Stephanie Buckwalter – SPED Homeschool Partner Art of Special Needs Parenting

Homeschool is a great place to help your special needs child make progress on therapy goals. The key is to understand what drives your child’s need for therapy and the brain’s need for neurological organization.

 

What is therapy?

Therapy is simply training the body to do things that come naturally to neurologically organized people. A neurologically organized brain learns and develops in ways that we call “normal.” When someone needs therapy, it means there is some kind of disconnect between the body and the brain that causes dysfunction. 

 

Many times, a disorder or dysfunction falls along a spectrum. We use terms like mild, moderate, severe, or profound to identify where on the spectrum. Those terms actually refer to neurological organization. A child with mild disabilities is just a little neurologically disorganized. A child with profound disabilities is very neurologically disorganized. When you work on neurological organization, you are working on moving your child along the spectrum toward “normal” function.

 

How does the brain relate to therapy?

There are three main pieces to the puzzle of neurological organization as it relates to therapy. That means there are three potential points of disconnect you may need to address. Think of it in terms of a sensory-motor process:

  1. Sensory input—external (5 senses) and internal (proprioceptive [where you are in space] and vestibular [balance] senses)
  2. Brain processing—storing information, recalling, memory, making connections, sequencing, signals for motor output
  3. Motor output—speech, run, laugh, jump, write, read, perform, play

The therapy your child receives should address one or more of these three parts of the process. The goal of therapy is to help your child become more neurologically organized or physically proficient so they can function in a more “normal” way, a way that makes life easier for them. Take a look at the same graphic in terms of therapy:

To manipulate input, you would vary the frequency, intensity and duration of the activity to influence the brain. With profound disability or if you are just starting to address an area of need, you should start with high frequency, high intensity and short duration. 

Think of a baby learning to crawl. They try over and over to get up on their hands and knees (high frequency). They rock back and forth. They concentrate on their goal—they are not playing with toys or watching mom’s face while learning to crawl (high intensity). But they tire quickly (short duration). As they begin to crawl, the frequency remains high, the intensity lowers and the duration increases until the skill is mastered and performed with ease.

Therapy should work the same way. This is why homeschool is ideal for therapy overall. You can do daily therapy practice to vary the sensory input that your child needs in terms of frequency, intensity and duration. 

Another thing to be aware of related to sensory input is negative sensory input. Some behavior issues can be related to environmental factors such as temperature, sound, feel of clothing, lighting or visual stimuli. You can also look at food reactions or lack of sleep. If your child is reacting during school, start a diary of each incident and look for patterns to determine the source. I have an Incident Report form you can use in my free ebook Crash Course: How to Teach Your Special Needs Child at Home . It also covers more of the neurological information presented here. 

Next, jump ahead to the motor output. This involves the types of therapy that are most familiar: Physical Therapy (PT), Speech Therapy (ST), Occupational Therapy (OT) and Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA). One reason for the familiarity is because insurance will pay for these types of therapy with little hassle and schools offer them. When you branch out into other therapies, you are usually on your own as far as paying for them.

Training the motor output is important because our children don’t always intuit what they should do physically, socially or emotionally. They can learn many things but have to be taught everything. If your child is receiving therapy, ask for daily homework assignments and vary the frequency, intensity and duration to get the desired output.

Between the input and the output comes the processing. For a variety of reasons, your child’s brain may not be functioning well. It could be from damage, malformation, inflammation, lack of specific nutrients or a variety of other reasons. There are therapies designed to address how the left and right sides of the brain integrate to help it bypass any blocked pathways, whether physical, electrical or chemical. These are things like rhythmic movement therapy, music listening therapy, Brain Gym® or other therapies that work on balancing or integrating brain functions.

There are other things you can do in the areas of diet, biomedical, energy medicine, naturopathic medicine and holistic solutions. Those are outside the scope of this article but they are an important part of helping your child succeed. Sometimes it is these interventions that help the brain the most. Homeschooling allows you to integrate medical and natural protocols into your school and other therapies in the way that best suits your child’s needs.

 

What does this mean for my child?

For a homeschooled child, you have complete freedom to work with your child at the times and for the duration you deem necessary. You can also apply the idea of frequency, intensity and duration to learning academics or life skills. I’ll give you an example.

One of my children didn’t learn to read until the end of fourth grade. We were on curriculum number five when things finally started to click. But I don’t think it was the curriculum, per se. I had a list of the 2,000 most common words in the English language, ranging from first-grade level to high school vocabulary. I told him if he would read through all the words, he could have a particular item that was of high value to him. (It was not expensive, just highly motivating to him.)

So each day we would sit together and read a word list. They were broken down into 20-word groups. For the early lists, we could do two or three a day. As the words got longer and harder, we would do only one or two lists a day. We did this every day. No matter how poorly he read the words, we sounded them out together. It took about 2 or 3 months to get through the list. He earned his prize and then school was out for summer.

