Peggy Ployhar

 

Last year while I was speaking at a homeschool conference I off-handedly mentioned that I was the oldest of 14 and had 10 adopted siblings, something I occasionally mention, but after feeling a nudge from the Holy Spirit, I went with it.

After wrapping up my session I joined one of my session’s breakout discussion groups. Without knowing it, the group I joined had an adoptive mom. As we chatted in this group, this mom asked me, “What is the most difficult part of being an adoptive sibling?”  Now you must understand, I don’t have the experience of having lived at home with my adopted siblings because they entered into our family after I was living on my own, but this doesn’t mean I haven’t wrestled with various aspects of being an adoptive sibling and the impact it has made on my extended family.  In response, I told her about my greatest struggle, watching my mother’s health decline as she took care of all my adopted siblings yet did not prioritize self-care. In fact, it was not until my mother had a heart attack a few years ago that she even took this matter seriously.

After I responded, this woman looked at me with a rather concerned face and then told me this was the same issue she and her oldest biological daughter argued about most.

 

“…keep persisting and showing her how much you love her and her family by not giving up or letting her play down her need to be loved and cared for just as much as the children she pours her life into each and every day.

 

Later on that day I was able to talk with this woman’s daughter and encourage her to help her mother find ways to take care of herself. I also reassured her that it was not selfish or ungodly for her to want her mom to stay as healthy as possible while taking care of her siblings.

 

From this perspective (and having been a foster mom myself for three toddlers for 13 months), I would like to share with you a few friendly ways to help the adoptive moms around you care for themselves, so in turn, they can be as healthy as possible to take care of the orphans God has brought into their homes.

  1. Stop by to drop off a special treat or gift, but be ready and willing to stay to visit or help in any way needed.
  2. Write a note of encouragement and be specific. Tell your friend what you have observed that she is doing and how it is making an impact.
  3. Bring over a dinner that can either be easily heated and served or quickly and conveniently frozen for future use. Flexibility, as well as keeping the dietary needs of the whole family in consideration, means your meal won’t go to waste.
  4. Offer to help watch the kids. One caveat on this suggestion is that oftentimes foster children can only be watched by “approved” caregivers. If this is the case, and you still want to help, it is often okay for an individual to watch the children while the foster parents are on the property. So, let mom take a nap, do something she enjoys by herself in another room, or give mom and dad a date night in the dining room while you watch a movie and play games with the kids in another area of the house.
  5. Plan a weekend away for your friend by enlisting the help of her spouse or another caregiver who can take her place while she is gone. Don’t spill the beans until everything is planned, that way she can’t make an excuse for not getting away. Then enjoy treating your friend to some girl time.
  6. Be available to talk, but mostly be available to listen.  You may not even know how to respond to the many situations your friend is going through, but your willingness to listen and speak truth and hope into her life as the Spirit leads will be greatly appreciated
  7. Take on the role of an accountability partner by asking your friend what goals she has and how you can be instrumental in helping her achieve them.  For instance, maybe she has a fitness goal and going for a walk every evening together will help her get more exercise. If you don’t live close then consider how the two of you can connect on the phone or for a video chat regularly to catch up as well check-in.
  8. Be on call and go as far as making a reminder card your friend can put somewhere that will always remind her you are just a phone call away for anything she may need.
  9. Be transparent about your own failings.  Parenting foster and adopted children reveal huge gaps in our own lives and relationships.  The more you are willing to share your shortcomings with your friend, the more she will feel safe to do the same with you.
  10. Pray for your friend, her family, and her children. God does amazing things when we pray.

 

In the fall of 2017, I followed my own advice for #5 and planned a girl’s getaway trip to New York City. Before I even told my mom that I was going to kidnap her for 3 days to take her to NYC with me and my daughter, I made sure my dad was able to get the help he needed while she was gone, bought the airline tickets, booked our hotel, bought tickets to a Broadway show, and even planned a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park.  I knew if I had told my mom ahead of time she didn’t need to get away and she especially would have told me not to go out of my way to plan anything extravagant. But, I wanted to spoil my mom for a few days so I made my plans before she could change them. Our three days in New York City were magical and she, my daughter and me created memories we will never forget.

You too may experience some resistance from your friend as you find ways to help her remember to take time for herself, but I want to encourage you to keep persisting and showing her how much you love her and her family by not giving up or letting her play down her need to be loved and cared for just as much as the children she pours her life into each and every day.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

I had the privilege this month of interviewing my parents, Joe and Margie Prenosil, who have been special needs adoptive parents for 30 years! I hope you enjoy the insight and wisdom they have to share from their many years of experience as they have loved and cared for my siblings.

 

How long have you been parents? How long have you been adoptive parents? Was it always your intention to adopt?

We have been parents for almost 50 years, and adoptive parents for 30 years. As far as our intention to adopt, after 4 years of providing foster care, it was something we started to consider. At that point in our foster care services, a baby came into our care who no one wanted to adopt because of the complications he had with severe cerebral palsy. We decided to adopt him and thus Nicholas became our first adopted child.

 

Because you have specifically adopted children with special needs, what challenges/obstacles did you face early on? And, what resources did you find the most helpful for navigating them?

Our challenges started with finding what resources were available to us from our county and state as well as various specialized clinics. The first thing we found helpful was to expand our foster care work to also include our county. This step greatly increased our learning curve regarding what resources and connections were available locally that were most beneficial for each obstacle that came our way. 

