Dawn Spence

When babies are born they communicate in cries to get their needs met. We lovingly meet their needs and wait to hear their first words. Sometimes those words take longer to hear or may come in a different form. My daughter has a global developmental delay, and even though we know why she has a communication disorder, waiting for her to be able to communicate was frustrating for her and us as well. Finding strategies to help your child with a communication or language disorder helps lessen their frustration.

Strategies for Helping with Language Disorders

 

Sign Language

When she was younger, my daughter had a speech delay and needed a language and a voice. We started using functional sign language with my daughter such as more, finished, work, all done and stop. Then we moved on to colors, animals, and everyday language. Giving my daughter a way to communicate her needs helped her to have a voice. We used Signing Times, and she would watch the videos and learn to sign the new vocabulary. The songs and the characters made learning enjoyable, and it kept her attention.

 

Pictures and Schedules

To a child with language deficits, the everyday life and busy schedules of the day can be overwhelming. My daughter would be overwhelmed with activities and expectations, which would then lead to a meltdown. I had to learn that her frustration with the difficulties of communicating and understanding our day led to her meltdowns. She needed structure and an order to her day. We made picture schedules of her day from therapy to meals. We took pictures and laminated them and had them posted around the house. Her day in pictures and what was expected of her became a tool and gave her day meaning. I also took pictures of her doctors, therapists, and places that we would visit frequently. If our schedule would be different or involved a doctor visit, seeing the picture would help with her anxiety. I used hands-on tools in anticipation of going to the dentist. I found that situations where new things that she may not expect needed more tools of preparation.

 

 

 

She practiced brushing off her sugar bugs to help her get prepared with the unexpected and the anxiety. The more we talked and practiced for the doctor visit the more relaxed and successful it became.

 

Giving Time

My daughter has both an expressive and receptive language disorder. This basically means that she struggles with understanding what others say to her and with expressing herself. I know that she needs me to give her time to respond to what I say and time to put her words together. When I ask my daughter a question, I give her extra time to answer. Using verbal and visual cues helps her organize her thoughts and her language. I can see on my daughter’s face that she knows what to say but needs help getting it out. I have learned that I need to stop and allow her the time to gather her thoughts. If she still needs help, giving her options or verbal cues helps her to produce her answer.

 

Having a communication disorder has no time frame and it takes patience for everyone involved. Give lots of praise and give your child grace and time and love. Using these strategies to give your child a voice and the opportunity to work through the frustrations of learning to communicate gives them more than just tools for language; it speaks to them a language of love.

 

 

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

Please follow and like us:
error


By Dawn Spence

Holidays can be exciting and overwhelming for anyone with all the lights, sounds, crowds of people, and excitement. Many companies and churches are recognizing the need for sensory friendly activities or events; but when so many people show up, those too can become overwhelming. 

 

When my daughter was younger we would create all the sights and sounds of the holidays in a way that she could enjoy them in our own home. I am sharing my top 5 five fun sensory friendly activities that the whole family can enjoy.

 

 

5 Fun Sensory Friendly Activities for the Holidays

 

1. Playing with Candy Cane Rice
This activity combines the smells of the holiday and looks like a candy cane. All you need is white rice, food coloring, and peppermint oil or extract. Half your bag of rice and put one half in a gallon size bag with food coloring and the oil/extract and mix it well. 

Then take it out the bag and place on a tray to dry out for a couple of hours. When dry, mix the white and red and let the fun begin. The smell and feel of the rice is fun for any age.

 

2. Making Play Snow
I love real snow, but we do not get much real snow in Houston, which means we have to make ours. It makes a great inside activity. I found this recipe and it easy to make and easy to clean up. You will need 3 cups baking soda and one-half cup of white conditioner.

Mix together, and have fun. For even more fun, use ice cubes to make igloos and add in some toy penguins.

 

3. Creating Holiday Scented Playdough
My kids love homemade playdough. Not only does it feel great but you can make unique colors and holiday scents. I got the recipe here.

After making my dough I would make peppermint for the pink or red. You can add a few drops of peppermint extract or oils. I used pumpkin spice seasoning to make my orange playdough smell like pumpkin. You can make cinnamon flavored and more. I suggest keeping in an airtight container. It also makes a great gift.

