Kathy Kuhl

 

A woman told me her son had been accepted into a good college even though he had the handwriting of a six-year-old. Happily, this sharp young man and his mother knew how to get accommodations to get his thoughts on paper.

 

Can you imagine the effect on this child if his mother had said: 

“Sorry, dear. Until you stop reversing your Es, I’m not going to teach you to write.” or “Until you pay attention and print more neatly, I’m not teaching you any new words.”

 

Many gifted people have dysgraphia, dyslexia or other learning disabilities. We should work on the problems, as I discussed last week. But we also work around them. That means you accommodate the student’s areas of weakness.

Accommodate doesn’t mean coddle. It does mean you give help that gives them a fair chance to develop their abilities. It means you don’t let a disability hijack your homeschool.

Though we work hard to strengthen weaknesses, it is vital not to focus on them.

We build lives based on strengths, not weaknesses. We don’t look at  Charles Schwab, Richard Branson, or  MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award winner Mimi Koehl, and think of learning disabilities. They built their careers on their strengths.

We don’t build our lives on what we do poorly. Neither should our kids.

 

Accommodation #1: Learn to Type

The first accommodation you may think of for a child who struggles with writing is teaching your child to type.

How do you know if your child is old enough to touch-type? Pediatric occupational therapist Laurie Chuba told me this trick: ask your child to close her eyes and see if she can touch her left thumb and each of her other left fingers in turn. Then repeat with the right hand. If she can, she’s ready to learn to touch-type.

Not every keyboarding program is well-suited to children and teens with learning disabilities. For instance, the first one we tried used a small font size on the screen. It was hard for my son, who has dyslexia, to read.

There are many typing programs, but Keyboard Classroom is unusual. It’s a typing program designed at the Ben Bronz School in Connecticut, a school especially for students with learning disabilities. It keeps practice exercises to one minute, building fluency without as much stress as longer exercises. [Disclosure: I was given, but have not used, a sample of Keyboard Classroom and the finger guides. My review is based on trying a free demo. Typing programs vary and kids vary. I recommend trying demos and reading reviews to see what’s best for your child.]

It was researched with students with learning disabilities for twenty years. By keeping its plastic finger guides between the middle and ring finger of each hand, the learner’s hands don’t drift out of place.

I met Keyboard Classroom President Carrie Shaw at LEAH Homeschool Convention a few years back and got to try out the program. I was intrigued. You can see a demo and explanation of Keyboard Classroom here.

Carrie wrote, “I reduced the prices on all my licenses so it would be more affordable for homeschoolers.”  At their site, you can contact Carrie Shaw and learn more.

If your child is not ready to touch-type, let her record answers with a digital voice recorder or into your phone. You can also have her dictate to a sibling who can type.

 

Accommodation #2 – Word Prediction Software

Dictation software is notorious for goofy transcribing errors. WordQ does a superior job, providing a drop-down list of words to choose from. Even better, at the end of each sentence, WordQ reads the sentence aloud, which can help your student notice when words are incorrect or are omitted. Get a free trial of WordQ from Quillsoft here.

 

Accommodation #3 – Dictation Software

SpeakQ dictation software is an add-on for WordQ that turns it into a powerful dictation program. Designed for folks with learning disabilities, it is easier for your child to train to his or her voice than other programs, like Dragon. WordQ and SpeakQ both offer a free trial. Dragon Naturally Speaking also takes diction from you or your student. See  www.Nuance.com for details and a demonstration.[The advantage of SpeakQ over Dragon is that to train the software to recognize your child’s voice, Dragon provides paragraphs that may be difficult for your challenged learner to read. But SpeakQ lets you upload anything your child can read well, and use that text to train the software.]

Not everyone who struggles with writing struggles with handwriting. Other writing problems require different solutions. Next month we’ll look at some. This series continues here.

 

This article was originally written on Learn Differently at https://www.learndifferently.com/2015/10/20/accommodations-for-struggling-writers/

 

Some of the links in this article are affiliate links.

 

This article is part 3 in  a in a series of articles aimed at helping struggling writers. Part 1 is here, and part 2 is here .

