Asking for help is hard.
My parents were always the ones who fought over who paid the bill. I remember my mom throwing cash into the window of a relative’s departing car, rather than “owe” her the price of a dinner. This is where I come from. As a result, I have always found it difficult to ask for help.
But there are times, such as when you homeschool a child with a disability, or when you need to teach your typical kid a subject that’s hard, even for you, when you can’t just go it alone. Help is not just desirable, it is indispensable.
Disregard the DIY Sirens
We live in a DIY culture, no doubt about it. Old sayings, like: “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!” and “Neither a borrower nor a lender be!” admonish us to pull our own weight, and not rely on others for anything.
Homeschooling has no doubt been influenced by this DIY trend. This Great Recession Era attitude of independence and self-reliance has probably been part of the reason homeschooling has become so popular in recent years. Many would describe it, after all, as do-it-yourself schooling.
Still, a time comes in every homeschool parent’s life, when they need help. A certain subject may require an expert to teach it, or it may just be outside the parent’s comfort zone: too artsy, too technical, too complex, too boring.
Frequently, the need for help is the result of a time crunch: work obligations, a holiday approaching, a serious illness or death in the family, Heaven forbid. Any of these can turn the best-laid plans on their head.
Add a Disability to the Mix
If even ordinary homeschoolers sometimes need to ask for help, imagine the plight of homeschoolers of children with disabilities.
The world of special education in public school is a world of specialists: Speech, occupational and physical therapists; specialized PE instructors; certified teachers with certificates in specific disabilities, such as autism; reading specialists; behavior analysts and social skills coaches. Not to mention, in the higher grades, a certified teacher in ever subject.
It is enough to intimidate anyone.
How can a parent hope to duplicate that in a homeschool environment? The answer is, they can’t. And they don’t have to.
School vs. Homeschool
A school, in my view, is something like a general store. Think big box, like a Walmart or a Target. Large, lots of moving parts, and, on offer, pretty much everything anyone could possibly want.
But a homeschool is a specialty store. Take the example of a yarn shop. A low-budget, little hole-in-the-wall store, not too impressive on the outside. But boy, when you go in! They always have the exact yarn you want. And exactly as much of it as you need.
Fortunately, for those of us who homeschool kids with disabilities, most of what schools offer can be found in the private sector as well. Finding help is rarely an issue. Paying for it may be.
Paying the Bill
Some states have implemented programs to help. For example, the Gardiner scholarship in Florida is a program that assists parents of kids with special needs. The program, which you apply for annually, can provide assistance up through the school year they turn 21, if the student with a qualifying disability is either homeschooling or paying for a private school, and has not graduated yet. My son receives the Gardiner and we use it to pay for services I cannot afford on my own and certainly can’t provide myself.
In the past, we have had medical insurance or programs like Scottish Rites help us pay for things like speech therapy. Many states now even have laws that require coverage for children with autism (and some, for other disabilities, as well) for certain therapies when recommended by their doctor.
What kind of Help?
The types of services we have used or looked into in the past include:
- Art Therapy
- Psycho-Educational Evaluations
- Standardized Testing
- Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy (although these were while my son was still in school)
- Facilitated Communication (we did not pursue this, but looked into it)
- Annual Evaluations and Advice
- Conferences or talks on subjects like Transition, Behavior, Communication, Social Skills etc.
- Psychiatric and Medication Consultations
We paid for these services through a variety of methods.
Other parents I have encountered either in real life or on social media, have utilized applied behavior analysis, assistive communication devices, specialized curriculum, mobility devices, such as wheelchairs or large strollers, social skills classes, tutoring, etc. The list goes on, and it depends on your child and the means you have available to you.
I must warn you that some things tread the line between education and medicine, or between help for the child and help for the parent or family. This is rarely an issue when a service is self-pay, but once you are relying on any type of public funding, strict rules come into play. With the Gardiner, there is a pre-approval process you can use, but once you submit an expense, it will be reviewed and either approved or denied. The denials often come as a surprise to homeschooling parents, who may be used to having more or less free reign over what they use in their homeschool.
Beggars can’t be choosers, to quote another old saying.
Whether you are a homeschool parent of typical kids, and need help with French or Physics, or a homeschool parent of kids with disabilities, and need help with behavior or in-depth evaluations, you should never be ashamed of asking for help. If you realize, and we all do, that you are falling short in one area or another, don’t hesitate to look around and see what is available. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
This year, I hope to look into the following services to supplement our homeschool and make my own path an easier one to tread:
- Help with life skills, such as proper hygiene
- Support groups and outings for parents of children with disabilities
- Transition programs
- Continued Art Therapy
- Teens with autism events
- Self-advocacy and disability awareness training
- Psycho-educational evaluations
- Reading tutoring
Seeking help, and using it, is one way to ease your burden and pave the way to a brighter future for your kids. Another way is to get them to do the dishes once in a while!