The first obstacle we had was learning all the medical information needed to treat and comfort the children we cared for. It was a medical education that took many years for us to feel like we knew what we were talking about regarding various medicines and adaptive equipment.

Our second obstacle was identifying where to acquire handicap equipment and transportation. The most useful resources we discovered while working with individuals who helped foster parents in our county.

One final obstacle, but one that benefited us the most in subsequent adoptions, was learning our state referral chain for requesting assistance. In our area, we were to go to our county Case Manager first before requesting services from the state Adoption Assistance Specialist.

 

What were some of the things you learned from parenting your biological children that helped parent your adopted children?

First was realizing there was a developmental difference between typical children and special needs children. Once the differences were identified, it was a matter of determining whether to seek advice or accept the condition and adapt from there. 

Daniel, our fourth biological child, had some special needs so parenting him provided a bit of a transition gateway for our adoptive special needs parenting skills. Daniel was dyslexic and hyperactive. Sometimes his difficulties were too much for others to handle. Because of his struggles, we often had friends and family ask whether we were going to bring him with us when we came to visit. Daniel took special needs classes in high school and Margie did most of his reading to accommodate his Dyslexia.

 

“…be ready to acquire ‘new’ skills for yourself. 

 

What were some new parenting strategies you had to learn after adopting children with special needs?

When requesting services or equipment, we learned we needed to share the worst incident instead of the best-case scenario for that child. Also, we learned not to assume that we would always be available to provide the service or help and to also build in requests for helpers. 

We also learned to hire PCAs (Private Care Assistants) as teens who came from large families. In general, these youth were already trained through regular family life to care for their siblings, so all we had to do was additional care training that met our child’s specific needs.

Another strategy we learned was to fully understand what your school district does and doesn’t provide. Two of our children were able to receive in-home services from the school district because of the severity of their conditions.

 

How have you managed family life, church, school, extra-curricular activities, and respite time over the years? Do you have any advice for other adoptive families of children with special needs on how to best juggle these demands?

Family Life: We didn’t adopt children older than our birth children, thus we limited the competition. Our adoptive parenting years started as our birth children were starting college and lives outside our home. Full-time help came over a period of years. First, we hired a full-time PCA using a waiver and then eventually were able to add our youngest son on as hired help. When our son left for college, we were able to hire a full-time PCA that stayed with us for thirteen years. She helped to coordinate other PCAs, cover homecare when we needed to assist a child away from home, as well as respite time for us. She left after the deaths of two of our totally disabled children.

Since then we have relied upon young adults from 16-20 years to fill the gap. Plus after the decrease in PCAs and Margie heart attack, the county helped our ability to work with an agency to hire and maintain staff by reclassifying our home as a group foster home. We are the only one in the county. 

Our church and extra-curricular activities center around family members which extended to include PCA youth (16+) and their families. Through the church, stay connected to a larger community as well as develop relationships with families we know well and feel good about hiring to do care in our home. 

Because we had a full-time PCA/agency, we could coordinate yearly getaways for ourselves but for about three years when we were between agencies, we were unable to get any time away.

Advice to parents: It is impossible to duplicate what we have done to the letter. Stay flexible. We learned that we needed to change as our children’s needs changed and as well as determine what appropriate assistance was necessary for us to help each child with specific needs.

When starting this type of journey, a couple needs to assess whether their current family can accept and contribute towards bringing in a new family member. Second, they need to take into consideration this child’s care may be a lifelong commitment and both parents need to be committed to this child, not just one.

Next, you should assess what financial and community support is available to you if you adopt. Any financial support provided to care for a child should only fill the gaps for that child’s care and should not be seen as another source of income. When you put income before the care of a child you are not letting God do his work. First, seek the Kingdom of God, and then everything else will be provided. We found this to be very true. 

 

“…be willing to accept a child saying, “I love you” as meaning “Do you love me?”

 

If a family was interested in adopting a child with special needs, what advice would you want to share with them based on your 30+ years of being adoptive special needs parents?

First, you need to consider your motivation for adoption. If you have a perceived idea of what you want a child to become without understanding all the baggage this child has acquired and will continue to work through in your home, stop. You will be disappointed. Understand that first, the child will educate you by their behavior, life experiences, and what they want (which is not always appropriate). They will lead by showing you what triggers their actions, and you must observe before acting. You will probably need professional help in understanding the underneath behavior and be ready to acquire ‘new’ skills for yourself. 

Children in the foster care system have learned to defend themselves when everyone else in their lives has failed them. You must be willing to struggle with them as well as be their spokesperson because they may not have the words to describe what they are feeling. If they are in trauma, they may take a long time to change, if ever. Also, be willing to accept a child saying, “I love you” as meaning “Do you love me?”

After considering the above questions we then suggest you again consider why you would want to adopt. Here are two reasons we have found provided a stable foundation for us as we have adopted. First, a real desire to be faithful to the child we are adopting no matter what. We may not change the child we adopt. Ultimately God is in charge of change and we must be willing to let God take the lead in this area or be okay if change is not in His plan. Second, we must be able to accept our failures, limitations, and frustrations. Every day we review our day with God and choose to be happy with what the day afforded us. We ask God for guidance, change what we can, and then we are joyful about the journey and the amazing people He has allowed us to share our lives with.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

I have always been pretty good about scheduling and to-do lists. The engineer in me loves to write out plans, figure out the best method for getting everything on my list done, and optimize every possible scenario so no time is wasted.  Not even motherhood or homeschooling have deterred my nature of being an ambitious planner. But, something that has been working at this adamant planner in me is the same thing that has been slowly changing me from the inside out for 22 years, my relationship with God.

