by Terrie McKee from Homeschooling1Child

 

The holidays can be a stressful time for us all but can be debilitating for those with special needs. The sounds, lights, smells, and strange schedules can cause meltdowns, anxiety, and a whole host of behavioral issues. 

As a mom with four special needs children, ranging from autism to ADHD, dyslexia and diabetes, I fully understand the trials and tribulations of dodging holiday stressors. There are some things that parents of children with special needs  can do to minimize the stress for their kiddos (and themselves) that I’ve incorporated into my own family.

 

Keep the schedule

It seems like every weekend in December is booked solid with  special holiday activities. You want your child to participate or even just enjoy the festivities but getting off schedule makes for anything but merry-making. Keeping the normal, daily schedule intact helps your child anticipate what’s next. You can insert the holidays into homeschooling while keeping the schedule by having holiday-themed spelling words or worksheets, related crafts, and holiday music. Writing social stories about upcoming festive activities can help the child anticipate what will happen and even get excited about it. In addition, writing out a daily schedule for each child with any holiday events or activities will help give them a heads-up and a semblance of control. 

 

Dietary needs

The holidays can be full of dietary landmines, particularly for those with food allergies, sensitivities, or chronic health issues such as diabetes. When visiting extended family or friends for get-togethers, remind them about your child’s dietary needs or bring along food you know is safe for them to eat. Many families enjoy baking during this time of year, and it’s a great homeschooling activity to boot. Just make sure all  ingredients can safely be consumed by all. It’s important to make family traditions in spite of and because of special needs–just incorporate the special needs into it. If you have a family member who just cannot eat things like sugar cookies, you can make ornaments using salt dough, using cookie cutters to cut them out and paint to decorate them. You get the same effect but without the food landmine. 

 

Sensory Overload

When my oldest, who has autism, was a little boy, going to the mall and sitting on Santa’s lap was asking for trouble. Not only did he not know this person, but Santa would inevitably pat him on his back and snuggle him—all things that were a definite spectrum no-no. After receiving the diagnosis of autism and researching all the things about it, the Santa-triggered meltdowns made a lot more sense, and we no longer pushed the issue. Some things aren’t worth experiencing, especially if they create anxiety for years to come . With all the sights and sounds come a lot of triggers: blinking Christmas lights, loud holiday music stuck on repeat in shops, other children’s screaming meltdowns in stores—it all added up to be torture for my son. Noise-canceling headphones, minimizing the times we’d take him in stores, and avoiding the triggers all made for much better experiences for all. 

 

It’s hard on parents when special needs kids are in the mix with the holidays: you want your child to experience the magic, wonder, and fellowship of holiday gatherings, but the reality becomes too much. Creating your own traditions around your child’s specific needs means all can enjoy the time together and minimize the stress that can come with the holidays

 

Terrie McKee blogs at Homeschooling1Child.com. Married with four children, three of whom are adults and on their own, she homeschools her youngest, who has dyslexia, ADHD, and chronic migraines.  You can follow her on Facebook at @Homeschooling1Child.

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist,SPED Homeschool Board MemberCurriculum Partner,  Consultant Partner, and Therapy Partner 

 

Ah, progress. That entity that often fuels us as parents and homeschoolers but is often elusive or barely recognizable with our children that struggle. That slow progress can be very discouraging. I know the feeling all too well! I had to learn to adjust my expectations from typical progress to “personal bests” and celebrate each of those tiny steps even when they were not what I was hoping for, especially in the academic realms. 

My homeschool journey started in 1986. I know, I am REALLY dating myself, right! Little did I know that homeschool was barely legal at that time. All I knew was that God had led me to home educate both my girls, but specifically my daughter, who was developmentally delayed. 

I headed into the task with zeal, but after 5 years of using a traditional approach in teaching reading and math, my 15-year-old was at a standstill. I was discouraged. My daughter knew all 70 phonograms yet couldn’t hold over 3 pieces of CVC words together to read a word. And because of her needing several attempts to read a single word, she had zero comprehension. In other words, a kindergarten reading level and math wasn’t much better.

When you have a child with unique needs, God is asking you to do hard things. We don’t know the reasoning, but I believe it is for profound Kingdom purposes. When Jenee’ was 15, I was ready to give up, but God asked me to do another hard thing. He asked me to continue homeschooling, but this time with a different approach. It was the neurodevelopmental approach that I used and have been encouraging other parents to use for the past 30 years. It is the approach we use at Brain Sprints to help families make progress and be able to recognize that progress in all areas of the child’s life, and not just in academics. 

Academically with the neurodevelopmental approach, we could advance from 1st grade in math and reading to 3rd grade. Compared to typical progress, that would look minuscule, but if you compare it to what “they” said was a 40 IQ, it was amazing! I found out later that traditional educational settings like those in public school wouldn’t have even bothered to teach my daughter to read because of the IQ that they labeled her with. IQ is another whole topic, but there are developmental factors that influence an IQ score and academic performance that  can be changed with neurodevelopmental interventions.

I didn’t realize it, but it was an actual gift that I gave my daughter in teaching her to read, even at a low level. It became a hobby of hers and she filled hours a day with reading words and then writing them in her notebook. 

She really LOVED math, too! She advanced in the understanding of math concepts through a technique that I now call Visual Circle Math. I also integrated this approach into a full neurodevelopmental program (organizing and stimulating the brain for the foundation of better overall function) and math curriculum for preschool through 2nd grade levels called  Early Learning Foundations. One of the remarkable things that I discovered is that even in her 30s my daughter had kept math facts that we covered when she was 15-18 years old. She could do 32 addition facts in 1 minute from using the retention technique in the   Rapid Recall System which is also integrated into the Early Learning Foundation curriculum.

