By Dyana Robbins, M. Ed

Reading this, you are likely a special-needs parent and/or married to someone with special needs. You might need encouragement or strategies for marital happiness in the face of trials. Well, my prayer is that this article will provide both.

 

The last time  I covered this topic, I focused on the strengths that special-needs parenting fosters in our marriages. This article shares how to lay the foundation for those strengths to develop and flourish in our demanding lives. You don’t need me to describe the demands of your days or how challenging they can be, so we will jump right into building a marriage that thrives.
 

First Things First
Other families can coast without defined priorities or a solid foundation for longer than we can. There’s nothing fair about this truth. Therefore, we have to know what matters most and focus on those things; sometimes focusing on only those things helps us thrive. What follows are my humble ideas about what those things are.

 

Settle that Your Marriage Always Comes First

This means that every other relationship is secondary. It means that all other responsibilities are secondary, even to our children with special needs. Their needs might demand immediate attention, and more time than we can devote to the marriage relationship. But, we can commit ourselves to giving our marriages priority every time there is not a crisis situation.

 

Amidst our constant appointments, interruptions to our schedules, and sheer exhaustion lie moments to build one another up. Seize them in the ways that matter most to your spouse. Intentionality and persistence are key. It’s much easier to let those moments slide by.

 

Ensure your spouse knows that he/she remains the person you prioritize to give the best of all the energy, focus, time and support you can give. In our situations, we can’t always tend their needs first, but we can choose to give them our best at every possible opportunity.

 

Protect Your Spouse’s Role in Your Home
Each marriage will assign duties differently. This should be done in partnership and by agreement. When others question the contribution of your spouse, defend your partner. Share their strengths and assistance in balancing the many needs of your family. When valid concerns are raised by others, address them with your partner; not in the court of others’ opinions.

 

Many children with special needs employ the same strategies and leverage that typical children use. Coupled with the sympathy and concern they engender, those strategies form a potent combination to divide you from your biggest ally. When your child(ren) sow division between you or disrespect your partner, protect your spouse’s position.

 

Enjoy Life Together
Every day, no matter how dark, has something to be savored. Relentlessly find those things and share them with one another. One of our darkest days, our son struggled for life following a routine surgery. As we pled with doctors and helplessly watched our son’s battle, I looked at my husband and remembered all we have come through together.

 

Facing our greatest fear, I found great comfort in the history I shared with my husband, and his presence with me. I told him this. We consoled one another with memories of past challenges we’d overcome and how we would endure together. It was a precious, bonding experience nestled right up against the greatest trial we could imagine. This has often been true in our lives. Thankfully, our son recovered. He still provides ample opportunities for us to cling to one another!

 

Every day, no matter how dark, has something to be savored. Share that with one another.


Pursue interests, goals or hobbies however possible. If you can share them; fantastic! If not, ensure that your partner knows you are supportive and happy that they enjoy them. Understand how strengthening and important these activities are in your lives. Lives that orbit too closely around a disability’s sun will eventually be consumed by it. Affirm the other important facets of life together to prevent disaster.

 

We are more than parents to children with special needs. We are more than partners with special needs. Our history, present, and future contain many aspects of life that are larger than the challenges we face. The stresses of a disability shrink as we embrace it as a part of our life, not the whole.

 

Forgive, Forgive, Forgive
If forgiveness is necessary for typical marriages, it is exponentially more vital in ours. Difficulties in caretaking, time pressures, and financial shortfalls strain every fiber in the tapestry of our lives. Relational fraying and tears in the fabric are inevitable. We need forgiveness’ patches, seams and glue to mend every flaw and hold us together.

 

Our family’s faith enables us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Still, the need to forgive quickly and as often as needed chafes at times. Hiding in the warm folds of my resentment has caused several crises as we grappled with accepting our sons’ diagnoses and when my sacrifices exceeded my husband’s. He enjoyed ample opportunity to resent my failings as well! As we fought towards unity, acceptance and forgiveness paved the way for healing. Continually, we strive to understand personal struggles which worsen from burnout and forgive the wounds these struggles bring.

 

Practicing forgiveness wrings every drop of selfishness from us. It hurts, but the alternatives are much worse. We all know individuals whose bitterness and chronic disappointment poison their relationships, contentment, and souls. Forgiveness and understanding insulate our marriages from the ravages of all that beat against them, within and without. Practice these humble acts regularly and watch your marriage thrive.

 

The next article in this series will focus on how ideas to repair or save our marriages before they fail. I hope you will come back to read it and share your thoughts!

Reprinted with permission from Dyana’s blog, Ambling Grace.

 

 


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By Cheryl Swope

One hot Missouri June when my children were very young, we decorated our front porch with a large white container of flowering impatiens. The pink and red petals with deep foliage cheered our doorstep. At the time, I knew that impatiens needed shade, but I hoped they would thrive in the full sun like other people’s front-porch flowers. 