 

Planning spiritual time is an oxymoron. Our spiritual life when we become a Christian is supposed to become all of our lives.  This is where the planner in me struggled for many years. Early on in my walk with God, I would try to cram my study and prayer time into specific slots in the day. I then swung to the opposite extreme, feeling my planning was not spiritual enough. Thus, my planners and lists were set aside so I could lean into God moment my moment without their distraction.  The problem with both of these approaches was I couldn’t find an adequate balance for prioritizing the things of life alongside my relationship with God.

 

My struggle has fortunately changed in the past few years and I have discovered how I can plan for a simplified spiritual life. The lessons God has been teaching me about bringing Him into my planning has allowed me to triumph over each day, follow His plans, and keep in check the things swirling around in my life.  I have been learning how to properly prioritize my schedule daily, what God has been teaching me as I spend time in His word and praying.

 

The change has truly been freeing, and not only in my own life but also in the lives of those I’ve been sharing my daily revelations with, specifically my 15-year-old daughter and a few of the viewers on my personal YouTube channel, Daily Revelations.

 

The lessons God has been teaching me about bringing Him into my planning has allowed me to triumph over each day, follow His plans, and keep in check the things swirling around in my life.

 

Therefore, in looking ahead to 2020, I decided to create a bible study and planner together that will help you to learn how to start planning for a simplified spiritual life.

 

Wondering what’s involved?  It’s super simple.

  • Download the free planner you can find on the Free Downloads page on the SPED Homeschool website
  • Print the planner however it would work best for you
  • Read one chapter of the Bible a week.
    • Every day there is a different activity that will help you study the text
    • Every weekday there will be a new video on the Daily Revelations YouTube channel that will expand upon the text you are reading
  • Plan your monthly, weekly, and daily schedules as well as grocery lists, menus and more right alongside your daily bible study
  • Merge what God is teaching you into your plans and prioritize your lists and to-do items based on where the Spirit is leading your heart and mind
  • Join the Daily Revelations community on The Jump  to be encouraged and to encourage others who are using this same planner and doing the same bible readings

 

Since this is the pilot year for this project, the planner is free to download. So far the first quarter is written, and April through December will be coming soon.  By using the planner and being part of our community, you will also have the opportunity to provide suggestions for the 2021 planner and get a sizable discount.

 

Joining us late? No problem.  There is no need to go back to the beginning of the study. Just start on whatever day, week, or month you can. You can always go back and watch earlier videos or fill in earlier lessons if you would like, but it is not necessary for understanding the daily lesson.

 

I am so excited to get started and begin planning with you towards a simplified spiritual life starting in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Holidays are tricky for families dealing with atypical situations, but that doesn’t mean holidays need to magnify these areas of your family life. Follow these DIFFERENT steps to ensure you won’t miss out on a joyful holiday season with your family.

 

D – Develop a plan

No matter how many activities your family would like to do over the holiday season, take a critical look at your schedule, at what is essential and what isn’t. Purposefully blocking in margin around these essentials reduces stress and the pull towards over-booking holiday activities. Then, discuss as a family what traditions or activities matter most to each of you. Finally, match open dates and times in your calendar with these top traditions/activities.

 

Also realize every year will be different and just because you may only be able to schedule in three or four activities this year, this doesn’t mean next year you will have to do the same.

 

I – Individualize acceptance

Holiday activities are often accompanied by vivid memories and biases on how they should be done or enjoyed. But, when you have a family member who has a disability, sickness, or other struggles that require a holiday tradition to be modified it can be difficult to make the necessary adjustments if you can’t be flexible. Yes, your family tradition may take on a new flavor, but that doesn’t mean the new flavor is worse than the original. It is just different.

 

Over time your family member may be able to adjust to the original way you remember enjoying this holiday activity, or over time the modified activity may become more favored by you and your family than the original.

 

F – Focus on strengths

Holiday celebrations and traditions often stretch relationships, sensory thresholds, and much more. Unfortunately, this stretching can cause contention between family members who only see the weakness others possess in comparison to their strengths. On the other hand, these differences in strengths can be beneficial, gifts that complement other family members in need.

 

Especially during this season of giving, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses of each family member, create awareness, and purposefully work towards strengthening each other by better supporting one another.

 

F – Frame togetherness

Just because your family may want to spend more time together creating memories and doing your favorite holiday activities, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to spend all their spare time together doing these activities, especially when considering the needs of the more introverted and medically fragile members of your family.

 

Framing holiday time together with family members who must build rest into their daily schedules should be prioritized by setting aside not only specific days of the week but also the specific times of day for that rest. For instance, if the morning is the best time of day for your child, then booking a matinee for your family to attend the Nutcracker would be better than holding out for an evening performance like you remember enjoying from your childhood.

 

E – Embrace forgiveness

No one is perfect, and yet we often fantasize about having perfect holiday experiences with our imperfect family and less than perfect self. Realistically it is better to aim for ideal and build a larger buffer of forgiveness and understanding into our holiday planning.

