In some ways, I feel like the special needs system lets us homeschooling families down. Up until the age of five, we have amazing support and resources through Early Intervention which provides as much help as we need. There are some amazing people who are so wonderful with kids and love what they do. I talk very highly of our personal experience in that program with Sarah and it will be a period of our lives that I won't forget.
Things would be different if I were to send Sarah to a program this fall where the supports would just be there for her but because I am keeping her at home, I have to search for those resources on my own. I don't know if she needs therapies. Her speech is ok, understood by people who know her and are around her lots, although I feel I have to translate a lot for her. I don't know what an Occupational Therapist would do and I'm not sure if I'm concerned about needing Physical Therapy either. Can she do what other five year olds can? Of course not. Will she some day? I think so. Her abilities are delayed, not at a stand still. Each day and week is filled with more and more learning and growing. As I've mentioned before, as she gets older, the gap between her and her peers is expanding; that's because she's just developing slower than others.
PUF stands for Program Unit Funding. In order to access this resource, one must be registered in a participating program. I could have applied for it over the past two years but it would have meant registering Sarah in a 'program' of choice like preschool or something of that sort and then I would have been discharged from Early Intervention. I wasn't willing to give that up so we just let it go. Also, I haven't ever sent any of the kids to preschool so it wasn't really ever an option for us.
As I delved further into researching this, I found that the school board that the three older kids are registered in DOES work with PUF. That means if I register Sarah with the homeschool board for kindergarten, she might be able to access those services. She will have to get a speech assessment done and it will need to show that she has a severe delay. The assessment would go to the school board and PUF would be applied for by the school. At this point, I still don't know what that means for us or what we will be able to get. My understanding (which could be proven wrong) is that I could use the funding for certain toys, special tools or anything that will help further her along in her "schooling" as I see fit. I guess we will see what this next chapter holds for us.
P.S. Why do I write and share like this? So that I have a record of what I'm thinking about and to maybe help someone in a similar situation. I hope this brings an awareness to others and that others will also be encouraged to continue to advocate for their children.