 

We closed the door and walked inside. Anyone who knows about shade-loving plants knows what happened next. Over the next few days in our blazing Midwest sun, blossoms shriveled. Foliage burned. Sobered, I carried those flowers to our shaded backyard. Few would see them now, but maybe we would witness the plants’ return to life from our family’s backyard swing.

 

The Dangers of Full Sun
As I was raising my young children, local playgroup friends talked about their able-minded children who earned ribbons, juggled extracurricular activities, and made good grades. I already knew my experience was not like theirs. In the afternoons after our homeschooling lessons, my children played in the backyard pretending to be Henry and Violet from The Boxcar Children in the large wooden box my husband nailed to a tree. They collected eastern tent caterpillars in glass jars. They learned, with much practice, how to have conversations. 

 

Like the impatiens, my children thrived in the sheltered retreat of our backyard. My children did not attend a different scheduled activity every day. My daughter, especially, seemed to need far more attention, supervision, and protection than most children. She also required specialized therapies, physicians, and extra help to learn.

 

Sometimes we pushed our young children more than we should have, and invariably we then witnessed dangerous or odd behaviors such as wandering, nightmares, playing with matches, and even eating laundry detergent. I did not know much, but I knew that our children would not thrive in the bright hot sun of excessive rigor, complex social demands, and overbearing pressures. 

 

To this day, the memory of those pink and red petals guards me against overtaxing my children. It also enlivens my desire to provide a beautiful, incremental, and purposefully gentle education for all children with challenges. Our children with challenges need the richly prepared soil of readiness, the shaded warmth of encouragement, the fertilization of regular practice, and the steady watering of good, clear instruction. With this, our children will grow and thrive, even if few ever admire or notice.

 


Two Sisters
Over the past twenty years or so, two sisters from that first playgroup furnished a similar lesson for me. One spunky little girl with short hair, Susan, evidenced an astonishing intellect from the age of three. My own children’s distracted minds had become so familiar to me, that I marveled when I saw the orderly block designs Susan created. 

 

Little Susan spoke well, attentively organized her playthings, kicked balls with ease, and even opened her own bananas without squishing them. Suitably, young Susan received a full, rigorous education at our town’s only private school from award-winning teachers. By graduation, Susan had earned honors and scholarships in speech, mathematics, and athletics. She now attends a small liberal arts college hundreds of miles from home and studied a semester in Italy.Outgoing, intelligent, and capable, Susan needed full sun from the very beginning of her life.

 

By contrast, Susan’s big sister Amanda had long hair and a clear singing voice, but she cried easily, worried much, and preferred to play at home. She loved kittens and anything small. We marveled that the two girls were so close in age, yet so different. As a teen, Amanda had migraines, unexplained stomach aches, and social fears that kept her parents linked to their phones waiting for her anxious calls.

 

While her sister Susan thrived in the demanding and highly social private high school, Amanda wilted. The girls’ parents chased doctor appointments and medications, and they finally decided to bring her home. Amanda began sleeping at night again. Her parents insisted on a strong education at home but allowed Amanda time to rest, read, and play with her favorite cats. Removed from the intensity of her private school, Amanda slowly regained her strength, color, and vitality. She graduated a year after her peers, attended a small college near home, and this past summer began teaching music and theater to young children. Children warmed to her, and she to them.

 

The Flowers
Far into October that year long ago, those backyard flowers grew into bushes of color with bright pinks and rich reds. Still delicate, they would never thrive in the bright heat of our front porch. I knew this now with certainty. I still remember that day. When I carried those tender, shriveled flowers to our backyard, the metaphors spoke to me in a sudden and deeply personal way. The flowers needed shade. I could not change that. My growing understanding of my children’s needs brought silent emotion as I made my way to the backyard. Yet somehow the understanding also brought a glimmer of contentment. I did not fully understand the implications, but I began to accept the truth: Some children grow best in the shade.

 

Reprinted with permission from Memoria Press. Originally published in Simply Classical Journal Winter 2018 edition.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

February is soon approaching and even though it is typically the month retailers have us all thinking about love and sending valentines, the cold weather and our cooped-up kids don’t always make us feel very loving about our homeschooling or our parenting pursuits.

Instead of giving into those winter blues, take some time during these next few weeks to put aside your regular lessons and try to refocus on the love of learning. And, what better way to do that than with these fun Valentine-themed learning activities?

Here are my top 20 free picks from the SPED Homeschool Valentine Pinterest board.

