by Cheryl Swope , M.Ed., SPED Homeschool Curriculum and Consulting Partner

 

April is Autism Awareness Month and we here at SPED Homeschool understand how autism can affect learning and the education process. SPED Homeschool Founder and CEO, Peggy Ployhar, started their family’s homeschooling journey after their son’s autism diagnosis 19 years ago. It is our hope that our resources will empower your homeschool and your student will reach his/her full potential.

 

We homeschooled twins on the autism spectrum from their infancy through high school graduation. Along the way, we learned to create a daily schedule, even for weekends and summers. Our friends’ children did not need this, but our children with autism did. They appreciated the predictability and security of a gentle routine. Even today, our family finds it helpful to include all of these:

 

Refreshing Outdoor Time

Our children may struggle with anxiety, obsessions, compulsions, or rigidity of thought, so we need to teach them to relax. As homeschoolers, we carefully schedule schoolwork, chores, and therapies, but we may forget to schedule time in nature! Consider set times each day to refresh your child. It will be good for you too! Some of our favorite ways to refresh:

  • Walk outside
  • Play at a park during non-peak hours
  • Swim
  • Sit on the back porch swing to watch the birds and squirrels
  • Pull weeds, dig in the dirt, sweep the driveway or sidewalk, carry logs to or from the woodpile, pick up sticks in the yard, visit neighbors

 

Conversation and Engagement

When my daughter’s speech therapist observed that my daughter was on the autism spectrum, the therapist cautioned against long periods of isolated play. She told me to engage her.

  • Have conversations. Play simple games. Read books together. Have her “point to the butterfly” or “point to the red balloon.” 
  • Now age 26, my daughter’s most requested engaging “game” is one we created while waiting for things. “Which is your favorite piece of artwork in this restaurant?” “Which wall color is your favorite in this waiting room?” While in traffic, “Which vehicle is your favorite of those we can see?” We take turns. Not only does this improve theory of mind and awareness of surroundings, but it seems immediately to reduce anxiousness while waiting.
  • Her twin brother prefers active, higher-level strategy games. His current favorite is Ticket to Ride, which he and I play almost nightly. (With maps, trains, and problem-solving, it is little wonder this game is a clear winner for my son on the autism spectrum!)

 

Quiet

We want to instill a love of quiet in wholesome ways for the mind. Start with 10 or 15 minutes. Increase to 20 or 30. Each rotated container might hold items gathered by the child’s ability:

  • Storybooks – board books for younger children to handle, children with a tendency to drool, or children who do not yet handle paper pages well; picture books for more able students.
  • Sturdy art supplies – wax crayons, colored pencils, large stencils, drawing paper.
  • Puzzles – large, wooden puzzles if needed or more intricate puzzles as the child is able.
  • Relaxing music – with a mat or plush throw blanket.
  • Field guides – for older students, select a topic outside their typical selections.
  • Simple kits – models or crafts, sewing/lacing cards, paint sets 
  • Headphones – stories, poetry, or more advanced options for more capable students. 

 

Companionship

A willing sibling or adaptable playmate can offer companionship for your child. Myself & Others can assist with coaching beforehand. Consider a dog, cat, or fish for additional companionship. If a pet would be too much, consider growing something in a garden or container, such as pansies, zinnias, or little cherry tomatoes your child can help tend. Encouraging your child to nurture someone (or something) helps her avoid focusing too much on herself. Fostering companionship with tenderness can be deeply gratifying.

 

Spontaneous Fun Sprinkled into the Day

While we prevent difficulties by adhering to a routine, we must also prevent rigidity or an over-reliance on schedules by looking for moments to interject playful delight. Snuggle lightly (or deeply, depending on the preference). Grab a quick blast of fresh air by going to get the mail together. Play pretend with favorite toys. Let her ride her trike before dinner, pick wildflowers, or set the table with a favorite tablecloth. Such things can improve spontaneity while lifting everyone’s moods.

 

Refresh Yourself

Most importantly, refresh yourself. Your peace will be shared by your child.

  • Enjoy the gift of any few quiet moments you can find at church, in the Word, and in prayer. 
  • Avoid rehearsing the past, listening to disturbing news, or ruminating over troubles in front of your child. Talk instead to your spouse, your mom, or a good friend.
  • Drop fearful or fretful language as children mirror our anxieties. Begin speaking intentionally with greater trust and hope.
  • Let your children know that they are in good hands. Be confident that you can create a comforting, secure routine for them. 
  • When you fail, pick yourself up and make necessary tweaks. Your resilience models confidence that the Lord always provides. And He does. 

