What’s it like homeschooling and raising a special needs child? Well, you fight harder and longer for progress – academic progress as well as social, emotional, behavioral, and even physical. And you celebrate more fully and deliberately each and every step in the right direction. You try not to become distraught when your child can’t seem to get the hang of things that kids half his age don’t struggle with anymore. You try to remember that they probably WILL eventually get it, and in the end, when they reach adulthood it really won’t matter when they mastered certain skills, only that they mastered them. For instance, we made huge progress this week, when for the first time my eight year old actually touched shampoo that I had massaged into his hair. Has he mastered the skill of washing his own hair? No. Have other eight year olds mastered that skill? Probably. Do I have to care? No. Because he’s making progress in the right direction, so it makes sense that he will continue to progress until the skill is mastered. When he is an independent adult, it will only matter that he knows how to wash his own hair; it won’t matter that he learned how after he was “supposed to.”

Academic skills that are behind are somewhat harder for me to accept. I want every skill to be “on grade level” and I can become anxious when they’re not. But I have to force myself to step back and remember that academic skills are really no different than life skills; he WILL get it in time. Right now, the skill we’re struggling with the most is rapid recall of addition and subtraction facts. That skill is just…missing. He counts everything on his fingers, which doesn’t really work well with end-of-second grade math problems. It just flat out takes too long. We look for extra ways to practice. He has to put in more time and effort than other kids to learn those basic skills. But I need to relax. He will get it! And in the end, I won’t care that he didn’t get it “on time.” I will only care that he has the skills he needs to be functional, independent (whatever that looks like for him), and successful.

This week took an extra toll on me. We added lots of new social activity. But THAT IS PROGRESS! The fact that I can add extra social activity, and have a reasonably fair expectation that he can be successful with it is progress! The fact that it was really, really difficult to do is just our reality. I want to share our progress with you, so I’ll walk you through our week. The good and the bad, because I’m a realist. So this is what a typical homeschool week looks like for us. Well, almost typical; Monday was a holiday.

Tuesday, we started school early with the intention of visiting a park with a new homeschool group in the afternoon. Not only did we speed through school with no behavioral problems, but Javan also achieved a new feat. He read for 15 minutes straight, and with some of the most difficult reading he’s done to date. Although it was a second read-through, it is a HUGE accomplishement that he read 15 of the pages in THIS book:

blog reading

He has never read for that long in his life! Yes, we celebrated! After that, we went to the new park with the new homeschool group. New is not easy. He fought and didn’t want to go at all. Finally, he consented (with a poor attitude) and once he got there, he did great! It was a small group. There were lots and lots of sidewalks within viewing distance for him to ride his bike on. He even talked with the other kids! He introduced himself to everyone as a 22 year old Jedi, but he introduced himself and had normal conversations. I mean, he did fantastic! We knew it was time to leave when a massive thunderstorm appeared and let loose on us, but much to my dismay he would not contemplate leaving until he had ridden his bike to each of the four sections of the park to warn everyone in his best Jedi voice to “Leave the area immediately. There is a thunderstorm.” We were both soaked, but at least his intentions were good. A note of warning: there is always a trade off for things going well. By the time we got home, his behavior had deteriorated to the point that I sent him to his room for a good long while. He then destroyed his room by pushing over his dresser, his chair, and throwing stuffed animals everywhere. Yes, he had to clean it up after he calmed down.

Wednesday, he had a tummy ache and back ache. It was terribly difficult to convince him that he still needed to do his schoolwork. He took an early nap. We got through our work for the day, but it was extra challenging. That afternoon, we went to a new program at the library. Boy, oh, boy is new hard. He fought tooth and nail not to have to go. But again, once I forced him and we got there, he did wonderfully. The librarian read them a funny book that he loved, and then all the kids got to make ice cream sundaes.


Javan enjoying his ice cream at the library.

You may notice in the picture above that Javan is wearing gloves to the library. Gloves, and any extra clothing, is a defense mechanism against anxiety and fear of sensory overload. It’s extra protection.

Thursday, our regular homeschool group had our Not-Back-to-School party. Javan rode his bike around the circle over and over and over, as is his usual park day activity. He also, however, shared his bike with his friend Lorelei. He shared his bike. That is always a big, big deal. AND, he participated shortly in the bubble activity we brought.

Javan making a bubble snake!

Javan making a bubble snake!

And since this is a park day we attend weekly, and thus is not a new experience, I didn’t even have to pay for the success later! Score!