 

Sicknesses, miscommunications, forgetfulness, and the general confusion and chaos which happens during the holiday season typically remind us we need to be okay with allowing wiggle room into our “perfect” holiday plans. This way, we don’t ruin our entire experience because we struggle to see beyond the imperfections and to simply enjoy the experiences we have been given to share with our family.

 

“If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities”

 

R – Remember to love

The greatest gift we can give any time of the year is to love others the way we would like to be loved ourselves. It’s not about the gifts we work so hard to hunt down and buy. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect gift ends up sidetracking us from being anything but loving.

 

If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities. Many times, this means we have to sacrifice our wants to love, but this is the exact love that Christmas is all about.

 

E – Enjoy the journey

Joy is essentially the bi-product of where we determine our enjoyment or fulfillment will draw from. If our joy rests solely on the product of our day, or even the season, we do not find fulfillment because life’s twists and turns can keep us from reaching these goals on time or how we had imagined them to turn out. But, if we instead seek to rest our joy on the journey towards reaching our goals, we can more readily find joy in our progress as well as in our relationships we might have otherwise overlooked.

 

During the holiday season, focusing on the joy of the journey can require even more intentional concentration as our days, weeks, and even months have checklists for things we don’t normally prioritize in our lives. This is when getting done what the day allows without sacrificing the joyful journey alongside our family members needs to become an even more intentional practice as well as something we intentionally celebrate throughout the season.

 

N – Non-negotiable relationships

Loving others is difficult and the holiday season often brings our lives closer in proximity to relatives we don’t always associate with regularly. And, while it is important to set boundaries with others, proper boundaries always leave room for any relationship to continue to grow if these individuals make positive changes and establish more healthy habits and boundaries.

 

Everything we can do on our end to leave a relationship open, even if we have to mostly close out a family member because of their personal choices or extenuating circumstances, leaves room for that door to widen once again in the future. We can’t always take on the full weight of what another family member is going through or allow the harmful or unsafe choices immediate or extended family members have made into our homes, but we can show there is always room in our hearts to love beyond these extenuating circumstances.

 

T – Take action

 

Finally, it is important to remember to act and put these practices to work. A plan and good intentions will never lead you to where you want to go. Only by stepping out in faith to approach this holiday season differently and move beyond various obstacles that in the past may have held you or your family back from experiencing joy will the season be the most joyful one you could experience.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

One of the greatest misconceptions about teaching is that the power of education lies in the training of the individual or in the quality of the material used to teach a child. Even though both of these things would rank as highly important factors, the single most important has nothing to do with what our educational system has trained us to value most. Instead, it has to do with a very humble and natural homeschooling superpower any parent can draw from, the ability to care and to show those you are teaching you are committed to their learning process.

 

Over the years of consulting with homeschooling parents, I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship. Take it from someone who knows. Because I started our homeschooling journey with parenting anger struggles , my homeschooling superpower was deeply buried. I was not set up for my optimal teaching effectiveness, so the ideas I have to share below are from my attempts to connect with my children.

 

I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship.

 

Below are 5 ways you can strengthen your parent-child relationship, or homeschooling superpower, to increase your teaching effectiveness:

 

Listening Time

As a parent we often do most of the talking, but how much do we seek to actively listen to what our children want to say? Do we dig deep enough to learn what they are thinking about and why? Setting aside regular time to just listen to your children’s ideas and thoughts with probing questions that not only show you are listening but that you want to invest time into learning about the things that matter most to them.

If your child seems hesitant to answer your questions, one idea I found very helpful was to use puppets. My son responded well to puppets, and of all the puppets we had on hand, his favorite was Lamb Chop who was made famous by Sheri Lewis. For some reason, he opened up and shared his heart with this little lamb and this back and forth conversation became a regular part of our evening schedule.

 

Play Time

Playing with your children may come easily, or it may be an excruciating experience for you to even think about, but if you put your best foot forward to delve into one of your child’s favorite playtime activities the reward will be great.

Putting on those superhero costumes, playing hide-n-seek, taking time to build a fort and then spend the afternoon in it, or assembling Legos into engineering marvels speaks volumes to your child about the worthiness of their favorite activities as well as your approval of him/her and what he/she values.

 

Reading Time

While you may already read out loud with your children, you may not go any further than the text, or if you do then you may only ask your child about the story itself. I would suggest you go a step further and ask your child which character in the book they relate with the most and why. Ask them if they feel the character was treated as he/she thinks the character should have been treated and what led them to that conclusion.

As our family was preparing to move to a farm and was living for the summer in our travel trailer, we read the book Farmer Boy as a family in the evening. While the book itself was very intriguing for all of us to read together, it was the questions and discussions we shared after each chapter that drew us all closer together, as we shared our thoughts and dreams about the new life we were all about to embark on.

 

Shared-Activity Time

Sharing a common activity with your child creates an unbelievably tight bond. I have seen parents join martial arts classes, art classes, and computer classes with their children. The beauty of sharing an activity with your child is that these types of experiences have open ends for both of you and allows not only the opportunity to achieve new goals together but also commiserate about shared failures.

 

I started doing aerial silks with my daughter last year and will attest that a shared activity has greatly increased the bond between us. Our shared activity provides the two of us not only an activity we can do together but also a new topic to add to our day that allows us to connect at a different level than the typical parent-child conversation.

 

Travel Time

Time in the car, camper, plane, hotel, and rental house puts your child in a place that is out of their comfort zone, in a more confined space, and usually further away from their typical digital input than their normal. These times lend themselves to deep conversations, curated experiences, and building long-lasting memories.

