How Homesteading Can Benefit a Special Needs Family

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Homesteading and Special Needs

Something that has been on my heart lately is how grateful I am for the lifestyle we’ve chosen and how it’s a perfect fit for our family. While we didn’t always feel like we had a choice in the decisions we had to make that led us here we still feel like this is the best way for our little family to grow up.

Something I rarely talk about on the blog is the fact that our son is special needs and how that effects our day to day lives as modern homesteaders. I’ve mentioned in passing some of his medical issues and allergies but in reality we deal with quite a bit more on a daily basis. Why haven’t we talked about it? Well, other moms of special needs little ones can understand this, it’s not something you talk about all the time because you don’t think of your child that way. I see our son has the sweet, gentle and loving soul that he is. I know the challenges are there and we never pretend that they don’t exist, we just see him for the personality that defines him and not the disabilities that trouble him.

With homesteading I think there are so many qualities that can help special needs children thrive (depending on the needs of course) and today I wanted to share those with you. Here are some things that we are thankful for in this lifestyle and how they benefit our family. Of course I’m not an expert in special needs but I am a mom that knows what’s best for my child and our family.

Homesteading provides a laid back sensory experience. 

We struggle daily with simple sensory issues. It’s improved some with therapy but that doesn’t fix everything. With homesteading we are able to have many different sensory experiences (outdoors, animals, nature, cooking, ect) in a calm and quiet environment. We can approach many different things that might otherwise be scary or overwhelming in a peaceful and safe environment.

Our home is a haven.

Now matter what goes on with our day, since we live and believe in the simple life, our home is a relaxing haven at the end of the day. We try and keep it neat and organized so things can be easily found and don’t cause extra stress. Plus with our minimalistic lifestyle we don’t get overwhelmed with tons of material things and toys around the home.


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We are set up to teach life skills. 

I think most special needs parents will agree with me when I say that one of the hardest but yet most important things for our children to learn is life skills. Everything from cleaning to cooking to getting dressed and washing clothes. Since we practice life skills on a daily basis at our homestead because of our lifestyle, it’s much easier for our children to pick up on those things and learnt to do them themselves. Our little one might be young but he still wants to cook and clean with mama because she’s doing it and he wants to copy her. If I were to grab takeout every night he wouldn’t be watching me and learning those valuable skills that will help him so much later in life.

We save stress by not having to shop at the store as often.

Going to the store is a battle for us. Between harsh lighting and crowds it’s the recipe for a sensory meltdown. With our homesteading lifestyle we make more things that we might buy at the store at home and we try and grow as much food as possible which means less trips to the store! Not that we avoid all people and crowds, but the less trips to the more hectic places like the store, the better.

Of course, these are just the ways that homesteading has benefited our specific special needs but it’s more than enough to convince me that this is the lifestyle we are supposed to be in.

What about you? If you are a modern homesteader and a parent to a special needs child, what are some ways that it has benefited you?


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  1. My 9 year old has sensory processing disorder and developmental coordination delays. Even though we don’t fully homestead, we practice some of your lifestyle choices here because of his sensory issues. I’m not very organized and the house often looks like a tornado hit it, but we do try to keep a quiet, calm house. We limit shopping trips, especially with my 9 year old in tow. In fact when he was J’s age, there was one particular store he could NOT go in without having a sensory meltdown. This line of yours is perfect: “I know the challenges are there and we never pretend that they don’t exist, we just see him for the personality that defines him and not the disabilities that trouble him.”

  2. We don’t have a special needs child here but very interested in your post. I would think homesteading would be beneficial and I see it is. Pinning to share 🙂

  3. my six year old has ADHD combined type and SPD but to a lesser extent…He also has what I called Extreme Premie Syndrome because he was born at 24 weeks gestation and spent the next 3 and a half months in the NICU. thankfully, medically we were pretty lucky…he does have some medical problems, but they could have been much worse. However, developmentally, the “light bulbs” go off at much different times then if he was full term. we are homesteading this year for the first time and to a much lesser scale then you are, but the quieter the environment, the less frequent the “melt downs” will be. I also cut at the interior tags off my son’s clothing as he can’t stand that sensation, and I let him go without shoes and socks after school because he does keep them on all day now. I didn’t push his wearing his glasses because he could not stand things touching his face until his brain finally caught up this year and realized that he could see better through them[ he has had them since 6 months]. I have found structure to be the best thing for my child. It is hard for me sometimes to not deviate from the plan, but it works. change is extremely hard for him.