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

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

Click Here to Donate Today

 

Please follow and like us:

 

Kathy Kuhl

 

What if you didn’t know your child was dyslexic until they hit high school? This happened to a family I learned about yesterday.  They just discovered that their bilingual high schooler is dyslexic. For years, the experts kept saying, “She’s only struggling with reading because she’s bilingual.”

It’s an easy mistake to make, but it wasted valuable time. Now, while taking high school classes online, the girl’s frustration has soared. She is very discouraged. My heart aches for this student and her parents, who have been trying to get her help while living abroad.

This can happen with an online curriculum, in a school, or a homeschool. This frustration and discovery often happens when the pace of education picks up. The transitions to harder level work are times when we notice disabilities. Sometimes students can overcome their learning challenges for years on their own, often by being intelligent and working harder than everyone else. But at some stage–when they start middle school, high school, or college-level work–they can no longer overcome their disability without someone customizing their education.

 

#1 – Understand

  • Educate yourself and your teen about dyslexia. Visit the Dyslexic Advantage website (see the link below) and watch some of the videos. This will help you see how dyslexia is the flip side of intelligence in one of several distinct areas. This site offers practical help and an online forum. It will help you and your teen to take heart and begin to build on their strengths. 
  • Read the book, Dyslexic Advantage by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide. These medical doctors (and former homeschoolers) work with the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, speak around the country, and run the Eide Neurolearning Clinic outside Seattle. The last third of the book is a very practical look at accommodations—ways to work around dyslexia in school. But the first two-thirds are just as important and interesting. They will transform how you see dyslexia. See below for a link to my review of the book.
  • Understand and be sympathetic to your teen’s struggles. It is hard for non-dyslexics to understand how painful reading can be. I know two adults with dyslexia (one with an M.Ed, the other an MD) who both say reading hurts.

 

#2 – Curriculum

  • Reading instruction for dyslexics comes in varying types and strengths. The main thing to keep always before you and your teen is that there is hope, so don’t give up. Here are a few options that can work long-distance (these are only a few suggestions—I’ve listed others at the end of this post):
    • Barton Reading trains parents to teach dyslexic students. Granted, no expert visits your home to see if the parents are teaching correctly. But Sue Barton is very knowledgeable and has helped many families. Her company, Bright Solutions, provides many videos on its website. (See below.)
    • Alphabetic Phonics by Aylette Royall Cox is another Orton-Gillingham-based program that can be offered at home by a parent. (Please note: this is not Alpha Phonics, nor is it Alphabet Phonics.) This publisher also offers webinars (see below).
    • All About Reading by Marie Rippel is another program to consider.
    • Lexercise is a more intensive and pricier option that comes with online tutoring. With Lexercise, a trained therapist tutors your dyslexic student online through a secure link.

 

#3 – Experts

  • Trained Academic Therapist. Working with someone trained in teaching dyslexics  your student may find that reading can get easier. My son made progress at age 20 with the help of an academic therapist, that is, a Certified Academic Language therapist. Other experts include Orton-Gillingham practitioners or Wilson tutors with Level II certification. This sort of tutoring is expensive. But I wish I’d understood this sooner. Then we could have used the money we were saving for college to work with an academic therapist all through high school.
  • Online Learning. Because of living abroad, the family I mentioned above has been using an online academy, but it has become very frustrating for this teen. One possibility is Time4Learning. I don’t know anyone who used it at the high school level, so it may not be a good fit for a struggling teen. Time4Learning does offer free trials, though, and may be worth investigating. 

 

#4 – Tools

  • Use audiobooks. I list several below. Additionally, did you know that any PDF can be read aloud by a computer using Adobe Acrobat reader? (The read-aloud option is under the “view” tab, oddly enough.)
  • Use assistive technology.  Find someone to walk you through all the tools you already have on your PC or Mac to help—all under the accessibility tabs, but not always easy to figure out. Your state agency for helping folks with disabilities probably offers free webinars or seminars on this. In Virginia, there are eight regional Training and Technology Assistance Centers (T/TAC). These centers lend equipment out. Check out what your state provides. Your local chapter of the ARC may also help you. Additionally, Joan Green knows a lot about assistive technology—her website, listed below, has webinars and resources.

