Thinking About Special Needs


Growing up it was quite rare for me to come into contact with an individual that had special needs. As I’ve gotten older it has become much more prevalent. There are many who believe that children today are misdiagnosed with disorders such as ADHD/ADD, sensory disorders, or even autism. Some diagnoses today I don’t even know what they mean by the term. Other special needs we can readily see, such as Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy.

Before you get defensive, I’m not stating that these children do or don’t have whatever they are diagnosed with. For the purpose of this post, it really does not matter if they do or do not. Rather this post is about understanding what it means when a child or adult is diagnosed with a disorder, of any kind. What matters is how you react to the child and their family.

Thinking About Special Needs -- how to support homeschool families with special needs.

It is human nature to shun what we don’t understand; to avoid what makes us uncomfortable. One reason I think I did not have contact with special needs children or adults while I was growing up is because they were not included in the general activities as all the other kids. They instead were kept to a room or building where others “like them” could be taught and cared for. {This also isn’t a post about whether that is right or wrong, then or now.}

Nowadays there is a much stronger push for inclusion in schools and so society in general may be getting a more realistic view of what it is like for those with special needs. Those children in those classrooms see that the child with special needs struggles with sitting still, talking quietly, learning to read, working on math, etc.

It is amazing how many homeschoolers I have come into contact, in real life but more through online correspondence, who are working with children with special needs. It is tough! But at the same time, those families are learning something that other families may not be learning: what it takes to step out of yourself for the sake of another.

By that statement I am not saying that homeschooling families of children with special needs are superior to other homeschooling families. But you would be shortchanging them if you made a statement that they don’t have more of a struggle. They require a strength that some others do not possess because they have never had to work that part of themselves because they do not have special needs in their lives.

So what I’m proposing is for us to put ourselves out there for those families with members with special needs. Take time to support the entire family.


  • Ask questions to better help understand the situation and circumstance.
  • Be humble.
  • Offer support that will be beneficial to the child and family (be careful to give support that is not self-serving).
  • Take time on your own to research the particular needs so that you can be better equipped to help the family as they need it.


  • Do not be belligerent or tell them that their child (or other member of the family) doesn’t have whatever diagnosis that is stated.
  • Don’t tell the family what they should do for their child or situation. Offer humble advice that is based on relevant experience and understanding of their situation.
  • Don’t avoid the family because you don’t understand the needs. (See “Do” list.)
  • Do not take it personal if the child or parents do not want to talk about their situation. Each person and family are different. Respect their space and them as people.

What are some specific ways we can support those with special needs? Does your family have special needs? If so, what are some of the ways others can help you?


North Laurel (46 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens. She holds a M. Ed. in Leadership and is the founder of the small Wildwood CM Community Co-op and is working to open Wildwood Community School. You can read her other thoughts at North Laurel's Musings.

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  1. says

    As a mom of a child with special needs, I appreciate these ideas! Just hearing an encouraging word now and then is a big help.

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