 

4. Enjoying the Christmas Lights
Going to a display of lights or events where you walk through tunnels of glowing lights may be overwhelming to your child. When my daughter was young, it was just too much to walk around in the crowds; but she loves lights. So we started our own tradition of getting on our PJs, grabbing a drink and snack, and driving around to see lights. We would play a Christmas themed movie in the car until we would get to where we were going. We still do this activity to this day.


5. Reading Books In a Blanket Fort

Sometimes our kids need the warm and cozy feel in the hustle bustle of the holidays. What a great time to build a fort and read some of their favorite Christmas stories. You can add some battery-operated Christmas lights to your fort. Make it fun and memorable.

 

Whatever you do this holiday to make it special for your family, may you enjoy the memories that you make. 

 

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Donate today

(all donations are tax-deductible)

 

Please follow and like us:
error


By Dawn Spence

Am I the Best Teacher for My Child? This is a question that I still ask myself all the time. I know it is driven by two things guilt and fear. Guilt that I am not doing things perfectly and the fear that I never will.

 

Well I am right I am not doing it perfectly and I never will, but that is okay. I am learning that my kids don’t need a perfect mom or teacher. Instead, what they need is for me to keep going and never give up on them or myself.

 

Homeschooling is a journey of trial and error and finding out what works. Sometimes it is trying 5 different math curriculums before you find the one that is the right fit. Just because you make the effort to try each of those options and don’t give up is is what makes you the right person to homeschool your child. You kept looking and searching. No one loves your child like you and wants him or her to succeed like you do. You make it your mission to wake up every morning and help your child to do better to learn something new.

 

Teaching special needs children can be tiring when your child is not catching onto a concept you have been teaching for weeks. But you have the gift of not moving on because you are homeschooling and can set the pace based on the needs of your child. I would think I was failing my child because she was not learning to read or learning a new math concept, but I realized in the midst of that struggle that I am the best teacher for my child because I push her on and we work through it together.

 

My daughter has a learning disability and remembering things for her can be a struggle. We keep trying and working through lessons until she gets them. My heart takes it personally when she is not learning and the fear comes when I start to think I am not teaching her what she needs.

 

Momma guilt is real. Anyone can teach your child, but it’s your heart’s pursuit to teach beyond the struggles which will make your child soar. Just the other day, my daughter reminded me of this exact thing. While she was playing, and she looked up at me and said, “Momma thank you for believing that I am smart.” I melted. Then, I prayed. “God let me see teaching my children is not about me being perfect, but having a willing and open heart to teach them the best I can each day.”

 

So yes, I am the right teacher for my child and so are you.

 

Donate Today

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

am i the best teacher blog vert image

Please follow and like us:
error


By Dawn Spence


When I taught public school, the one thing that inspired me to teach was creating units. A fellow teacher and I created a space unit for our 40 fourth graders, and the learning and excitement that our students expressed made teaching come alive.

 

When I started teaching my twin girls preschool, I knew that units are what I wanted to do. I created units on the ocean, fall, winter, and the zoo. It was the most memorable year of teaching. I still enjoy doing units with my kids with lots of interactive learning and activities.

 

Creating a unit is not hard but it does take some planning. When you write your unit you can use it as your only curriculum.

 

 

Planning Your Unit
 
Topic
First, plan out what excites you and your learner. If the learning is engaging and holds the interest of your learner, the learning will come. I found “fall” to be a unit that can be adapted to older and younger students. “Fall” also works will all types of learners. 

 

Map Subjects
Next, map out what subjects that you want to be included in your unit. You can easily involve your core subjects, but you can usually include much more. When I created my “fall” unit, I was able to include math, science, history, language arts, reading, and art. You can make the lessons simple or complex. I would draw a map out and under each subject, I would list out what I wanted to cover. 

Math using pumpkins was hands-on and everyone was ready for school in the morning. If your state includes Good Citizenship you can add that as well. Do not forget to add in field trips to allow your unit to become real life for your learner. Make sure also figure out how long you want your unit to last.