 

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10, my daughter’s confirmation verse

 

 

 

 

 


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Rebecka Spencer, SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner

April is Autism Awareness Month and we here at SPED Homeschool understand how autism can affect learning and the education process. SPED Homeschool Founder and CEO, Peggy Ployhar, started their family’s homeschooling journey after their son’s autism diagnosis 19 years ago. We hope that our resources will empower your homeschool and your student will reach his/her full potential.

 

I remember the day well. Bright blue eyes gazed into mine on that very first day of school. Her curly blonde pigtails bounced as she played by herself on the monkey bars at recess. During the day, we played get-to-know-you games and used manipulatives such as blocks and alphabet letters to enter the world of learning for the newly-established writing workshop class. Then, the tears and awkward mannerisms started. Just a few minutes later, this sweet child was curled in the fetal position in the reading center of the classroom. We soon became familiar with the word to describe what we saw – autism. Autism is a spectrum disorder. It is also the most extreme on the continuum of disorders that we call Functional Disconnection Syndrome (FDS). This was the beginning of our story. 

 

Autistic kids can appear healthy but often act abnormally. They may stare into space for hours, become fixated on a spot on the floor, act out or throw tantrums. Each one is different. I wanted to get to the bottom of this problem, and that is when I found the importance of brain balance and primitive reflex integration methods.  

 

What happens when the left brain becomes more dominant? The right brain falls behind. What can be done to balance the left and right brain? Brain Hemispheric Integration is simple stimulation exercises – the process of finding the underactive areas of the brain, exercising those areas, and then bringing about more connections. When this happens, they do not cross-communicate well. We want to strengthen the weak side and bring about higher functions of the brain. Through stimuli taken in through the senses, the brain develops and builds connections between the neurons. The brain uses stimuli from all of the senses to create what it knows, does, and it learns and adjusts according to successes and failures. The brain is very adaptive. The brain begins to control the body, learn, remember and recall. 

 

We learned five senses in school, but not  proprioception, which helps us know where we are in space, or the vestibular sense, which helps sense rotation and movement against the gravitational pull. These extra senses are very important in brain development, and especially in kids who have suffered from a developmental issue like Autism.

 

In less than a year, a baby learns what food is, what foods it likes or does not, and then approaches or moves away from food. If the baby wants food, he will have to move in a direction to move towards the food, then take the food and finger clasp, then put it in the mouth, and repeat. There are a lot of things involved in this seemingly simple process. 

 

Babies also learn emotion at a young age through senses. They learn language and language sounds connect to symbols in different orders so that something can be said. What does this mean? Some neurons did not develop at the normal rate. or some developed a bit smaller or quicker than needed. This is one reason milestone checks are very important.

 

In dyslexia, the left side is not as active as the right side, and the left side is the one needed for reading to occur. 

 

Hemisphere exercises stimulate the side of the brain that is underactive, and that is exactly what we began to do with our little learner. We incorporated brain exercises and primitive reflex exercises to help our sweet girl get her brilliant brain back into sync. Typically, it takes about six weeks to integrate all of the primitive reflexes. 

 

These exercises can help start the process of balancing the brain so that your child can overcome developmental delays. Parents can also do these exercises since as many as 40% may also have retained primitive reflexes. Rest assured that this initial step in remediation is easy and does not take long. From here, we want to balance both sides of the brain. Generally, autistic kids have a heavier RIGHT side of the brain than the left. We started doing brain exercises and primitive reflex exercises with our little girl.  

 

Our struggling learner with autism is now finishing up her eighth-grade year and we continue sessions together to make sure we are exercising the needed areas. She is making exceptional grades in all academic areas, taking coding classes, presenting before her classmates with ease, and tutoring on the side. She has friendships she may not have had due to her increased social skills and understands where she is in space, hence integrating all of the reflexes and spatial awareness. When recently asked her career path choice upon enrolling for classes for her freshman year, she confidently exclaimed she wants to enter the field of education.

 

Interested in learning more on this and other autism related research? Use this link to receive research updates from Dr. Rebecka

 

 

 

 


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by Penny Rogers, SPED Homeschool Blogging Partner

When it comes to the overall  sensory system, vestibular and proprioceptive inputs play a huge role in its function. Without understanding them, most kids have issues that are passed off as something else and not treated, which can cause problems later in life.

Perhaps you’ve identified these sensory issues in your child and are looking for activities to improve their overall attention. Keep reading to find out what vestibular and proprioceptive inputs are as well as activities to help with  sensory processing.

 

What is Vestibular Input?