1Lego Valentine Learning Activities: Learning activities centered around Valentine’s and Legos

2Valentine Hearts Spelling Game: Spelling words with a fun Valentine’s Day twist

3Valentine Math Facts Game – A fun game for brushing up on old skills and practicing new ones

4Valentine Scavenger Hunt: Free printable clues for making a fun Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt

5Threaded Heart Paper Plate Craft – Cute paper plate heart craft that’s great for working on fine motor skills

6 Valentine’s Day Speech Therapy Activities: 100+ speech therapy related activities for Valentine’s Day

7Candy Hearts Unit Study: Teach everything from math, critical thinking, science, history and language arts with candy hearts

8 Brain-Building Valentines Activities: Multiple activities that work on midline crossing, fine motor skills, vestibular activities, and visual planning

9 Valentine’s Day Unit Study: Through books, videos, and art, delve into the history around St. Valentine and Valentine’s Day

10Science Experiments for Valentine’s Day: Simplified biology, chemistry, and physics lessons with heart or Valentine’s Day themes

1125 Valentine Process Art Projects: Art projects that explore a variety of different and allow your children to express their artistic flair

12Valentine Themed Light Table Activities: 15 different activities for a light table, all focused on Valentine’s Day

13Love Your Neighbor Unit Study: Activities to help your children think about loving
intentionally this Valentine’s Day

14 Valentine’s Day Montessori Work: 9 Valentine’s Day activities that use Montessori teaching principles

15Heart Visual Discrimination Printable: A fun way to work on identifying similarities and differences

16Valentine’s Day Games and Brain Breaks: 10 activities to get your child up and moving on Valentine’s Day

1730 Valentine’s Day Speech and Language Activities: Lots of free speech activities to use on Valentine’s Day

18Mapping the History Behind Valentine’s Day: Learn history and geography in this mini unit study about Valentine’s Day

19 – Valentine’s Day CVC Board Game: Fun printable board game to use with your emergent readers

20Scripture Card Valentine Art Project: 4 printable scripture-based valentine cards your children can customize with their own art

Still not enough choices? Then make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Valentine Pinterest board containing over 200 more ideas to choose from. And, while you are there, make sure to check out the rest of the SPED Homeschool Pinterest boards.

 

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By Dyana Robbins

There is nothing like the excitement of starting something new. The sense of adventure, hopefulness, and the promise of new ventures can be intoxicating. Some people experience a new challenge with enthusiasm that borders on fanaticism. I am one of them. It happened to me when I began homeschooling.

 

I started homeschooling out of a deep conviction that it was the only good option for my son. This was based on my experience trying all the other available options. Those experiences led me to reroute my career and life to meet his needs.

 

These factors set me up to embrace homeschooling like a drowning person grabs a flotation device. Some great things resulted from those bumpy beginnings, but eleven years later, I see my mistakes during that time too.

 

1. Jumping Into a Pressure Cooker
The intense responsibility and commitment I felt to my son drove me to extremes. I learned EVERYTHING I could about homeschooling and I fell into thinking homeschooling was the best educational option period. For everybody. 

 

Not only that but a certain brand of homeschooling that idealized parental authority and influence dominated my thinking. It seemed to provide the remedies for the problems in our culture and educational systems by strengthening the parent’s influence in their children’s’ lives.

 

I still agree with many tenets of this movement, but recognize that I had thrown my hope into a method as THE answer rather than seeing it as one part of the healing and help my son needed. This led to me being stressed when my family didn’t mirror the results or lifestyle idealized in this group. 

 

I was not a relaxed and joyful homeschool mom; I was striving and driving us towards an ideal that intensified our struggles. You can be wiser than me; avoid the idealization of any one method or even homeschooling itself!

 

2. Defending Our Decision to Homeschool
We had never known anyone who homeschooled when we decided to pursue it. It seemed such a foreign and radical idea. My struggle with the decision made others’ questioning of it painful.

 

People who were merely curious met with the same lengthy explanations as those who opposed our decision. Thankfully, none of these exchanges were heated, but I’m sure those on the receiving end of my explanations often wished they weren’t!

 

Those who disagreed with us did not change their opinions following lengthy discourses. Several friends, professionals, and family DID change their opinions by seeing the results of our choice over time.

 

3. Homeschooling as Insurance
Some of homeschooling’s appeal for me centered on its insulation from bullying and negative social pressure. That is a benefit of homeschooling but it isn’t foolproof: We have still encountered these things in co-ops and social gatherings.

 

Maybe all parents secretly desire the formula or program that guarantees successful parenting…I don’t know. I do know that despite my attempts to avoid that trap, I fell into it anyway. Somewhere along our journey, I began trusting that homeschooling was insurance against some of the very human struggles my children would face; within and without.

 

I overemphasized our influence and underestimated humanity’s sin nature and the natural developmental challenges we all face. My children have not fallen into any great difficulty so far, but I know they might one day. If that day comes, it will not be homeschooling that saves us.

 

Homeschooling has been a wonderful tool that the Lord has allowed for shaping and disciplining our children, but it is only a tool in the Lord’s hands. He alone has the power to restrain and forgive their sin and to overcome their struggles as they trust in Him.

 

4. Doubting my Decisions…and Then Doubting Them Again!
A list of all the decisions on curriculum, therapies, and activities that I questioned could fill this page. After lots of research and deliberation for each decision, I would move forward and then proceed to question everything we did. This did not make for a happy homeschool.