 

A few years ago, I took a three and a half week trip cross-country with my daughter. We drove from Texas to Colorado, then to North Dakota, next to Minnesota, and from there we took a plane trip with my mother (all three Margaret’s – Margie, Maggie, and Peggy – to NYC to see the slights and a Broadway show) and finally drove back to Texas. That trip was a turning point in mine and my daughter’s relationship.

 

Any of these suggestions is a great place to start building your relationship with your child. I would suggest starting with one that would work best with your schedule right now, and then over time slowly adding others as opportunity allows. Most of all, enjoy the extra time you have been given to spend with your child. It is an incredible gift that will stretch you as well as bless you both!

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Assistive Technology, or AT, is defined as “any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities” by the Assistive Technology Industry Association . For individuals who struggle with communication disabilities, AT solutions can greatly increase accessibility and educational success, as well as improve other important life functions. Below are some great resources to help you find the perfect communication assistive technology for your homeschool student.

 

Communication AT Guides

Download or read online this free PDF Communications Guide from the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. Included in this 62-page guide is everything you need to learn about the various types of communication devices available, how to access your child’s needs as well as his/her ability to utilize various AT devices based upon functionality, sensory, implementation, and even environmental considerations. Additionally, this guide breaks down specific tech providers, their products, compares features, and provides links for viewing these AT products online.

Another similar guide can be found in a series of articles from iCommunicate Therapy starting with this article on this page. These articles provide a summary of communication AT devices from high-tech to low-tech devices as well as breaking down those categories into specific device types and what individuals benefit most from using them.

 

Communication AT for Children with Autism

Communication difficulties for children on the Autism spectrum includes some unique variables, therefore it is best when looking for communication AT for a child on the spectrum to take those considerations into account. This article by the Autism Parenting Magazine, Assistive Technology Devices for Children with Autism, does a great job of walking a parent through the various reasons children on the spectrum can benefit from using communication AT as well as what AT works best for certain communication issues. 

Autism Speaks has also developed a 2-page PDF,   Assistive Technology for Communication Roadmap. These pages provide an overview of assessing a student for a device, choosing a device, device funding pathways, and training a student for successful use.

 

AT Communication Apps

If you are looking for an app that is iPad or iPhone specific, this article from Friendship Circle provides a list of their Top 7 Assistive Communication Apps in the iPad App Store. This article includes general descriptions of the apps, pricing, and customer ratings.

On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for an app to put on an Android device, the first 4 of the 6 apps listed in this article by Easter Seals Tech,  6 Android Apps for Special Needs, are great communication AT apps to consider. 

Finally, if you are still trying to wrap your mind around what incorporating assistive technology for your homeschool may look like or if your child is interested in how other children use AT devices for their communication needs, I would encourage you to check out the Pacer Center’s YouTube Channel. Their channel has lots of videos highlighting personal stories of children and how they use AT for greater accessibility.

For children with communication disabilities, assistive technology may bridge the gap and allow them greater opportunities in homeschool and life.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

The United States Department of Health states that “approximately 7 to 8 percent of children in kindergarten” struggle with a language disorder of some type. Why then does an article on MedicalExpress.com refer to “language impairments” as “one of the most common childhood disorders that you’ve never heard of”? Likely it is because terms and diagnoses used to classify children who struggle in this area change depending on how issues exhibit themselves and at what age their impairment is detected.  

 

Language disorders can exhibit themselves when a child talks late, when a preschooler is unable to follow explicitly given instructions for a simple task or pick up on social cues, or not until a student starts struggling to learn to read or memorize facts. Most children with language disorders have no intellectual disability. Instead, they just can’t utilize language properly to receive information, express information, and/or process information. Thus, the main classifications of language disorders are Receptive Language Disorder, Expressive Language Disorder, Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, and Language Processing Disorder.

 

 

Key Indicators a Child is Struggling with a Language Disorder

 

Children with Receptive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understand what others are saying
  • Following simple directions
  • Picking up on the meaning of gestures
  • Learning new words
  • Completely answering a question
  • Describing an object

Children with Expressive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Building their vocabulary
  • Using complete sentences
  • Completely expressing their ideas, feelings, and thoughts
  • Using descriptive words
  • Using words in context properly
  • Telling stories
  • Repeating a poem or song
  • Identifying objects

Children with Language Processing Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understanding jokes or sarcasm
  • Word sounds
  • Sequencing in words and decoding
  • Reading comprehension
  • Understanding long or complex sentences
  • Figuring out the main idea of a reading text or discussion
  • Joining in on conversations
  • Following spoken or multi-step directions
  • Rhyming
  • Loud environments

 

 

Strategies for Homeschooling a Child with a Language Disorder

 

Strategies for working with children with Receptive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide outlines of reading material using charts, pictures, or an organizer
  • Break down reading into smaller parts
  • Act out what the child is reading
  • Break down complex tasks into smaller sub-tasks
  • Encourage questions and asking for clarification
  • Check a student’s understanding of a lesson frequently while teaching a new concept to ensure there are no gaps
  • Use the same words to refer to the same thing. Keep language consistent and understandable
  • Talk at a slow and consistent pace when providing instruction
  • When giving directions break down sequence order and if needed provide a checklist for steps
  • Accommodate with word lists, term glossaries, or a customized student dictionary