Without sounding too encyclopedia-ish, vestibular input is the sensation caused by any change in position (direction or movement) of the head. This sensory system is made up of canals filled with tiny hairs and a bit of fluid. When our head moves, the fluid acts as triggers that, when touched by the hair, then become receptors that tell the brain we’re moving. 

Children seeking vestibular input will constantly be on the move because they want to max it out, so to speak. These children climb super high, spin, swing, and hang upside down.

Vestibular input is important because it also affects other areas, such as visual-motor skills and body awareness.

 

What is Proprioceptive Input?

Proprioceptive input is the sensation gained by body awareness through the movement of joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Think in terms of pushing, pulling, and lifting heavy objects. This connects with vestibular input by making the body aware of where it is in space. 

Proprioceptive input has a role in self-regulation, posture, body awareness, coordination, speech, and the ability to focus. While this input can be calming for some, many autistic children seek this input to regulate their emotions. 

On the other side, some children are over-responsive to proprioceptive input and avoid certain kinds of activities. By now, you can see how these two inputs work together and deserve attention for the child who experiences challenges.

 

Indicators for Children Seeking Vestibular & Proprioceptive Inputs

 

Vestibular-Seeking Input Indicators

For children seeking this kind of input, they are fixated on certain movements because their brain under-processes vestibular input. Signs of this are:

  • Never getting dizzy.
  • Always running and moving.
  • Frequently spinning.
  • Climbing extremely high

 

Indicators for Proprioceptive-Seeking Input

This kind of input can be alarming to children who are overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. In essence, you may see some of the signs listed below;

  • Biting or chewing on objects.
  • Enjoys playing roughly.
  • Likes to sit with knees tucked.
  • Toe walks. 
  • Bangs body part.

 

Activities for Enhancing a Child’s Vestibular & Proprioceptive Input

These inputs can be worked simultaneously or individually. In most cases, these activities can act as a calming technique and be stimulating and arousing. The best way to gauge what your child needs is to pay attention to how they respond to the activities.

Modify them as you see fit. And although some suggestions are being provided for you below, don’t hesitate to create your own.

 

Vestibular Input Activities

  • Rocking on a yoga ball.
  • Practice yoga techniques.
  • Pretend to row in a boat (rocking back and forth).
  • Skipping.
  • Galloping.
  • Running.
  • Jumping rope.
  • Handstands with feet against the wall.
  • Cartwheels.
  • Jumping on a trampoline.
  • Roller skating.
  • Riding a bike.

 

Proprioceptive Input Activities

  • Crawling. (weight-bearing)
  • Push-ups. (weight-bearing)
  • Playing tug-of-war (pushing and pulling). (resistance)
  • Carrying boxes or books. (heavy lifting)
  • Running. (cardiovascular)
  • Blowing bubbles. (oral)
  • Tight hugs. (deep pressure)

 

When should you do these activities?

If you have identified your child’s triggers, you can begin an activity before they show signs of anxiousness or distress. Incorporate the activities naturally into the child’s schedule to help keep the flow of other activities already established.

 

Give your child cues they can use to help identify when they may need to do an activity. Consider labeling it something as simple as a “calming activity” and provide a visual support cue as well. A visual reminder can be used to point out a particular activity your child wants to do.

When it comes to how often these activities should be done, it will depend on the sensory need of the child. Regardless, the activities do not need to be long as short activities can be the most beneficial. Activities can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.

It may be hard, in the beginning, to figure out what activities your child needs. Whatever you do, be sure to include your child’s suggestions and keep trying until you find what works.

Penny blogs over at Our Crazy Adventures In Autismland. Based on her personal experiences with autism, she educates autism families on how to navigate their world from diagnosis to adulthood. She offers real-life advice and ideas through her blog by providing homeschool printables, at-home therapy techniques, ebooks, and DIY posts. You can also follow her adventures on Twitter ,  Instagram, Facebook, or in her group, Life In Autismland.

Also, check out this YouTube video on Penny’s channel for additional information on this subject.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist, SPED Homeschool Board Member & Partner 

 

Documentation of your daily efforts to homeschool a child with special needs can seem tricky. Each state has its own requirements, so you have to stay abreast of that, of course. Beyond that, you need a system that can easily assure you – and well-meaning relatives – that the best education possible is happening for your child.

 

Remember Homeschool Is the Best Place for Your Child!

In a public school, your child would have an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). That plan would put in place modifications and recommendations for more individualized instruction and traditionally only includes academics. What could be more individualized than a parent who understands their child better than anyone in the world and can modify on the fly for academics and life-skills? The answer: NOBODY! A motivated, informed parent is the best advocate for successfully educating a child with special needs, but progress for a child that learns differently is sometimes hard to document. 