Without even realizing it, I had used the frequency, intensity and duration principles to teach him to read. We did high frequency (we even read on weekends sometimes because he was motivated), high intensity (reading was very hard for him) and short duration (just a few words at a time). We did not review or repeat words as that was not the goal.

By the end of the school year, he was reading at a first- or second-grade level. Like all well-intentioned homeschool moms, I was going to work with him over the summer but that never happened (maybe because I had a newly diagnosed special needs child). Interestingly, by the time school started in the fall, he was reading easily at a second-grade level and by the end of fifth grade that year, he was reading at a fifth-grade level or higher. So after two months of intense “reading therapy” and a break of three months where his brain was processing with no additional input, he learned to read.

I share this to show that sometimes, if we focus more on how we are providing the input than trying to get our child to produce output, we can have amazing results.

For my special needs daughter who has moderate disabilities, the real value has been in working on the brain and neurological organization. She spent time in public school. During that time, I worked with her on brain therapies at home. Through interactions with her teacher, I could easily see what was working and what was not working. 

My focus was strictly neurological organization, not academics, so vast improvements at school were most likely due to increased neurological organization versus academic instruction. I know this is true because her teachers were always amazed at how much she progressed, implying that they didn’t really do anything different with her than the other students to cause such an increase in progress. I also know it works because when I do not keep up with her neurological therapies, she slides into fight or flight mode and doesn’t function very well intellectually or behaviorally.

For my special needs daughter who has moderate disabilities, the real value has been in working on the brain and neurological organization. She spent time in public school. During that time, I worked with her on brain therapies at home. Through interactions with her teacher, I could easily see what was working and what was not working. 

My focus was strictly neurological organization, not academics, so vast improvements at school were most likely due to increased neurological organization versus academic instruction. I know this is true because her teachers were always amazed at how much she progressed, implying that they didn’t really do anything different with her than the other students to cause such an increase in progress. I also know it works because when I do not keep up with her neurological therapies, she slides into fight or flight mode and doesn’t function very well intellectually or behaviorally.

If you’ve ever wondered why therapy is not really working for your child, it may be that they need work on varying input or neurological organization before manipulating the motor output will be effective.

 

What can I do in my homeschool?

Here are some ways to incorporate therapy into your homeschool day and help your child become more neurologically organized:

  • Apply frequency, intensity and duration principles to:
    • Therapy homework
    • Your child’s goals, academics or life skills
    • A particularly difficult subject for your child
  • Add developmental movement to your day
    • Use exercises that are specifically developmental in nature, like those from Brain Gym® or the book Smart Moves
    • Add rhythmic movement therapy to address retained reflexes
    • Take walks – the body is designed to walk and naturally alternates sides, increasing brain integration
    • Do exercises or dance (not necessarily developmentally but better than nothing)
  • Train motor output
    • Learn therapy exercises from your child’s therapists
    • Use hand-over-hand support to teach skills
    • Physically manipulate your child’s body to encourage correct function

 

Never give up on your child, regardless of age. If you can improve neurological organization, you can improve your child’s life. 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Support the on-going work of

SPED Homeschool

Donate Today

 

 

by Sarah Collins – SPED Homeschool Partner, Colins Academy Therapy

 

Motor planning is the ability to conceive, plan, and carry out a new motor act. My favorite example is curling your hair with a new curling iron using a mirror. Upon first glance, it is somewhat disorienting. You have to consciously think about which way to move the arm, practice, and then can typically create a beautiful hairstyle. For some, this comes easily, but for others, it takes additional practice and deliberate, conscious planning.

Within the homeschool day, difficulties with motor planning can manifest themselves in many different ways. However, activities to address these skills can be fun and easy to incorporate. Here are my top four ways to incorporate these skills throughout the day.

 

Meal Times

Breakfast is a great time to start independent meal preparation. Place ingredients in easy-to-handle containers, like cereal in a small container with milk poured in a separate cup. This gives independence within a skill level. Cracking eggs using the correct amount of pressure or stirring without sloshing are two other areas we have encouraged independence by placing bowls within a sink or using huge bowls to whisk small amounts. As kids become more proficient, these safeguards are changed then removed.

 

Outside

Spending lots of time outside not only allows for nature study and other free play, but it encourages children to engage their bodies in a natural environment. They have to take risks to climb a tree, change their footing when going down a hill or when balancing on a rock. As parents and home educators, we often don’t want to let our children fall or fail. However, independently coming up with a movement, completing the movement, and then self-evaluating are all aspects of motor planning that require risk-taking and permission to fail.

 

Obstacle Courses

Obstacle courses are another favorite of mine to encourage motor planning. Sometimes, I give specific ideas for the course while other times I tell them to make it up on their own.

 

Games

Finally, here is a list of fantastic games that incorporate motor planning.

  • 1. Simon Says
  • 2. Robot Turtles
  • 3. Kids Charades
  • 4. Left Right Center
  • 5. Jenga

 

Part of the reason that I love being an occupational therapist consulting with homeschoolers is that it allows me to explain my thinking behind what we do at home with our kids while influencing other families. Even during a global pandemic, it has allowed me to continue to combine both of my passions and keep my brain working!! Please contact Collins Academy Therapy Services for a personal consultation about incorporating these strategies into your homeschool.

