As parents, we quickly become the experts on each of our kids. After all, you know their birth stories, their developmental timelines, their family histories, their experiences, their environments, their habits, and their ‘normalities’. You have watched them grow and you have noticed their strengths and weaknesses. You have compared each of them to your other children, and to your friends’ children. You have begun to evaluate each child and have decided that some of their uniqueness is just fine. However, some of their uniqueness has you a bit concerned. What, then, is the next step?
There are so many resources available to help you assess what is within the range of ‘normal’ and expected, and what is falling outside of that range. There are books and experts that can help you assess what can be taught and trained, what can be managed, and what can be adapted for. Above all, there are countless helps to show you that parenting and homeschooling a child with special needs is entirely doable. You can be successful in this journey. And so can your child.
Speaking to your family doctor is a good place to start. Your physician can recommend and refer you to other specialists. This can help you get appointments scheduled sooner than later. Also, with a referral, some services will be covered by your provincial health coverage. Often times an appointment for a hearing or vision test can easily rule out some of the most basic learning blocks. However, other physical difficulties will lead to referrals to specialists and to other tests to assess how your child is functioning physically, and what her needs are.
When there are ongoing learning difficulties that don’t have an obvious physical root, however, you will want to see some other educational professionals. Many of these offices will see you without a referral, and, although they may not be covered under your health insurance, their services are invaluable.
One such service is the National Institute for Learning Development. Their website is full of useful information for parents wondering about special needs in their children. NILD provides training for those interested in becoming an educational therapist, but it also provides a list of available therapists across Canada who may be able to assess your child and provide the appropriate therapy for their specific needs. Trix Bradley is one such assessor and therapist (she is also the current National Director of NILD), and she would be a great resource for you to have your questions answered, and your next steps planned.
Your child’s assessment may include a visit to an audiologist to check for Central Auditory Processing deficiencies. Or you may go to a behavioural optometrist to consider vision therapy. There are many, many professionals (some in fields of study you may not have even heard of!) who are skilled and trained to assess your child’s needs and to point you in the right direction.
Some additional resources and websites that are highly recommended as you begin to homeschool your special needs child are:
- National Institute for Learning Development and Edison Learning Centre. There are many helpful explanations of their services as well as testimonials from clients (highly recommended).
- Dianne Craft’s website, flash cards, DVDs, and manuals. You will find a wealth of help for understanding your children’s struggles as well as giving you the tools to teach them well (highly recommended).
- Another means of evaluation and testing is through Irlen Centre. On their website, you can take a preliminary self-test to evaluate the extent of your (or your child’s) difficulties, and if they are the types of symptoms that can be helped by Irlen Method therapy.
- Carol Barnier’s The Big “What Now” Book of Learning Styles.
- Talkers, Watchers, and Doers: Unlocking Your Child’s Unique Learning Style by Cheri Fuller.
- How Your Child Learns Best by Judy Willis, MD, MEd.
- Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties by Jerome Rosner.
- Christine Field’s website and reviews.
- Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax: While not specifically focused on special needs, this book is invaluable for parents of boys who have been labelled ‘unmotivated’ or ‘ADHD’. His insights into the mind of a boy and how he would best learn (and the things we are doing to disadvantage our boys) are extremely helpful.