  4. I recently found your blog and I really appreciate your insights! I have two boys with special needs (one with autism, one with profound medical and developmental challenges), one typical girl, and a baby who is showing signs of challenges already. I am SOOO grateful that I intended to be a stay-at-home mom, because there is no other way I could meet the widely varied needs of my children! We don’t homestead but I am a former farm girl who loves to DIY and hates to shop… not that I have that luxury often anymore. I agree- making my home a haven is very important in my approach to meet the needs of my children. I do use the public school system for my boys’ therapy and educational needs, but after school we are all home together. Public trips are kept very simple and are rather difficult to orchestrate. My sanity is an important factor, too! I’ve been considering what to do once my son with autism graduates- I don’t really care for the programs that are available for adults with limited abilities, but he will need something to do to give him a sense of accomplishment. I’ve been considering possibly capitalizing on his love of animals and have him raise chickens, goats, etc. and sell eggs, milk, etc. Your blog is certainly helping me make plans and get ideas! I feel that a calm, natural, family-based lifestyle is the best foundation for any child but is especially beneficial for many special needs children. I also believe that community supports can be a tremendous help for the child’s development and help alleviate the strain on the family- as long as those supports are used judiciously. It’s just as easy to get wrapped up in the world of therapies, nursing, and special programs as it is for other families to get wrapped up in sports, lessons, and extracurricular activities!! We must thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the pros and cons as we choose and balance home activities and outside programs. Homesteading or being a stay-at-home-parent gives you a lot of flexibility to make those decisions- so that certainly is a tremendous bonus.

    1. My cousin has 2 boy s that sound like yours,they are now in their late 30s. One worked at McDonalds for years and felt a big sense of accomplhment’ She had a home that was expensive and bought one with an upstairs,downstairs apts, in order for them to o be on their own and take care of theirsevelves,so she won’t have to worry about how they will survive without her’Children with special needs, need special parents’

  5. Hi Merissa! I totally agree with you. I am too a mother of a special needs child (autism). Living with a child with autism for the last 8 years has forced us (in a good way) to live more simple lives. We just do not live a super fast paced life simply because our son cannot handle it. At first I was upset that we were not living a “typical” American lifestyle, but now with 8 years under our belt (my son is now 8), I see that I am glad for the slower pace of life. I stay home with both our sons, cook most meals from scratch, and am just here for whatever they may need. They like being home most of the time. Thank you for your blog, I so enjoy reading it!

    1. I so agree with your comment. Our son has ADHD and while raising him we found it best to have a quiet and calm house. Our kids turned out to not really like sports but did both love theatre. I learned to say “This is what is best for our family” to people who couldn’t understand why we did not want to enter “the fray”. I say close the door and do what is best for you and yours. We get out and about and are involved in the community but in a way that benefits us all.

  6. Our special needs son is 20 years old. The last 7 years we have lived on our 8 acre “farm”. We really don’t farm anything, but have space with lots of lawn, a pasture and several outbuildings. We live on a original homestead in the the middle of a wheat field. It has been very beneficial for him.
    He is able to ride his 3 wheel bike up and down the lane without us worrying about him. His best friends are our many dogs. He helps with the garden, runs and gets things for us when we butcher. He takes the garbage out, take the compost pan out to the compost pile. We have a trampoline that we that dug in the ground, so it is at ground level. He loves to lay on it and play with the dogs.
    We are very grateful that we have our property and the benefits are too numerous to list.
    Unfortunately, we are thinking about moving into the city, 30 miles away, because after he is 21 we are going to need Para-transit sources to help get him the programs offered to keep him busy. We too are trying to decide what is best, but he is very social and needs to have the interaction of others.
    It is a very hard decision for us to give up our space, our haven out in the middle of the wheat field.