 

Thankfully, time and experience revealed that our choices could be easily changed or tweaked without destroying our children’s future. The weight of each decision was much lighter than my fears led me to believe. More experienced homeschooling moms encouraged and helped me past this hangup. Their assurances that we didn’t have to have it all figured out to be successful lifted the crushing burden I kept picking up.

 

5. Comparisons
Oy yoy yoy…this was terrible. If you want peace, don’t compare your homeschool, family or life with anyone else’s. Looking for affirmation that we were not failing our kids in every way, I would at times check our progress against other families,’ hoping for encouragement. No, no and no.

 

One more NOOOOOOOO. This is a life-stealing, joy-killing practice. If you want to become a judgmental, condemning person or feel like a failure at every turn, this is the path for you. However, if balance and health matter to you, run from this temptation every time it dares to pop up.

 

Most of us would agree that our families’ needs are unique and that comparisons are fruitless….it’s why we homeschool. Join Facebook forums, support groups or co-ops and it becomes evident that comparisons to others run rampant anyway. We talk about curriculum, lifestyle, method, or educational choice in ways that reveal the comparisons undergirding our positions.

 

We have to guard against forming harsh judgments of ourselves and others based on what works in other families. Hopefully, you can sidestep this pitfall and be an encouragement to others.

 

In Conclusion…
Reflecting on the mistakes of my early homeschooling years hurts a little. Exposing it to you hurts a little more, but I also hope it encourages you. If you find yourself commiserating with my past experience, you should know that homeschooling doesn’t have to be that way. You can change and move forward differently.

 

If you are wondering how such a crazy, immature, and fearful woman got into homeschooling anyway, I’m with you. But, God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and I’m living proof of that truth. Somehow, our sons grew beyond every prognosis we were given and are even likely to be productive members of society (that’s a joke; they will!). We’ve all changed and grown. We are still changing and growing. When I graduate them, I’ll be writing an article about mistakes I made at this point. Stay tuned…

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

This is the second article in my series on accommodations and modifications. In my first article, I explained the differences between accommodations and modifications.  But, now I am going to tackle the subject of math.

 

No one curriculum is one-size-fits-all, including math. Children with special needs and learning differences can make it a challenge to find a curriculum that meets all their needs. I have bought curriculums and then realized that my child was not able to complete the activities the way that they are written. That is when I have to make the curriculum fit her.

 

Math is an easier subject to accommodate and modify as it lends itself to use hands-on materials and can be done on a computer. Math is an abstract subject, but by using manipulatives or other accommodations, it provides a way to make it more concrete.

 

 

Accommodating Math
Here are some ways to accommodate your present math curriculum. This is how we teach our learners:

  • provide graph paper to line up numbers so that information stays organized especially helpful with long division (I printed mine free from www.printfreegraphpaper.com)
  • allow the use of calculators
  • provide visuals and stories to learn math facts
  • provide a list of the steps in written or visual form
  • use dry erase boards instead of pencil and paper
  • reduce the number of problems and even do some problems with your student before having them do it on their own
  • draw a picture of story problems



Modifying Math
Here are some ways to modify your math curriculum. This is where we are changing what we teach the learner and what they are responsible for learning.

  • creating work boxes that address a specific skill
  • using stamps for writing numbers for those that are not able to write numbers yet
  • making a math problem multiple choice
  • using stickers or hands-on objects to help your learner count
  • writing some of the steps for the learner and they have to complete the remaining steps 
  • use real objects to work out story problems

 

 

 

This list is a starting point to modify your math curriculum. If you have specific questions about how to modify or adapt your curriculum please see my page on the website for consultation information.

 

 


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By Melissa Smith

I’m brand spanking new to Special Needs – sort of. For over a decade I’ve raised my children with friends who have Special Needs, loved Special Needs families, walked with friends through challenges with their children, and developed a heart of compassion and love for these wonderful families. 

 

However, I didn’t know I had a Special Needs child in my home until now. His delightful brand of different brings our family joy every day and a lot challenges. Somehow in all the busyness of life, we didn’t recognize his uniqueness as “Special” until we hit roadblocks in educating him at home. My child, who is almost eight, hasn’t changed, but my understanding of who he is and how he operates has dramatically changed.

This brand new understanding brings a whole world to my door that I have only been an observer to for the past decade. Now I am wading into terminology, therapists, doctor appointments, schedule reroutes, curriculum questions, doubts, and fears that leave my head and my heart spinning. Many of you have already walked this road; others, like me, are just beginning the journey.



SUPPORT & MENTORING FROM EXPERIENCE

So, what does a family need as they begin walking forward with a Special Needs child? Those of you who have experience with this can be a comfort, encouragement, and source of strength to families who are new to this wonderful, special world.