Strategies for working with children with Expressive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide communication tools or assistive technology to aid communication
  • Be a good communicator that your child can mimic
  • Use prompting to gently guide your child to help them express what they want to say
  • Don’t rush an explanation or answer
  • Ask for clarification to ensure you understood what your child was communicating when needed
  • Occasionally repeat your child’s words with an additional descriptor word added in

Strategies for working with children with Language Processing Disorders are:

  • Use pictures and other visuals to expand upon language-based lessons
  • Provide extra time for a child to process a concept and understand the information
  • Use a collaborative approach to learning that requires back and forth interaction between you and the child to ensure understanding is taking place
  • Make lessons shorter, allowing for time in-between lessons for the child to process information while playing or doing a non-learning activity, and then return to the subject to

 

Overall, it is important to understand as a parent that you can’t teach these language disorders out of your child, nor can you find a curriculum that will “catch your child up” to a norm. Your child needs to be taught at the pace he/she can learn and you have to do your best to be encouraging and patient with whatever progress he/she is able to make.

 

Additional resources for language disorder teaching strategies

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

One of the biggest struggles in teaching a child who struggles to read is finding content that appeals to their intellectual level as well as their instructional level in subjects other than reading. Below are some great free resources available to parents/educators who are looking for modified instructional reading texts to improve your child’s reading and comprehension skills.

 

Instructional Reading Text For Reading Comprehension: already modified for you

ReadWorks – ReadWorks is a nonprofit that provides teacher resources to help with teaching reading comprehension. Search by topic, subject, reading passages, specific articles or even text paired to already developed lessons, vocabulary sets, or comprehension questions.

Newsela – Newsela is a free to access news content site providing text at 5 reading levels, including applicable comprehension quizzes. Search for content by reading level, topic grade level, and articles that include writing prompts.

 CommonLit – Free teacher resource with a searchable text library of passages to use from reading instruction from grades 3 to 12. Not only can you create a teacher account on this site, but you can also create student accounts, assign comprehension assessments and track progress. An additional feature on this site is the Spanish passages and comprehension questions.

TweenTribune   – K-12 Lexile-leveled free resources for teachers created by the Smithsonian based on current kid-friendly news topics. Each article is written at 4 different Lexile levels and also includes a critical thinking question at the end to use for testing student comprehension and understanding of the topic’s broader application.

Breaking News English  – Free current event articles written at 7 different reading levels. This site is based in the U.K. and each article is written in at least 3 different reading levels and includes a teacher lesson plan with vocabulary words, a table for organizing the text’s ideas, as well as a critical thinking exercise.

 For the Teachers Articles – A variety of free fictional articles written at three different reading levels for students from grade 3 to 10.

UNC Charlotte Adapted Popular Chapter Books – Over 20 free online adapted chapter books including Where the Red Fern Grows, Because of Winn-Dixie, and works by Shakespeare.

Teachers Pay Teachers – Two stores on Teachers Pay Teacher offering an extensive selection of lessons, books, and other teaching material with modified reading texts are Miss A’s Mismatched Miracles  & Ms Meghan’s Special Minds and Hands  

 

Modified Instructional Reading Text for Reading Comprehension: modified by you

If you still haven’t found what you are looking for, here are some other free online resources you can use to modify instructional text you already own.

Rewordify – Copy and paste in complex text and this site will simplify the language to make it easier for a struggling student to comprehend. This site also provides you the option to include definitions of complex vocabulary words or create word learning sessions based on the vocabulary converted in the text and builds spelling as well as vocabulary skills.

Special Reads – This site sells modified books for special needs readers, but also provides this free instructional article on how to modify your own text or books for your student.

 

Improving reading comprehension and finding resources that are the right fit for your child’s interests and abilities make an enormous difference for academic success, and these resources don’t have to cost a fortune. Rather than spending your time and energy searching for modified instructional reading texts to fit your reading comprehension goals for your student, spend your time actually helping your child progress and find success.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

I would love to say that the majority of my homeschooling years I followed the recommendation we moms get all the time, to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs, but I have not. In fact, at one point in my homeschooling career, I was trying so hard to do it all without taking care of my own needs that I had to stop life altogether to restore the damage I had done to my body from only sleeping 2 hours a night.

 

In hindsight, years after my adrenal failure and a near mental breakdown that forced me to let go of many hopes and dreams, I’ve gained a renewed perspective. I now see better ways I could have managed my life and schedule to juggle the complexity of homeschooling, running a small hobby farm, caring for my own family as well as the three preschoolers who had come into our family through an emergency foster care placement.

 

Start With These Two Things

I will start with the simplest advice first, cut back. Yes, there were things I was adding to my plate that I didn’t need to be doing at all, or they could have waited until I had more time to fit them in. That advice is easier to administer when you see these things as “extras” and not “necessities,” which I had a hard time discerning in the chaos. Over the years, I have learned that unless I step back from my life and do a thorough evaluation regularly, these “extras” easily creep back into my schedule. Therefore, periodically I set aside time to pull out a calendar and purge out these “extras.” I also have combatted this issue from the other side by developing strong prayerfully developed requirements for what I will say “yes” to.

 

The second piece of advice we often hear is, ask for help. I agree it would have helped me to have asked for more help and to have been clearer in sharing the struggles I was experiencing with getting proper services and reaching my children’s learning goals. But resources were slim in our small town, the Internet was nowhere close to being as helpful as it is today, and school services were limited in their ability to help with the behavioral and trauma issues that needed to be tended to above academics.

