Developmental Disabilities

Questions & Answers for the March-April issue

“I have a 4-year-old son with Down Syndrome. His older siblings have never been in school but I’m losing my confidence when I think about home educating him. This stems partly from the attitudes of professionals in his life (doctors, therapists, preschool teachers) who constantly tell me schooling will be so good for him. He certainly enjoys preschool. However, when I look at what he’s learned at home already (counting 1-10, the alphabet, colors, shapes, computer skills, over 200 ASL signs), I think he will be able to learn at home quite well. His siblings have been his best teachers. We are easily able to provide therapies through our private insurance. But am I missing something essential that schools could provide such a student? Are there other families who have homeschooled a child with developmental disabilities who could respond to my doubts? -name withheld

We welcome readers’ answers to this question, but your responses (in the comments area below) must meet our deadline of January 28, 2011 for publication in the March-April issue. Please recognize that your submission may be edited for length or clarity, and please indicate how you prefer your answer signed.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to Developmental Disabilities

  1. Michelle Wilbert on January 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I have homeschooled all four of my children, now ages 22, 19, 16 and 9. Our 9 year old, Mary, has spina bifida and non-verbal learning disorder, which is common in children with SB. We never considered not homeschooling/unschooling her but I have great empathy for the anxiety provoked by dealing with “Disability World” in terms of Dr.’s, therapists, social workers and various other providers of services. As a home birth midwife and a unschooling mum, I was totally unprepared for my overnight immersion in the “health care system” because we had, for the most part, managed to stay out of it entirely up until Mary’s birth. When the “services” package was offered by her spina bifida clinic staff, it felt much more like a set of absolutes, than something we could choose if we felt it was needed but, after two decades of making exactly those kinds of determinations, I was not easily persuaded that a life of “experts” was any more productive for Mary than for my other children. As I began to research my options, I came across a remarkable website, and woman, who changed forever my perception of what living with a “disability” means, or can mean. I would urge you to read Cathy Snow’s wonderful book, “Disability is Natural” (here is the web link: and I am sure you will regain your confidence in homeschooling your child and and be able help him create the life of his, and your, dreams. Enjoy your child and believe in a full range of potentials and possibilities; it’s all there to be lived! Best to you. Michelle Wilbert, Close to the Root Family and Community Resources

  2. Amy Mallison-Austin on January 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    My almost 11 year old son, Noah, was born with either a chromosomal defect called Noonan Syndrome, or he had a stroke when he was born. At any rate, we never thought twice about homeschooling him. He received Early Intervention services from the time he was one until he aged out at three. A school psychologist came to interview him and it was a disaster. At that time, we were already homeschooling his older brothers, and we had no intention of putting our nonverbal child on a van at 7 in the morning, not to see him again until 4 in the afternoon. It would have undone all we had accomplished in very short order. Since we have started “formally” homeschooling him, he has blossomed. He is doing solid third grade math, he cracks on multiplication and division, he is a great speller and loves to read books about snakes, lizards and other animals. I know he never would have grown this much if we had sent him to school. I would strongly recommend at least trying to homeschool your son. You know what his limits are, you know where he shines and most of all, you love him unconditionally. That is the best environment in which to learn for any child.

  3. betsy sproger on January 24, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    As a homeschooling mom, and an O.T/preschool teacher, I would encourage you to go with your heart, and not necessarily the experts. You already have a nurturing homeschool lifestyle, how do you want to fit your 4yo into it? To be able to learn in a stress free environment with the people he loves, puts him in an optimal place to develop his cognition, among other things. Lots of the specialized ed programs focus on self care, adaptive skills, coupled with academics…..What better place to learn self care, than the natural environment, home, ……and the community, or at the grocery store, or the library. Schools offer classes for this, and call it community integration. But your son would be learning these skills and thousands’ others naturally……I could go on and on…… With the therapies for support, I would encourage you to follow your heart, not worry about comparisons to ps, and to be proud of what your family’s learning lifestyle can offer your youngist family member.

  4. Amanda on January 26, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Do not let “professionals” persuade you. Why should teachers, doctors, etc get to spend more time with our kids than we do? If you feel that it is the best place for your child then keep them home. There is always extra curricular activities that you can participate in along with them if you feel that maybe there is something that you aren’t proficient in teaching. I advocate teaching your kids at home! :-)

  5. Laurel Moffit on February 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    When we adopted our eldest at age two, we were told he might never walk or talk, and would be unlikely to be able to learn much. He has fetal alcohol syndrome & mental retardation. He just turned 18, and has taken several years of piano lessons, played in a number of recitals, and played for offering in church. His “normal” brother regularly needs his help for spelling. He is a very good reader. Because of the fas, he will always have trouble with math, time & money, and needs to learn most things either hands on or orally, but overall I feel he does well. We also have two other boys with mental retardation & delayed development, and they’ve basically taught themselves to read.

    Lori Moffit

  6. Amy on March 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I would also like to encourage you to listen to your heart. Of course the system would encourage you to keep your child in the system. The system exists to perpetuate itself – not necessarily in the best interests of the child.

    It is well-known in the world of education and Down syndrome (Ds) that children with Ds learn best with one-on-one instruction. They also learn best when they are taught to their learning profile – a list of strengths and weaknesses. Things which cannot be obtained within the classroom.

    A successful learner with Ds needs intensive parental support since the system, in general, cannot meet his/her needs. Everyone I know with a child with Ds in the system “after schools.” They teach their child at home – the place they really learn!

    Why bother with the “middle man?”

    For more info:

    Homeschooling Children with Down Syndrome by Amy Dunaway