Here are some questions I have for you:

  1. What helped your family mentally and emotionally adjust to the demands on your time, relationships, and emotions?
  2. When you discussed your child with doctors, therapists, family, and friends, what attitudes and information from them most encouraged you and set you on the right track?
  3. How did you talk about the challenges of Special Needs to the other members of your family?
  4. What information would have been most helpful for you to have as you made choices about homeschooling and Special Needs?
  5. How did you find the support you and your family needed to navigate the Special Needs in your home?




MY JOURNEY

We are still in the beginning stages of meeting with a Developmental Pediatrician, navigating a diagnosis, and talking to therapists. Already, I’ve learned so much. Here are a couple nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained over the past few months about beginning the journey of educating a Special Needs child.


Information Without Pressure
For every diagnosis, there are a thousand ways that it manifests in each unique child. The lists of therapies, curriculum, methods of instruction, and schools of thought on medicine vs. natural treatment seem infinite. 

 

The people who have been the most helpful to us have provided explanations and facts along with the possibilities of how different solutions would benefit our child. They do this with grace, patience, and understanding without pressuring us to choose a particular path. What a relief! Armed with information, we can pray and think through the best path for our family.

This is not always the case, though, and we can walk away from these meetings overwhelmed by the decisions facing us and weighed down with shame, guilt, fear, or loneliness. This led me to our next need!


Community
One of the benefits of being connected to a support group like SPED Homeschool is the rich community of people who can provide counsel, wisdom, encouragement, fresh perspective, and a sounding board of ideas.

 

When I posted a question on the Facebook group, one mom reached out to me privately and offered to meet up at a park. One of her children faces similar challenges to my youngest child. It was such an encouragement to hear her story and be reminded that there are so many other beautiful families in the trenches together. 

 

Whether you are in the early stages in your journey or a seasoned Special Needs mom, your story matters. When you share what God has taught you and where you have walked, it offers comfort and courage to others. Be bold, friends, and reach out to someone who needs some encouragement!


A Road Map
“Wouldn’t it be nice if our children came with an Instruction Manual?” I’ve heard this laughingly asked many times by many people over the years. And just in case you weren’t sure – No! There is no manual. However, by God’s grace, we are given the wisdom we need to parent our children.

Navigating the Special Needs world, however, is challenging. A road map would be helpful. From terms like IEP to ARD meetings, the difference between OT and PT, or where to seek a qualified diagnostician, we need help!

Thankfully, many of these questions can be asked and answered through the SPED Homeschool Support group on Facebook. There are many resources on the website for those just beginning the homeschooling journey, and team members more experienced than I am who are at the ready to answer your questions.


Grace
Finally, my greatest need as a mom rerouting into educating a Special Needs child is grace. This is going to take time, prayer, patience, and a lot of love. Some days I just don’t know what in the world to do because I’m too exhausted and frustrated to try anything else. Other days I ready to take on the world for the sake of my son but don’t know where to start. So, I need to give myself some grace to accept that I don’t have all the answers, but God has gifted this wonderful child to me for a time to love and disciple. 

 

There are plenty of people who don’t understand our decisions or my son, and I need to give them grace too. Every step of the way, every day, God is providing for us and leading us in the paths we should walk. I am so thankful for this adventure!

What do you need today as you begin your Special Needs journey?  Join our support group and let us know.

 

 


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By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP


When my son reads, he struggles so much because he has to sound out the same word over and over again in the story.”

 

When I give my son three simple directions, he only does one…if that! I’m sure he has an Auditory Processing Problem.”

 

How the Brain Processes
What is happening when bright, hard working kids and teenagers have to expend so much energy to process things they hear? For all of us, the left auditory brain hemisphere is supposed to learn new material, and then transfer it to the right visual hemisphere for long term storage, and easy retrieval. When a child or teenager is struggling in this area, the hemispheres are not communicating as they should. It is like there is a “disconnect.”

 

 

Problems

Symptoms of an Auditory Processing Problem
When a child is experiencing a significant Auditory Processing Problem the child/teenager almost always has difficulty with:

1 – Reading
Sight Words:

  • Word retrieval is difficult. Child tries to sound out all sight words. “what=w-h-a-t”
  • Difficulty learning names of alphabet letters when younger.


Phonics:

  • Phonics “rules” (think auditory input) don’t stick, even with games.
  • Sounds out same word over and over again while reading.
  • Parents are often on their third or fourth phonics program.
  • Reads “extra” letters in a word that aren’t there, such as an “n” or “r”.
  • Often two or more years below grade level in reading when older.


2 – Spelling

  • Words can’t be read by anyone else because they are not spelled phonetically. Leaves out consonant and whole syllables, not just vowels, which are tricky for everyone.
  • Spells word differently each time. Has no “picture” of the word in his head.


3 – Math

  • Math facts difficult to learn even with music, games, “wraps” and much repetition.
  • Skip counting or remembering the order of months of the year are hard.
  • Mental math is difficult (hearing his own silent voice).