 

Good help in general, in the special needs community, is hard to come by because usually we can’t just enlist a neighborhood teen to pop in for an hour or two like parents with typical children can. Instead, we need individuals who are trained and prepared for all our children’s needs. Some families search decades for a single person who can take over care for their child in their absence, and so asking for help is not a perfect answer either.

 

Then, Transform What is Left

It is no wonder that special education homeschooling moms throw their arms up when we start talking about self-care. There is certainly no room for that even when we have cut back and asked for the help we need. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves, but is that the truth?

 

In trying to manage our schedules linearly, there often is no more room. But if we look at our schedules from a multi-dimensional perspective, we may find that time is found when we learn to be more effective in overlapping our activities. Approaching our homeschooling and self-care schedules multi-dimensionally is what I mean when I say we have to incorporate mom-care into our homeschooling.

 

Going multi-dimensional takes a bit of creative thinking, so I am going to get you started with a few ideas of my own. But I would encourage you to personalize your own care needs into your family’s homeschooling schedule just like you incorporate your child’s unique goals and needs into your daily lesson plans.

 

This is How

Exercise:

Many moms I know have taken up martial arts along with their sons and daughters. Instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting for the class, join a family class and get onto the mat. Maybe there is another sport you have an interest in that your child also enjoys. For me and my daughter, we took up aerial silks together last year. I am in better shape now than I have been in years, AND I am closer to my daughter because of this shared activity.

 

Books:

I always encourage read-alouds and audiobooks for homeschooling families, not only because it helps children who struggle to read better engage with literature but also because the time spent immersed in a story with your family is a special bonding time. At times through your homeschooling year, purposefully pick a book YOU want to read or listen. Why not? Your children are still engaging with good literature (as long as you are discerning about the book you choose), but experience the added bonus of feeding your imagination a bit too.

 

Hobbies:

Who says you can’t bring your hobby into your school? Whatever subject you are passionate about is usually filled with great lessons your children can glean from. When we lived on our hobby farm, we sold produce at our local farmers market. I thought it would be fun to also make soap to sell, so I shared that activity with my children. My middle son fell in love with the craft! After helping me for a while, he started researching essential oils, soap bases, and eventually created a side business to sell his soaps at the market.

 

Diet:

I love to eat healthy food, as long as it tastes good. Thankfully our family has had years of practice not only preparing our own food, but also growing and raising it. Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to raise sheep, milk your own cow, or own laying hens, but what about starting a container garden? Even if you have a brown thumb you still have to cook and make good food choices. What about using school time to have your kids prep food for dinner or watch a YouTube cooking video to learn a healthier way to prepare a standard dish. Or, if you are a more competitive family, give your children a leftover challenge similar to “Chopped” and see who comes up with the healthiest (and best tasting) option. You can judge and get the night off from cooking. Plus, who knows, your kids may surpass your cooking ability and start helping you eat better to boot.

 

Pampering:

If you have ever yearned to soak your feet at the end of a hard day or get a back rub to ease your aching shoulders, then how about teaching your children to enjoy these spa treatments as well? The saying, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” has served me well over the years. Exchange a back rub, a foot bath, or even a head scratch (my favorite) with a child. Your kids may not start out with the most expert spa-tech skills, but over time they do improve. Additionally, these shared experiences provide practice on appropriate touch and sensory integration.

 

Spiritual Development:

Bible study time in our homeschool started out for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of my children. I fell into the same trap as many other moms, thinking that secluded alone time with God is the only way to get spiritually fed. But the reality is that my kids are with me all the time and it is better they SEE me worshipping and interacting with God than trying to escape them so I can have my “quiet time.” I used to even have bible studies meet at my house so my kids could practice their social skills with friends they had grown comfortable interacting with (usually still within earshot of us moms), and I could have fellowship time with other women. It was nothing fancy nor super deep, but it provided the encouragement and godly friendships I needed just as much as my children.

 

I could go on and on, and I plan to be working on this topic and additional ideas in the coming year as I prepare a new talk I will be making available for homeschool conventions in 2020 called “Incorporating Mom-Care into Your Homeschooling Schedule.” If you come up with an idea spurred on by from this article, I would love to hear it so I can pass it along to encourage other moms.

 

Mom Care Goal Checks and Balances

Set specific times of the school year to create checks and balances for yourself, or involve another homeschooling mom in your plan so that the two of you can encourage one another in prioritizing your care into your daily schedule. Look for “extras” that need to go and for where you may need to be asking for more help. Then, strive for multi-dimensional planning to include some of these other self-care ideas. These three things combined can buy you more time for the BEST things in life, which include taking care of yourself so you can care for the others God has placed in your home.

 

Most of all I want you to remember: You are worth it mom! Taking care of yourself is within reach. It just requires you to prioritize yourself along with the other things you are juggling in your life.

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Teaching a child how to hike parallels the larger tasks of homeschooling and parenting.  Hiking, as well as homeschooling and parenting, may have many technical pieces of instruction, but never should we dismiss the greater benefit of the journey itself. There is a greater benefit of the homeschooling journey too, and it has more to do with walking the path with our children each day than how well any of us masters the hiking itself.

