Home Education and Special Education
Home educating the child who has been identified as Special Education carries an additional requirement. The Home Education Objectives must be approved by a teacher with a valid certificate from the Commonwealth to teach special education or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist and the approval submitted with the affidavit. This is the only additional requirement. Your end of year evaluation may be obtained from anyone falling under the criteria in Act 169.
Act 169 Of The Pennsylvania School Code (Section 1327.1 PA Public School Code)
“(d) Instruction to children of compulsory school age provided in a home education program, as provided for in section 1327.1 of this act, shall be considered as complying with the provisions of this section, except that any student who has been identified pursuant to the provisions of the Education of the Handicapped Act (Public Law 91-230, 20 U.S.C. Pt. 1401 et seq.) as needing special education services, excluding those students identified as gifted and/or talented, shall be in compliance with the requirements of compulsory attendance by participating in a home education program, as defined in section 1327.1, when the program addresses the specific needs of the exceptional student and is approved by a teacher with a valid certificate from the Commonwealth to teach special education or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist, and written notification of such approval is submitted with the notarized affidavit required under section 1327.1(b). The supervisor of a home education program may request that the school district or intermediate unit of residence provide services that address the specific needs of the exceptional student in the home education program. When the provision of services is agreed to by both the supervisor and the school district or intermediate unit, all services shall be provided in the public schools or in a private school licensed to provide such programs and services.
((d) added Dec. 21, 1988, P.L. 1321, No. 169) (1327 amended Dec. 15, 1986, P.L. 1602, No. 178)”
Removing an identified child from school:
Some families remove their children from school because they are having difficulties in the classroom The student may be obedient at home but displays poor behavior in the classroom. Or, the student may have an identified learning challenge (learning disability) that the school district is unwilling to address in a way that the parents believe it should be addressed.
If your student has been identified by the local public school as having learning disabilities, he will have an IEP (individualized educational program). You will have been invited to meetings to develop the IEP and you will have had input into the process. Removing a student with an IEP from school requires that the objectives submitted with the affidavit be pre-approved by a licensed clinical psychologist, a certified school psychologist, or a PA certified special education teacher. The IEP may provide some guidance in developing these objectives, but keep in mind that it was developed for use in the classroom by a teacher who has a number of other students to attend to during the school day. Furthermore, the objectives enumerated may not be objectives that you, as a parent, want to continue to promote.
For example, if the IEP says that the student will learn to work well in a group setting, and you believe that the group setting is particularly frustrating for your child and is the cause of his “acting out”, you may choose to eliminate that objective. Nothing in Act 169 requires the use of the IEP to develop objectives, nor does it prohibit the parent from using the IEP to develop objectives. The person you use to pre-approve your objectives will simply be certifying that the objectives you are submitting are appropriate for a child with your child’s diagnosis. It is not advisable to use the IEP as pre-approved objectives. First of all, it is not “a letter” as required in Act 169. Secondly, it was not developed for use in a home setting.
Some families begin to think about home schooling when their children are having difficulty in school. Perhaps the teacher has recommended a neuro-psychological evaluation. If your student falls into this category, and you file your affidavit prior to the testing (or if you refuse the testing and remove your student), you do not have to gain pre-approval of your objectives.
Home schooling a student who has never had an IEP or been “tested”
If you have been teaching your child at home for some time and begin to realize that the child is having difficulty in an academic area, you may suspect that he has a learning disability. You may elect to have the student tested at the local public school. Federal legislation requires that the school districts test all children who may have a learning disability. However, this is not advisable because once the child has been “identified”, then you must submit pre-approved objectives until the label is removed.
You may elect to have the child tested privately. This is done by a licensed clinical psychologist and is often paid for by your medical insurance. You can call the health insurance provider to find out if coverage for a neuro-psychological evaluation is included in your benefits and if there are any restrictions on the provider you may use. A good psychologist should complete a battery of tests over a series of visits. He should provide you with a comprehensive report of the test results. You may ask him to make specific curriculum recommendations based on your child’s test results. You should make this request at the time you discuss testing with him, not at the end of the process. Not all psychologists will be familiar with curriculum, and not all are familiar with the differences between home education and classroom education!
Services for children with special needs
Act 169 states that “The supervisor of a home education program may request that the school district or intermediate unit of residence provide services that address the specific needs of the exceptional student in the home education program. When the provision of services is agreed to by both the supervisor and the school district or intermediate unit..” This has been interpreted to mean that the school district may decline to provide such services for absolutely no reason at all. Less than 50% of school districts do make access to special services available to home educated students. There are other options!
First of all, distinguish between medical diagnosis and learning challenges. Also distinguish between assistance with teaching and medical services. Medical services include Physical, Speech, and Occupational therapies. These can be billed to health insurances or medical assistance. Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapies are often available privately through organizations such as Easter Seals or the outpatient department of a local hospital. Ask your health care provider for a referral to a private source.
Connect with the local home school support group in your area, they may have recommendations for private therapies or may be able to refer you to other families home schooling special needs children.