When I home schooled, my philosophy for my child with unique needs was to take her from where she was functioning to the next level in any area possible–self-care, articulation, conversation, social, behavioral, academic and to celebrate each tiny breakthrough. I encourage you to do the same. Celebrate all the progress no matter how small. It will lift your spirits, get you focused on the positive and your positive countenance will filter down to your whole family. 

It has been a privilege for me to provide comfort to others with the comfort that I received. If you would like to know more about The NeuroDevelopmental Approach from Brain Sprints, contact us for a  Free Consultation.

 

 

 


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by the SPED Homeschool Team

 

Running out of creative ways to help your struggling student connect with learning material? Here are some great suggestions SPED Homeschool team members Dawn Spence, Amy Vickrey, and Peggy Ployhar have used in home educating their own struggling learners over the years.

 

Reading

Teach sight words.  Both my boys struggle with auditory processing, and as a result phonics is a struggle.  But, they do well with memorization, so we use sight words to teach reading, and then continue to work on phonics through spelling as well as through other subjects and activities.  This approach has allowed them to read sooner, and more quickly become independent learners.  My kids love books and reading, so this is a win-win! – Amy Vickrey

Include movement. Put words on notecards or purchase magnetic words and allow your student to create phrases, sentences, and responses by arranging and re-arranging the pre-written words. – Peggy Ployhar

 

Math

Find geometric objects.  When studying shapes and geometry concepts, have  your student(s) do a geometric treasure hunt. – Dawn Spence

Make a number line. Make a physical number line or use movement to help with moving numbers up and down a number line alongside addition and subtraction problems. – Dawn Spence.  

Fold paper to prove theorems. For helping an older student understand geometry concepts, use paper folding technique to help translate theoretical concepts into relational concepts. Here is a resource that shows you how. – Peggy Ployhar

Electronically graph equations. For students who benefit from learning math visually, use an Excel spreadsheet to graph algebraic equations. Here is a resource that walks you through how to use Excel this way. – Peggy Ployhar

 

Science

Make crafts meaningful. When studying about the layers of the earth, have them create the layers in playdoh or Rice Krispie treats. Or, when studying anything with the body – building the layers of skin, the cell, or the lungs makes it more real and easier to relate to when your student can manipulate and create replicas of what they are learning. – Dawn Spence

Embrace experiments. Experiments can be messy and time consuming, but they provide students with experiences they are less likely to forget than if they had just read about a science concept in a book or even watched a video with an experiment. – Peggy Ployhar

 

History

Act it out. When studying history, have your children act out a scene or historical event. To make it even more theatrical, have them put together a costume from materials they can find around the house. Then while you read about the event from a history book, textbook, or historical fiction book, have your children act out the parts for the person they are portraying. – Peggy Ployhar

Listen to audiobooks. For history, we have been listening to fiction and nonfiction historical books in the car.  Story of the World and various historical fiction have filled our time as we drive to appointments around town. This has done two things – increased my children’s love of history, and increased their listening skills.  It also has gotten my oldest to pick up and read these books later that previously he hadn’t shown any interest in.  Because he heard them first, he enjoyed going back and reading through them to get more details.  This method can also be helpful for students who enjoy listening to the books while following along. – Amy Vickrey  

Spark interests with videos and documentaries. There are many great shows on science, history, and innovation/manufacturing. These videos spark interest by exposing students to new topics. For instance, after watching a video about automobiles, I found my son pouring through books on automotive fundamentals to help him better understand what he learned from the videos.  There are plans to make a rocket-propelled bike or car…I’m not sure how, but I am excited that he is trying to figure out how. – Amy Vickrey

 

Writing

Cultivate storytelling. A way we helped our children develop writing skills was to take turns telling stories while on family hikes. Each family member would get a turn and the other family members contributed a person, place or thing that had to be included in the story. It was always fun to hear what my kids would come up with and since there was no handwriting involved and the storytelling made the hike go faster there was no complaining either. – Peggy Ployhar

Take advantage of technology. Since handwriting is still a challenge, we have used voice to text on Google Docs and Pages (iPad).  Both programs have worked well, and are free. Speaking in short phrases is best when using this technology. Moreover, the usage of this technology helped my son with his enunciation of certain words.  – Amy Vickrey

 

Still looking for more creative ideas for how to home educate your struggling learner? Check out these additional resources from our website.

 

 

 


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by Cynthia Heren from  Inside Our Normal, SPED Homeschool Blogging Partner

 

When we uncovered  our child’s disability, it was because we realized they weren’t meeting the suggested age-based milestones. In our case, we were still spoon feeding them yogurt and applesauce. We kept telling ourselves as parents “It’s ok, they are only 2…” but that excuse wore thin as they were getting ready to turn 3 in a couple of months, so after consulting with our pediatrician we began Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy for our child.  

 

For our  outside the box kids, learning doesn’t always happen at the same pace as their peers.  But with strong support, they can make the same progress in their own time. The child I mentioned above entered Pre-K with an IEP that focused on support in fine motor skills and sensory needs.  When we had them reevaluated in 3rd grade after moving across the country and a few years of homeschool, their new IEP reflected struggles focusing and social skills. 

 

Fast forward a few years and that same child is now a preteen. Their strengths and challenges have changed with time. Progress has been made in some areas, and new challenges have arisen. In our homeschool we can fully accommodate their needs and provide support for the best ways to help them grow.  Fine Motor skills are still a struggle but we meet the need by having primary-ruled paper always available for written assignments and the computer available to type on, instead of being overwhelmed by small lines on a worksheet. This accommodation is easy because we homeschool and don’t have to think about 30 students. We only have to consider what is best for one. Our child had grown and changed in their own time! Take heart. Working at your child’s pace is always the right choice.     