    1. I was drawn to this website for the downsizing and then I came across the section on special needs kids. My son is now 38 and intellectually delayed. Reading all comments sure brought back many memories.When I think back over the years there were many things we did to help our son grow into the man he is today. At age ten we taught our children to do their own laundry- that by it’s self was a big help to me and was a very good lesson for our children, but I’d have to say the most important thing our son learned (and has served him very well)was to be personable and have good manners. Just last week our son (he works in a dining hall at a university clearing tables) was recongnized for his friendly attitude and eagerness to help by student who sent in a letter to the management. I can’t tell you how proud he was ,not to mention his dad and I. While my husband and I prefer the country our son has really grown living in Urban areas where there is access to services,work, special olympics and peers and social activites. Keep up the good work. Our children’s disabilites makes them the wonderful people that they are becoming and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  7. Dear Merissa,
    My middle child, now 27, fits somewhere in the autism spectrum and has other health problems. When he was a baby, no one could tell me what was wrong. Autism awareness wasn’t as developed as it is now. We have lived in the city for most of his life, and now he sits in front of a computer most of the time. Although I’ve tried to interest him in other things, using the computer is fairly ingrained in him. Through the years he had other things to distract him, but as he got older, he lost interest in everything else.

    You and your husband are doing the right thing, as far as I can tell. I know living in the city hasn’t helped one bit. I thought there would be programs to help him and better doctors. Well, none of that made a difference. Being out in the fresh air, interacting with a few people at a time, animals and nature, sounds more like what God intended for all of us. I pray that He blesses you for your compassion, wisdom and love.

  8. Hi Merissa and fellow moms-of-special-needs-kids,

    I have three sons – two have autism – one severe, one Asperger’s. I don’t live your lifestyle (I just like to read this blog anyway : ) I do have something to add to your list of benefits, however: Running away is much harder if you live in the country! And there is nothing more terrifying on this Earth to me than for my severely autistic son (who cannot tell anyone who he is or where he lives) to go missing.

    There was a one-year period in our lives when we lived smack in the middle of the city. Somehow, our son would always find a way to sneak out. It didn’t matter what we did to secure the house or play areas outside. He would wait until I was busy cooking or something and get out. It took us forever to figure out how he was doing it. (By the time we’d figured it out, we were practically moved out of there and into a house in the country.) Most of the time he would go out without pants… He knew his house was walking distance to the video store and to the video store he went.

    I often thank our merciful God for the kind strangers who would be alerted by the child in underwear walking towards the high-traffic road. They would remember seeing us taking walks and would know where we lived. I had never met any of these people. They just seemed to know who we were. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even know he’d escaped before someone came by to tell us. I have no doubt my son’s guardian angel got those people to my house and got my son safely across the street. Because he did cross that high-traffic street and was never the worse for wear. Again, thank you Lord!

    Anyway, there are no guarantees anywhere you live when your child is a runner, but living away from stores or any place that might tempt them really helps.

    1. We prayed so hard for Avonte, who walked out of his school here in NYC. Unfortunately there was a tragic ending to his story. But it has raised awareness here of that problem, and now a bill is being sponsored for autistic children the option to wear a bracelet with a tracking device. It’s called Avonte’s Law.

  9. Great article! I agree that homesteading seems best for special needs children but I think the argument can easily be made that it is best for all children. Even if a family lives in a city, while they may not be able to reap the full benefits of homestead, living a simple lifestyle will reap many as well. My exceptionally well behaved, smarter than average children have complete meltdowns if I let them watch TV/movies, let them eat more than a small amount of candy/sweets, let the house turn into a mess, they don’t get enough sleep, or the day is chaotic. I enjoy being out and about, but for the sake of my children we spend our days peacefully at home. You are right, the simple life is an exceptional way to raise children, especially if they have special needs.

  10. I think the whole “learning life skills” thing is important for children without special needs as well. My husband and I were just talking the other night about homesteading in general and how more and more information has been lost/not passed down through the years for simple things like making bread, learning how to do simple repairs around the house, etc. I think it’s great that modern homesteading is becoming popular for this reason!

