Homeschoolers and Special Education
Today my ClubMom topics, homeschooling and special-needs kids, come together. I’m taking Wonderboy to our local public school—yes! I said public school!—for a meeting and evaluation with the special education office, a speech therapist, and the district audiologist. Even though we plan to home-educate this child like all our others, we can and will avail ourselves of the special services made available to all children according to federal law.
From birth to age three, qualifying children can receive services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy through Early Intervention programs. Wonderboy received all of the above, in our home, beginning at about four months of age. (For PT & OT, that is. When his hearing loss was diagnosed months later, we added speech & hearing therapies.) The first step in the Early Intervention process is an evaluation that leads to the writing of a big ole document called an IFSP—an Individualized Family Service Plan.
At age three, children age out of Early Intervention and from that point on, the special services they qualify for come through the local public school district. The IFSP gives way to a new document, the IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. The IEP spells out what services the child requires and how the district is to go about answering the need. The whole IEP process can be tricky to navigate, or so I’ve picked up from several friends (public-schoolers, not homeschoolers) whose older children were diagnosed with learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorders. Those parents had to be sharp-witted advocates for their children to make sure that all their classroom needs were being met.
For us, it’s a bit simpler. Wonderboy "graduated" from PT before we left Virginia (amazing, amazing! miracle boy!), but he will almost certainly continue to need some speech therapy during the next several years. His verbal language skills are growing by leaps and bounds—really, it’s so exciting; he’s using long sentences now, like when I hollered "Ladies! Dinner’s ready in five minutes!" and he BOOKED down the hall shouting, "GIRLS! Time to eat! Dinner!" Excellent progress. But of course since he still lacks most consonants, it sounded more like "GUH! I oo ee! Ginnah!"
I want to make sure he has every advantage. I know his verbal skills will continue to improve naturally as he gets older. But he may need extra help to master certain sounds. And so after we got settled in here, I called the district spec ed office to see what kind of speech program they have. After a lot of faxing (his IFSP and audiology reports) and phone calls—just the normal process!—we set up an evaluation with the aforementioned folks.
Today we’ll be meeting to determine what goes into his IEP. I’m going to blog the process, because I haven’t found too much else out there about homeschoolers and IEPs. I might hold off on attending the speech therapy sessions until next fall, depending on how today’s eval goes. At Wonderboy’s age (he’ll be three this week!), speech therapy takes place in small parent-child sessions at the school up the road. That sounds great—but I can already see that timing will be tricky. I don’t know that I want to chop up a morning once a week with a jaunt to speech therapy. That’ll monkey with my older kids’ schedule.
But we can figure out the logistics later. Right now, step one: the speech evaluation.