Q & A: Homeschooling a Child Who Has Special Needs
Written by Jean Kulczyk, M.Ed.
Q: What are special needs?
A: Legally, the classifications for children with special needs are Speech/Language Impairment, Learning Disability, Intellectual Disability, Autism, Emotional Disturbance, Visual Impairment, Hearing Impairment, Orthopedic Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Deaf-blindness, and Other Health Impaired.
Q: What is Other Health Impaired?
A: It can be anything from ADD/ADHD to asthma to diabetes to leukemia. It means “having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that
(a) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome; and
(b) adversely affects a child’s educational performance.” 1
Q: What is the difference between homeschooling and homebound services?
A: Homebound, which is also called home/hospital services, is provided by the school for children who are unable to attend school because of illness, injury, or disability. Public schools pay for this instruction. Homeschooling is provided by the parents, who function as a private school in Illinois.
Q: Is it legal to homeschool a child who has special needs?
A: Yes. If someone suggests that you cannot legally teach a child with special needs at home, you might remind them that refusing you this right is discrimination. Kids with disabilities have the same rights as their typical peers.
Q: Do I have to have special qualifications to teach my child with special needs?
A: Not legally.
Q: What must the public school offer me as a homeschooling parent of a child with special needs?
A: You are entitled to Proportionate Share services, although they may look very different from one district to another depending on the part of the state in which you live.
Q: What is Proportionate Share?
A: The Proportionate Share is that part of the district’s special education budget to which your child is entitled to receive services under IDEA.
Q: How do I access my proportionate share services?
A: Go to the Timely and Meaningful Meeting or call the office of the special education administrator in your public school. If you do not wish to receive any services from public schools and/or if you do not want your child to be registered with ISBE as a homeschooled child who has a disability, do NOT go to this meeting. You may spend your time more profitably watching a movie or going to the park. The district is required to send the state the name of every homeschooled child who has a disability; the names are gathered at this meeting.
Q: What is the Timely and Meaningful Meeting (or Consultation)?
A: "The district may periodically invite parents to attend a meeting called “Timely and Meaningful Consultation,” sometimes simply called “TMC.”
“Such a meeting is required to take place in every district in which a private school is located throughout Illinois. The meeting is typically held annually (although districts can conduct them more frequently if districts choose or if circumstances might require an additional meeting). TMC meetings must, under Federal rules, involve representatives of the private schools as well as “parent representatives” of private school parents and students. These meetings will typically outline the amount of “proportionate share” funding the district has for the school year, as well as the types of service the district plans on providing during the year.” 1
These meetings must be held by May 31 for the following school year. All known homeschooling parents must be invited. 1
Q: What services may I have?
A: In some districts, all special education students in non-public schools get one set of services which are determined at the so-called Timely and Meaningful Meeting. Often the decision made by the non-public school personnel at the meeting is that they want special reading and speech therapy to be offered. Sometimes, especially in very small communities, the homeschool parents are the only ones at the meeting. They can request therapeutic services, but also have been known to ask for and receive school materials, either consumable ones or for the loan of VERY expensive educational equipment or programs.
Q: What meetings with the school must I attend?
A: None. You must be invited to attend an Individual Service Plan (ISP) meeting if one is held. In addition, if an ISP meeting is held for your child who is 14 years old or older, your child must be invited, but is not required to attend the meeting. When you withdraw a child from public school attendance who has been receiving special education services, the district may well want to call an ISP meeting, so that they can offer you proportionate share services. It is wise to attend this meeting, even if you want nothing from the school but privacy.
Q: Who will give me money to homeschool my child with special needs? Will the school just give me the proportionate share money?
A: Nobody will give you money. The school cannot give you money for proportionate share services.
Q: Where will I get materials to use?
A: You may buy them at curriculum fairs, at curriculum websites, at used homeschool curriculum websites, at a teacher store, or at your library. You may make your own materials.
Q: Do I have to teach my child the branches of knowledge at the same level as the kids in public school?
A: Yes -- and no. You must teach the branches of knowledge (language arts; mathematics; biological and physical sciences; social sciences; fine arts; and physical development and health) at your child’s ability level and in the English language. For some children, this may mean learning very basic skills necessary for living among other people. For some children, this may mean learning advanced levels in the areas of the child’s particular interest while making less dramatic progress in other areas.
Q: What about dual enrollment?
A: Your child with special needs has the same rights to dual enrollment as her/his typical peers who are homeschooled. See the information about dual enrollment elsewhere on this website.
Q: What if the IEP team decided I should homeschool my child?
A: Then you can receive ALL the services your child needs and the school can pay for tuition and fees for any homeschool program you choose. See the following citation from ISBE.
Q: Who will help me?
A: You may call Jean Kulczyk at 847-662- 5432. If she doesn’t answer or return your call within a day or two, call her again. She won’t mind.