 

Develop Lessons
Third, it is time to develop your lessons. This step can be fun and overwhelming at the same time. There are so many activities that you can add to your unit and many places to get ideas. I started with Teachers Pay Teachers, File Folder Heaven, and homeschooling blogs. I would gather ideas and sometimes the activities that I saw inspired me to create my own. I have created a sample graphic organizer to help with your planning. (Click here to download the below image as a free document.)



Determine Assessments
Last, decide how you want to grade or assess their learning. You can create a lapbook, and at the end of the unit your student could present what they learned with a hands-on project or report. For more ideas on how to grade or assess you can read Amy Vickery’s article: Making The Grade: Strategies for Grading your Homeschool Student .

 

Units can be a great way to have fun while learning and can engage your student. I also found that I was able to see what my child’s interests were and what made them excited to learn. Have you created a Unit Study that you would like to share? If you have, comment below or share it on our resource page.

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

Please follow and like us:
error

By Dawn Spence

A new school year is just around the corner and with it comes new IEP goals and objectives. Sometimes your goals may be continuing from the year before, or you may have new goals. As you start out a new school year with new goals, you want your child to embrace those goals and enjoy the new challenges. Here are 4 ways to start out your year with new goals.

1. Break Down the Goals
All your goals do not have to be introduced at one time or even in the same week. Let your child get comfortable working on a new goal before introducing more goals. You can do read-alouds or play games so that there is something to look forward to after working on a challenging activity.

2. Take it Slow

IEP goals are usually set for a school year or a physical year, so you have plenty of time to work on meeting goals. You could work on language arts goals on Wednesdays and Fridays, and then work on math goals on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Make the schedule work for you and your child.

3. Make it Exciting

If you are excited and have joy about teaching the goal, that will go a long way to help your child look forward to the activities. You can take their goals and make a game. If a goal is hard for the student, make the challenge something that they will look forward to tackling.

4. Be Flexible

If you introduce a new goal and the method that you are using is not working, you can always change it. You might realize that writing with pen and paper will not produce that paper but typing it will. You can even ask your child what would help him or her to achieve the goal.

IEP goals are a great way to organize your academic year and show progress. Allow yourself the space and grace to learn alongside your child.

If you would like more help in establishing an IEP for your homeschooled student, check out these articles well as our IEP Information page and free IEP template download:

4 Things to Prepare Before Writing Your Child’s IEP 
How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives
Writing an IEP: Accommodations and Modifications
How to Track IEP Goals

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error

By Dawn Spence

 

A common abbreviation that is used in special education is an IEP. It stands for your child’s individualized education plan, and it defines your child’s academic and behavioral goals. Your child’s IEP will be unique and is based on their abilities. This can help guide you in reaching their learning goals.

 

Before you get started writing your child’s IEP, you will need to gather the necessary information to form appropriate goals and objectives.

 

1. List Your Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses
You should start with a list of what your child is doing well and the areas that need growth. When you are listing the strengths and weaknesses, you are defining their present levels of performance (PLOPS). I found a form for $1.00 that is a great checklist to start with.  You can find that form here. I found others when I searched “present levels” in the search engine on Teachers Pay Teachers: some were even subject based (i.e. math, English, etc.). You may also search the acronym “PLOPS” and different forms will appear and many are free. 

 

This is one of the most important documents for writing your IEP. This information builds the foundation of what you want your child to learn and what you want your child to achieve. Their strengths and weaknesses should be written for both academic and behavioral areas.

 

2. Gather Former Testing or Observations
This can comprise of any testing that has been performed by a school district, home testing, or tutoring. Most testing always has a section that lists areas to work on and may even list some goals.

 

3. Collaborate with Therapists
If your child receives therapy, their therapists are a great resource. Therapists have checklists that they use to make their therapy goals. My daughter’s therapists and I work together so that we cover as many goals as possible. Therapists can also see different strengths and weaknesses that you can not always see.

 

4. Compile Work Samples from Current Curriculum
For example, if you are working on math and your child can add but not subtract that would help you develop a goal. Also, many curriculums have placement tests that you can use to find where your child is currently working and where their progression should lead. These placements are available on many websites and most times are free.

 

Now that you have gathered all your resources and information you will be ready to start writing your IEP. Later this month,  Amy Vickrey will be writing a post that will address the next step of writing an IEP.