 

Be Creative with Your School Day!

Depending on the severity of the developmental, academic, or intellectual delay, your school day will look different. It is not like a typical student where you show how many pages were completed in a given period. At Brain Sprints, we encourage our families to use a detailed checklist where each item for the day can be easily checked off for documentation of work done with the child. The list would include non-traditional school activities like how many times a day you work together on auditory or visual processing (short-term memory). Or what work you did to normalize the tactile system with specific stimulation. Or activities that would organize the lower levels of the brain for better coordination as well as organized thought. Each checkmark is a step in the right direction for the functional ability of the child and should be celebrated. These activities can be more important than completing a particular page or reading that is done each day. Academics can be on the checklist, too, but addressing the root of the challenges a child faces is even more strategic. The list can quickly help you see where you need to focus more or just a reminder of progress, even if it may not be evident to others yet.

 

Plan for Interruptions

Checklists can be divided into two different lists. One list consists of the activities and/or academics you do with the child. We call it the Daily Parent/Child Conference list. The other list is the activities the child can do independently called My Responsibilities. These lists can keep you both focused and productive each day. When there is an interruption, you can say, “Work on your My Responsibility list while I do x, y, z.” This can keep the progress for the day going when those inevitable interruptions happen. The My Responsibility list can also give the child some say in their day. He/she can decide what gets done first, second, or third instead of someone else dictating every step, which is important for maturity and self-reliance. We often find that if the child has some say in what is happening, there is more compliance. Also, the My Responsibility list helps with accountability and motivation.

 

Life Skills Are Work, too!

Don’t be shy about documenting life skills like learning to wash hair, cooking, making a bed, or tying shoes. These may be just as important or even more strategic to your child’s future as anything else in the educational plan. If you document it, you will feel better about your time spent each day. You are making a difference!

 

For more information about a neurodevelopmental approach to homeschool: www.BrainSprints.com

 

 

 

 

 


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Ashley Campbell, SPED Homeschool Blogging Partner

I have never met anyone more passionate about their child’s education than a homeschooling parent. I have also seen how these same parents stress themselves out to the point of losing their peace by not remembering why they started the journey in the first place. Do you remember why you began this journey?

I have been homeschooling for the last fourteen years, and I want to share what I have learned for tracking my children’s achievements and goals. I hope this gives you encouragement as well as a reminder that you are more than qualified to teach your children. You were made in the image of God, and He has given you the authority to rule and subdue the earth. Influencing the lives of your children is the first step.

 

So, how do you track your child’s achievements and goals?

Let’s look at both words – achievement and goal. The word achievement means to accomplish; finish successful (Webster Comprehensive Dictionary). It is different from a goal which means, “a point toward which effort or movement is directed” (Google definition). One is the end, and the other is the means to that end.

 

Here are some questions to consider when considering goals and achievements:

What do my children know?

What do my children not know?

What is their age?

What content do I expect them to learn?

Is what I am expecting what I expect for someone else?

Is this realistic for them in the context of what they do know and what they still need to practice?

What do they need? 

What resources are needed to fill that need?

 

I use end-of-year testing to see what my children have achieved and what goals we need to set. If a score is REALLY LOW, that is an indicator I need to set a goal for them. The goal is for them to know more than what they demonstrated on the test. I will then get resources that will give them what they did not have. When they test again, and the score has increased, they achieved their goal. Of course, not all qualities that are taught can be tested. One example is I focus on character building and living by values. I have yet to see that on a test. 

Another way I track is to separate subjects into skills and content. Skills are what can be done. They are reproducible and take repetition. Content is more information-based. This is more comprehensive when the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how are considered. I will track their achievement depending on what I am assessing: skills or content. As far as skills, if they write poorly in terms of letter formation or struggle to read because they don’t know the letter sounds, I will make it a goal for them to practice their handwriting and learn the letter sounds. I will know they achieved it when I can read their writing and they can read BOB books. With content, I find out where they were low in science or history and just YouTube it! After we have gone over the information long enough, I ask them questions and, if they can answer them, I know we are in the process of achieving our goal to know what we did not know before.

Do you remember why you began this journey?.. Let your reason you started this journey be the passion you have to spark the life inside your children.

I encourage them for what they know and give them resources for what they don’t. I set goals that will fill in the gaps of what is needed. When the goal is met, I praise them for that achievement.