 

3 reminders for working at your child’s pace

#1 – Ignore grade levels and meet them where they are at

Many times, our special kids excel in specific areas of learning but struggle in other areas. It is important to look for  homeschool materials that can meet your child where they are at instead of where they “should be” based on their age. Trusting the placement tests of any program you are considering is valuable and will help you find the right fit for your child’s needs in that skill area.  I am homeschooling three children and only one of them is on the same grade level for all subjects. The other two students fall across at least two grade levels in their materials.  

 

#2 – Celebrate their progress

No matter what level your student is working at when they finish a project or workbook, take time to celebrate! It can be as simple as a dance party using songs from the radio or a special trip for ice cream. Celebrate all progress, however that looks at your child’s pace. They may never catch up with their age level peers but since they are in a classroom of one, they are never behind. 

 

#3 – Your homeschool is uniquely yours!

The most important thing to remember when homeschooling Outside the Box kids is the flexibility it gives you to meet their needs. Stop looking at other homeschoolers you know and don’t compare your homeschool to theirs. Your homeschool will look unique to your family and the needs of your student, and that’s how it should be. Likewise, their homeschool will be unique to their family and learning needs. When you focus on finding the perfect fit for your students, your students will thrive!

 

When we parents remember to keep our eyes on helping our child succeed and set unique learning goals based on their current skill sets, we will see the best growth. It may not look like a typical child their age but Progress is Progress and we will celebrate with you every step of the way!  

 

 

 

 


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by Cheryl Swope, Simply Classical Curriculum and Cheryl Swope Consulting

 

David was small in stature. He had only five small stones. By any standard of measure, David stood no chance against Goliath; but the LORD was with David.

 

This is what I wish I would have understood when my twins were young. As an adoptive mother, I fretted. My son’s legs were twisted and his muscle tone floppy. He spoke with sounds that were difficult to understand. He seemed perplexed by reasonable rules. Unusually passive, he was willing to let his twin sister attempt to button his clothing, do his simple chores, and speak for him in public. She, by contrast, was eager to help, but lacked the skills to do so. With odd language and fine-motor skills so weak they fell into the 2nd%ile. Even at age four, her drawing and coloring appeared at a toddler age. What was I to do?

 

My mind vacillated by its own weakness. On hearty days, I vowed to “catch them up” with heroic amounts of attention, therapies, and hard work. Much of the time, this mindset served my children well. We truly worked hard. The therapeutic work structured our days, nurtured our bonds, and resulted in measurable, albeit small, gains. On weaker days, I despaired of ever being able to catch them up to their peers. Just when I thought we had made great strides, a same-age child would come over to play. I marveled at the organized mind of the child as she planned her play, folded a swim towel, or spoke with coherence. I felt myself tumbling into the chasm of difference between my children and the capable neighbor child.

 

Where was my mistake? I believe now that my mistake, on both the hearty days and the weaker days, was thinking that my role was to “catch up” my children, as if the differences were merely quantitative and resolvable. My little David–my twins Michael and Michelle–would never be the size of Goliath, the physically and mentally able “giants” among other children we knew. They would not run and play freely like the others, navigate friendships or draw and color like the others, speak or plan or achieve like the others. But the LORD was with them. 

 

I began to understand that the enemy was not the other children. They were not “Goliath;” rather my giant was the temptation to hold up other children as the measuring stick for my own. I had nothing in my satchel to slay this temptation. But the LORD was with me. I want to share this excerpt from I Samuel 17:

 

Then he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine….

Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts…. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you.’

 

Slaying the temptation was my first, small step of progress, and one that would need to be taken. One of my children’s occupational therapists told me that the top factor for a child’s success was his sense of love, acceptance, and closeness from his mother. As if scales fell from my eyes, I compared less and, instead, saw my children as the unique, fully human, endearing children that they are. Scrapbooking helped. I jotted down the delightful things they said, the small steps of progress they made, and the ways in which they evidenced growth beyond what is measurable: thoughtfulness, gentleness, kindness, helpfulness, self-control. 

 

Our children are created imago Dei, in the image of God, redeemed by Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Him, my twins have an unmatched advocate, defender, and sustainer. With this comfort I am free to continue therapies, press on with academics, and teach the many things they need to know. We can work on exercises, speech articulation, social understanding, and manners. If we move forward in spelling, math, writing, and reading, we rejoice. Today as we watch other families make progress step by step through our Simply Classical Spelling: Step-by-Step Words and  Simply Classical Writing: Step-by-Step Sentences, we rejoice greatly. But most importantly, we have learned the hard way that even if we make no progress despite great effort or, due to degenerative conditions, experience regress, the LORD is still with us.

 

We can remember that young David who once carried only five small stones later prayed words we can say together with our children in great confidence: I will fear no evil, for You are with me. We can trust in His faithfulness toward us no matter where our children fall today on percentile rank, stanine, and other manmade measures. The LORD provides us with comfort and understanding as we love our children on hearty days and weaker days.

 

Resting in Him, we can rejoice in our children’s small steps. We can rejoice most of all in sharing the truth that closes David’s beloved psalm for ourselves and for our children: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Let us guard this comfort closely and teach this, above all else, to our children day by day.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist,SPED Homeschool Board MemberCurriculum Partner,  Consultant Partner, and Therapy Partner 

This is a following-up to my previous blog on dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. The basic information shared in that blog will help you understand the suggestions below as they relate to the neurodevelopmental (ND) approach. 

