Since my daughter is not quite three, I’m not yet in the know about schooling a child with special needs. I have many philosophies and ideas, but have yet to put those ideas into practice and observe results. No matter; I’ll tell you my ideas anyway!
Our local school district spends between $20,000 and $60,000 a year on each special needs child enrolled in the system. Programs for my daughter would start on her third birthday, but since I am not familiar with the extent of what is offered to her, I am not sure if a 3-year-old quite meets that $60,000 number. This number does include all sorts of therapies that would be provided at school: PT, OT, speech, etc. In order for our family to benefit from these services, my daughter would have to be enrolled in their Pre-K program, meeting at least three mornings a week.
As I told you last week, I quit doing all these therapies for my daughter about a year ago, so we have no incentive to enroll her in school to continue receiving the services. But beyond that, I feel certain that enrolling her in a Pre-K program would be detrimental for her (and, by extension, me). My little girl is nowhere close to being potty trained–she cannot dress herself, or even take her own shoes and socks off. While she can feed herself, it is a messy endeavor that involves a bib, sippy, and a special heavy-duty high chair that supports her. My daughter loathes change. Strangers make her nervous, and she relies on her siblings for emotional and physical support, even in the church nursery.
Why would I send her away, to be cared for by professionals? In a group setting, she would receive less individual attention than she does at home. And just by the very nature of the thing, her caretakers would not love her the way I do. The other children in her environment would not be looking out for her, or wanting to help her.
Since we are already homeschoolers, her schooling fits right in with the rest of our lives. She participates in all our group activities, even if that only means sitting on my lap while the other kids recite poetry or Bible verses. When my girls get out coloring books, they get out the old, battered one for their sister. She toddles over to get ‘her’ colored pencils, and sets up shop at the dining room table, coloring just like one of the big girls, never knowing that her scribbles look different than their pictures. And in this safe environment, she will never be mocked for falling over as she turns her head to look at something, or tripping as she carries a toy. She will never be teased for her funny speech, or the fact that her glasses have fallen off, again.
While I wish we had a yearly schooling budget that looked like that of our town, I will not trade all that money for the chance to school and nurture her at home, in an environment where she is loved.