 

This was originally published on Sarah’s website as Motor Planning Strategies in the Homeschool.

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

By Jan Bedell, PhD, M ND

 

An often overlooked piece of the puzzle for children that may be struggling emotionally, behaviorally, or academically is nutrition. The child’s metabolic system, its internal chemistry, can have a lot to do with the way they feel in general. As you know, an irritable child has trouble in every area of life from social interaction to academic performance and everything in between. If there are allergies to foods, the whole system reacts and causes cascading negative effects. Below are a few recommendations for all kids to feel their best!

 

Filtered Water

How much do you weigh? Now, divide that number by 2. This number is the absolute minimum number of ounces that your body needs each day to be healthy. Your brain cells need this water to function properly, so drink up! If you do not filter the water you drink, then your body becomes the filter.

 

Liquid Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement

Make sure any vitamins and minerals are sugar-free and without dyes. Instead of gummies or chewables, consider liquids because they will absorb faster and more completely than pills. A high-quality mineral supplement must be PH-balanced for the body to assimilate the minerals. Any treatment with supplements is compromised if the diet includes too much refined sugar and saturated fat.

 

Important Foods to Eat Every Day

  • Protein is a great way to start the day and an important part of breakfast. 
  • Consume more fresh fruits and raw vegetables throughout the day. 
  • Low-glycemic sweeteners to explore include stevia, xylitol, Sweet & Slender, sucanat, rice syrup, and barley malt. These sweeteners have a lower glycemic index than refined sugars, maple syrup, molasses, or honey. Fructose and agave have low glycemic values; however, if eaten after a large meal, they take on the higher glycemic value of other foods so only consume these on an empty stomach.

 

Foods to Avoid

  • Sugar and sugar substitutes such as corn syrup, NutraSweet, Splenda, Sweet’N Low are heavily processed and can have a range of side effects. Avoid caffeinated drinks that usually also contain lots of sugar. Consider reducing white flour that turns into sugar and instead serve whole wheat and whole grains. These sugars and starches can cause chemical and mineral imbalances in the body. They can negatively affect the mind, body, and emotions. Read labels of all processed food. Did you know there is more sugar in catsup than jam?
  • Artificial food coloring, food additives and preservatives can cause negative chemical reactions in the body.
  • Cow’s milk that is homogenized and pasteurized creates mucus in the respiratory tract and holds mucus in the intestinal tract. Consider rice dream milk or almond milk without sugar.
  • Hydrogenated oils impair the blood-brain barrier where nutrients are exchanged for waste in brain cells. These oils clog the bloodstream and can cause coronary problems.
  • Wheat and gluten are also foods that can negatively affect a child’s gut. The gut has been called the second brain. Symptoms of gluten-sensitivity are abdominal cramping, diarrhea, poor sleep, rashes, and foggy thinking, to name a few.

 

Dr. Jan has seen nutrition as a significant factor for children with learning struggles but, again, only part of the puzzle. As a NeuroDevelopmentalist for over 25 years, she knows that you have to take into consideration all of the child’s development. The great news is that it is never too late to change the brain and increase the individual’s overall function. For more information about The NeuroDevelopmental Approach to Life, visit www.BrainSprints.com.

 

Check out our comprehensive resource for diet and food issues!

 

REFERENCES

  1. Aihara, Herman. Acid & Alkaline.
  2. Baroody, Theodore, A., Ph.D., N.D. Alkalize Or Die.
  3. Beatty, Paul F. “Attention Deficit or EFA Deficient? Essential Fatty Acids For the Hyperactive Child.” Alive Magazine. Sept. 1996:13.
  4. The Brain Train. 3300 Bee Caves Rd. Suite 650, Austin, Tx 78746. 512-347-0053. Fax 512-347-0053#51
  5. Bridge, Ivy. “Hyperactivity/Attention Deficit Disorder.” The HANDLE Institute. www.handle.org.
  6. www.liquidhealthinc.com; 1-800-995-6607
  7. Podell, Richard N. M.D. The G-Index Diet: Controll Your Glucose Level And Lose Weight Now. New York:Warner Books.
  1. Richard, David. “Questions & Answers About Stevia.” http://www.stevia.com/SteviaArticle.asp?ID=2269
  2. Stevens, Laura. “Lack Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Childhood Behavioral Problems.” NFM’s Nutrition Science News. December 1996:4. www.newhope.com/nsn
  3. Stephens, Lynn. “The Awesome Agave.” http://www.shakeoffthesugar.net/article1042.html
  4. Gershon, Michael D, M.D. The Second Brain
  5. Davis, William, M.D. Wheat Belly

 

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the on-going work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

SPED Homeschool Team

Every month, we ask our SPED Homeschool team to provide insight into their own personal journey with homeschooling. This month we asked a few of our team members about what they do for homeschooling when a family member is ill. Here are ways our team homeschools when…

 