Now that we are on the same page with the understanding that the symptoms need to be addressed so the brain works efficiently, we can move forward with tips to help a child that has any or a combination of the “dys” labels. Also note that a 15% off coupon is located at the end of this article for being a SPED Homeschool member and can be applied to any of our products you think may might be helpful in teaching your student.

 

Dyslexia

My previous blog listed  dyslexic symptoms. Almost all children who come to us with this label were mixed dominant in their eyes and ears. Fortunately, this is something that can change and when it does, the individual experiences increased long-term memory and less emotionality and school stress. 

Another key factor in academic success for a dyslexic is processing both visual and auditory information.   Free Test Kit. Processing is your short-term memory and affects a person’s ability to hold sounds together to read phonetically. For more information about auditory processing and how to improve it, watch this video or order this

After you have looked into those factors, you need to be sure the eyes are tracking together and converging correctly so the correct information is going to the brain regarding the print in front of the person. All of these developmental factors and more that might affect someone with dyslexia can be checked by a trained NeuroDevelopmentalist through an inexpensive, in-person or zoom NeuroDevelopmental Screening. Information about each of these factors is also available on our YouTube or Rumble Channels called Brain Coach Tips

 

When one of my children was struggling, I wanted to know what I could do TODAY to help. Of course, learning about dominance and processing is a good first step but easing the stress of  reading practice is paramount as well. If the child’s processing score is less than 6, we recommend echo reading. I know, the first thing you are going to say is, “Isn’t reading with phonics the only “real” way to read?” Phonics is great!  Let me repeat, phonics is a great way to teach reading if the individual has high enough auditory processing to handle it.  If that is not the case, it is a frustrating experience for both student and teacher. 

 

 

Read this text and then I will explain.

See, we are really sight readers. Once we know the word, we don’t ever sound it out again. Because of this sight word skill, having a large sight word vocabulary is an asset! Echo reading is where you read a couple of sentences and then the child reads the same two sentences after you. With this method, you work on word recognition, comprehension and reading expression all at the same time. I like to use this really sweet series of a family on a farm when recommending echo reading; Books for First Grade and Second Grade.

 In addition to echo reading, you would work on auditory processing twice a day. When the child can do a solid 5 and work close to 6 numbers on the auditory processing  Free Test , you add phonics back into your routine. In the meantime, the echo reading takes the pressure off the child and also the negative mindset that “I can’t read.” When you add the phonics back in, the child has the best of both worlds – a good sight word vocabulary and a way to sound out unknown words. Watch this for more details. 

Check out this additional resource for the  Best Way to Teach Reading

 

Dysgraphia

Symptoms for this label can come from several different sources of brain inefficiency. If the eyes are not giving the correct information about where the line is, how can the child write on the line? If the pathways from the fingers to the brain are not working well, he will not be able to control the pencil. If the pencil grasp is not good, this also retards progress. 

Interventions:

  • Do deep pressure on the hand and arm to help build pathways. 
  • Check the eyes for convergence and tracking
  • Consider a ND program so you can be equipped to help with central detail vision that makes it hard to see exactly where the line is. Central vision also affects the spacing between words and the inconsistent size of letters.  
  • CursiveLogic can also be used to teach cursive handwriting. This helps to keep letters more uniform because of proprioception (tactile awareness of where you are in space) that can compensate for visual inefficiencies. 

 

Dyscalculia

Again, we need to look for how to address symptoms instead of focusing on a disability or difficulty. 

  1. If the brain is not organized well at the lower levels, it is difficult to have organized thinking. So many times, we expect organized behavior from a disorganized brain (a brain that didn’t receive enough of the right kind of stimulation during developmental stages) and it becomes a frustrating experience for parents and teachers. 
  2. Auditory processing (as mentioned above). When this is low:
  • there is a struggle with logical thinking needed for mathematics concepts
  • word problems are a struggle because the information is not held well in short term memory
  • instruction of math concepts is hampered
  • remembering all the steps to a more complicated operation like long division is a challenge

3. Long-term memory – if information is not being stored correctly for easy retrieval, it will be difficult to learn math facts and remember how to do certain operations

 

An ND’s view of math is divided into 3 distinct areas of abilities that are worked on independently:

Math Issue #1: Learning the meaning of a particular operation. What is addition? What does multiplication really mean?… 

Intervention

Some parents are mistaken that a child shouldn’t move on to subtraction until they have mastered the addition math facts or on to multiplication until the addition and subtraction facts are solid. If you work on each math ability independently through AND methods, the mastery of math facts doesn’t hinder a child’s ability to progress in math concepts. We use Visual Circle Math  (VCM) with 50% instruction. Children that are behind in math really don’t need to do full grade level math curriculums to get caught up to grade level. When you use VCM, students are presented with ways to see what each operation is and do the problems that are more grade level appropriate even before they know the math facts. This way they can catch up quickly and then join a grade appropriate curriculum for other aspects of math like time, temperature, and geometry. Be sure to include Visual Circle Math Additional Mastery Pages so you have enough practice for your child to master the current math concept while getting daily practice on all the previously mastered concepts. This is designed to be hands-on with the parent as the parent does every other problem for the child (50% instruction). This adds intensity to help the information stick and stops all potential mistakes the child might be inclined to make. 

See the SPED Homeschool Review Crew unboxing and review videos of VCM to learn more.

 

Math Issues #2:  Mastering the math facts. This is knowing the answer instantly of a particular random one digit problem. Ex. You see or hear 4 + 5 and 9 comes to mind immediately without thinking of a math family or a trick to subtract 1 from a double like 5 + 5. 