4 – Memory

  • Because most curriculum relies on auditory teaching methods, (reading, worksheets, listening to lecture), child appears to have memory issues. 
  • A child who is using too much energy for focus/attention can also appear to have a poor memory.


5 – Tongue Twisters

  • Ordering sounds is hard, so the child says words like, “Sundenly; Shuspicious; Mazagine”.
  • Avoids saying challenging words in conversation.


6 – Understanding Verbal Directions

  • When a child asks for directions to be repeated regularly, or says “what” a lot, it can be a focus/attention issue or an Auditory Issue, if other symptoms are present.
  • Not all of these symptoms need to be present to have an Auditory Processing Dysfunction. The more severe the issue, the more symptoms will be present.

 


What to Do?
Parents and teachers have found that they can make learning easier for their child by doing two steps: “Bypassing and Correcting.”

 

Bypasses

It has been found that we can “bypass” the child’s difficulty with auditory processing of material by using more visual, right-brain teaching methods. Let’s look at some of these successful methods that parents use at home to help their child “get in touch with the smart part of themselves.”

 

Reading
Right Brain Sight Words. This teaching technique involves embedding the picture of the word onto the letters. Greatly struggling readers love this method because they can immediately remember the words to read and spell. To see an example of this method, watch this video here on my site. These words can be made at home…no expense!

Right Brain Phonics. For a struggling reader, an intensive phonics program is necessary. Because of the Auditory Processing Problem, games, workbooks, writing or black and white cards often don’t transfer to easier reading. For my students in my Resource Reading class in school, I created a Right Brain Phonics reading method, which again, uses the embedding process. Using this method, I was able to see a two year growth in my students, ages 7-14, in one year. You can view this teaching method on my website.

Other Intensive Phonics programs. My experience with those who exhibit a fairly severe Auditory Processing Problem, I have found only five programs that seem to work well for these students. They vary in expense greatly. Some are very expensive, others moderately so, and one is minimally expensive. If you would like a list of these five programs and their descriptions, just email me, child.diagnosticscs@gmail.com, and put “Alternative Phonics Programs” in the subject line.

 

Spelling
Spelling “rules” are auditory. Thus, they do not stick for this population. To bypass this spelling glitch, I used the Right Brain Spelling method with my students in school. I taught them how to use their strong Photographic Memory for memorizing spelling words. It worked remarkably well, and greatly took the stress out of a child’s life. When I taught my gifted sixth through eighth graders, I used this method exclusively to get a two to three year growth in spelling in a year. To read about how to use this easy, inexpensive method, read the article, “Teaching a Right Brain Child,” on this website.

Math
Math is one of the most auditory subjects that we teach. Because the math facts and processes are often taught by using rules (think auditory) and repetition, the child can become very discouraged, and the parent feels that the child isn’t “trying” to learn the facts. Once again, I turned to the child’s Photographic Memory to teach the facts and to remember processes. I have “Right Brain Math Strategies” in our Lesson Plans section for parents who are interested in learning more about these helpful strategies.

 

Corrections

While the parent is successfully bypassing the auditory processing glitch, steps can be taken that will actually help to “correct” the child’s processing issue. This is a very exciting part of working with a struggling learner. I used two main methods to correct an Auditory Processing Problem in the children I worked with: Brain Integration Therapy and Targeted Nutritional Interventions.

Increase Brain Connections
This is the exciting part. I found that I could effectively increase connections between the left/right, top/bottom and back/front part of the brain by using very specific body exercises to train the brain. I used the Brain Integration Therapy Manual for that, doing the program that takes twenty minutes a day. This is the method I used in my Resource Room classes with my bright but struggling learners, to achieve two-year reading growth in just one year, when used with right brain teaching strategies (www.diannecraft.org). I found this to be the least expensive, and fastest working midline therapy around. Results are often seen with one month. It also can be done by any “untrained” person.

Another way to help improve brain connections would be to “outsource” this Brain Integrating process by seeking outside therapies such as NACD (www.nacd.org) or I Can Do, (www.ican-do.net) outside of the home. Auditory Sound programs have also proven to be helpful. Auditory Integration Therapy, www.auditoryintegration.net, or the Fast Forward program, www.gemmlearning.com

 
Target Nutritional Issues
As a nutritionist, it has been my experience that by using targeted nutritional supplements many parents have found that they can greatly increase their child’s auditory processing ability. When healing an Auditory Processing Problem in a child, for years I have relied on Brain Integration Therapy to reconnect brain processing areas, very specific Essential Fatty Acids, and Lecithin…the “auditory memory” food. This subject will be explored in great detail in another article entitled, “The Biology of Auditory Processing and Memory Problems.”

 

 

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By Jen Duncan

January brings a lot of welcome habits: decluttering, organizing, and mid-year homeschool evaluations.

 

Our family enjoys this time of year, but mid-year evaluations have not worked well for us. If I waited until January to evaluate and tweak our homeschool, it would take me until June. Meanwhile, my son would lose his mind from sheer boredom and lack of challenge.