When a child has a chronic illness

“Homeschooling through an illness looks differently depending on who is sick. If my daughter with chronic medical issues is ill, everyone else will continue with their day’s work. My daughter will be given time to rest and medical interventions, if necessary. If I need to be more hands-on with her, we might have a movie day and watch documentaries that pertain to our learning. I always have backup plans just in case this happens. My other two children have learned to adapt to their sister’s needs. I allow my other kiddos sick days as they come up as well. We homeschool year-round to make up for periods of sickness. If I am ill, I teach from my recliner and we make things work as well as we can. What I have learned is to give myself lots of grace and remember that I am not chained to a timeline.” – Dawn Spence 

 

When a parent has a chronic illness

“Over our years of homeschooling, we have dealt with short-term illnesses like colds, the flu, and other small health hiccups that disrupted our schedule for maybe a day or two. In those days, my kids would often lament that homeschooling was not fair because, even though they were sick, they still had to do schoolwork. I have to admit, it wasn’t always easy to keep them learning when we weren’t feeling our best, but these times taught my children that we do our best with what we have been given.

“But then sometimes prolonged illnesses affected our learning, like the lengthy battles  both my boys had in overcoming childhood depression. Many days our school lessons were not focused on our core subjects because mental healing was more important than learning to read, write, or do math. And, those days I pushed the curriculum over working on mental health, I quickly realized my son wasn’t grasping the lessons or engaging with the content. He was just physically in the room with his mind in a different place. 

“Now, entering my last year of homeschooling my youngest, I am the one battling an illness – cancer. My life has been upended with weekly doctor appointments, surgeries, and more, all while I do my best to help her keep a regular schedule. Needless to say, in planning out this year, I have taken on teaching in areas where I feel my presence will have the greatest impact. And, for the rest of her curriculum, I have prayerfully outsourced her teaching to tutors or self—paced online programs. I just can’t do everything and have the time and energy I need to devote to my healing.

“Life has seasons of health and illness and those seasons affect how we homeschool. Health issues that families face should never be used as excuses to forgo the calling to homeschool. It may just look different in each of those seasons.” – Peggy Ployhar

 

When there are multiple appointments

“Concerning homeschooling through illness, we just don’t. We are rarely sick, so when we are, we skip those days of school and don’t make them up. That is what happens in public schools. We frequently do have “bad days” where attention just isn’t there because of autism, or my son is having a poor vision day. I build in a make-up week half-way through the school year and another at the end of the school year in the same way some schools have snow days. When we have doctor appointments, I may do half-days depending on if it is just any easy check-up or a long, tough one. The long ones count as a bad day and we do not have school. We have also counted therapy as part of the curriculum because that is what would have happened if he had been in school getting services at school. We just did academics half-day on those days. Speech therapy and occupational therapy counted as language arts as he worked on wh- questions, pronoun usage, and prepositions in speech and handwriting in OT. We just did the math and either history or science on those days.” –  Lara Lee

 

When there is a pandemic

“Just ten days after it felt like the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, my husband was unexpectedly hospitalized. By then, my kids were already feeling the changes in the world around them. We were having to distance from family and friends, and our many activities suddenly closed. School and learning were the only consistent things. During this time, we kept our schedule of morning nature walks and schoolwork at the table each morning. We cooked our meals together at home. We relied on neighbors and friends to bring us some toilet paper and a few groceries. I knew that my kids needed the routine even more because everything else in life at that time was chaotic.” – Melissa Schumacher

 

Check out these other SPED Homeschool Team blogs for more inspiration:

Homeschooling Organization Tips that Work

Best Homeschooling Advice for Special Education Homeschool Moms

Avoiding Burnout as a Homeschool Mom

Our Favorite Internet Resources for Homeschooling Special Ed

First Year Homeschooling Lessons

50+ Ideas for Homeschool Extracurriculars

Looking for alternative homeschooling activities when sickness has “rained out” your homeschool schedule for the day? Try one of these low-key learning activities.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

Renee Sullins, SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner

In working with teenagers for many years, I have learned that if there is ONE thing that teenagers understand well, it’s PROCRASTINATION. Not to say that adults are not guilty of the same, but teenagers are quite adept at it.

There are three types of procrastinators I would unscientifically categorize as the blatant procrastinator, the passive procrastinator, and the convicted procrastinator.

 

The Blatant Procrastinator purposefully ignores an assignment or task and is aware of the consequences. They are not concerned that something is due the next day or that there is even a deadline involved. It may be important to someone else, but not to them. They simply let the deadline pass and move on, much to the displeasure of their parents who may not even know.

Blatant procrastinators would rather do something they want to do and don’t see it as procrastination. This may be the teen who has a messy room, refuses to use a calendar or planner, and has a list of excuses for everything. Why bother to clean your room when it will just get messy again? Planners are too restrictive! These teenagers are also the ones who spend countless hours gaming or on social media.

 

The Passive Procrastinator waits until the last minute to finish so it does not seem to be a big problem. They are aware of deadlines and may even track things in a planner, app, or notes on their cell phone. They have good intentions of following through, but they just cannot accomplish tasks on-time consistently. They know where they want to be, but struggle to manage their time.

