Homeschooling has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
I genuinely mean that; and in my extremely varied job and ministry experience – ranging from being a telemarketer to a radio DJ, from working with at-risk teens to teaching home Bible studies – I still find that the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done is teach my children at home.
There is so much satisfaction in watching your child grow, develop, and learn, knowing that they learned those things from you.
I can’t explain it.
But somehow I know that if you’re reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about!
6 Things I’ve Learned While Homeschooling a Child With a Language Disorder
But my kids aren’t the only ones learning.
The past several years I’ve become an avid student of my children. I’ve read books and articles, listened to countless podcasts and YouTube videos, I’ve watched them, studied them, and made endless mental notes of things I’ve seen or heard as I’ve listened to them play.
I believe that every parent should be an avid student of their child.
Even more so if your child has a disability, disorder or developmental delay – because they will need you even more as their teacher and advocate.
And I’ve done both: teach and advocate for the best interest of my children.
There are a few things that homeschool parents of children with a language disorder need to know.
1. Reject quack therapies
I’ve tried some, I’ve almost tried others, and I’ve outright rejected others.
Here’s the thing, mom. There is no quick fix, no oil, no diet, no supplement, and no detox program that will help your child speak.
Your child will speak when his or her brain begins to process language.
Beware of the things I listed above: oils, diets, supplements and detox programs. Also, it may be recommended to you – as it was to me – to get your child in sensory integration therapy.
I would at the very least do your due diligence in research beforehand and ask others if it has helped their child.
I didn’t feel it would help ours, so we chose not to go with this method.
Some of these are a colossal waste of time and money, while others are actually counterproductive and harmful to your child’s development.
At the end of this article, I will list resources that I have found helpful in our journey.
2. Seek support
If there is anything I’m thankful for on this journey, it is the support I’ve had of other parents who have been down this road, or who are on it still, who have reminded me to find joy in this journey, to find joy in my children, and to reject the temptation to place my child’s every move under a microscope in fear.
You need the support of those around you to remind you that you are not alone, to reject the fear and anxiety, and truly enjoy your children right now. Today.
Not when they show more typical development.
Not when they are finally able to tell you about their day.
Not when they are on par with their peers.
Below is a link to the Facebook groups I am in, where I have found abundant support and advice for our journey.
3. Include activities and subjects they excel at to keep motivation high
I cannot emphasize enough for you how important this is!
Imagine, for a moment, how difficult everything is for a child with a language disorder. Because everything is based on language, everything they do is a struggle and because they are often surrounded by peers who do not have similar struggles, their self worth often takes a big hit.
Finding activities and subjects they excel at are incredibly motivating, giving them a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
In school, when I see my child has struggled for a while and is growing discouraged, I will cut that subject short and move him to a subject I know he loves and that he is very good at.
It is amazing how when we return to the previous subject that he is suddenly able to complete the work with very little trouble.
Simply because his sense of achievement had a boost!
4. Give them time and lots of breaks
One of the best things I love about homeschooling is the ability to give my child time.
Before we opted for homeschooling, I felt intense pressure to “get my kids ready for school”. I was on a deadline and I felt it looming over me like a tiger ready to pounce.
The anxiety and stress this pressure brought on me caused a lot of sleepless nights.
Deep inside, I knew they just needed time. And I wanted to give it to them!
For a MERLD child, time is their best friend. Time for their brain to develop, time to understand what you’re saying, and time to form their sentences.
Here’s what others need to know in talking with your child:
- Your child is not developmentally challenged. They simply have a language delay.
- Your child can speak, just give them time.
- Your child does not need to have their sentences finished for them. Let them speak and let them be heard. Every human has the need to be heard. Your child included!
But as I stated in #9, the constant stress of language, language, language is exhausting for them. They also need breaks.
When I sense my child has had enough, we take a break. A long one.
The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to homeschool for 4-5 consecutive hours. You can break it up and do a little in the morning and a little in the afternoon.
We take a lot of breaks – and during those breaks I let him go outside, play in his room, swing on our indoor swing – anything that will give his brain a break from the pressure of language.
5. Know when to say no to therapy
Not every therapy is helpful to your child, and as the parent, you need to trust the Lord to give you wisdom to know when to say yes and when to say no.
For many years, we rejected speech therapy.
Many people didn’t understand our decision, but my husband and I felt confident that with time and work at home our children would do very well.
I should have trusted what I knew to be true.
But with additional pressure, I decided to enroll my children in speech therapy. While our oldest son did well, our youngest son began to display new symptoms that the speech therapist found incredibly concerning.
New terminology was thrown around and my heart took the worst beating!
I spent countless hours Googling symptoms, with tears streaming down my face, feeling guilty that I’d never seen these behaviors before.
I hadn’t seen them before, because they hadn’t been there before!
When summertime rolled around, our speech therapist took an extended vacation and within one month all of the new symptoms disappeared.
Not only that, both of my children took an enormous leap forward in their development.
It was time to say no.
And since discontinuing speech therapy, they’ve continued to improve at home.
This isn’t to say that therapies are bad or not needed. They are necessary for some children; but they are not for others. And we need to trust what we know to be true for our children and not give in to pressure if we believe that our child will not respond, or respond positively, to therapy.
It’s okay to say no!
6. Be careful of evaluations and diagnoses
In my article 6 Things Homeschool Parents of Children with a Language Disorder Need to Know, I share about how MERLD children are often misdiagnosed as having ADD, ADHD and/or put on the autism spectrum.
Also, they can be misdiagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.
This is the case because many symptoms tend to overlap; but also, when a child shows a delay in speaking, the behaviors they display, that even typically developing children engage in, are put under a microscope and assumed to be abnormal.
Most likely, if your child was speaking as a typically developing child, these other behaviors would be entirely overlooked.
A book that covers this in great detail is Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage by Dr. Stephen Camarata.
In his book, he advocates for testing, but with caution; to test, but with trusted doctors; to test, but to not be afraid to ask a lot of probing questions and refuse to be intimidated.
A wrong diagnosis can affect your child’s education, as it can potentially label your child and color the way a teacher engages with your child. It can even affect your child’s future career opportunities.
Homeschooling a child with a language disorder is not easy, but it is rewarding.
As you watch the light begin to come on for them, and as you discover fabulous abilities you never knew they had, this incredibly intricate and amazing flower begins to bloom in front of your eyes – and you realize the priceless gift you’ve been given in this unique child.
Resources I Have Found Helpful:
Teachers Pay Teachers “WH” Questions Resources
Rosilind, a Pacific Northwest native, is mom to two MERLD boys, one who is homeschooled and one who attends public school. She graduated from homeschool in 1991 and went on to work with children of all ages in various capacities ranging from daycare to Sunday School. Rosilind blogs at MERLD Homeschool Mom.