If you homeschool, you must establish why you decided to homeschool and, as your children grow older, find out what their interests are. This will make the homeschooling journey enjoyable for you and your children. You will have peace knowing your motives and spark their hearts to finding their purpose. There are skills ALL children should know. Listening, reading, writing, speaking, and math are all foundational. These are skills useful in finances, careers, and relationships. Other subjects like history and science can be more interest-driven. What are you interested in? Let your reason you started this journey be the passion you have to spark the life inside your children.

 

 

 

 


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The SPED Homeschool Team

Record-keeping is an art, not a science. What works for one may not work for another, and what may work for you now may need changing in the future. 

Founder of SPED Homeschool, Peggy Ployhar, and the rest of our team created a list of what records and documentation we have kept over the years. Requirements vary from state to state, so make sure you know what the requirements are for homeschooling where you live. Even if certain records are not required, it is great to keep examples of work and see what progress your children have made. Of course, your system may change from year to year.

 

Checklists for planning and tracking:

  • Booklists
  • Calendar
  • Daily or weekly lesson plans
  • Daily or weekly checklists
  • Grading rubrics
  • Necessary supplies
  • Student tasks/assignments
  • Teacher prep tasks
  • Unit study items
  • Syllabi
  • Scope and Sequence from curriculum or homeschool co-op

 

Schedules:

  • By unit
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Monthly
  • Per student
  • Student activities
  • Therapy 
  • Travel and field trips
  • Weekly
  • Yearly

 

Grading:

  • Report Card
  • Rubrics
  • Spreadsheets with project and test scores
  • Transcripts

 

Records:

  • Annual goals or focus
  • Binder 
  • Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Student Education Plan (SEP)
  • Picture collages of a student’s year in review
  • Pictures or scans of assignments, tests, stored on Cloud or Google Drive
  • Yearly testing summaries (required state standardized testing)
  • Yearly portfolio boxes

 

Our Pro Reminders:

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Our team members Amy, Dawn, and Melissa save lesson plans and daily checklists. These are not just planning tools but also records of your school day. “Every day, my son has a checklist of ten assignments to do for school. He is seven and, while that may seem like a lot, most assignments take under 10 minutes! Most days, he is free to skip around on his checklist, and he frequently completes his reading or math before we start our school day. This list has been one of the best ways to make homeschooling a smooth experience,” says Melissa.

Dawn adds, “Keeping track can help you and your child what needs to be done and gives everyone a way to visually see what is expected.”

 

UtilizeTechnology

Amy utilizes technology to keep records as well as share them with people outside the immediate household. “I take pictures of tests, work samples, and activities and upload them into organized folders in a google drive that is set up dedicated for this purpose. I share those folders with the other person, and they can view them as they need/want. I try to include samples from all required areas, as well as an annual email about what our focus and main curriculum will be for the year. I also include evaluations and results from any standardized tests we participate in, and for any therapy my boys are doing. I even have a folder for extracurricular and other fun activities.”

 

Mastery over Grades

Our team members Cammie and Dawn believe in mastery. Cammie adds, “I’m a strong believer in mastery as well as following directions. As a result, a student will only receive an A or an incomplete. This makes grading simpler and reinforces learning.” 

Dawn reminds us, “If they don’t do well, the beauty of homeschool is we can go back and relearn till they master the material.”

 

 

 

 


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Ruth Meed, SPED Homeschool Consulting and Blogging Partner

I have used charts, checklists and graphs over the years to track progress for real-world goals. What’s a real-world goal and why is it important? And how can we chart progress toward meeting our goal?

 

What is the standard for the subject and grade level?

A real-world goal starts with discovering age-appropriate goals for all children. You can find lists of goals by grade level at any of these websites.  Remember, grade-level standards are a suggested list of steps. You know your child and how they learn so the suggested sequence may need to be changed to meet your child’s needs. For example, a universal standard in most countries is that children should know their multiplication facts by the end of third grade.

 

Is this set of steps or end-goal appropriate for my child?

If they are realistic, then use the steps listed in the standards guide for your state/province. A child should have learned how to skip count these in 2nd grade. This sets them up for success in third grade to master multiplication.

If they are not realistic, then ask yourself:

  • How much of this goal can is realistic and will challenge but not frustrate my child?
  • Are there steps that they can do? If so, what are they?
  • Are there steps they cannot do? What are they?

You can print out the entire list sequence for a particular grade or subject and mark or underline it with green for good and red for hard rather than rewriting it.

 

Can it be made applicable to the real world?

Can you tell your child how they will use this as they grow older or become an adult? Sometimes this is easy. Balancing a bank account, measuring ingredients, or building a project are real-world skills. Other times the real-world application is that it teaches a life lesson like perseverance. Practice makes perfect is more important than the end goal because it gets you to the end goal. 