  11. Hello Merissa, Thank you for sharing this part of your family’s life.
    I have raised a son with similar special needs to your own son. I home-schooled him and his brother who does not have special needs. He is doing really well (one year into college studies). After eighth grade we took him off gluten. If he has it, he takes digestive enzymes. We lowered dairy. He also takes same enzymes if he has a lot of dairy. I cook everything from scratch too. After we adjusted his diet in this way, his learning disabilities went away and his sensory problems were very much reduced. I also learned about beneficial supplements. Blessings

    1. I have celiac disease and a son with a lot of gut issues and a lot of my dietary research has mentioned removing gluten to help with autism as well as trying a GAPS diet – did you try the whole diet or just removing the gluten and dairy? I am curious as I have a friend whose son is having sensory issues although he has not been diagnosed as having Asperger’s yet, that appears to be what it is and I am wondering of this would be helpful for her son to try. He is also having a lot of food sensory issues where he doesn’t like how certain things feel in his mouth so won’t eat them.

      Also very interested in the digestive enzymes, can you tell me more about that – they may be beneficial for my son.


  12. Thanks so much for sharing this. I enjoy your blog very much and do so even more now; we are also adoptive parents and several of our kids have special needs, especially in regard to sensory issues. Two of our kids are ASD and homesteading has been incredible for them. 🙂

  13. I have 7 children with special needs. At this time I still work, but we have our ‘hobby farm’. My intent is to build up a business that they can take over to provide stability and income for them when we are gone. I think the most frightening thing for a special needs parent is to come to grips to what happens to your children after you pass.

    I met Merissa before Farmer Boy. I remember her focus and calling because I identified so strongly with it. Those small moments of helping a special needs child have a moment of ‘Eureka!’ is what a simple life is about. Right now I still work, but someday I hope to move to SAHM and from hobby farm to working farm.

    Pamela please share with me the enzymes you use. My email is [email protected]

  14. Simply thank you and we understand. Our acreage is a safe haven for our “special” 29 year old, a gift from the Lord.

  15. Merissa’ I salute you for your devotion to this child’ Don’t think you’ve said much about the new boy, (his name,etc’) Think you’ re going in the right dircetion with Farmer boy. I went thru childhood with basically No childhood,due to a brother 4 yrs younger then me that was born with Cerabal Palsy and a Veg. I spent most of my chldhood helping to take care of him. I regret it???NOT,It taught me compassion, caring about others,patience etc.You learn a heck of a lot by giving to another soul, God wants us to learn these lessons

  16. This is so true. While my kids were growing up they experienced homesteading here on our tiny ranch house. We have chickens and grow our garden. My kids experienced all that and now my grand-kids are experiencing that. Not that I am opposing others on this comment but I was excited that my chickens laid eggs on Easter so our grand kids could find the eggs in the coop. I never taught my own kids that rabbits laid eggs but taught them the truth about such things. My grand kids were so excited to find eggs in the coop on Easter morning. They love coming to our house because of the way our yard is with the garden and chicken coop. They have so much fun that it is the first thing they want to explore when they come over is our backyard!

  17. My husband and I have four children and three are on the autism spectrum. Homesteading is my dream! I can’t wait to get back to the peace and quiet of the country where there’s space to breathe. It would be so much better for the kids, and for us.

  18. What a beautiful & inspiring post! I have always thought about homesteading…we did move out to the country, but we are still not too far from the city. To be honest, we end up back in the city almost daily for most of our needs (groceries, gas, etc.). We still talk about one day buying a farm & really going for it 🙂
    Thanks for linking up at Small Victory Sundays!!!

  19. I’ve always wished I could have raised my children in a homesteading setting – it didn’t happen unfortunately, but I felt such a sense of blessing reading your post. Who knows? Perhaps I can figure things out with my husband so my grandchildren are exposed to the homesteading lifestyle!

    Thanks for posting this to the Pintastic Pinterest Party!

  20. Just found your website. Sounds like ive found someone after my own heart. Myself and my husband also adopted our children and yep they both have special needs. One with severe autism, and a whole load of other labels, the other adhd poss asd. We live in a small town in England, surrounded by neighbours who dont understand. My dream is to move to the country and live a homestead lifestyle, which I know would be perfect for them both. Any advice would be appreciated.

