What to Do When FAPE Fails?

If you live in the United States, then you probably know that by law your child is entitled to FAPE, a Free Appropriate Public Education. What that means is your child can have an education in the public school system, and if they have special needs, they can have accommodations made so that they can receive the same education and get access to same opportunities as every other child from Kindergarten through High School. Additionally, the upper age limit for children may even go beyond the age of 18.


But just because you have that right, does that mean that that’s the best place for your child? Even though your child has an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, are they getting the education that is best individualized for them in a classroom setting that has to take into account all of the needs of the other children. Even among neurtotypical children there is a wide range of abilities in a single classroom. Add to that children with a variety of different abilities and some kids can get lost in the system. (And I do mean this literally as my daughter was once unaccounted for at school as the teachers and administrators were at a loss as to where she was when I came to pick her up for therapy one day. Turned out, she had wandered off to the library, which is her favorite spot).

While most people tend to think about private school or non-public schools as options for children that are not adequately accommodated I public school, I’m thinking about an entirely different option. Homeschooling. While some view homeschooling as a substandard version to public school, there are many people who are returning to this option. Remember that before the Kennedy era, children with special needs were either institutionalized or homeschooled. My favorite story is of Thomas Edision, whose teacher sent him home with a note that he was not capable of being taught, and his mother homeschooled him into the genius that patented over 2,000 inventions.

I am raising my own little genius, and, like Edison, homeschooling is likely the best place to allow his genius to flourish. At the time of this writing I have already gotten to 24 reasons why homeschooling is a better alternative to public or even private school for my son, but I won’t bore you with the list (maybe in another blog ). But, the main reason is the IEP. We have crafted a phenomenal document that is tailor made with my son in mind – it took years to get it there, but it is good! The problem is not the document – it’s the execution of the document in a fashion that includes everyone involved in his educational process.

Implementing the IEP among public school teachers and aides that change sometimes weekly and are limited with what they will share due to confidentiality reasons (despite written requests and Releases of Information) is no easy task and getting them to coordinate with outside therapists and teachers can be daunting. As I have said in previous blogs, it’s about energy metabolism. I can either spend energy trying to get everyone on the same page only to have them change at the end of a quarter or I can build my own team of professional that I know can freely coordinate and implement the IEP (yes, even private and non-public schools can get into mired muck when it comes to having all the providers on the same page). And in our state and county, some of the things in IEP are still provided for homeschoolers, such as Speech and Occupational therapy.

So, it’s a win-win for us to have individualized, coordinated, and implemented care in the form of the homeschooling environment. As with any new endeavor, I am nervous and excited all at the same time. I may not be the best teacher ever, particularly as I have no formal training in that area. But, I know my son better than anyone else, and I am the best mother for this child. Whatever I don’t know, I’ll learn. It’s worth the investment. There are a host of resources available as well from parents who have already been down this road. So if it is something you are considering, please don’t go it alone. Look at the list of resources below, including those geared towards children with Special Needs. If you’re a bit nervous, let’s get through this together. Take a leap with me and let’s invest in our little geniuses today.


Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • I’m a book reader so anything I don’t know, I’m looking for a book to help me learn it. I’ve invested in Kizzy Gray’s “Homeschooling: It’s Not What You think.” She’s a homeschooling mom to five and a mompreneur. To get a copy, head to https://www.amazon.com/Homeschool-Not-What-You-Think-ebook/dp/B06Y4NGF6H.
  • Want to know more about legal concerns in your state? Could you be getting money to help homeschool your child? Learn more here at the Homeshcool Legal Defense site https://hslda.org/content/.
  • Do you need a mindset shift in this area to help you feel more confident in the journey? Connect with me below and let’s make it happen!

Want to Learn More?

Bergina Isbell, MD is a Mayo Clinic trained and Board Certified Psychiatrist specializing in the clinical treatment of patients with history of Special Needs and Trauma. She is the mother of two children with special needs, including a son with a diagnosis of Autism. She serves as a consultant and Autism coach for those who want to transform their lives by developing a growth-promoting mindset. To connect with her along the homeschooling journey, check this blog space often. For a chance to work with Dr. Bergina, fill out an application here https://bit.ly/drbergina.

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