 

When you homeschool a child who may go through three years of material each school year, you have to change your mindset. Instead of evaluating and tweaking a couple of times a year, you have to do it more often. Constantly, even. How do you do that without losing your mind? After 14 years of doing this, I’ve got some tips for you!

 

Keep a Flexible Mindset

Often, we fall into the mindset that there is only one valid way to educate our children. This is not because it’s true, but because it’s what we know and see. We might believe that a specific schedule or the scope and sequence in the teacher’s manual is the one true path to take. Honestly, though, this just isn’t true.

 

That schedule which we all know and pretend to love, the scope and sequence that was carefully designed. They are simply tools. They are there to give you a baseline to work from so that you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel.

 

If they happen to work for you, fantastic! That is one less thing that you have to focus on.

 

For most families of gifted and twice-exceptional children though, these curriculums simply don’t work. They were not written with our children in mind.

 

 

Let Your Child Set the Pace

As the child of two teachers, I thought homeschooling would be easy. I knew how lesson plans and classroom schedules worked, and if I could help tutor a classroom of 20+ 8-year-olds, surely I could handle planning and teaching my own child.

 

I quickly learned that homeschooling is completely different from teaching or tutoring in a classroom. I also learned that homeschooling an atypical child requires a completely different set of “rules.” No matter how often I tried to plan ahead, my son worked on his own schedule. Eventually, I learned to let him do so.

 

Gifted and 2E children have their own way of doing things, and it often is not a way that makes sense to the rest of us. It is, however, the way that makes the most sense to them. When you are educating and parenting a gifted or 2E child, you really don’t have to motivate your child to learn. They will do that all by themselves. It is your job to guide them, to be their sounding board, and to keep them supplied with challenging, satisfying materials.

 

In this case, tailoring a gifted child’s education often does not mean planning a detailed schedule that will be followed to the tee. Rather, it means having a lot of things available for your child to dig into and the patience to deal with their intensity and constant change.

 

Instead of trying to control your child’s education, you get to go along for the ride. And instead of setting the pace, you are there to make small adjustments as they are needed.

 

Think of it like driving a race car: you can’t make huge, sudden adjustments because the car is going too fast. Rather, you make constant small adjustments, keeping the car moving along its path.

 

 

Keep Communication Open

Something that I came to realize is that I cannot do this on my own. My son has an amazing mind, but it is one that works very differently than mine. If I am going to guide him and educate him, I need to keep a solid line of communication open with him.

 

For me, this meant admitting, early on, that I am not perfect. I am not the “all-knowing mommy.” If I give him something that does not make sense to him, it’s not on purpose. It’s because I honestly thought it would work. If it doesn’t, for any reason, I need him to be willing to tell me that. In order for this to happen, he needs to know that I’m not going to take it personally. Both of us have to be willing to open up and help each other.

 

This is a system that we set in place when my son was about 8 years old, and it is one that has served us well for over a decade. Even in college, he will come to me to discuss assignments and systems that don’t make sense to him so that I can help him find ways to navigate them.

 

How have you handled evaluations and tweaks in your homeschool? Have you found a system that works, or are you still looking? Share with us today what is working for you or where you need help in finding resources.

 

 

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By Peggy Ployhar

 

Two years ago, my 16-year-old son with Dyslexia approached me and said that he didn’t want to do school anymore. We had had this conversation many times before, but this time he made it very clear to me he did not intend to ever attend college or any school which would require him to have college prep classes on his transcript. He was done with studying things he didn’t want to learn.


A New Approach

After realizing where this same conversation had taken us in the past, and how many times I had not handled it well, I decided this time I would hear him out and then take the situation to God for His direction. After much prayer and taking time to listen to what God was doing through this struggle, I was led to the following revelations:

Revelation #1 – Maxed Out
The first realization God led me to was that I had pushed this young man to the end of where I was capable of leading him and teaching him for his future purposes. God had this situation under control more than I did and I needed to let go and trust that wherever this next phase would take my son, it would be okay.

Revelation #2 – Not My Future
The second thing God impressed upon me was that He didn’t need my plans to interfere with the plans that He was working out in my son’s heart and mind. The fact that I knew what my son’s gifts were and would love for others to see how gifted and talented he was in those areas, didn’t mean I had any right to try to push him into situations that he didn’t feel led to enter.

Revelation #3 – God’s Permanent Child, My Temporary Assignment
The final reminder God revealed to me was that although I love my son greatly, He loves Him even more. As parents, we are given the privilege of shepherding our children, but we should never think that they are our possessions. It was my assignment to do what I had been able to do, and trust God would work out all His purposes for the bigger plans He had for my son’s life.
 


Transition

After taking all these new revelations, as well as many conditions and issues we needed to work through together, I met with my son, so we could determine our next step. First, I was careful to explain to him that my willingness to change direction wasn’t me giving up on him. Next, we discussed what legal obligations needed to be followed to ensure he was meeting the required state homeschooling laws. Third, I made it clear that he would need to pay me back for the cost of the expensive writing curriculum he had chosen not to use. Finally, I gave him a deadline for developing his class list in which he needed to note how all the required subjects in our state were going to be met through the classes he chose.

