Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Home educated children with special educational needs

Is the proportion of home educated children with special needs higher than in the school population? This idea has been put forward, but of course without knowing how many children are educated at home it is a bit hard to calculate and compare percentages! There is no doubt that a quick glance at the messages on both the HE-UK and Education Otherwise listings seems to indicate that practically every child mentioned has a special need of one sort or another. A closer look reveals something very interesting.

Almost none of these children have what most people would describe as a special need or disability. There do not appear to be quadraplegics, children with spina bifida or Down's Syndrome, the deaf or the blind, those with moderate to severe learning difficulties. Instead, they apparently suffer from a variety of problems which are usually alluded to by a few cryptic letters; ADHD,ME,ODD,OCD and so on. Since many of these mothers, for those on these message boards are almost invariably female, present as articulate, anxious and middle class, it is interesting to speculate about the reason for the sorts of problem which they claim their children are afflicted with.

It is a long standing joke among those with whom I work that middle class children are never illiterate. They "suffer" instead from dyslexia. Nor are they naughty and badly behaved; it is that they are displaying the symptoms of ADHD. Clumsy and ill co-ordinated middle class kid? Must be dyspraxia. And so on and so forth. In other words, there is a good chance that there is actually nothing much wrong with many of these children other than the usual childhood problems; namely that they are reluctant to learn, they drop and break things and don't do as they are told.

I have been thinking about this apropos of the numbers of children claimed to be known to children's social care. Some people have put the idea forward that many cases where the child is known to social services are simply because of some special need or other. Again, it would very helpful to know the figures involved and in particular the reasons for the referrals, which always seem to be missing from the published data. One thing is sure, you are unlikely in the extreme to get a social services referral just because your kid is clumsy or disobedient. If special needs referrals are skewing the figures then there must be a bit more to it than that.


  1. I am on the committee of a large (by UK standards) local HE group - about 120 families; which must average as around 300+ children. Certainly children with SEN or a disability are well represented amongst those children who have been removed from school (as opposed to those who never went to school in the first place) These children do include some removed from "special school" with obvious disabilities although the majority would have a diagnosis of some sort of autistic specturm disorder. Clearly school was a disaster for all these children and many have flourished at home. My own autistic (high functioning but not Aspergers) daughter has done much better at home - with IGCSEs and AS levels, whereas when she left school at 8 she could barely read and cried all day.
    As to what the effect of all thse children with special needs is on Badman type statistics is still unclear - I did a quick e mail survey of our group and of the 60 or so families who replied there were around 10 who were "known" by the children with disabilities team in some capacity, 10 who were known because they had adopted or were fostering (with some overlap because some had adopted children who were disabled) and 3 who admitted to having been subjected to some kind of child protection allegation. Hardly statistically significant but interesting!

  2. Doctor as well now are we Simon? You do suprise me!

  3. I've only just caught up with this! Simon, you are going to be so embarrassed one day at this public display of your ignorance. On second thoughts, maybe not. I don't get the impression that you feel embarrassment.

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