It is always wise, especially with kids who struggle, to consider what they will do with this skill in real life. Take multiplication facts, for example. If it looks like they might enjoy construction or engineering, they’re not going to be writing them out as much as they will be reciting them as they are figuring out how to measure lengths for a job. It is good to start with reciting them orally and also writing them down. Both of these skills take the concept of memorizing to a whole new level when spoken and written.

Learning a new skill that they find challenging and encouraging them that their choice to persevere is more important than getting 100%. Every time they persevere, they build not only brain muscle but also emotional, social, and spiritual muscle.

Practice makes perfect is more important than the end goal because it gets you to the end goal.

 

What can we see and measure for this goal?

In the education world, we talk about observable and measurable. This means you can see that your child can demonstrate their skill or knowledge. This can be measured on a test, a quiz, or some other form of assessment. Assessment can simply be a worksheet, quiz, test, report, activity, or project that lets you know your child can do what you want them to do independently. 

We can write our goal:

Student Sally will recite all the multiplication facts from 1 to 10 by the end of the school year. 

Typically the easiest ones to memorize after multiplying by one are twos, fives, and tens. So we might set up our benchmarks like this chart below.

 

Mastery Date Objective Test Method Mastery Goal
  By the end of the first nine weeks, my child will be able to recite all of the multiplication facts for 2, 5, and 10. written 100%
  By the end of the second nine weeks, my child will be able to recite all of the multiplication facts for 3, 4, and 6. written 100%
  By the end of the third nine weeks, my child will be able to recite the multiplication facts for 7, 8, and 9 with 100% accuracy. written 100%

 

Modifying the goal or objectives to match your child’s ability

I used the measure of all of the multiplication facts, which would be 100%. If your child struggles with memorizing things, you need to consider setting the bar lower to be more realistic. You may decide you will be happy if they can do 80% or 8 out of 10 facts. Or they may be successful based on their skills if they can learn 2, 5, and 10’s.

Another change could be, instead of reciting the facts, write them out. Or, have them point to a number on a chart to show that they know that fact.

Listing the goals and checking them off on a chart like this is one way to track goals and show your child what they have accomplished. For more examples and how to use them go here.

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., M ND, SPED Homeschool Partner and  Board Vice-Chair

This month, we have featured articles about Individual Education Plans, or IEPs, for homeschool students. But what if your child still struggles with achieving goals? Do you think your child is capable of meeting their goals but he or she may have a mental block for retaining information? Maybe your child can say all the letter sounds but struggles to put them together when reading. Or does your child still struggle with handwriting goals? An INP may be your missing link to success.

So, what is in INP, and what is the difference between an IEP and an INP? An INP is an Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan. NeuroDevelopment (ND) has to do with the brain’s development in three strategic areas of input (getting information accurately into the child’s brain) through the auditory, visual, and tactile channels. We all process information through our senses of hearing, sight, and touch. The brain’s three areas of development for output are language, fine motor, and mobility (ability to move body parts in space, including coordination). To respond to our environment, our brains help us speak, write, and move. Why is this important? The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory. The IEP focuses only on output, or specific performed ability, as the goal. The INP focuses on stimulating the brain to make the goal more easily achievable.

Let me give you an example. If the educational goal is to increase handwriting skills, the traditional approach is to have the student practice writing with specific verbal instruction or a visual example. But, what if the tactile pathway from the brain to the fingers is immature? What if the fingers are not getting the correct feedback from the brain to make the letters well? Or, what if the central detail vision is not fully developed or the eye-tracking and convergence are off, and the visual images are distorted as they are writing? All the practice in the world is not going to overcome these areas of incorrect information from the brain to help the handwriting.

Instead of focusing on the child’s performance, the emphasis should be the root cause(s) of the deficit. Here is where an INP can be very helpful. Allow me to give you an example from my own experience homeschooling my daughter that was developmentally-delayed. On my homeschool IEP, I had the goal of her reading phonetically past CVC words. Of course, a step toward that goal, in my mind, was the mastery of all the phonograms that make up larger words. We used a phonics program with 70 cards representing the sound(s) of each phonogram. My daughter mastered all the cards, even the phonogram with six sounds! But, she was rarely able to hold the sounds together to read beyond three-letter CVC words. 

The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory..”