Renewed Enthusiasm
In the weeks following our conversation while the curriculum went out the window and my son took control of his own learning; his spirits began lifting. And although he still didn’t get up at the crack of dawn, he wasn’t hibernating in his room to avoid the class work I had for him. He started working on projects, learning new skills, and creating collaborative projects with friends. He wrote and produced podcasts, learned video editing and movie recoloring. He started writing for the joy of it and developing stories. And, he figured out ways to help me grade him on his progress. He once again was enjoying learning and life.

An Unfolding Plan
I had no idea where this unconventional plan would take my son once he graduated, but I continued to trust God did. After graduation, this past spring, my son decided to take a gap year at home while he looked for work and other opportunities he could pursue to develop skills in his areas of interest.

So far, this year, he has taught himself how to play guitar and mentored his younger sister as she works on writing a graphic novel. He’s also continuing to write and work through the logistics to direct and film some short movies he has already written scripts for. But, the most profound way God has made it very clear to me that I was helping this young man follow His will is that my son has been a critical member of the SPED Homeschool team through the work he has been able to do as our nonprofit’s Social Media Specialist and Video Production Manager. Had I pushed back on this derailment two years ago, my son would not have developed the skills he needed to do these jobs but which God had already planned to come about.

 

How About Your Child?

Maybe in reading this article, or even before, you have come to the realization that your teen has hit the end of the road on your high school plan. Maybe he/she has become lethargic about school or is pressing back on you so much that you just don’t feel like you have the energy to fight anymore. My advice for you is to take the issue to the Lord in prayer. My approach may be the one you should take, but then again it may not. I know from experience it would have been the wrong path if I had chosen to take this approach with my oldest son, because even though he had been adamant about not wanting to attend college, that’s where God eventually led him…and thankfully he had taken all the college prep classes he needed while being homeschooled.

I want to encourage you also to talk through your homeschooling struggles with a friend or mentor who can be your sounding board of truth and wisdom. If you don’t have a person like that in your life, I would invite you to comment below and start a conversation as well as join the SPED Homeschool Facebook Support Group, where you can be part of a community who understands your struggles and desires to come alongside you and help you navigate the road ahead in homeschooling your student with special educational needs.

God bless!

 

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By Kimberly Vogel

We’ve hit the halfway point this year. It’s time for a mid-year check up. Even if things are sailing smoothly, it’s a good idea to take a close look at different aspects of homeschooling and see what (if any) changes need to be made.

Why Assess?
At the beginning of the year, we set goals for our students. At the end of the year, we wrap up what was completed and decide on changes for the next year. A key step to success is a mid-year assessment. This gives a chance for greater student success because modifications can be made.

As we start a new calendar year, it helps us mentally to bring that fresh start into our homeschool and an assessment is just the tool for the job!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Assessment Tips

Before you start, remember these tips:

  1. This is just for you. The purpose is to see what areas reap success and which areas need some work. It’s not a ticket to bring judgment or heap guilt, as we moms are so quick to do. You decide what is important in your homeschool. It can be done with pencil and paper, or conversationally. It can even be part of an IEP. If you do not have an IEP, ask SPED how we can help!
  2. Focus on seeing things as they are – the truth, not disillusionment either too positive (denial) or too negative (critical).
  3. Prayer always helps! We want to see things with God’s eyes, trusting His revelation, having His focus, and gaining His new vision. 




3 Areas to Assess

Goals
What were your goals at the start of the year? Check on those goals, look for growth, decide on modifications, and see what goals need to be dropped. You want your child to be successful. With special needs, success looks different than for non-typical learners.

Some students need goal assessments done more than setting goals at the start of a new year, mid-year assessment, and end of the year wrap up. Keep checking on where your child is and reassess to modify when needed in order to bring growth and success. 
Modifications can be slowing down in certain areas when there is a struggle, or speeding up when your child is rocking those goals!

Grades and Curriculum
This is the most straightforward, yet hardest to change. The numbers tell us how things are going. What are the grades? Are you on track in the curriculum? If it’s not going well, either with grades or not advancing in the curriculum, don’t be afraid to change.

It’s critical that our kids learn the way that is best for them. If a curriculum or the pace you set at the start of the year isn’t working, it’s ok to change. Not just ok… it’s beneficial and important to the success of your student.

Heart
How is your child’s heart? Attitude? Obedience? Relationships? What habits and life skills are functioning well and what needs an adjustment? How is his/her walk with God? If this area is out of whack, then everything else will suffer.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” Proverbs 4:23


This area is the most important area to measure, yet requires a deeper level of communication. If you do not have such conversations with your child, please start now, it’s not too late.

 

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

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Donate today on PayPal

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