Many special needs children receive therapy as part of their daily public school regime. Special needs homeschooling students are no different, but their parents often find the mixed messages from therapy professionals, insurance companies, and their local school districts difficult to navigate on their own. Thus, many times these parents contact the THSC Special Needs Department to help them determine the best route to securing the best therapy for their child.

In approaching this discussion, I want to share some of the most recent email inquiries I have received on this matter. The sentiments of these parents are universal in the hearts and minds of special needs home schooling parents and it is a blessing to know that other home schooling parents of special needs children struggle too.

“My son just finished 1st grade in public school and we intend to home school him for 2nd grade. He has an IEP which provided him OT for his time at school. We’d like to determine if he is still eligible for these services.” – THSC member

“I am considering using (if possible) our local school district and wonder if you are familiar with the laws/regulations for home schooling families utilizing public school services? And any cautions to not pursue that option?”  – non-member who just moved to Texas

“My daughter receives speech therapy and occupational therapy from the school district, I’m scared if my daughter starts home schooling.” – THSC member

“Our youngest (five year old) needs speech therapy and the doctor said resources were hard to come by in our area and that it might be in our son’s best interest to enroll him in public school. While we are open to what is best for our child, we really would like to avoid the public school route. Is the THSC aware of any speech therapy options for home schoolers?” – new THSC members after this consultation

The key to answering these parents’ questions is figuring out if they are looking for help from their local school district or not. If they are, then sharing information with them about how the school districts determine services for a home schooled student, as well as where the funding for that type of service comes from, is important information for helping them sort through the public school therapy option.

In general, the following response is what the THSC Special Needs Department gives parents who are seeking therapy services from their school district:

You have the right to ask your local school district to test your child and to provide services for your student. How this is done is that you are to contact your local school district and let them know you are requesting an ARD (Admission Review Dismissal) for your student who has a home schooled status in the district. Even if your child has had an ARD in the recent past as a public school student, the process will need to be restarted (at least in most districts) because of the status change of your child, which affects where the funds are pulled from for providing services.

The school will begin the ARD proceedings by setting up dates to have your student tested. After testing, a review committee, which you as the parent are a key member of, will meet to go over the testing results to determine whether or not they can provide services to your child as a non-public school student.

It is good to keep in mind that 10% of each district’s IDEA federal funds need to be used for private and home schooled students in their district. Also, you have every right to accept or deny any services this committee determines the district can provide for your child. That being said, each district is very different in how they use their IDEA funds for non-public school students, so there is no guarantee the services they will offer to your student will be the exact services you feel your student needs.

Reports from parents who go to their districts for non-public school therapy services reveal a mixed bag of results. Some are ecstatic with the great services their district offers, while others find their district does not have services available to meet their students’ needs. Thus, if you are looking to get services for your special needs child from your local school district, there is no guarantee of availability.

On the other hand, not all parents are looking for services from their school districts. Often we have parents come to THSC looking for referrals to local therapists who are home school friendly and who offer services that are covered through private insurance or paid out-of-pocket. Right now, the THSC Special Needs Department is compiling a list of providers across Texas. We would love to hear from you if you want to add a therapist to our list.

Another option that many parents don’t consider when thinking about therapy is doing it themselves. We live in a technological age that now makes this option available to parents within their very own homes using free Internet resources.

Finally, I want to share a word of advice that I relayed to a parent recently about seeking therapy for her young daughter. As a mother of two older children who struggled through school, I know that God’s timing for perfect therapy options is never too late in its arrival. He provided therapy options for my first child way before I even knew that he needed them. Additionally, He shut many doors I thought were best. In hindsight, I now see how detrimental they would have been if we had charged forward with them. He also delayed therapy options for my second son and I thought he would never have the ability to read, but yet again God’s timing was perfect.

As you look ahead to the coming school year and consider whether to include therapy in your child’s home schooling, keep in mind that there is no right path for every student and family to take. Instead, pray for guidance and see where you find the most peace moving forward. Then, trust in that direction and enjoy the journey that God has ahead for you and your child.

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