By Dyana Robbins

Our home is filled with boundless energy, lots of love and enough challenges to fill two lifetimes. God has wisely chosen to pack it all into my life and teach me how to walk with Him through it. And, because we homeschool, many of those lessons have centered around homeschooling special needs children.


Here are ten things I wish I had known before homeschooling children with special needs:

#1 – There are many days that are as hard as I feared they would be, but they are outweighed by the wonderful life we share.

It will always be a difficult choice to homeschool. On days when I wonder if going to school would be better for them or me, I remember all we would lose by not learning and growing together. So far, that has been more than enough to keep us on this path.


#2 – I don’t have to defend my decision to homeschool.

Doing it well, wholeheartedly and openly, eventually silences the critics. Responding with information and kindness to those with questions, fosters a positive response in most people. When that doesn’t work, nothing else will, so I can stop trying.


#3 – Most parents, doctors, and therapists in these trenches are amazing, inspirational people.

They will help you, listen to you, and inspire you with all that they do each day. The admission price to this club is steep, but the rewards are inestimable.


#4 – Nurturing my marriage first is critical to successful homeschooling.

The more unified, mutually supportive and loving that our marriage is, the more our children learn, feel secure and thrive. Time devoted to our marriage is not a detriment to homeschooling, but an investment in it.


#5 – Rest and recreation deserve subject credit.

Are my children battling me over schoolwork? Would I rather scrub the bathroom with a toothbrush than face one more day of school?  This is a sign that we need rest and recreation. Many discipline problems and poor attitudes have been vanquished by a nap, field trip day or a day off from school. It is amazing how much is accomplished by taking a quick break, rather than pushing through our misery.


#6 – I won’t have it all together for very long.

This is a bitter pill for a recovering perfectionist like me. Loving my family, putting relationship with Christ and others first, will always mean interruptions and distractions to my schedule. Maintaining a reasonable order to our life is better than appeasing my inner tyrant’s demands.


#7 – It’s vital to show love and accept my children even if they are never able to do _______.

This blank can be filled with whatever we are struggling with at the time. My children need me to be content and grateful for what they are able to do (or unable to do!) so they can learn to do the same. Their struggles and limitations will always tempt them to despair or give up. I add to their burden when I am discontent or frustrated. Seeking God’s design and purpose for my children, Allows me to help them grow and discover those things with joy.


#8 – Ask for help and humbly accept it.

Homeschooling moms can believe they should handle everything alone. This is a fast road to burnout. Utilize all available help to maintain a peaceful home, heart, and family. While others might praise us for being able to “do it all,” that praise is a fleeting satisfaction. A richer life is interconnected; giving and receiving, and helps us make it for the long haul.


#9 – I will always wonder if I am doing “enough.”

This might be the nemesis of every homeschooling parent. Having children with additional challenges and needs often compounds this worry. Rather than trying to answer this unknowable question, I have learned to accept that I am not ever doing “enough.” Moreover, it is not my job to be enough for my children. That job belongs to God alone. I am just one of His provisions in their lives. Others can and will shape my children. Opportunities will arise for them that I did not orchestrate. Relationships will be formed without my intervention. I can do my best for them and trust all else to their loving Father.


#10 – God is enough.

This is true when nothing is going right, I fail, my children aren’t progressing like they “should” and I am scared about the future. No matter our circumstances, He carries us and enables us to do what He calls us to do.  He has taught me this in many ways, but I experience it more deeply as we homeschool. This realization has enriched my life and relationships more than any other; it’s been this mom’s greatest lesson.


This article was previously published in abbreviated form for the

Texas Homeschool Coalition

Special Needs blog in January 2016


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today


building autism resilience blog image

By Dyana Robbins

Managing anxiety and sensory overload present a core challenge for those with autism and their caregivers.  These two obstacles can limit social engagement and successful navigation of social environments.  Below are six tips that have worked for  my family and others to help those affected by autism develop resilience in difficult situations.  When successful, these interventions open up a world of greater involvement and connectedness.

 1.  Identify and list contributing factors   

Identifying factors which contribute to autistic social difficulties may seem an easy task, but this first step is often challenging for families.  Sometimes, the stress of the difficulties or their frequency makes it difficult to think through these factors.  Other times, it seems impossible to determine the triggers.  

Either way, writing them down, keeping a journal and asking for others’ observations are simple steps caregivers can take to start identifying these factors.  Once you have developed a list, it becomes easier to clarify and organize the factors contributing to specific problems.

 2.  Determine the threshold for each difficulty 

Individuals affected by autism become overwhelmed when their tolerance threshold has been exceeded.  Where that threshold lies varies by activity, stimulus and individual differences.

For example, a person who seems overwhelmed by the wind may be able to tolerate a gentle breeze around buildings, but not at parks where it blows leaves around or causes tablecloths and awnings to flap.  Likewise, that person might enjoy the sensation of a gentle breeze when they are well-rested and relaxed but are unable to handle it when tired and stressed. 

As best you can, note the limits you observe.  The key in making these observations is to learn how much the person can tolerate BEFORE experiencing a meltdown. 


3.  Develop a plan for success in those challenging environments

 Borrowing heavily from  systematic desensitization principles, I have found success in helping others adapt to challenging environments and even overcoming them.  This involves the following components:

  • Allowing exposure to the stressors, but not to the point of overwhelming your loved one
  • Repeated, short exposures to the stressors without long periods between times (i.e. weekly or bi-weekly library visits or grocery store trips) until they have achieved mastery of them
  • Providing education and problem-solving, if appropriate, to equip them in the challenge (outside of the stressful environment)
  • Encouraging the child repeatedly before and during the stressful exposure of their ability to handle the situation
  • Assuring the individual you will leave as soon as they have tried their tools and/or their threshold has been met
  • Gradually extending the time in those situations as improvement is demonstrated
  • Reducing other stressful situations while targeting one

4.  Solicit their involvement/agreement if possible.

Even if your child is nonverbal, talking with them about your love and concern for them in these situations is vital.  Framing the plan you have developed as a tool to help them achieve greater social skill navigation. goes a long way in garnering their cooperation.  Talking about their struggle, and your desire to help them with it, demonstrates respect for them and encourages a teamwork dynamic. 


5.  Start by targeting the most troublesome barrier

In most families, there is one issue that rises above the rest.  If possible, I recommend working on that one barrier first to build momentum for success and to quickly reduce familial stress.  Perhaps it is sitting in church or being in groups of other children; whatever it is, get focused and marshal your energies to hit it first.  Let the other challenges take a backseat so you can work together on this one goal.


6.  Give grace, understanding, and compassion to one another

This process will not be easy.  You will need to rely on encouragement, and support from others as you grapple with these challenges.  Your family will also need to practice patience while giving grace for unmet goals and do-overs as you all adapt.  

For our family, having the prayers and help of friends while we tackled the hardest problems carried us through.   In that time, a couple of verses which encouraged me greatly were Genesis 33:13-14 .  In these verses, Jacob is leading his family and herds on a long journey.  They are stressed, tired and overwhelmed.  Jacob refuses to drive them too hard on the road, but to travel instead at the pace his family is setting.  


As you move forward in tackling issues with your child, I encourage you to let your loved one set the pace.  Challenge and support them.  Then, celebrate as the struggle gives way to greater confidence, skills, involvement, and hope. 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today