We made the decision to enroll my youngest son in a homeschool charter school last year.
To say I was nervous about the decision is an understatement.
(If you are in a state that does not offer this choice, please allow me to explain. In California, several charter school options have been developed over the past ten years or so that allow for state funding and services, all while continuing to homeschool. My child is enrolled in this public school option, but we maintain control of curriculum choices and pacing. I continue to be his primary teacher.)
I knew that the decision to enroll meant we were also deciding to enter into the world of special education services and legalities. In fact, access to services was one of the main reasons for my choosing this path. After eight years of paying out of pocket for every single therapy, it seemed wise to at least investigate what this option might provide.
Even more so, as my son enters his teenage years, navigating the road to adulthood necessarily includes considering the services he might need as an adult. Already having a paper trail in the system makes the transition to adult services easier (not easy, easier – but that’s a post for another time).
Having had some experience with IEP’s and public special education policy in the past (all not ideal) I lost a lot of sleep before finally submitting his paperwork to enroll.
Examples Of Online Therapies For Children
After a series of evaluations by some of the kindest and most informed professionals I have ever met (public school or otherwise), the collective opinion was that my son qualified for the following special education services:
Two Educational Therapy Sessions A Week
One Speech Therapy Session A Week
One Occupational Therapy Session A Week
One Behavioral Therapy Session A Week
At the end of the IEP meeting, I asked the question that was most on my mind after reading all the evaluations and hearing the recommendations:
Will my son receive these sessions in person or online?
When they first told me that all except OT would be online, I was skeptical. But I valued the opinion of these experts. They’d been wonderful in evaluating my son, and even more wonderful in helping me navigate the IEP process.
(Plus, after hearing from so many parents about their IEP experiences, I wasn’t prepared for them to offer us so many services. I thought we would need to fight for what he needed. Either my son is just that delayed and in need, or these gals knew what they were doing. I chose to believe the latter.)
The Surprising Benefits Of Online Therapies For Children
After three full months of online therapies each week, I am surprised by how much I love this approach. Here’s why:
Not having to leave the house, leave the car, sit in the waiting room and then finally transition into therapy has seriously changed my world. Although my son does still frequently resist transitioning into a session, he is free to do it at home, where he feels most comfortable. Then, when it is over, we go back to what we were working on before.
No drive home meltdowns. No transition back into our school work. The therapy session has just become a part of our day, instead of a stressful interruption.
Real Life Snapshot For Therapists
I love that my son’s therapists all have an opportunity to see him, at home, in an environment that is most comfortable for him. They have been able to get to know him faster, and ultimately more effectively find ways to work with him, because he is so much more at ease.
Less Anxiety = More Effective
Because of the ease of transitioning in and out of a session, as well as the comfort of being at home, my son is noticeably less anxious. Less anxiety always equals more effective learning for my child (and I am willing to bet, most children.)
Just take a look at these pictures – all taken during various therapies over the last few months.
My son completes his counseling appointment (behavioral therapy) in his reptile room most weeks. They begin their time together with him choosing a reptile to tell her all about. She looks up various pictures and/or videos of reptiles and they discuss them. (His therapist is amazing. She somehow works in coping skills and how his body feels when he is frustrated, all while looking at pictures of Gila Monsters.)
Yes, that is a lizard on his neck during educational therapy. Both of his teachers are not only cool with it, they also often incorporate reading materials and writing samples that include reptile facts.
When speech therapy gets a little tedious or stressful, my son calls Sammy over and asks him to do the work for him. They joke back and forth a bit until my son is a bit calmer. Then Sammy lies at his feet until they finish up.
Online Therapies For Children Are An Option Worth Considering
If you are considering an online therapy option for your child, or perhaps have been offered it by your school district, I want to encourage you – it is so much better than I thought it would be.
It’s easier on me.
It’s much more relaxed and effective for my son.
Participating in online therapies is seriously one of the best decisions we’ve made for my child.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.