Teaching the Challenging Child: Special Needs or Something Else?
July 4, 2018
Mercy Every Minute  
Most of you know that I have raised a challenging child. So many struggles. Sensory issues, rebellion, reacting inappropriately to situations instead of responding properly, dysgraphia, but also very smart! But here’s the thing: from my rebel’s birth forward, I was her expert. I knew her best: what made her melt down, what motivated her, how she learned and how she didn’t—I knew her better than any expert could. I also had my own private Counselor (Christ Himself) to give me wisdom on a daily basis (and I needed it daily) and I often shared that wisdom with my child because I knew that would be the most important factor in her upbringing. We had to walk by faith and not by sight for ten long years. You can listen to our journey on the TOS YouTube channel here.

For those ten years, she fought the wrong fight. She fought us, her siblings, and the Lord. Today, we now see a girl who is fighting the right fight. She was created to fight the enemy of her soul while making an impact on this ungodly culture in her pro-life, evangelistic efforts. She was created perfectly for this ministry.

God never gave up on her even when I wanted to. Not one day. He never gave up on me either. Where there is another day and another breath, there is always hope. 

I know that raising a challenging child can cause you to want to say, “I Quit!” And believe me, I know those feelings are real! When these feelings threaten to take over, and life is challenging with your difficult children, run to your Helper. When you feel like you are failing and need extra strength, you will find it in Him alone. 

Just as no one understands your rebel as you do, no one understands you like God does. His presence and His Word are a lifeline to a drowning homeschool parent (and child)! Hold on for dear life, and walk by faith that God’s Word will not return void.

“Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25, 26

Praying for all your rebels today,


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Dara Halydier
To label or not to label? That is the question. In our home of ADHD, Aspergers, dyslexic, and dysgraphic boys, we have tried both approaches at times and in different circumstances. Before we knew that anything was afoot, we accepted our sweet, rambunctious boys as amazing gifts of God. He did not create them and then say, “Oops! They have. . . .” Rather, God made each child an individual with gifts, personalities, learning styles, and bents. And He has a special plan for each one of them—issues and all!

Our culture considers that anyone who is not left-brained/visual has a learning disorder. My goal as a mom was to understand my children and teach them that “Instead of failing to succeed at what you’re not, you can start learning how to succeed at what you are.”

Focusing on the positive of each child’s personality or disorder rather than the negative can help them build a healthy Biblical self-esteem.

This allowed us to set realistic expectations for our children socially, academically, and in life-management skills. We never allowed them to use their “label” as an excuse. They were still expected to read, write, and act sociably acceptable. Goals just required more training and practice. As teenagers, being able to understand the labels gave them a feeling of control and acceptance. They also often gave me ideas about how to handle their issues!

The hardest part of parenting a child with different needs is discerning the heart of the child during each situation. Was it rebellion? Was it misunderstanding? Was it frustration? I wish that I could go back now and redo some of these emotion-filled, confusing moments where I was called upon in an instant to discern the situation and make a fair ruling. I did the best that I could, held them, loved them, encouraged them, cheered them on, and tried to give helpful advice.

They are all five wonderful adults. Three are married with children. All are successfully pursuing the careers that they have had a passion for. Now if they can just keep their Asperger’s Mom under control!

Dara Halydier is an author, speaker, and mom of five grown boys! She homeschooled for twenty-one wonderful years and is now encouraging other homeschooling families. She is the executive director of Abiding Truth Ministry and the author of the Practical Proverbs series and other books. Dara has learned life’s lessons the hard way—experience! The lessons she shares come from truths that she has learned from dealing with chronic pain, having moved thirty-three times, having four boys with learning disabilities, and having overcome a past of abuse to proclaim God’s grace, forgiveness, and freedom. Find out more at  www.abidingtruthministry.com .
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Tracy Klicka
Home School Foundation,  www.homeschoolfoundation.org
The year was 1995. I was a very busy homeschooling mom of six young children, including newborn twins. Amy, my smaller, miracle twin, was born three weeks early along with her sister, but she weighed only 2lbs., 13oz., unlike Charity, who weighed 6lbs. at birth. Amy had been in the neonatal ICU for almost six weeks, until she was big enough to come home at 4lbs., 7oz.; so having a few quiet moments alone with her when I nursed her was something I cherished.

