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What About Special Needs Children?

A father asked:

I'm still waiting for someone to address the lack of non-public schools that have the capacity to work with autistic kids and to a lesser extent, the funds to put kids in such schools.

Answer by Jay Auxt:

I am openly “biased” so let me tell you where I am coming from and then I’ll give you my two cents worth.

My wife and I have 6 children. (PTLx6!) We homeschooled all six through all 13 years of schooling. Our homeschooled children attended a very prestigious school called “Auxtford.” (Not to be confused with a less prestigious school by a similar name on the other side of the pond.)

For the past 10 years I have been a homeschool administrator with our church homeschool program of 30+ families. Before that, I was on the board of directors of a homeschool program of anywhere between 150 and 200 families depending on the year.

(You are starting to see the bias already.)

Over the years I have been actively involved counseling homeschool families; many with special needs children, a few with autistic children. I was also an adjunct math and creation science teacher at a local Christian college and had one autistic child in a creation science class.

That stated, let me say, I understand your concerns! Having said that, I am confident that I do not understand the details of what parents go through. Autistic children are so different that only the parent can understand that!

You did not say, but are you referring to an autistic child of your own? If so, here is my two cents worth. (If your question is prompted because of a friend, feel free to forward this message.)

I have never seen a public or non-public education program for special needs children that is consistently effective. Putting 5, 10, or 15 of these students together with one teacher and (maybe) an assistant is a bad idea. This is a bad idea because it is impossible for one teacher (and maybe an assistant) to adequately keep up with the needs of all of these children. Their “needs” are just too far different from each other’s!! (I forgot to mention, I was a substitute teacher for a public school special needs class many years ago.)

In a homeschool environment, the parent knows the needs of that special child and recognizes how those needs change from one week to the next. (Or one day (or hour) to the next!) IF the parents have the love and patience necessary to homeschool a special needs child, they can always do a better job. That statement begins with the great big word “IF.”

Those are my 2 cents. Take them for what they are worth. Now a few comments: The homeschooling parents of special needs children are the biggest worriers. They really fret over whether or not they are doing the right thing. I see that in almost every case. I get that. I understand “why” they worry. They don’t have the “formal training” and they always wonder if they are doing the right thing. That’s normal.

So as a homeschool parent, how do I know I am doing the right thing? That’s easy. Eph 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It’s the father’s responsibility to bring up the child properly. Nobody else’s. Sure – the father can “employ” or “utilize” assistance. But ultimately – it is the father that the Lord has placed in that responsibility role. So – PRAY. Pray daily and seek His guidance every day. The needs of that child will be different – every day. Seek His counsel – every day!

In general – prop up the most needy area(s) every day. Every student has areas where they shine and areas where they really struggle. Which areas need more attention? The ones where they struggle. (obviously) That’s why group teaching of special needs children utterly fails. This is not unique. (It’s just exacerbated with special needs children. That’s why they have special needs.) How do we teach any of our homeschool children? We constantly prop up the areas that need the most help.

It is not uncommon for special needs children (especially autistic children) to view their parents as the “obstacle” between them and what they want. Try to avoid that appearance. Provide rewards. Many rewards. Find out what they “want” and try to work with it. (They can also be incredibly manipulative and you certainly don’t want to tolerate that.) This is where prayer comes in! Sometimes those “wants” are really small and easy to accommodate.

Don’t be in a hurry. Who’s rule is it that a student has to graduate at age 18? What if it takes a year or two extra? So what? It’s not a race. Here is where being involved with the right program is imperative. Some homeschool programs simply don’t have the infrastructure to support more than four years of high school. (It’s a silly record keeping thing.) So, make sure you are “enrolled” in an appropriate homeschool program. And shifting gears a bit, I don’t know what state you live in but the state requirements are very different from one state to the next.

Jay Auxt


I forgot to mention two things –

I am not opposed to all group programs. Some group programs are great! All six of my children have worked at a camp for severely handicapped individuals. To qualify, these “campers” must be physically and mentally handicapped. These are “one week” experiences for special needs individuals in an openly Christian environment. It’s a great “reward” for the “camper” and a great “vacation” for the “parents!” After all, the parents of special needs children have needs too! Sometimes having a one week “vacation” away from that child can be quite a blessing. So – in this case, both the special needs individual and the parents are blessed.

I mentioned that the homeschooling parents of the special needs children “fret the most.” I forgot to mention – The homeschooling parents of the special needs children are also blessed the most!!