Passives may believe they have finished, but in reality, it is only partially done and they don’t notice until it is too late. These teens are usually the ones with ADHD and who are aware of their learning differences, but they are not using the necessary tools to focus and manage their time. Passive procrastinators know the consequences of not getting something done on time. They are often the most amenable to trying new strategies to help prevent procrastination, though.

 

If we can determine what is getting in the way of their success and help them get unstuck, then they are more motivated to cultivate new habits for their success.

 

The Convicted Procrastinator has a heightened awareness that they are procrastinating but, instead of working toward their goal, they quickly become overwhelmed and spiral into thoughts of self-criticism, defeat, and guilt. They are so hard on themselves that they self-sabotage and end up not getting anything done. Or, they are so overwhelmed about their lack of activity, there is often a resultant headache, stomach ache, or even a migraine. When this happens, they feel even worse, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

 

I would also like to mention a fourth type of procrastinator that I know well as I witnessed this type in my teen. They are a kindred spirit to the Passive but to a more extreme level. It is the Avoidant Procrastinator. This is the teen who thinks that if they don’t think about it at all, it will go away. I had one of those in my house. It does not go away. It only gets worse and can cause great anxiety and stress.  Please be aware of the signs that your teen may suffer from more than just being a procrastinator.

 

So what should a parent do? Each procrastinator has his or her own set of rules, coping skills, excuses, and struggles. The first thing I do when I work with young people is to let them know that I come from a place of curiosity, not a place of judgment. We dive deep to determine what they want for themselves, how they want to be seen and heard, what is important to them, and their “why”. If we can determine what is getting in the way of their success and help them get unstuck, then they are more motivated to cultivate new habits for their success. This takes time, patience, and intentional listening.

The teen years are transitional years of becoming more independent yet still needing the approval and counsel of parents. When you have a procrastinator in your home, instead of asking nagging questions or given them endless reminders, seek out resources to get them the support they need that works uniquely for them. This may take some trial and error, but in the end, they will find their way, and will feel empowered and in control of their lives now, and hope for the future.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

Dawn Spence

For many, this will be your first year of homeschooling and my best advice for you is to take self-care breaks this year. Homeschooling is a fabulous journey, but it requires work and dedication. Breaks can take many different shapes and forms, so I want to highlight a few that have been helpful for me in my seven, almost eight, years of homeschooling. Not only will taking breaks help you finish strong, rest is an essential part of staying healthy – physically and mentally.

 

Quiet Time at Home

I am still working on this part. Whether it is taking a hot bath, a Bible study, or sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, it is important to feel calm and quiet. Let’s face it, life is crazy and most days we go all day. We are teachers, cooks, nurses, referees, moms, dads, and much more but we need time to just be still. Find your peace and wrap yourself around the bigger picture of why you do this whole crazy life. We are called to serve and love but we need the quiet and break to refocus and ground ourselves so we do not become overwhelmed.

 

Connect with Friends

You are not just a homeschool parent, you are a person who needs their friends. Take time to talk to or meet up with other friends that will encourage you. Find your friends or group that give you words of wisdom and who you can be real with about your struggles and your triumphs. Meet over coffee or chat over zoom, but take the time you will be amazed how much it will rejuvenate you. I truly believe that friendships help us know that those bad days are normal. We all need a cheering section that will speak to our hearts, hold our hand, and pray for us.

 

“…friendships help us know that those bad days are normal..”

 

Retreat Away from Home

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of getting away with an organization called A Mother’s Rest. A special needs mom started this program because she knows what is on our plates. It was an amazing time to get away at a bed and breakfast with no expectations except to relax and sleep. It was nice to be with other moms who understand. They also have retreats for couples or just dads. Their motto is, “You cannot pour from an empty cup,” which is so true. It was nice to step away, be pampered, and truly rest. If you cannot get away for a retreat, find other ways. My husband has surprised me with a night away at a hotel to sleep. Find a way to fill your cup.

 

As you go through this year, take time for yourself so that you can give more to important people in your life. Self-care is never selfish and it allows you to replenish yourself so that you can accomplish your goals.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP,

SPED Homeschool Board Member, Curriculum Partner & Therapy Partner

Sometimes a subject comes up that is so wide-reaching in its impact, that it cannot be ignored. As a special educator for over thirty years, and a nutritionist, I am always on the lookout for ways to relieve suffering in kids who are struggling with learning or behavior. It has come to the point that evidence of the impact of fish oil on the brain and nervous system of these struggling children is so large that I think it deserves its own article.