One day, as I sat holding my unusually tiny daughter in my arms shortly after her arrival home from the NICU, I thanked the Lord for her safe arrival. Having just finished nursing her, as I had done with all my other babies, I calmly looked into her eyes, smiling and speaking gentle words of love to her.

At first she looked right back at me, but as soon as she heard my voice, she slowly turned her gaze away. I immediately knew something wasn’t right; I sensed she couldn’t handle the stimulation of looking at me and simultaneously listening to my voice. In that moment of realization, I prepared myself for the possibility that she had a learning disability.

As Amy grew, she displayed behavioral issues at times that, while I had never had her formally tested, I surmised were the result of having a mild form of autism. Her coping skills were not as advanced as my other children and, like she had been that day I saw her look away as I spoke to her after nursing her, she could be easily over-stimulated. Because of my observations and researching what children with autism need to make progress, I tailored her homeschooling to provide adequate space and downtime.

If you think your child may have special needs. . .

Start with your observations. You know your child better than anyone else. Keep a log of their behavior, struggles (academic, social, physical). Look for patterns, and document this as well. This places you in the best position to take step #2. For help with making formal observations, see Gabriella Volpe’s Assessments & Evaluations helps page. (Volpe is an educational consultant for families of children with special needs; GabriellaVolpe.com )

Obtain a formal evaluation. If you have any concern that your child has legitimate, consistent learning/behavioral struggles, get help from a qualified professional who can make an accurate evaluation and diagnosis and who can recommend a course of treatment/help. If you are concerned, as a homeschooling family, about required reporting, make sure you know as much as you can about the evaluator before you sign a contract for services.

Get free help. If you are a member of HSLDA, as part of your membership, you have access to professional consultants who can help you work through this process of getting a professional evaluation. They can provide recommended evaluators who are sympathetic to homeschooling children with special needs and who will be supportive of your choice to help your child. For more information, visit HSLDA’s Struggling Learner page . If you currently aren’t a member, learn more about the services HSLDA provides it members here .

Research the health/mental performance connection. In addition to Amy having mild autism, some of my children have minor health issues (allergies, sensory integration [SI], deficiencies—like anemia) which affect their ability to concentrate, remember, and process information. Dealing with these health issues helped them academically!

Look at child training through their disability. If you have a child who is struggling mentally, physically, or emotionally, don’t think you can’t disciple and train them. They need to learn which behaviors are appropriate/inappropriate, but showing them understanding, compassion, and grace as you help them learn will help them more fully succeed, and they will be secure in your love, regardless of their struggle.

Because my daughter Amy’s learning needs were fairly mild, I didn’t have her formally evaluated until she started taking community college classes. As I had guessed that morning when, as a nursing infant I suspected she might have a disability, she indeed was diagnosed with a mild form of Asperger’s and Dyscalculia (a math disability). Her formal evaluation helped her obtain accommodations from the community college for her coursework.

Though it was challenging homeschooling my Amy, I tried my best to give her what she needed to learn, and provide a consistent, loving, and positive atmosphere to help her grow into who God made her to be. Thinking back over the past twenty-three years of her life, I am so thankful I homeschooled her and that Home School Foundation helped make that possible. Even though her disability meant she graduated later than her siblings, she is a beautiful, intelligent young woman with a heart for God—and that was worth it all!

