Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online

Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences

By Delaine Noyer

Sifting Through The "Expert Advice"
To Find Out What Works and What Doesn't

Finding out what works for a learning different child is the question of the day for a lot of parent-teachers. Personally, I'm driven toward problem-solving research by the chronic issue that my solutions might work one day, but not the next. Diagnosis, treatment and information about attention and learning problems (and the behavioral syndromes that accompany them) conflict -- and for good reason. Consider the numerous fields contributing their disciplines: general and pediatric neurology, neuro-chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry, neuro-imaging/radiology, and the fields of general, child, and educational psychology. Additional contributors to the mix include reading and phonetic therapy; audiology; ophthalmology; speech and language pathology; behavioral, occupational and recreational therapy; and let's not forget philosophy and ethics, as well as alternative disciplines including herbology, nutrition, chiropractics, and the list goes on.

I have personally pursued several of these approaches over the years, to help my learning different child. After trying diets, herbs, medications, algae and more, I have to say homeschooling has been the most effective treatment. Oh, I still eliminate foods with artificial colors and watch for eye-tracking problems, and occasionally give him an herbal remedy that helps him relax when he cannot fall asleep. But homeschooling has provided us with the time to develop and implement a customized learning environment specific to my son's needs. I have worked with my son to set up boundaries, rules and a predictable schedule (not a typical homeschooler's way, but necessary for us) that works well in academic and non-academic situations. We have agreed upon incentives for appropriate behavior, and discipline for inappropriate behavior. Other strategies that work are:

  • Making eye contact, touch or use of a secret signal to gain his focus.
  • Allowing short, frequent breaks.
  • Going for quality rather than quantity on schoolwork.
  • Monitoring progress and offering support and positive feedback often.
  • Simplifying instructions and breaking large tasks into small projects so as not to overwhelm him.
  • Making expectations clear in my son's preferred learning style (kinesthetic).
  • I repeat instructions & have him repeat them to me.

I teach reading of social cues like body language, tone of voice, timing, along with specific social coaching. Study and test-taking skills, especially the importance of thoroughly reading the directions, are rehearsed daily. Fidgeting is remedied with physical exercise. I have learned to recognize and avoid situations that cause over-stimulation and/or frustration. Some days become non-academic learning days! I rehearse problematic scenarios with my son. Keeping my sense of humor and taking the lighter side whenever possible is still a battle for me. The things that help me most to stay in check are: attending workshops periodically; and talking with other moms who are educated and experienced in my child's differences so I don't feel isolated. It helps me keep my expectations realistic.

Delaine Noyer homeschools her son with learning differences. Send your comments to Delaine c/o Homefires, 327 Saint Francis Street, Redwood City, CA 94062 or email Delaine c/o Editor@Homefires.com.