Today, Friday, was a biggie. This morning, Javan attended his first homeschool class. You know, like, with other kids, and not at our house, and not taught by ME. He was a huge mess of anxiety. He was adamant that he would not go. And that if we did go, he would do everything he could to get kicked out. I’m sure by now, you’ve noticed a pattern of him refusing to participate in things, me making him participateanyway, and then him doing fine. So with that pattern in mind, I charged through and made him go. It was a nightmare to get him there. He wouldn’t dress properly. He ended up going in two shirts, gloves,and pajama pants (It’s 95 degrees here. In the shade.). The only way I could get him to consent to go, was to remind him that since the class is only one day every two weeks, he’d only have to go to two classes and then he’d get to bring Rosco with him on the third class! This seemed to ease his anxiety considerably and I got him into the car. About halfway there, the anxiety shot through him like visible electricity. He was furious. He wanted me to “turn the car around this minute!” I used a soothing voice and kept my calm trying to reassure him. We got there, he through a few projectiles at me, and refused to get out of the car. So I just stood there in the parking lot watching all the other moms and kids happily march their way to the door and disappear into the blissfully air conditioned building. He finally got hot and decided to go in.

We sat in a corner and decided to just watch what the other kids were doing instead of having the pressure of participating. The kids all introduced themselves, and he introduced himself as “Javan Kratt” one of the Wild Kratt brothers. But he did introduce himself! Then the other kids moved over to tables, and were instructed to team up and build a 10″ tower out of note cards that would support an astronaut statue (which was really a stuffed turtle). It’s an engineering class, by the way. Javan rolled around semi-wildly on the floor while the other kids listened intently and began building. I sat on the floor trying to calm his activity. Although he wasn’t being loud, he was distracting the other children and I continually redirected their stares back to their work or their teacher. Eventually, I was able to interest him in seeing what they were doing. And then, amazingly, he decided he would build his OWN tower. To “show them how it was done.” He did it! He sat at a table with other kids and did work!

Javan cutting and fitting together his note cards.

Javan cutting and fitting together note cards to build his tower.

Javan and his fantastic teacher, Mrs. Jessica, seeing if his tower would support the NASA Turtle.

Javan and his fantastic teacher, Mrs. Jessica, seeing if his tower would support the NASA Turtle.

Javan's tower

Javan’s tower holding the turtle!

Javan’s tower also seconds as a turtle catapult, which the other kids thought was brilliant and gave him much praise for. After this activity, everyone drew a heart in their notebooks and wrote or drew the things that they love inside. Here is Javan’s picture. Inside his circle (because hearts are difficult) is Mom, Dad, and his friend Lorelei. He has a best friend that he loves! My heart is soaring for him! Oh, and there’s also Lorelei’s cat, PeeBee, which she added for him. And possibly a picture of grammy he added when he got home.

blog drawing

And here’s him hugging Lorelei in class.

blog hug

I count that as a success! After class, I asked him how he liked it and he said it was awesome. Then he realized the implications of what he had said and that he might have to come to another class with unknown activities in the future if I thought he liked it, and now he insists that he hated it and it was awful. We then had a play lunch at McDonalds with Lorelei and her mom, which happens to be my best friend in the world.

After only a two hour break, we headed back out for a birthday party at a splash pad. It was a stretch, but we did it. A year ago, we were still sticking to our strict “one activity a day” policy no matter what, and now look at us! A class, lunch, and a birthday party in the same day! Well, once again, I could not for the life of me convince him to dress appropriately, so he arrived at the splash pad decked out in…two shirts, gloves, and pajama pants…and rainboots! Awesome. He was a bit more aggressive than I would have liked and I had to keep eagle eyes on him at all times, which gets absolutely exhausting. There was one embarrassing moment during snack, when all the adults were chatting away with each other and all of a sudden from the kids table there comes a shrieking growl-scream. Everyone ceases talking at once and stares at my child, from whom the sound is emerging, on top of the snack table in all the other kids’ faces. Well, I pulled him out and we had a good talk and I went back to pretending to be normal. We were barely able to make it through cake and presents and then we were outta there. But, guys, he DID IT.

blog splash pad

And that, my friends, is the sum total of a successful homeschool week with a special needs kid. I mean, of course, that I left out tons of details of all the schoolwork and all the feeding and cleaning and feeding and feeding. And feeding. It is perfectly exhausting. But when I think of how far we’ve come, it is worth it.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer
    Sep 06, 2014 @ 08:35:29

    That was an AMAZING week! Good job, you guys. We’re excited about the new dog, too.


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