  21. Thank you so much for this! I want our home to be a sanctuary for the family and simplifying our lives has helped reduce the stress on my son and all the other kids. It was a big change for the family when I married their father because I strived for real food and family time. Worth every bit of struggle-most days….

  22. I have a 17 year old with mild autism and sensory issues. You are so right that life skills are so important! I think living more simply and mindfully is good for a myriad of reasons. Thanks for sharing!

  23. I have four children. A five year old with Autism, a four year old with some physical limitations due to a misplaced hip as well as a recovering speech delay. We also have a three year old with Autism and a one year old with Downs Syndrome. Our one year old has two repaired heart defects and has been a reoccurring hospital resident for most of her life. She also suffers from chronic lung disease due to her underdeveloped lungs from her heart defects. She has physical developmental delays from reoccurring hospitalizations as well as from her downs syndrome. Needless to say we are a family who is well versed in special needs. Our life is hectic with appointments, therapies, and for a long time hospital stays. (Our one year old has been home for over a month! Which is the longest she has been home since she was four months old!) For the last four years we have been living in a small town two miles from the quaint downtown center. It is a quiet, safe, and well maintained neighborhood, but for a special needs family it has some concern for us. Ever since I can remember I have wanted a farm. Animals, gardens, holistic medicines, homemade products, you name it. My husband is more of a city boy, so convincing him prior to having kids was not working. After having children I think we are both convinced now more then ever that this is the route to go. A simple yet routine lifestyle that allows so much of what you explained. I explained to my husband that caring for animals and gardening can be very therapeutic for children with special needs. It reminded me of an experience we had a couple of years ago. My parent’s friends were visiting and their horse and buggy was sitting out front. My the three year old son without hesitation walked right up to the horse and pet him. Bringing that up helped my husband understand that sometimes nature is the best therapy. We are now working on getting that lifestyle, though it isn’t easy. If you could direct me to an already posted blog (if there is one) about how you started your homestead. If there isn’t one, would you mind writing one? Thanks!

  24. Hi thank you for your share and testimony as a parent of a child with special needs. I am a stay at home mom of four boys my nine year old has downs syndrome. I too don’t always discuss my son’s disabilities just due to the fact I know what he has and don’t need to tell everyone what they can see. He is a love and we also struggle with too much extra stimulation and melt downs we do what is necessary but choose to skip if it’s not..Staying home is a blessing but I do use out side resources, I feel the more I am educated the better parent I can be..Thanks and God bless you. .

  25. Our little princess has been diagnosed with SPD, an overall global delay, possible OCD, and probable ADHD. At this time she is too young to officially be labeled with the latter. She is currently receiving therapy (OT, DT, ST and feeding therapy) three to four times a week. I, like you, try to avoid large crowds, grocery stores, malls, and anywhere else that seems to send her into a sensory meltdown. We are getting ready to try a small preschool for special needs children and we are so nervous about it. Have you decided on homeschooling versus traditional schools? We are just beginning our journey into homesteading and I am just curious how you find the time for it all especially with the needs of the little guy. We can’t seem to find a balance between what needs to be done and our sweet girls needs. Any suggestions?

    1. Yes, we’ve decided that homeschooling will be best for our son. He loves being with other kids…a few at a time, but any large crowd or group of people is a big issue. Something that is a huge help for us (and doesn’t work for everyone) but both me and my husband work from home so we can do all of these things. I work in the mornings and my husband takes care of the children and works on preschool with our oldest, and then in the afternoon it’s mostly farm chores and work that we do together. We’ve chosen the income cut but hopefully we are giving our little ones the best future we can.

  26. Hello! 🙂 I have just found your blog and am instantly inlove!!
    I am the mother of a 4 1/2 year old autistic boy. We also just moved from a larger city in Canada to a country home on 10 acres! What a relief!! Our little guy is thriving out here! He loves the country air and quiet land to run around on! He seems to be a pro at helping with collecting wood and branches for fire too! He loves the bunnies we got and I’m sure he is going to just love the chickens we get in the spring!! The school out here is much smaller and so accomodating to his needs. I feel so blessed! Our family is very happy to have made the move and to be on the road to self sufficiency!! Thank you VERY much for posting this Merissa!! This is the first time I hear from another parent with a special needs child living this lifestyle!! Happy to have found you!!