Intervention

Mastery of math facts is the cornerstone of math. When a child knows their facts, math lessons go much more smoothly, and takes less time. We use The Rapid Recall System  where the child sees, hears, says, and writes 5 math facts 14 times a day. This dynamic system only takes 6-7 minutes of “input” (putting information into the brain) and 1-3 minutes of “output” (checking to see if the information is coming out on paper quickly). Children report that after using this system that they really like math after all. 

 

Math Issue #3: The ability to do word problems. This involves reading the problem, holding the information in short-term memory long enough to decide what is important as well as what operation is needed to solve for the answer. 

Intervention

Work twice a day on auditory processing so the student can hold the information more easily.

 

Your children with “dys” labels don’t have to struggle the rest of their lives with these challenging symptoms. If the root cause is addressed with the right kind of stimulation, the child will make progress and build confidence along the way. For more help in where to start, contact: office@BrainSprints.com 

Use coupon code: SPEDFriend for any products that might be helpful for your child.

 

 


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By Yehudis Litvak, SPED Homeschool Partner, Homeschool Boost

 

Every child is unique. The beauty of homeschooling is the ability to customize your child’s education to fit their uniqueness. This is true for any child, and even more so for a child with learning differences.

And that’s step 1 in homeschooling your  child with dyslexia–a fundamental change from the way schools approach education towards a more holistic educational paradigm that builds on your child’s strengths while helping them build up their areas of weakness.

 

All my children are wonderful, amazing, and bright students who love to learn. Two of them have dyslexia. That doesn’t mean they are less capable. They are not learning any less than the other two. They just need different ways to learn, alternative ways to access information–ways that do not require a superhuman effort on their part. A child who struggles with reading but loves science, for example, can learn about science from audiobooks and documentaries. They can also learn online, using browser extensions that read any text aloud. And of course, our favorite way–read alouds.

So step 2 is that instead of lowering your expectations on how much your child can learn, find alternative ways to access information and learning materials, so your child can learn just as much as their non-dyslexic peers.

 

Once you’ve set up your child for success in their areas of interests and strengths, you need to help them in their areas of struggle. For this, determine precisely what these areas of struggle are. To do this, start by understanding there are different types of dyslexia. Two children with the same diagnosis on paper may struggle with very different issues. Step 3 would be to get to know your child, to notice specific struggles. Turn to professionals for help. Ask local homeschoolers for referrals to trusted professionals who can help get you connected. While you’re at it, check your child’s vision and hearing, which could also cause learning struggles.

 

When you have a clearer idea regarding what’s causing your child’s learning difficulties, you can look for  the best way to help them. That’s step 4, and it might take time and trial and error. There are many wonderful programs out there. It’s not that some are better and others are worse. It’s that some are a better fit for your child than others. Some families choose to outsource, hiring a tutor to work with their child. Others purchase materials and work with their child themselves. There is no right or wrong. Do whatever works for your child and your family.

 

And then step 5 would involve finding the proper balance between supporting your child’s strengths and interests and helping them make progress in their areas of struggle. I always compare homeschooling a child with learning differences to riding a seesaw. After spending some time on, say, reading instruction for a struggling reader, you need to restore balance by spending as much, or even more, time on something your child truly enjoys.

The overall atmosphere in the home should be that of unconditional acceptance. Your child should know that the rest of the family accepts him or her just the way they are. Yes, you’d love him even if he never learns to read. Yes, you’d love her even if she keeps misspelling her own name. This might be obvious to you, but not necessarily obvious to your child! Verbalize it! Tell them that their learning challenges do not diminish their value as a human being. Such conversations mean more to our children than we might imagine.

 

And step 6? Have fun! Our children grow so fast! We want to give them a wonderful, memorable childhood. Don’t let your child’s learning struggles get in the way! Spend time each day enjoying each other’s company and doing something both you and your child enjoy. Get outside, explore nature around you, go on fun trips. Remember that everything our children do is educational. There is so much to learn everywhere you turn, as long as you nurture your child’s curiosity and sense of adventure. Enjoy the journey!

 

For more homeschooling information and resources, including a free dyslexia-friendly literature and science unit , please visit HomeschoolBoost.com.

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist,SPED Homeschool Board MemberCurriculum Partner,  Consultant Partner, and Therapy Partner 

 

Dys, dys, dys what is a mom to do? I just had a child in my office this week with all three labels and they added Auditory Processing Disorder on top of all the ”dys.” This mom, like many of you, wanted the child tested and even labeled so he could get some help. What she received was far from what she hoped. Instead, she received a lot of labels, some vague, general recommendations to remediate his work and ways he might cope and compensate for these conditions for the rest of his life. NeuroDevelopment offers a unique perspective. The goal of neurodevelopment is to find the root cause of each of the symptoms that show up on the test for these labels and to equip the parent with activities that work on that root cause to decrease or eliminate it. For a better understanding of this perspective, I encourage you to watch a video entitled: To Label or Not to Label

 

For now, let’s delve into the “dys” labels. 

When you look up the meaning of the prefix, dys you find: “bad”, “abnormal”, “difficult”, “hard”, “imperfect” or “impaired.”

Adding “lexia” (meaning – readable [to choose words; to gather, to collect; to pick out, to choose; to read, to recite]) to “dys” results in dyslexia.

Adding “calculia” (meaning-learning related to numbers and mathematics) to “dys”results in dyscalculia.

Finally, adding “graphy” (meaning-form of drawing, writing, representing, recording, describing, etc) to “dys” results in dysgraphia.

 

Mostly, children with typical or above average to even gifted intelligence are labeled with these “dys” labels. Some sources even admit that these reading, math, or writing challenges are totally unexpected in these bright children. In fact, one very sad result of these labeled difficulties is that these children often feel they are not very smart, even though they may have a very high IQ. Plus, their parents don’t know how to explain the disconnect between their intelligence and learning struggles. 