In the meantime make sure to check out the IEP resources we have on our IEP Pinterest board.

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error


By Dawn Spence

One thing that I think all homeschooling parents can appreciate is free and affordable resources. There are many resources at our fingertips, but I am highlighting my top 5 resources that are great to use for your special needs learner.

1.Worksheetsworks.com
This is a new favorite of mine, especially because it is free. I do not use it as much for worksheets, but I use it for making handwriting sheets that my daughter can trace or copy. You can make traceables of your child’s name, copywork for Bible, and helps for learning cursive. The possibilities are endless with this website. To find this aspect on their website, type “print handwriting” in their search feature and then start creating.

2. Teacherspayteachers.com
This site provides so many hands-on resources, powerpoints, and lapbooks. You can search for your topic and add the word “free,” and you will be amazed at what is out there already made for you. You can search autism, speech, or special education, and all you do is buy and print. After you make a purchase, you can review products and earn points to pay for future purchases. If you are creative you can also post your original ideas and sell them.

3. Filefolderheaven.com
This site was created for kids with autism and developmental disorders that need hands-on tasks. What I really love about this website is that they break down their products by units, seasons, and holidays. There are bargains and also free downloadable products. They are ready to print, laminate, and go. They provide adapted books and behavior supports as well.

4. Mamajenn.com
This website and blog are run by a homeschooling mom. She provides crafts, how to projects, and much more. If you use My Father’s World curriculum, she has so many free printables to supplement your Bible, science, and copywork. I am so grateful that she did the hard work and shares: what a blessing!

5. Hubbard’sCupboard.com
This website states that it is a joyful journey into learning, and it is! There are so many resources for reading, science, social studies, and more. The audience is toddlers to kindergarten but can be accommodated or modified to meet your child’s needs. There are printable books and phonics lessons. I like the way they list a book and then explain how they used it. There are even family projects. 


If you know of other great free or affordable websites please share them in our  Facebook Resource Sharing Group so other families can benefit from your finds.

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error


By Dawn Spence

Over my years of teaching, I found one thing to be true, my students learned better if I could keep their attention and make learning fun at the same time. I have also found this to be true in homeschooling my own children.

One way of accomplishing this goal of keeping lessons fun and motivating is to combine learning with games or activities.

Here are 4 Examples:

Motivation Piece by Piece
Chutes and Ladders, puzzles, playdough, and building games such as Jenga work well to motivate the learner to complete a task. For instance, if you are using a puzzle, have your learner answer 1-3 questions. After completing the questions, allow him/her to have some pieces of the puzzle. Therefore, when the child has completed the lesson, the puzzle will also be completed.

This activity is a great way to use those games and puzzles that have been hiding in your closet. You can use any game your child is interested in such as Battleship, UNO, Kerplunk, Sorry, Connect 4, Perfection, building circuits, and LEGOS.

Build Focus Through Interest-Based Activities
It is best to use this technique when your student is confronted with a challenging activity. Not only do we use this technique at home, but my daughter’s therapists also use this technique to keep my daughter focused during her therapy sessions.

One way my daughter’s focus can be enhanced is if she is allowed to build a Jenga tower. She actually eagerly completes any difficult activities she is given so she can, in turn, build her tower. While in therapy, my daughter completes her articulation exercises at the same time she is completing a pattern with her Jenga blocks. In the teaching world, this is a win-win because the child’s focus causes learning to happen quicker and overall the learning process is seen as fun and engaging.

Motivators Matter
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use things that motivate your child while instructing him/her. If your learner loves to roll playdough, use that. If he likes to build towers and then knock them over, then use that. If she wants a sticker every time her work in done, use that.

When you use motivators you are not bribing your child to do school, you are instead giving them an incentive. Some children are very incentive driven, so if that is your child use that bend to motivate learning.

Set Clear Expectations
When you set your expectations out front with a clear directive, using “if/then” statements, your child will be less likely to expect any rewards before his/her tasks are completed. For instance, if you are using blocks as your motivator, tell your child that “if” he answers three questions “then” he will earn three blocks.