 

Recent Trends

The incidence of children diagnosed with food allergies (notice all of the gluten-free and dairy-free items in grocery stores as of late?), asthma, autism, Asperger’s, sensory processing dysfunction, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia has increased greatly in the past five years. There is a disproportionate number of boys in this increase. Why is this occurring? UCLA School of Medicine has found that boys have a three times higher need for DHA, a type of Omega-3 fat from fish oil, than girls. Let’s explore this more…

 

Depression

The incidence of depression has skyrocketed in children and adults since World War II. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take anti-depressants. What is going on? Researchers report that blood levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein are frequently elevated in those diagnosed with depression. Could inflammatory changes in the brain be one of the main drivers behind our epidemic of depression? This may also explain why anti-depressant medications often do not work for people with depression. Emory University in Atlanta confirmed the depression/inflammation connection. Fortunately, there are natural ways to reduce inflammation. The most effective way includes a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA in fish oil. Dr. Michael Norden, a practicing psychiatrist in New York, uses essential fatty acids, and particularly fish oils, for his patients who are suffering from depression. Using fish oil in addition to medication, and sometimes without medication, Dr. Norden reports impressive relief from depression among his patients. Likewise, Dr. Andrew Stall, a physician from Harvard has found that the DHA in fish oil has proven to be extremely helpful in patients suffering from postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, ADD, and ADHD.

 

Autism

Many studies implicate inflammation of the white matter of the brain as a common thread in children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. However, one very unique aspect of fish oil is its effect on the gaze aversion that afflicts so many children with autism. The rods in the retina of the eye are very responsive to the supplementation of DHA. Dr. Mary Megson, a developmental pediatrician in Richmond, Virginia, has found that the reason that children with gaze aversion will seem to look away from a parent’s face is that, when looking directly at the face, all they see is a white block. Thus, they use their peripheral vision to at least get a glimpse of what they are looking at. With proper amounts of naturally occurring vitamins A and D in cod liver oil, this gaze aversion disappears or is greatly reduced. Dr. Megson states strongly that it is important that synthetic vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate not be used. Interestingly enough, I have found this also to be the case in the children in my consultation practice who come to me with gaze aversion. I have always found that with the proper amounts of DHA, for which I use a specific cod liver oil, the gaze aversion is eliminated or reduced by 85 percent. In fact, in the autism conferences at which I speak, I have “before and after” pictures of children with autism, showing the lack of gaze aversion after giving this vital nutrient. Besides affecting gaze aversion, parents report increased socialization, speech, bladder control, and sensory processing after even a short while of this supplementation. It has also helped many children struggling with ADHD, dyslexia, and bipolar disorder.

It has also helped many children struggling with ADHD, dyslexia, and bipolar disorder.

 

Traumatic Brain Injury

Probably the most dramatic healings reported after the introduction of high amounts of fish oil, have come from the healing of traumatic brain injuries that were not responding to other treatments. When Peter Ghassemi’s son was lying in a coma after a severe car accident, the doctors reported that while his son had survived the accident, he would likely be a vegetable for the rest of his life. This dad reached out to Dr. Michael Lewis, an Army colonel, for help. Dr. Lewis, the founder of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute, urged him to talk with his son’s doctors about using the same protocol that was used for a young man who had experienced this same type of traumatic brain injury. In that case, the young man, Randal McCloy, was the sole survivor of a mine disaster in West Virginia. McCloy, 26, had been trapped in the mine for 41 hours while the air around him was filled with noxious methane and carbon monoxide. His brain was riddled with damage from these potent toxins. McCloy’s doctors were looking for ways to stem the tide of inflammation and cell death occurring in his brain. His doctors embarked upon an unorthodox treatment regimen that included high doses of fish oil. Dr. Julian Bailes, one of McCloy’s doctors said “The concept was to attempt to rebuild his brain with what it was made from when he was an embryo in his mother’s womb. High doses of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), since they mirror what is already in the brain, would facilitate the brain’s own natural healing process. These fats are literally the bricks of the cell wall in the brain.” Dr. Bailes referred to the National Institutes of Health research that suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may inhibit cell death and could help in reconnecting damaged neurons. Worthy of note is that, in addition to massive cell death, the protective sheath around McCloy’s nerve cells had been stripped. The sheath, called myelin, allows brain cells to communicate with one another. Amazingly, three months after saturating his brain with high doses of fish oil, McCloy was walking and speaking. Armed with this success story, Peter Ghassemi urged his doctors to try this same, safe protocol with his son. The result? Three months after his accident, Bobby Ghassemi was well enough to attend his high school graduation. Bobby said, “The whole place was cheering for me…I took my graduation cap off and waved it around.” Peter Ghassemi said, “His brain was damaged, and this was food for the brain.” Dr. Lewis concluded, “The message that I’m trying to get across is, there’s more you can do. If you add the fish oil, we can then begin to let the brain heal itself a little more efficiently.”

 

Dyslexia

In 2000, Dr. Jacqueline Stordy began to research the connection between DHA and dyslexia. She performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which she studied children with ADD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. She found that when a protocol amount of DHA (from fish oil), was given over three months, that statistically significant improvements were made in these children’s focusing ability, reading ability, and coordination and balance.

 

Teeth, too?