 

The traditional approach for remediating these “dys” issues focus attention on the difficulty, the abnormal struggle, and the impaired ability to do typical academic tasks. Unfortunately, this approach also blinds us to the solutions. 

 

Do this experiment for me – put the palm of your hand against your nose with fingers fanned out. Now, look at a scene outside your window. Is your view of the scene distorted? Now straighten your arm in front of you, parallel to the floor, and look at the scene again. Your hand is still there in your peripheral vision but it is not skewing your perspective of the scene. That is how I encourage you to look at these labels. They don’t need to be a daily topic or excuse for not being able to get school work finished. They can simply be an awareness (your hand in the peripheral position) that there are inefficiencies happening in the brain that can be addressed at the root to make function easier. I like to tell the children that they are really smart but their brain is tricking them right now so it is harder for all the smart to come out easily. 

 

Let me illustrate this with a dysgraphia label. One boy with this label as well as a 130 IQ described it like this: “My hands feel fluffy.” Now think about it, if you had fluff at the end of your arms would you be able to control a pencil? NO! In this child’s brilliance he was describing an immature pathway from his brain to his hand that was not allowing him to control his fingers to form the letters like his teacher wanted. This caused frustration on all sides of the issue. You could put this child in handwriting classes for hours a day and this difficulty is not going to change until the underlying issue of the brain pathway is addressed. Of course this is only one possible root cause of the many that could get a child that label but I hope you can see the point. In my daughter’s case, she had so much trouble writing legible and on the line that in addition to the poor brain pathway to her hand, her central detail vision wasn’t working well. This meant that she couldn’t even see all of the lines she was supposed to write on. These were developmental issues that were addressed with neurodevelopmental activities that stimulate the brain in these areas. Improvement was then made. 

 

As for dysgraphia, there are many possible root causes for the symptoms for that diagnosis. A few of these root causes could be the inability to hold information in short-term memory in order to see the big picture or poor long-term memory storage which  makes fact retrieval difficult.  

 

I have listed many symptoms of dyslexia’s root causes in this document to give you a better idea of the neurodevelopmental perspective on dyslexia. It is “the hand in the scene but not in your face” perspective that should help you know how to homeschool a child with these labels. 

 

If you are looking for more information, visit the Brain Coach Tips YouTube channel or www.BrainSprints.com to get more information on how The NeuroDevelopmental Approach can help you see more solutions for learning struggles. 

 

 

 


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by Faith Berens, M.ED. Dyslexia and Reading Specialist, HSLDA Special Needs Consultant and SPED Homeschool Board Member

 

As a very young student, I struggled with mastering and recalling basic addition and subtraction facts.  At 9 years old, I still had failed to grasp the foundation of place value.  I had a very difficult time conceptualizing and visualizing mathematics-numbers were simply symbols on a page—they did not carry any meaning.  It literally “would not compute” because the symbols did not turn into pictures or translate into a meaningful concept.    

I continually thought, “Am I stupid?  Is there something wrong with me?  Why didn’t God make me smart like my older sister who flew through her school work with ease making A’s?”  In my mind, I was a failure; I was not good at math, and never would be. 

But along came hope…I vividly remember the day when my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Gingery, began the process of unlocking the mystery of math for me.  She gently and quietly led me to the carpet and pulled out the popsicle sticks, while the rest of my peers quietly worked on their math worksheet at their desks. “They all get subtraction with regrouping….so why don’t I?  They can remember their math multiplication facts….so why can’t I?  Maybe I am just not as smart as them…”

I am so grateful my teacher did not berate or belittle me. Instead, she was calm, patient, and compassionate.  She obviously understood that the traditional way of  textbook learning and rote memory was not working for me, so she changed her approach, demonstrated concretely, with modeling and repetition so that I could understand the concepts, the “why” behind the process, as well as engaged multi-sensory teaching with me.  These methods of teaching were invaluable in unlocking math for me.  Despite solid teaching in the elementary grades and even remediation classes in middle school, my math challenges continued. 

In fact all through high school, I continued to wrestle with understanding quantities and fractions, retaining formulas and conversions, and steps in processes for solving equations.  These difficulties led to fear, frustration, anxiety, and needless to say, evenings consisting of hours of math homework filled with tears.  My mother, who was a single parent, hired a wonderfully gifted math tutor who patiently worked with me.  With his support, I was able to get through Algebra 1 and 2 and Geometry. Despite the fact that my high school guidance counselor said I was “not college material”, I was still determined to go to university!  One summer, I even took a math course to help sharpen my math skills. However, the road was hard and I still did not know WHY learning math was so difficult for me.  

Finally, in my sophomore year of college, when I went to the special student services department to seek assistance with my university math classes and to ask for testing accommodations, the answer to why learning math was so challenging came! One of the educators in the special student services department gave me a diagnosis, “a label” if you will.  I was told, “You have dyscalculia.”  And as a young adult, with that “label” came a sigh of relief and such freedom!  “You mean there is actually a name for this problem??  I’m not dumb?  I can learn?  I don’t have something wrong with me?”  This “label” replaced all the other labels and lies I had been putting on myself since childhood. Oh the joy and stress relief to finally know—to be able to put a name on this thing that had plagued me for so long!  To know what “it” was and that there was help available was a wonderful gift to me and I embraced it.  Additionally, I continued to work with the staff and tutors at my university to learn strategies and techniques to help work around my learning difficulties. 

 

Defining Dyscalculia:

Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability and is sometimes referred to as the math version of dyslexia.  It is often diagnosed or termed math learning disability or a mathematic disorder.  Often students with a learning disability or difference, also have underlying slow processing speed and weak working memory.  