Depending upon the age of your child, his/her cognitive understanding, the motivation tool you are using, and the type of task you are asking your child to complete, you can change the rules and rewards to make learning more fun and motivational. Break down the puzzle or game into little chunks you are teaching your learner delayed gratification.

An Added Bonus
As you practice these techniques your student will also be developing two very important life skills, delayed gratification and the desire to be a lifelong learner. These bigger picture goals for any child are always worth the work, but isn’t it great that along the way they actually work to increase day to day learning as well?

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error


By Dawn Spence

Expectations is one of those words that either conjures up positive or negative emotions.

Growing up, expectations to me meant I needed to change all the things I was doing that were wrong. It made me fear I was not good enough. 

Fast forward to becoming a teacher. My view of the word expectations completely changed. This word became my personal mission directed towards my students because I viewed my students as having unlimited expectations.

All children can learn, and all children have strengths. As a teacher, I finally grasped that expectations were needed to grow. They were the goals my students needed to see for themselves. And now as a homeschooling mom, I use this same approach to expectations while teaching my own children with learning challenges.

Positive ways to insert expectations into your homeschool:

1- Provide IEP Goals to Quantify Expectations
Having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a great way to provide goals for your student as well as measure growth. Sometimes growth takes a while, and it is hard to see how far your child has come. Whether you measure weekly or monthly, it is important to measure and celebrate all successes.

2 – Have Your Children Set Expectations for Themselves
Allowing your children to be involved in setting their own goals and where they see themselves will help empower them. Personal goals are a part of life and who better to teach your child this lesson than you. Whether your child’s goals are to learning to tie shoes or getting a job, reaching these goals will provide confidence as well as ownership of learning.

3 – Pursue Expectations with Hope
If you have an expectation and an accompanying goal, these simple steps provide hope for potential growth. It does not matter how fast a child reaches or attains a goal but the important part is that learning is happening. As homeschool parents, we get to be there when they learn to write their name, read their first word, or overcome a certain behavior. Marking this victories, noting the process, and celebrating the successes provide the hope to keep focusing on the expectations yet ahead.


Need Some Help?
If you are looking for help in developing expectations or goals for your student, and documenting them as part of your homeschooling lesson plans, feel free to contact me or check out my team member page to find out more about the consulting services I offer special education homeschooling parents.  

You may also want to check out SPED Homeschool’s IEP Pinterest board and other SPED Homeschool’s Consulting Partners who offer various special education homeschooling consulting services.

I am praying you and your child embrace how expectations can be a help and a hope in all your homeschooling endeavors.

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error


By Dawn Spence

Sometimes the best gift that we can give someone is being able to relate and give them compassion. What better person to give this type of understanding than one that has walked in their shoes?

 

My Journey
I have always had a love to teach and especially to teach those who struggle. I believe this love came out of my own challenges. You see I grew up with an undiagnosed learning disability believing that I was dumb and lazy. I could walk into any English classroom and the words would flow from my heart to my pen to the paper without a second thought but put me in a math class and I was almost paralyzed with fear. I was afraid to fail or struggle another time, but I always did. It started in elementary school and followed me to college. The worst part was that I felt stupid and I believed it.

So my senior year in college, I decided to get myself tested. For once and for all I needed to know what was wrong with me. Then on that sunny Friday afternoon, I finally had an answer. I was not stupid or lazy as those voices in my head had always told me. I found out that I had Dyscalculia. It is a learning impairment that affects mathematics.The label did not change who I was, but it helped me understand what my struggle was.

Important Lessons Learned
 
Knowledge Is Power
Understanding the glitches helped me develop strategies to work through my learning disability. I learned how to work through my mathematical challenges and continue to use these strategies to this day.

Labels Do Not Define the Learner
Having a label does not define you or your child but gives you a door into unlocking their full learning potential.Some parents struggle with getting their child labeled but labels can help you understand your child’s struggles and how to meet their needs.

Learning Disabilities Do Not Limit You

Even with an undiagnosed learning disability, I was able to graduate high school and college with honors. It was difficult, but I believe it made me stronger and able to help my own children with learning disabilities.

In my life, I learned that struggling with a learning disability can lead to resilience and determination.  It can for your children too.

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error