After getting her INP from a NeuroDevelopmentalist, I understood the additional developmental issues that held her back from reading with phonics. The first issue was her low auditory processing ability. Her processing (short-term memory) was so slow that it prevented the retention of the sounds to make a word after the laborious pronouncing of each phonogram. The second issue that caused reading to be a struggle was my daughter’s central vision had not developed well and, because of this, she kept skipping lines, words, or parts of words. Her INP addressed these areas of neurodevelopmental need. Her plan included eye-tracking activities, specific activities for developing the central vision, and lots of practice for her auditory short-term memory. By adding this input, along with other short, brain-stimulating sessions, she was able to read longer words, which would have been the goal on an IEP but able to be achieved through an INP. 

If you are interested in finding out if an INP (Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan) is right for your situation, call for a free personalized consultation  with a NeuroDevelopmental Specialist. Or, to see if low auditory or visual processing is an issue for your child, go to www.BrainSprints.com and scroll down to “Tools” to get the free processing test kits.

 

 

 

 

 


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by Alicia Goodman, PhD, NCSP, SPED Homeschool Partner Simply Psychology, LLC

 

From the time children are born, they are interacting with others. As infants, they cry and coo as they discover how to get our attention. As toddlers, they are mobile and engage with others verbally to develop friendships. As tweens and teens, they are exerting their independence. By 18 years of age, a typical human will have approximately 78,840 interactions (information extrapolated from the 2018 study of Zhaoyang, R., Sliwinski, M, Martire, L. and Smyth, J). That’s a lot of behavior!

 

Behavior is “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others,” according to the Oxford Dictionary (2021). Meaning behavior can be positive or negative. In this article, the term behavior will refer specifically to unpleasant or unwanted behavior that impacts others. We want to start with an unwanted behavior and then consider the more appropriate behavior within a given set of circumstances. 

 

Let’s meet Emma. Emma is eight years old. She goes to her grandmother’s house every Tuesday and Thursday morning and other times when her parents have other obligations. Emma clings to her parents at drop off and begs them to come inside the house. Emma loves her grandmother, and they like to play together and do crafts; however, she is not willfully separating from her parents at drop off.

 

I see many children who experience separation anxiety who “refuse” to physically separate from their parents. The word “refuse” is in quotes because we need to understand that it may be due to anxiety or lack of skills, but this is how others usually see the issue. Separation anxiety comes in all forms, including separating for school, playdates, going to a relative’s house, and bedtime.

 

STEP 1– The FIRST STEP is to objectively define WHAT the target behavior is that you want to see. You may want to write the goal as “Emma will stop clinging to me.” It is a common mistake to focus on the behavior that we want to stop. Instead, focus on what you want to happen. Also, “Emma will go into grandma’s house independently,” is slightly better than “Emma will separate from parents,” as it is more specific. This step can also include the WHO if someone else will be involved, which, in this case, is grandma. You can also add something like, “with one prompt from parent” or “without prompts from others.” Of course, there will be age-appropriate variations for this. For a 2- or 3-year-old, you are likely helping them with the car door and walking them to the door. Emma does not need this assistance. In this example, we will start the goal with, “Emma will independently exit the car and enter Grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent.”

 

STEP 2– Define WHEN the desired behavior needs to take place. When will your child separate? Think about how often drop off is. Do we want Emma to separate every time we are dropping off at grandma’s, even if there is no warning? Typically, anxious kids need a heads up, and, let’s assume, this is a goal that gets lots of practice. For this goal, let’s answer the WHEN. “On Tuesday and Thursday mornings or when given a one-hour warning, Emma will independently exit the car and enter grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent.” Looking great!! Your fail-proof goal is well on its way!

 

STEP 3 – Determine the baseline for the current behavior. How often is Emma already doing the desired behavior? Take some data to truly know. The easiest way to report assessment data for growth is out of a certain number of trials or a percentage. For example, currently, Emma is completing this goal in 2 out of 10 drop-offs (2/10 trials) or 20%.

 

STEP 4 – Decide on the percentage of success you want to consider the goal achieved. You can use objectives under the goal to set smaller targets. Or, set your goal at 50% and then write a new goal for 70%, 90%, etc. When you write your goal, you should also consider how you will be assessing the progress. “On Tuesday and Thursday mornings or when given a one-hour warning, Emma will independently exit the car and enter her grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent 75% of the time as measured by counting successes over a 2-week period.”

 

Behaviors are tricky. Behaviors are communication, a way of expression, and I urge you to understand what is behind the behavior. With appropriate intervention, addressing deficient skills, empathy, structure, and appropriate expectations, unwanted behaviors will melt away. That means that we often have the power to impact even the toughest of behaviors, not by forcing them to change,  but by changing our approach and reaction/response. But sometimes unwanted behaviors persist, and behavior goals are necessary.