According to  www.dyscalculia.org, dyscalculia is “defined as a failure to achieve in mathematics commensurate with chronological age, normal intelligence, and adequate instruction. It is marked by difficulties with:  visualization;  visual-spatial perception, processing and discrimination;  counting;  pattern recognition;  sequential memory;  working-memory for numbers;  retrieval of learned facts and procedures;  directional confusion; quantitative processing speed;  kinesthetic sequences;  and perception of time.” 

As an adult, I still deal with having poor visual spatial skills.  So, please don’t ask me to help rearrange your living room furniture because I can’t picture what that couch will look like turned a different angle nor am I good at estimating or “seeing” in my mind’s eye if said couch will fit on the opposite wall!  In fact, it wasn’t until well into my 40’s that I learned, through a cognitive development therapy program, to hold a sequence of numbers or an amount in my mind’s eye and then do something with it (visualizing and working memory skills) thus mental math has always been really challenging! Math is still hard for me….but as my good friend and colleague, Dr. Carol Brown says, “Hard is good!” and I am getting better with these cognitive skills and continue to grow and be stretched with games, puzzles, and the hope that the brain can change and learn new pathways!  

So, what’s a homeschooling parent-teacher to do when their student struggles with these skills and mathematical thinking?  

Practical Tips and Strategies:

  • First and foremost, if and when the student is diagnosed with dyscalculia, the parents, as the teacher and administrator of their home school, can allow for student accommodations, such as extra time, use of a calculator, and accessing math reference sheets.  The HSLDA Special Needs Consultants encourage families to document these accommodations on a parent written home education accommodation plan and maintain this document, along with the diagnostic test report, in your student’s homeschool file.  
  • Provide lots of time for hands-on and sensory experiences that build visual memory, visual-spatial, number sense, patterning, etc. skills that are foundational for mathematic thinking
  • Use a multi-sensory (visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and auditory) math program/curricula
  • Teaching should be systematic, sequential, and explicit
  • Allow for repetition and practice
  • Model mathematical thinking, problem solving, and relate math skills to real life situations
  • Tap into your child’s strengths (such as auditory memory or musical/rhythmic) areas to help them practice math, learn math facts, and memorize math vocabulary and steps in the process 
  • Play games, such as board games that utilize mathematical skills
  • Consider utilizing a math tutor or learning disability specialist, if you need support in teaching your child
  • Color code steps in the process, place value columns, and use mnemonic devices, or songs/rhymes, chants and jingles to teach math vocabulary and steps in problem solving, conversions, and formulas
  • Your student does not have to simply settle for accommodations and compensatory strategies alone!  Consider the fact that a cognitive therapy development program, such as Equipping Minds or  Brain Sprints can address and strengthen the underlying weak cognitive skills (working memory, visual memory, visual-perceptual, sequencing, language processing, visual discrimination, directionality, and processing speed) which are causing the math dysfunction 

 

Recommended Math Curricula and Teaching Resources:

 

Read another homeschooling mother’s story about her life with a learning disability

Don’t forget to check out our trusted math curriculum partners.

 

 

 

 

 


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by Dr. Rebecka Spencer, with Cherish Children Ministries

 

Can you please just tell me which curriculum to use for my dyslexic learner?” 

I’ve tried multiple curricula and nothing seems to be working.” 

 

These are common questions we get here at Cherish Children Ministries from both homeschool moms and classroom teachers. The Orton-Gillingham approach (or simply OG) is the most famous and widely used curriculum for dyslexic learners, but it does not necessarily have to be a new purchase for your homeschool journey. Structured learning, sequential skill introduction, cumulative lessons built upon each other, explicit instruction, multisensory opportunities, and systematic phonics are key facets for the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading for our dyslexic kids. But you do not necessarily need to invest in an all-new curriculum. What you do need to do is learn the components of effective strategies and use what you have. 

 

The fact of the matter is this: most curricula have both phonics and sight word components included in them already, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. What you might want to do, if your curriculum is not OG-based, is make sure that you are doing some multisensory sessions with your child. These are action-oriented, with auditory, visual, and tactile-kinesthetic elements reinforcing each other for optimal learning. Teaching spelling simultaneously with reading is part of the OG approach. 

 

The basis of the OG approach revolves around the idea that kids learn and master language through three neurological pathways: visual processing, auditory processing, and tactile processing. The first two – visual and auditory processing – are used to read, while tactile processing is for handwriting and muscle movements. There are hundreds of curricula that encompass and embrace this approach. Keep in mind all curricula may not advertise that this is the method used. If these three pathways are incorporated in structured and meaningful ways, and systematic phonics and multisensory opportunities are also included, then the curriculum is based on the OG method. The OG approach is so well-known that some portions of the approach are found in many programs at all price ranges. 

 

The first thing is to get the left portion of the brain firing so it can recognize and learn some patterns and reading-type skills. I would like for you to imagine your brain and how it receives information. The first thing the brain does is take the image that it sees from both eyes, then upside down, then the brain flips it and turns it where you can see it. Imagine if there is a delay in the right or left brain here. 

 

Children will often struggle with pencil grip and tracing letters with early childhood games. When this occurs, it is quite possible the palmar primitive reflex is not integrated. It is simple to integrate. Just get a stress ball and have the child squeeze the ball with the forefinger and thumb, thumb and middle, then thumb and ring finger, and thumb and pinky. Do it again but start with the thumb and pinky. Doing this a few times each day will dramatically help learners who have dysgraphia. Also, the Writing 8 ABC’s Exercise will help with dysgraphia as well as dyslexia. We have put together a 4-part lesson plan that is sure to get your learner thriving. Check it out HERE.