Tracy Klicka

Tracy Klicka , the widow of former  HSLDA  attorney Christopher Klicka, is a homeschooling mom of seven, now adult children. As a seasoned homeschooler and gifted writer and speaker for over 20 years, Tracy has addressed thousands of parents at homeschooling conventions and women’s events, has contributed to  Christianity Today , regularly writes for national homeschool publications, and has contributed to her late husband’s books on homeschooling. She currently serves as Director of Development for the  Home School Foundation , the charitable arm of  HSLDA , which helps families homeschooling through hard times. She also blogs at  www.TracyKlicka.com  and for  HSLDA’s  Everyday Homeschooling   blog column.

She can be reached at  tracy@homeschoolfoundation.org .
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We know you want your child to excel and be his or her very best. That’s why we’ve assembled dozens of resources in our Special Needs Focused Learning Center to help you find the best teaching methods for your child. Here’s a look at just some of the resources included:

  • Special Needs, a 21-part program to help those with children who have special needs, be it language delays or deficits, dyslexia, or difficulty with math
  • Strengthening Behavioral and Social Skills resources
  • You Can Homeschool Your Special Needs Child article series
  • Your Child’s Learning Style article series
  • Special Needs Trenches article series
  • Homeschooling Through the Rough Spots article series
  • Kinetic Connections ideas for hands-on learning
  • The Homeschooling Your Extra-Special Blessing webinar by Heather Laurie from SpecialNeedsHomeschooling.com
  • Reading Remedies reading help for struggling readers by Dr. Matthew Glavach
  • Special Families with Special Needs article series

Plus eBooks for parents, video-based lessons in select courses, and so much more. All our nearly 400 courses on SchoolhouseTeachers.com , along with all our parent resources, are available to your family with your membership. If you haven’t yet joined SchoolhouseTeachers.com , come give us a try! If you or someone you know would be interested in teaching or writing for us or helping us adapt existing courses for children with special needs, let us know. You can email me at bhudson@TheOldSchoolhouse.com . We look forward to serving you and your family!

in the latest issue of
The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Contest Corner  
For the month of July

There are a lot of history lovers in our house, and while most of the books are great for the older crew, the younger crew still wants to be involved in a good book. Solomon Schmidt did just this when he wrote the U.S. History Bites collection that so far includes U.S. History Bites and U.S. Presidential History Bites . My eight-year-old fell in love instantly, and so did Dad!

We had the chance to look at both books for this review. The author, Solomon Schmidt is a kid, yes, a kid! He wrote these books for kids using words that kids can understand, yet still adding in all the facts that need to be included when it comes to learning about our history and our presidents. This made it easy for the kids to read and understand!

U.S. History Bites covers thirty topics from American History. These start with Christopher Columbus and Exploration and end with The New Millennium, covering everything in-between like The American Revolution, The Trail of Tears, both World Wars and even The Cuban Missile Crisis and Watergate! All the main topics of American History that every American needs to know about!

Each topic is only about two pages in length, so short and sweet, yet informative. Following the pages of information, you will find Review Bites. This section includes the vocabulary from the section, a fun fact and some simple review questions. These questions are easy to answer, and the answers are listed at the bottom of the page. This was the time when I would quiz my son on what he read, and having him able to answer these questions made both of us happy.

The U.S. Presidential History Bites is the same setup as the original U.S. History Bites . This one book has all the presidents from Washington to Trump listed in it! This was a surprise to me, but one I loved to see! The difference with this one is that I noticed four pages instead of two, full of reading and facts. We also had some good pictures to go with each president.

Each one of the presidents was followed with the same vocabulary, fun fact, and review questions. These were once again easy to answer and yet full of information. I knew that my son had learned something when he was able to answer the questions without hesitation. (. . .)

I am so glad that we found books that appeal to the kids and that deal with history in this way. I am impatiently waiting for Solomon to write more books! If he does, I want to add them all to our shelf and into the hands of my kids! These books need to be on the shelves of every American that has kids in the house. Every kid should have access to these books, and the information they give to us!

YOU can WIN both books for your homeschool!

TO ENTER: Click on over to our entry page and follow the instructions! Contest ends at midnight, the last day of the month.
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