If you have a child who suffers from multiple cavities, no matter what you do, you will be interested in Dr. Weston Price’s research. A dentist, Dr. Price found that one way to prevent cavities from forming in the mouths of his young patients was to make sure that they had adequate levels of Vitamin D and the all-important Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 helps to form the dentin, the porous tooth material underneath the enamel of the teeth. This vitamin can be found in fermented foods, butter, meat from grass-fed cows, hard cheeses, like Gouda, and a fermented food from soybeans called natto, or in supplements. As we know, good ol’ cod liver oil is a great source of both vitamins A and D.

 

What can moms do to help their child get these brain-healthy fats?

Begin to reduce the bad fats that block healing by including more good fats into a child’s daily diet with simple measures like adding some avocado in sandwiches, using real butter instead of margarine (especially if the butter is from grass-fed cows), and using real mayonnaise. Eat more whole grains and legumes versus white flour several days a week. Lastly, make raw vegetables and a salad an everyday part of your children’s diet. If you choose to give a supplement such as cod liver oil, fish oil, or Vitamins D3 or K2, it is best to check with the child’s doctor before beginning any supplement program. For a list of the amounts of fish oil, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 that was used in these and other studies, just type “Fish Oil Article” in the subject line, and send to craft@ecentral.com

 

This article was originally published in The Struggling Homeschooler Magazine, February 2013.

The information in this article should not be construed as a diagnosis or medical advice. Please consult your physician for any medical condition and before adding supplements or changing a child’s diet.

Dianne Craft has a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado. Read more at her website www.diannecraft.org .

 

References

Andrew Stoll, MD, The Omega-3 Connection

  1. Jacqueline Stordy, Ph.D., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71, Jan 2000 Dianne

Craft, MA, CNHP, “Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain”, www.diannecraft.org Drs. Kay Judge and

Maxine Barish-Wreden, “Healthy diet shown to cut risk of depression”,

www.denverpost.com, October23, 1012

Kate Rheaume-Blue, ND, The Calcium Paradox

Mary Megson, MD, “ The Biological Basis for Perceptual Deficits in Autism”, www.megson.com

Melvyn Werbach, MD. Nutritional Influences on Illness

Michael Norden, MD, Beyond Prozac

Stephanie Smith, “Fish Oils for Brain Injury”, http://www.cnn.com

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

SPED Homeschool Team

We can turn every activity we do with our children into a learning experience. Thankfully, homeschooling allows families to turn active learning into homeschool extra-curricular subjects. The possibilities are endless, but below you will find 50+ ideas for homeschool extra-curricular subjects based on what we, the SPED Homeschool team, have taught in our own home schools.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Scuba diving

Sewing and Dressmaking

Aerial Silks

Taekwondo

Structural Engineering

Photography

Computer Skills (including IT skills, building a computer, keyboarding, and software implementation)

Welding

Band/Instrument Lessons

Film and Cinema studies

Podcasting

Digital Art 

Starting a Personal Business

Dance

Knitting

Speech & Debate

 

Cammie Arn

Horseback Riding and Equine Care

Gardening

Landscaping

Taekwondo

Theater: acting, set design, mural painting, costuming, stage managing, lights and sound

Fine Arts/Spoken Words: poetry, producing a children’s literature book, sermons, vocal solos, short story reading 

Piano

Handbell Choir

Speech & Debate

Computer Programming

Food Preservation and Storage

Menu planning 

Food Preparation

Money Management

Horticulture

Animal care

Music Theory

Art History 

Sewing

Knitting

Ballroom Dancing

 

Lara Lee

How to draw YouTube videos

Kid’s Engineering YouTube videos

Cooking

Gardening

Neighborhood walk, bike ride, or scooter

TinkerCrate

Cardboard models of appliances

Coloring books

Busy books (downloadable pages from TeacherPayTeachers, then laminate and add velcro to the back of the pieces)

Puzzles

Board games

Self-made experience books using photos and construction paper

Photobooks/Social stories (Such as documenting night time routine or a trip to visit family)

Daily rotating busy boxes (filled with toys and activities to do on only that day of the week)

 

Nakisha Blain

Nature journals

Feeding squirrels

Online summer camps

Art projects

Hiking

Home economics

Go-karting

Building/Construction

Volunteering

Helping parents with a family business

 

As you can see, we basically turned anything our kids or family are doing into school. That is the beauty of homeschooling.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

Michael Maloney, SPED Homeschool Partner

Teaching a child how to read and write doesn’t just open them to a world of books and papers, but to communicating with others and navigating the world they live in. Using these communication and navigation intersections allows you to continue teaching language arts as a life skill even when the books are put away. Here is an outstanding example of how to prompt your student to use language arts as a life skill.

 

Ten-year-old Sam and his dad are off to Pearson International Airport to pick up his cousin for a camping trip. They were checking the car to see that they had everything. 

Dad started the conversation by saying, “Here’s the checklist. You read it and I will make sure that each thing is in the car.”

Sam read, “Tent”. Dad replied, “Got it.  Next?”

 “Sleeping bags.” 

“Check.  3 sleeping bags.” 

Sam read each item on the list as his dad checked the supplies.