 

#5 – Strategies

  • Strategize your teen’s time. I would devote the majority of each day to the  strengths of your struggling learner. In the case of a teen who is already frustrated, morale is a primary concern. Also, I would spend a chunk of each day working on reading, but with one of the therapies listed above–not with traditional methods.
  • Rethink your current learning approaches. For instance, if your situation requires you to use an online curriculum, can you use something more hands-on for at least some subjects? What is your student good at? What does he or she like to do? Try to find or adapt your curriculum to your student’s interests. For example, I have a friend whose teen shut down at age 15 during a family crisis. All this teen wanted to do was read and watch Japanese manga and anime (cartoons). My friend built a year’s homeschool around anime: Japanese history, an online class for the language, drawing, etc. Later, the teen caught up in her academics, and graduated from The Pratt Institute, a prestigious art school in New York City. Now this graduate is supporting herself as an artist. You may not have the time or resources to do that, but realize that an out-of-the-box curriculum won’t be a good fit for many students with learning challenges. At least a good part of your teen’s education may need to be more customized. I’m not only talking about remediating the area of weakness or accommodating it by working around it. Provide something that builds on the student’s strengths or interests.

 

#6 – Resources

 

This article was originally written on Learn Differently at http://www.learndifferently.com/2017/09/07/help-teen-dyslexic/ and as shared by the author to republish on this site.

 

Please note that some of the links in this article are affiliate links.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

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

Click Here to Donate Today

 

Please follow and like us:

 

By Kathy Kuhl

Parents often ask me to recommend curriculum for their children with special needs. But it’s like asking me to recommend shoes. I have questions: what size, width, and activity? Any color you can’t stand? What have you tried and how did that work—or not?

 

 

Every child is unique, but here are my steps to shopping for homeschool curriculum.

1. Study your child first,
and make a short list of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. With a child with special needs, we parents are tempted to focus on weaknesses in basic skills and academics. List them, but also notice strengths. Passing math or spelling is something to celebrate! Being able to explain 27 kinds of horses, rocks, or locomotives is a strength—even if you hear way too much about it. Note those passions. If your child loves music, drawing, storytelling, or talking to people—even if they aren’t good at it yet—write that down. Build your plans around their passions, strengths, and weaknesses.

When you’ve got that written (keep it short), you are ready to:

2. Set goals for the year
Not too many. One new homeschooler showed me her goals for 3 months. It was much more than could be done in a year. You might hire a special education consultant to help you be realistic.
Don’t neglect basic life skills, whether it’s learning to wash hands, fix dinner, balance a checkbook, or deal with a disagreement with a friend. If the child is doing something that drives you crazy, like not putting away shoes, even that is a candidate for your list.

3. Network
Now that you know what you want to focus on, ask friends with kids with similar issues what they use. Don’t know anyone homeschooling a child like yours? Join SPED Homeschool’s Facebook Support group. Search the groups’ archives, in case someone asked your question last year.

4. Please touch the products
If you can go to a convention, go. Handling the materials, you learn things a catalog or website won’t tell. How big is the type and spacing? Is it colorful? How many practice problems? Are they alternate versions of quizzes and tests? (Some of us need second and third chances.) Talk to the representatives—many know plenty. Remember, these are often small businesses and homeschool families, so support them by purchasing from them. If you need time to go home and think, do it.

5. Watch for bargains
Sometimes you’ll find something marvelous that doesn’t fit your plans. Perhaps you had other plans for science, but then you saw something you know your child would love. Does it fit your larger goals?

Last month I was looking for a pair of ivory pumps. I never imagined I’d buy pink slings. But I saw a cute, well-made pair, marked down. I realized they fit my wardrobe. I changed my plan, kept to my goal, and kept under budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By studying your child, setting goals, networking, handling the merchandise, and thinking creatively when you find unexpected bargains, you can turn the chore of shopping for curriculum, into—if not fun, at least a satisfying shopping experience.

 

This is adapted from a guest post that originally appeared on Jolanthe Erb’s blog.

 

My favorite source for reviews of individual curriculum is Cathy Duffy. My review of her book and online search tools is here.

 

Original blog was written on learndifferently.com. Author has granted permission for this article to be reprinted.

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

Please follow and like us: