Special Needs Students with special needs are those who learn at a different pace or need more support than typical; students may have different abilities--including physical and/or learning disabilities and/or giftedness.
Exceptional Student Education (ESE): The official name in Florida for education programs for children with special needs.
Most modern schools are set up like factories and expect all children to work on the same schedule and learn in the same way. While some exceptions to this are made in Special Education departments in schools, homeschooling can often be a better fit as homeschooling is totally customizable for the individual student's needs.
Q: How do evaluations work for children with special needs?
A: Florida law gives parents five options to choose from for evaluations. Three options are testing options.
1. Public School Testing
State-mandated testing--accommodations must be made if a child has an IEP in place. Scores above the 35th percentile are considered passing per the Craig Dickinson Act. Scores are automatically used as the evaluation if testing is done
2. Nationally-normed achievement testing administered by a certified teacher
Parents may choose the test and level and the administrator; the test protocols should allow for accommodations but may have rules in place about those. Scores above the 35th percentile are considered passing per the Craig Dickinson Act.
3. Testing with a psychologist or school psychologist
If the student is being tested for learning disabilities or giftedness, consider using the testing as the evaluation. The type of testing is up to the psychologist. The legal standard for passing is not clear here but could be the same as the annual evaluation--evidence of educational progress commensurate with ability.
Option 4 is a portfolio review evaluation. This is the type of evaluation we offer and is perfectly suited to any student since "evidence of educational progress commensurate with ability" is the legal standard for passing. This type of evaluation involves showing records of the child's education and as long as the student is regularly being educated at a level that works for the student and the parent is keeping records, passing this type of evaluation should not be a worry. We are very special needs-friendly and have done evaluations for many children with special needs including those who are severely behind their peers and nonverbal.
Option 5 is any other type of evaluation the parent and district agree on. Feel free to suggest other possibilities such as therapists' or doctors' reports, grades from curricula, etc. and see if the district will agree.
Some useful websites
Learning Abled Kids: A site full of information related to special needs and also homeschooling
The Ultimate Guide to Gifted Children: LOTS of information about gifted children, homeschooling them, support, and more
Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Press: A publisher focused on homeschooling gifted children
Curriculum, supplementary resources, and programs for children with special needs on one of the oldest national homeschooling websites; designates which are secular and which are faith-based
Children who are 2E, or twice exceptional, have both exceptional ability and disability; they are gifted and challenged at the same time.
Q: Do homeschooled children need an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)?
A: Not necessarily. In a school, such a plan is meant to help a child be treated in a way that will help make the child more successful. But at home, homeschooling can be totally customized. Children can take breaks to walk around, work off energy, get a snack, go to the bathroom, etc. whenever needed without permission from a bureaucratic organization. Methods and materials can be used that are best for the specific child--if something isn't working, the parent can dump it and try something else without having to get approval from anyone. The child can take as much time as needed. And so on.
On the other hand, an IEP might help with getting resources needed (such as qualifying for certain scholarships) whether now or in the future.
Feel free to use any curriculum or methods appropriate for your child. You may use materials below (or above) grade level, if appropriate. Or ones with no grade level at all. Some options that many have found useful include:
Orton-Gillingham Method Materials
This method of teaching reading has worked well with students with dyslexia and other struggles with learning to read. Examples of curricula using this method include The Logic of English, All About Reading, All About Spelling, and more. For more information on the options and choosing for your child, see learningabledkids.com
NACD helps develop curriculum designed for a child's specific needs.
The Florida Department of Education's policies, as listed on their Home Education FAQ, discuss Exceptional Student Education in questions 33-35.
Florida law requires public schools to identify, locate, and evaluate students for special needs at no cost to the parent.
Contact the ESE Administrator in your school district for more information. (Sometimes contacting the local public school's ESE Dept. may be faster.)
The district MAY provide services.
Section 1002.41(1) provides a mechanism for funding.
Sometimes health insurance will cover services if parents use private providers.