 

“While I drive, be my navigator. Watch for signs with an airplane on them and then read the name of the road that we use to exit”, Sam’s dad said. “It will take us about 45 minutes to get to Pearson.  Meanwhile, use my phone to text Erin and see if she is through Customs and at her boarding gate.  Also get her Flight number. Thanks.”

 

Sam sent Erin a text and waited for a reply. A few moments later, the cell phone beeped. He read the message. “She is just on her way to her gate. Everything is good.”

Sam watched carefully for the exit and pointed when he saw a picture of an airplane on the overhead highway sign. “There’s our exit, 3 kilometers ahead. We follow Highway 404 West.”

 

“Well done. You’re a pretty good navigator for a 10 year old.” His dad said, “Now we have to find the terminal where Jet Blue lands. Watch the signs on your side. The airlines are in alphabetical order, so look for J and read me the number of the terminal.” 

“There it is –Jet Blue. It is Terminal 3.” Sam said excitedly. He was anxious to see his cousin.

“Text her and tell her to wait on the sidewalk outside of the Jet Blue Arrival area.”  A moment later the cell phone beeped again. “She’s already there waiting for us.” 

“That’s great”, his dad said, “Now we won’t have to park the car to go and find her. Is there any room for her in one of the back seats? We may have to rearrange some of the gear.” 

“There’s lots of room, Dad, Erin is not as big as me.”

 

Once out of the airport, Erin and Sam read the brochures about the lake they were going to. They found out about the kinds of fish they might catch. “Wow, look at this one”, Erin pointed to a large Northern pike. I’m not sure I want to catch one of those.”  They read about boat rentals, fresh bait, campfire rules and emergency services.  An entire hour passed before they had read and discussed what they wanted to catch with what bait.

 

After 3 nights in a tent, several daily swims and campfire dinners of fresh fish, the three campers were ready to return. 

“So what lesson did you learn from all this?” Sam’s dad asked.  Erin piped up, “You don’t stop reading just because you closed the book.” Sam laughed.

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

This article contains an Amazon affiliate links associated with the SPED Homeschool Mom-Care Store.

Peggy Ployhar

Do you have a student who struggles with a core subject?  Maybe math, reading, or spelling? Many parents do. But many parents also try to solve the lack of progression in a core subject by focusing more heavily on that subject to “catch up.” Unfortunately, this is actually a counterproductive move.

How? I will start by sharing a scenario I have shared with many parents over the past 15 years when they told me they were not seeing progress using the tactics I described above. But, I usually start by saying, “What I will tell you will probably seem rather illogical at first, but I want you to consider this parallel first.”

 

Here is the parallel argument I share:

What chore or activity do you dislike doing the most? (Parents responses vary, but most say cooking, laundry, cleaning, car maintenance, or any other necessary chore that needs their attention regularly.)

For me, it would be cleaning my house. I could cook all day, but I hate to clean.

Now consider if someone were to remove all the extra activities out of your day so you had more than enough time to do that one activity you disliked?

I don’t know about you, but if someone told me all I had to do (thus all I had to look forward to) when I woke up Saturday morning was clean my house, I would sleep in as long as possible. Would you feel the same way?

 

Next, let’s now consider how you have removed most of the other subjects and activities in your student’s schedule to focus most of your homeschooling time on his/her “struggle” subjects. Your child feels the same way as you do about the activity you mentioned to me just a few minutes ago. Do you now understand why your child has a hard time just doing the few subjects you have left for him/her to learn?

The solution takes us in the opposite direction. We add in MORE unconventional learning.

 

“…consider if someone were to remove all the extra activities out of your day so you had more than enough time to do that one activity you disliked?

 

We all know the concept of incentives. In training our children we often use rewards like toys, food or stickers. Those external incentives teach our children there are wonderful outcomes that come from perseverance. I am all for these tangible external incentives, but over time we want our children to move beyond external incentives to external incentives. This is where MORE unconventional learning can help your student understand the rewards of learning and using their unique giftedness.

Yes, learning can be an incentive for your student. What would that look like? Here is an example of what this looked like in our homeschool for my oldest son.

At 11 years old, my son still struggled to read. Every day we used various curriculums to keep moving forward in his progress toward learning to read independently, but I knew if we pressed in too much with just reading I would crush his spirit and he would lose his interest in learning all together. This same child loved to build. So, I incorporated his love for building into an actual school subject he would have listed in his planner each week. I didn’t know what I would use at first for this “class” until I came across a K’NEX Education set on how to reconstruct 7 real bridges. I called the class “Structural Engineering” and we spent time each week learning about these bridges and building them. Instantly, I saw a boost in my son’s self esteem. He was now seeing what I had seen for so long, that he had a knack for engineering and was a gifted learner. Now 12 years later, this same young man recently received a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Was it a surprise to me? Not at all.

 

As you look ahead to your homeschooling year, make sure the pressures of catching up do not crush your student’s potential. Add in MORE learning instead and show your student how despite their learning difficulties he/she is still a gifted learner. 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today