 

Visual function is very important when we talk about dyslexic learners. Dyslexic kids struggle with the recognition of visual elements, shapes, and patterns. We do exercises with our children to help them with this weakness. When we assess children in this area, we ask our students to trace or rewrite a shape, such as a box, circle, star, or some type of polygon, only to find kids will draw something that looks a lot different from the shape set before them. Sometimes they will not even close the shape. For something that may seem so simple, one can see how this impacts their reading skills.

 

Fixation is another component that is important for parents and teachers to understand in our dyslexics. Fixation is simply the ability to maintain gaze on a single location. What happens in dyslexic kids is the fixation will be slightly off from the point the child is supposed to be looking at and they cannot fixate. 

 

Smooth pursuit, or slow tracking, is another skill that is complex for our dyslexic learners. When we check our children to understand the eye’s ability to track, we understand why it is so difficult for them to read smoothly. This is a higher function of the brain. Only highly intelligent mammals have the intelligence to do this. Some kids’ eyes skip, so they miss letters and words even while they are reading. 

 

Notice how the blue arrows indicate how the dyslexic reader may read this sentence compared to a non-dyslexic reader. One can see how this may make it very difficult for these children to read smoothly as their little eyes skip or jump letters. 

 

The brain takes in the images that the eye lands on, and the brain cannot do this properly if the eyes are skipping or jumping. Some kids struggle with this, so we want to strengthen this weakness with some easy exercises. You can try this at home right now with your little learner with this easy exercise.

 

Put a sticker on the end of a pencil or ruler, and have the child move eyes only right to left and left to right. They should be able to do this, but if they cannot, try this exercise. Put a fun sticker on the end of a pencil or pen and ask the child to watch it as you move across their visual field. Eyes turn right to left and then from left to right and do as long as it takes about 10 seconds in each direction. Your child should be able to hold their head still and move the eyes smoothly to follow. What you want to look for is if the child’s eyes can track back and forth while watching a slow-moving target. The skips may be so slight that it looks more like a tiny shake of the pupil as it follows the target.

 

It used to be thought that what you were born with was all you had. Sometimes, brain development is compared to putting as many things into the brain as possible, beginning at birth. Babies are born with about 100 billion brain cells. As the baby grows, brain cells, called neurons, grow larger and stronger, forming tentacle-like branches to connect and communicate with the other neurons and set the stage for how we will survive and thrive in life. Most people think that what we are born with is what we have for the rest of our lives. This is not the case: the brain is the only organ not fully formed at birth. Once the brain’s basic structure is present, the brain starts working as a vital, functioning organ long before it is completely formed. 

 

Brain growth begins about 40 days after conception when the cortex, which is the gray matter that looks like deep wrinkles or grooves, starts to form. The neocortex, as it is called in fetal development, is the seed for the genesis of neurons, which sprout and accumulate rapidly, sometimes at the rate of a quarter-million per minute. For the next 125 days, new neurons will continually explode into existence like fireworks from deep within the neocortex. But this will not occur randomly. Their migration to specific locations will be carefully orchestrated, to a large degree, by genetic code. Some of these neurons will be directed to building the brain itself, forming the six layers that make up the cerebral cortex. By the end of two months, the human cortex in a fetus will be intact and identifiable. Cell migration, however, will continue to flourish, and won’t stop until about the end of the fifth month.

 

Synaptic connections are the key that makes learning–what most people think of as brain development–possible. They are the key to physical growth, as well. At one time, scientists believed that mental and physical growth were mutually exclusive. But that is not the case at all. One cannot exist without the other. Every biologically important event – from recognizing a mother’s smile or a father’s voice to sitting, crawling, walking, and talking – is the result of new connections, producing electrical excitation between neurons within the synaptic loop. The Kodak-moment milestones that parents anxiously await are markers of synaptic development and signs of normal neuronal growth.

 

A group of Belgian researchers conducted a study that proved dyslexia involved a disconnect in the wiring in the brain rather than the past scientific belief that the condition was a result of distorted sound interpretation. It was found that phonetic representations were intact in

those with dyslexia. The findings indicated those with dyslexia had disconnectivity between the areas of the brain that are responsible for speech production. Several other studies back up these findings, and I will include them in the resources section of this lesson.

 

Some research has concluded that intensive reading instruction improved reading skills in younger children with dyslexia and caused the brain to physically rewire itself, creating new white matter within the brain itself. Brain imaging of children between the ages of eight and ten displayed the quality of white matter, which is the tissue that transports signals in-between areas of the brain processing centers, improved significantly after 100 hours of remediation.

 

Kids with dyslexia have what is called auditory processing deficits, especially in phonics. The letter sounds b and p are difficult to differentiate. When exercises for building speech and sound awareness are done, dyslexic children have improved reading and writing skills. This is WHY we focus on doing brain exercises in our “Struggle Learner to Thriving Achiever” program. Did you know that 682 children diagnosed with dyslexia and auditory processing disorder were involved in a study where they exercised the weak parts of their brain? The results were significant improvements in reading skills. Also, spelling errors decreased by 40 percent! When the researchers worked with dyslexic children doing eye exercises, the children made half as many mistakes after only three to six weeks of doing brain exercises. When we balance the brain, this is what we can expect to find! You can rewire your brain, too, if you are a parent who struggles with dyslexia. 

 

Always do what is best for YOUR child or students. You are with your children more than anyone, so listen to your instincts and go to a specialist if you determine further modifications or testing is needed. It is always a good idea to invite trained professionals onto the team for your child. You are your child’s best advocate.

SPEDHomeschool has dozens of articles to help you confidently homeschool your child with dyslexia. Our list of articles is here. Also, check out our trusted reading curriculum partners

 

 

 


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