Homeschooling and Special Needs

My oldest son has pretty profound dyslexia. I had known he was struggling with reading, of course, but early on,  I attributed it to his being a boy, and much more active. than the norm.  He had tantrums during reading lessons, but so had one of his older sisters, and I thought he was just frustrated on a regular level. After much prayer, debate, and counsel, I realized it was more than that.

I learned of the Barton Method from a friend, and was grateful to learn we had a center in the Quad Cities.

I literally had to drag him into one of his first sessions, which, looking back, was not one of my best parenting moves. At the time, I felt so helpless. He felt so scared and overwhelmed. We were lost.

To my astonishment, he had to start at the most remedial level. He wasn’t understanding ANY reading or phonics at all. I had been helping him a lot more than I realized when we were reading together, and he’s so bright, he compensated  so beautifully that I didn’t know how acute his disability is.

I’ve seen him be brave. To continue to show up every week, and try his best, despite his fear, despite all the previous failures, despite my not handling everything right, despite how enormously challenging it is for him, is courage.

He’s grown immensely. A couple years ago, he wouldn’t sound out anything, and didn’t even want to do copy work because it was so hard for him. When he wrote “pirs” on the grocery list, it was a victory of the highest order. You’d better believe I bought him an entire bag of pears, and he didn’t even have to share them.

Giant lengthy tantrums used to happen on the regular, partly due to his frustrations with what he viewed as his inability to “do it right”, and partly due to his innate emotional dysregulation. They’ve largely stopped. I see this as a result of the tutoring, which has shown him how very much he’s capable of, and helped him realize he isn’t doing anything wrong. We’re helping his brain grow and giving him tools to be successful in spite of his disabilties.

Another struggle he has is ADHD, which is highly misunderstood, and highly misdiagnosed. Before our own family’s experiences with it, I didn’t even really think it was real for most kids, and adults, who were on medication for it. I thought it was because of the structure of schools, and expecting children, especially boys, to go against their very natures for so long. I still do think this is part of it, but I now know that ADHD brains are just wired very differently and their natures are completely divergent from a “normal” brain. ADDitude Mag has helped me immensely as I journey this new territory, in understanding how his brain functions.

Having a child with special needs and being a homeschooling mama who loves him more than breath is an extraordinarily difficult thing. I want to push him to be his best, as I do all my children. At the same time, I want to be cognizant of his contrastive abilities. I want him to thrive and yet it’s hard to know where the line of too much pressure lies.

All last year, he went  to school in the mornings to get one on one help from the special ed teacher in reading and writing. He was getting the Barton Method tutoring twice a week. We realized that he really was not benefiting as much from the reading recovery special education and would have had to adjust to a new teacher, so we pulled him from the public school program.

Now he strictly gets Barton Method tutoring two mornings a week. We do Classical Conversations and read alouds for the bulk of our curriculum. All of these things work amazingly in concert to play to his strengths while we bulwark the inherent challenges of dyslexia and ADHD.

Having a child with special needs is never easy, and homeschooling is inherently challenging. Combining the two can seem insurmountable. We’ve used our resources and contracted out some of our learning. God gives us strength every day, His faithfulness is great and His mercies renew. We all face tests of our abilities and resolve, but especially when we confront them together and we have support, we can do hard things.

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