 

BONUS: Helping promote success

  • Discuss and develop goals with your child and explain the purpose behind them. Having buy-in will help tremendously.
  • Pre-teach expectations, role play, and model target behavior for your child.
  • Identify and address any skill deficits that might be impeding success.
  • Have your child take data on the goal. This is a great way for them to get involved and take some ownership.
  • Break down the goals into manageable subgoals or objectives.

 

Find additional resources and workshops at www.simplypsychservices.com

 

 

 

 

 


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By Janet Giel-Romo, SPED Homeschool Partner Austin & Lily Curriculum and Consulting 

 

One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that parents have the freedom to guide the education of their child. Parents can individualize instruction and teach the topics they want to. Last week, we shared about creating a student education plan (SEP), a homeschool version of an Individual Education Program (IEP). One of the important considerations in developing a student education plan is what to teach. For instruction to be effective, we need to start with what the student already knows and add to it just a little bit at a time. Students need to feel successful. But how do you know where to begin?

 

What is PLAAFP and PLOP?

Parents can use the same strategies schools use to determine a student’s current knowledge and future goals. The IEP process involves testing, observations, and writing a narrative about the student called the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP or PLOP). This information is the starting point for writing goals. It includes a student’s strengths, skills, challenges, and the most effective instructional strategies. It takes time to gather accurate data to write a good PLAAFP, but this is the starting point that can help parents map out a plan.

 

How to Find Present Levels

I homeschool my 19-year-old daughter, Lily, who has Down syndrome. I had a good feel for her reading and writing skills because I have worked with her on these skills. 

Math was a different story. I did not do much with her on math, so I wasn’t sure what she knew and what she did not know. I decided to assess her skills related to money. I made up a game on the fly. Lily likes Taco Bell, and we had several Taco Bell sauce packets on the counter, so I used them to play “Taco Bell Sauce Store” with her. I gave her a pile of coins and told her that each sauce was a nickel. First, we sorted the sauce packets into sauce types. Then, I role-played the store clerk and asked her what she would like to buy. As we played, I figured out what areas need work. For example, when I asked her for a nickel to buy a sauce packet, she handed me a quarter. That told me we need to spend some time learning the names of coins and looking at how to tell them apart. I also realized she didn’t know how much they were worth. At school, she had been doing money problems on worksheets but hadn’t made the connection to real money. I knew that teaching her the names of the coins wouldn’t take long, but that would be a good goal as well as memorizing how much each coin is worth. 

I also looked at Lily’s adding skills. I noticed when Lily had a problem like 4+5 she counted the four items and then the five items, and then she recounted all of them to get the answer. I will outline how I went about figuring out how to teach to skip count.

 

It takes time to gather accurate data to write a good PLAAFP, but this is the starting point that can help parents map out a plan.”

 

Knowledge + 1 =

I asked myself questions that I needed to answer to figure out what the problem was. I bought workbooks for K-3 math to see how lessons were sequenced. This helped me understand how strategies unfold for general education math curriculum. I discovered the skill Lily needed to use to not recount is called skip counting. 

Can Lily skip count? I gave three numbers in a row and then asked Lily what came next. EX- “22,23,24…..what comes next?” She said, “25, 26, 27”. Yes, she can skip count.

Did Lily know how to skip count when adding? No. She didn’t realize that you can look at the first number and count from there to add on the second number. For example, 3+2 would be counted as 3…4,5. The answer is 5. The teaching strategy that worked best for Lily was for me to model this using my fingers several times.

 

Brainstorming Goals and Strategies Based on Present Levels

Based on her present levels, I have a variety of goals and strategies I can choose. 

  • Pick the highest of the two numbers as the starting point to add the smaller number.
  • Skip count by 10s, then 5s, etc. For example, counting by 5s starting from a number like 20. We want her to say, “25, 30, 35, 40.” This skill is needed to count nickels.
  • Skip count by 5’s using nickels. For example, something costs 25 cents, so she counts by 5s to 25. 

If she is successful at skip counting, an additional goal could be to skip count by 10s with dimes to pay for something that costs 50 cents. An even more ambitious goal is to start with a coin and skip counts from there. For example, she has a quarter, and she needs 35 cents. She needs to recognize this is when to skip count… 25, 30, 35. That would tell her she needs two nickels. This may be too advanced so I know not to start with this more advanced goal. 

Right now, we are working on combining nickels and dimes. I think we are making progress and I am going to stay with it for now. 

Thank goodness for groups like SPED Homeschool that make it possible to share information and ideas.

 

 

 

 

 


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