ways! Anything that he 'needs' to know, he will acquire when the time is right. 

zalesmom's Avatar zalesmom 03:47 PM 02-19-2013
I'm very confident that like you he will catch up given the space and time without stress or pressure. I've been trying to access some support here, we're in Canada, and that's been tough. I can't do it all. Im feeling really burnt out and unsupported. So how it works here is when you homeschool you have no access to the supports, OT, PT, SLP, that a school kid would have. I was seeking a better assessment to give us some direction for initiating our own therapy, which we would pay for our selves but would also provide some documentation for us to get funding for aides and respite from a different government agency. I was very disappointed with our assessment experience and their only solution was to provide meds and behavioural therapy. I think he needs treatment for motor skills and sensory issues first and foremost and I can get that privately. I just find the school bias really hard to deal with. It's so hard to hear them say that if he were in school or on meds he'd be better. I don't believe it it's just demoralizing.
Momsteader's Avatar Momsteader 07:29 PM 02-19-2013

We did do meds several times, and it DID help as part of an overall program. (Zoloft 25 mg--hardly anything!--at bedtime) three different times about 6 mos, 3 mos and 3 mos over the course of about 4 years between 7 and 11 years old. It really did help to bring down his overall anxiety level and let us work through some difficult times (birth dad issues, grandmother dying, and adoption finalized). So don't completely discount them if they are part of an overall program. Think about it critically, and decide. You can always wean off or stop if it's not giving the desired result. I would definitely not be on board with a long-term 'let's just medicate to fix it' situation, but for a specific period for a specific reason, it can be helpful in combination with other therapies. 


I hope you're able to get a better assessment :(  I know for us, just not pushing the academics and doing things he enjoyed--sort of a deschooling period (even though he hadn't been to public school!) always seemed to help us out, before we jumped back in again. 

Tags: Unschooling