Danielle BarfootBy Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous pre-teen and former communications manager at Impaq Education

In a report released by Human Rights Watch last year, it stated that half a million children living with a disability in South Africa, do not attend school. According to the report, there are fewer than 500 government-funded schools for children with special educational needs. This means that a child may wait for up to four years before being placed. It is unsurprising then, that parents are taking on the role of “teacher” with increasing frequency.

Aside from a lack of viable schools, the reasons parents educate their children with special needs at home vary. They may be frustrated that schools are unable to provide the services their child needs, they want him to work at an appropriate developmental level, the way their child is treated by classmates, and in some instances teachers, may be discouraging, or they simply want to create a more ideal learning environment.Special needs kids

Whatever the motivation, the decision to educate a child with special needs at home is never easy. Parents’ biggest concern? Whether they will be effective educators. But when it comes to children with learning disabilities or other severe impairments, a parent who understands these special needs is often the only one who can teach them. After all, who is more invested in a child’s academic, emotional and social success? And who else knows his strengths and weaknesses?

The benefits of educating children with special needs at home

Guaranteed one-to-one instruction.

  • Effective control over the environment to minimise distractions.
  • Tailored instruction based on a child’s unique learning needs.
  • Flexibility to adjust the daily schedule.
  • More pertinent and productive learning.
  • Greater opportunity for teaching real-world skills.
  • Opportunity to tend to a child’s sensory needs.

Before taking the leap, however, there are a few things to consider.

Condition: ‘Special needs’ is a very broad term. Learn all you can about your child’s specific condition to ensure you follow the correct approach. Research home education practices that have shown to be effective in teaching children with similar conditions, and find out what resources you will need.

Curriculum: Choose a curriculum from a quality provider that will work for you and your child. Many parents are anxious because they don’t know how or where to start. They may need guidance on what to prepare, and how to go about teaching certain subjects in such a way that their child will be receptive. The proper curriculum will provide the necessary guidance and support.

Community: Remember, you’re not the first person who has attempted to do this! There is already a wealth of helpful information available – search online, ask your curriculum provider, reach out to other home education parents, and speak to the trained professionals who work with your child.

What does the law say?

According to Section 51 of the South African Schools Act (Act 84 of 1996), home education is a legally recognised alternative to education at registered public and/or private schools. Parents should apply to the head of the Provincial Department of Basic Education to register learners for home education.

While home education is a viable option for successfully teaching children with special needs, it may not be for everyone. However, with careful consideration, the necessary support and the right attitude, you and your child could embark on a great learning adventure!

Click here to find a list of special needs schools and here for a list of homeschooling options and support services.

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