 

A Family that Hikes Together

Our family has been hiking since before we had kids. My husband and I both came from hiking families. Plus, within a few days after each of our children were born, as an initiation into the family, we introduced them to hiking.

As an infant, our child would ride in a front-pack when we would take off for a nearby trail.  As each child grew bigger, the transition from facing towards one of us in the front-pack to facing out happened around the second or third month.  Next, the child graduated from our front-pack to a more sturdy hiking backpack.

But we did not leave each child in the backpack stage. Instead, we observed that child’s walking acuity.  We paid particular attention to how well the child mastered uneven terrain and how resilient the child was to the occasional fall.  Our oldest was a natural pack mule on the trail and thankfully so because he was as solid as one too. He became rather difficult to carry early as a toddler, and we were all too happy to let him take that stocky frame and carry it on his own two feet.  But his younger brother was completely different. Our second child had difficulty mastering uneven surfaces. He hated walking on grass and especially when he needed to transition from the grass to another type of surface. Thankfully he was extremely light, and we managed well in the need to carry him much longer than his older brother when we went out on our hiking adventures.

Each child’s readiness considered, we still did not transition right away to multi-mile hikes as soon as each started putting their feet to the trail.  Instead, we had each walk part of the way and ride the other. At first we continued to carry an empty backpack and allowed the child to ride when walking became too difficult or was slowing down the rest of the party, but eventually, we transitioned making our shoulders available for the occasional rest.  

 

Hiking Milestones

Not until each child had built up enough personal stamina did we remove the option to ride.  But, getting our children walking on the path by themselves was only the first milestone in teaching them to hike. In the years to follow, as our family hiking continued, we continued to teach our children lessons on the trail.  

Our children learned how to:

  • Plan wisely and pack enough supplies.  Acknowledging your unique needs and properly preparing to address those needs dependent on the conditions of the trail and the length of the hike is extremely important if you are to get the most out of the trip. Ill-preparation can lead to uncomfortable situations and the potential need to make otherwise unnecessary changes.
  • Be considerate of others. No matter who is on the trail with you or who will follow your path consideration is appreciated.  These lessons involved making room for others who are slower or faster than you are and making sure to “leave no trace” so the hike will be equally appreciated by those who follow.
  • Look out for dangerous conditions. Being observant or taking appropriate action when necessary is essential to hiking safety.  From determining an animal and it’s probable proximity from droppings and prints to knowing when to make noises to warn animals of your approach, when to stand still to avoid getting attacked or trampled, and how to protect yourself if caught in a storm are all invaluable lessons to keeping safe on the trail.
  • Enjoy the journey.  Taking time to look up from the trail to watch the wildlife, smell the flowers, take in a scene, or stand in awe of the magnificent beauty that God alone can create so flawlessly has to be cultivated and encouraged. Looking beyond the trail to be immersed in the experiences is the greatest reward a hiking experience has to offer.
  • Cultivate relationships.  Talking on the trail or even sharing long periods of quiet pondering when walking side-by-side with others strengthens relationships.  Hiking parties naturally bond on the trail and these bonds have strengthened relationships in our immediate family and with extended family and/or friends we have hiked with.
  • Never give up. Hiking can be very tiring especially in high-altitude, dry, and steep conditions.  The determination to finish the trail before you start, unless conditions cause a necessary detour, helps for keeping the course when the trail gets the hardest.

 

Greatest Benefit of the Journey

Why do I share these things with you?  Because over the years as our family has taken countless hiking trips from short half-mile hikes in quaint campgrounds to grueling hikes down into the Grand Canyon and up again, there is a wonderful parallel for how teaching our children to hike has mimicked our 17 years of homeschooling and 22 years of parenting. Little by little we have trained our children not only to hike but also how to hike well, and still at the ages of 22, 20, and 14 they continue to do a lot of “hiking” alongside us as we teach them how to best follow the trail God has set before our children in the way they should go. Thankfully they still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

“Our children still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

Our children at the beginning needed us to help them with everything.  But, teaching them the mechanics of life was only the beginning of teaching them all the knowledge that my husband and I had acquired over the years. In fact, we are still teaching our children as they actively navigate much of their trails now on their own. The same is true for homeschooling and parenting.  We teach our children reading, writing, math, and other life skills, but if we stop walking alongside them once we have taught them these things then we miss out on the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey – the deepening relationship.

 

Path Yet Ahead

My encouragement to you as you look back at your homeschooling and parenting journey so far, and then look forward towards what yet you have to teach, there will always be enough path and time for the lessons that need to be taught as long as you plan wisely and determine to never give up. The key is in teaching the technical lessons that build on mastery and allow time for integration: enjoy the journey, cultivate the relationships, build awareness of potential dangers, and teach your children the importance of the impact God desires to make through them on the world around them.

Thankfully, God provides the trail as well as a continuous stream of supplies. So, as long as we follow His directions every day, we will not get off track or lose our way and our relationships with our children will only grow more strong and beautiful as we walk alongside them on this journey we have the privilege to share.

 

We at SPED Homeschool are so glad you have allowed us to take this journey with you, and we would love for you to share snapshots of what your homeschooling journey looks like.  Feel free to share a picture or story that makes your homeschool unique and beautiful, and let us know if you would allow us to share your story with the SPED Homeschool community.  When we share our stories, we not only gain a greater understanding of one another’s path, but those outside our community will also gain a greater understanding of what homeschooling looks like when a family works to help their child succeed beyond their struggles.

 

 


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