Home Schooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon C. Hensley, MA

Review by Kathy Kuhl

I am excited that Sharon Hensley has updated her book; the 1995 edition has been hard to find. This new edition offers more resources and is easy to read, with very short chapters; many are five pages long, making it easy to read in limited time. Her approach is realistic and her style is clear. With an MA in Special Education and twenty four years teaching experience in that field, this expert is helpful, honest and occasionally humorous about her own shortcomings.

Structure: Sharon divides her book into four sections.
Getting the Facts
begins with explaining the need for a diagnosis, the value and limits of such labels, and very brief but clear sketches of a variety of special needs: learning “mis-matches,” underachievers, slow learners, learning and communication disorders, mental retardation (developmental disabilities), and autism spectrum disorders. My favorite section is the second,
Tackling The Issues. 
While some parents will rush to the later sections, here Sharon addresses the issues that make or break our homeschools: setting realistic expectations, dealing with feeling of inadequacy, grief, anger, and discouragement. She discusses accepting our situation, finding time for ourselves, support groups, and caring for our other children. Chapter Seventeen is the best essay on the socialization of special needs children that I have read, and Chapter Eighteen is a well-thought-out chapter on behavior problems. Section Three,
Planning Your Program, 
begins by explaining how any program should be consistent, realistic, and appropriate. The author then discusses writing a plan, understanding test results, setting goals, with a separate chapter on planning high school. Concluding this section are chapters on undertanding learning styles and various teaching methods and techniques. Sharon helps you choose curriculum in the final section of her book. Each chapter here helps you understand and strengthen different kinds of skills: gross and fine motor, reading, receptive language, expressive language, and math. Resource sections conclude each chapter.

The book is full of valuable advice any parent of a special needs child would benefit from. It also reflects the Christian perspective of the author: “God meets us where we are and moves us along this slow and often painful road to becoming the image of his Son.” (p. vii.). Sharon writes that parents “need to accept our children as unique creations of God, and …to teach our children and help them achieve their fullest potential.” (p. 5.) Whether you share her beliefs, readers will agree that children are unique, should be accepted for what they are, and be helped to achieve their potential. I think many of you will find this book very helpful.

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