    1. I’m glad you found your way here too Shannon and it’s so good to hear that your little guy is doing so well in his new environment. We are looking forward to getting chickens in the spring as well, my little guy keeps on asking me for a “peep, peep, peep”. 🙂

  27. my uncle is severly retarded ( he is a classification all to himself say the drs ) but we grew up together on a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere and it was great. if he got upset about something he could go off on his own and ‘work it out’. he is calmed by nature and the animals. he is now close to 50 and still going strong rounding up the cows (moo moos as he calls them). for every family it is different and you should always do what is best for you and your own and not what everone expects of you.

  28. My daughter is also sensory and Autistic. She is now a young adult graduating from high school. I can tell you definitively that homesteading and living a simpler life is definitely beneficial. When my daughter was 10 we fully embraced a homesteading life. Homesteading has taught our daughter patience, self-control, life skills, and (yes) even how to read facial and body language better. Up until that time we puttered at growing our own food but still ate a diet high in processed foods. By slowing down we have had more time with her and now grow almost 70% of our food. We have a flock of laying hens and during the summer a flock of meat birds. The chickens have all been her idea and responsibility. When she was 13 she came to me and asked if she could have chickens. I told her if she wanted to raise chickens she would have to present me with a budget, research what breeds she wants, figure out how to build a coop, and come up with a plan to buy and support these birds. This she did and three years ago increased her plan to include meat birds that help support the family. No TV and having this to do has enabled her to concentrate on her studies, and watching the chickens has taught her to look for body-language signs that her chicks are not happy. This in turn has carried over to looking for body-language from people. Does homesteading help? I would say yes, but what works for us may not work for you. Each case is different but for us homesteading has taught my daughter so much more than she would have.

  29. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! We have two boys with special needs one with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and one who we believe is on the Autism Spectrum. We have done many therapy’s over the years and a special diet for our youngest which brought him out of a comma and able to function more typically. They are both true blessing of the Lord and were made by Him, and given to us through the gift of adoption. I love to read your blog, because I feel a kindred spirit with you in several ways. Unfortunately, we live in the city and ended up getting rid of our chickens. I desire to live a life more like yours, but the Lord has seen fit to move us to that yet. So, I will live it through your post. 🙂

  30. hi Merissa
    I am from Scotland and I just wanted to say that I’d love to be as organised as you.
    You have inspired me to try really hard.
    My son was diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 22 which was only 3 years ago and I’ve become a little depressed over that time and so feel a bit distracted and lethargic.
    You are doing an amazing job.
    I will check in to your site from time to time for all your fab tips.

    Best regards to you and your family.

    Lynn 🙂

  31. I am a Special Ed teacher and I found your post so insightful, you have such an intuitive grasp on what your son needs to thrive. I have been working with special needs kids for 10 years now, in a completely urban setting, and the lifestyle you have created for your family just seems ideal for a child with special needs . Keep on doing what you’re doing, and I wish you and your family all the very best!

  32. Hi Merissa,
    I have homeschooled my kids and live a holistic life style. 3/5 of my family has special needs. By tailoring and adapting to their needs I feel it has allowed for more success and independence for them; where as a public school system and the cookie cutter model would not. I also believe that this allows everyone to be more in touch with rhythm, cycles of seasons, and an appreciation for where our food comes from. It offers flexibility and fun in the ways we approach learning and life.

  33. Thank you so much for sharing this. My daughter is special needs and it is so helpful to know others are in the same boat. I would love to see more posts like this.

  34. Thank you for this blog. My son is also special needs with sensory needs. He is perfect just as he is! We have been dealing with some life changes and are considering homesteading. But are afraid of the leap since we know that our son has needs. You really provided me with wonderful knowledge of what homesteading could offer us. We already jumped on the homeschooling wagon this crazy 2020. So you have given me food for thought.
    Thank you.