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

 

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

 

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

 

Refreshing Outdoor Time

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

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

 

Conversation and Engagement

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

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

 

Quiet

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

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

 

Companionship

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

 

Spontaneous Fun Sprinkled into the Day

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

 

Refresh Yourself

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

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

 

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10, my daughter’s confirmation verse

 

 

 

 

 


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Rebecka Spencer, SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 


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Dr. Melissa Shipman, SPED Homeschool Partner Learnwell Home Education Collective

While homeschooling can often be a solitary endeavor for a parent, there are many reasons why all of us benefit from homeschooling in community.

 

Accountability works.

Just like when we train for an athletic event or try to lose a few pounds, having people around us to support our journey is crucial. If there is no accountability outside of our own motivation, it is easy to get behind, have a bad week and push school to the side, or altogether lose sight of our educational goals and feel discouraged. 

This is one of the primary reasons why homeschooling in community works. Knowing that your community is tracking with you is priceless! Knowing that there is another parent who is following the same curriculum and the same timeline or list of assignments provides instant accountability. You know that they are sticking to the same guidelines and subject matter. You know that if you have a particularly challenging day, you can reach out and ask for help from someone who is running the same race.

 

Questions come up.

Whether you are homeschooling for the first time or a homeschooling veteran, you will have questions. Maybe you need to find a new program or curriculum or need ideas for new teaching strategies. Unfortunately, when you are “going it alone,” it is easy to let your circumstances overwhelm you. 

However, a community of like-minded parents gives you something you may not get on your own: a different perspective. 

When a question pops up about how to keep a pre-K student busy while teaching your fourth-grade student math, another parent of similar-aged children can share tips. If you are both parents of third-grade students studying pictographs in social studies, then you can put your heads together for solutions when your children need more help.

In community, the sharing of ideas can ensure that speed bumps don’t become dead-ends.

 

Isolation is lessened.

Sometimes the choice to homeschool feels like a choice to step out of community. You may miss out on shared moments that revolve around a local school – unless you’re in a homeschool community. 

As you exchange ideas, help, and encouragement, the parents who have students in that same grade become your friends. 

The truth is that isolation becomes the perfect breeding ground for self-doubt. But over the past 15 years, opportunities for both online and in-person homeschooling community have grown exponentially.

Living in community can shed light on our fear and self-doubt. Homeschooling in community allows us to share our doubts and questions and fears, and receive help from those around us.

 

Laughter really is the best medicine.

Here’s the truth: sometimes what we teach today is not what we learned when we were in school. Whether it’s a new way to teach math or a variation for teaching prepositions, some teaching strategies change over time. This can be frustrating at your worst moment and hilarious at your best. Imagine texting a friend who is also finding a new math strategy a little tough to master. Laughter is almost guaranteed! 

Homeschooling in community lightens your mood, and probably your child’s mood too. Laughter really can diffuse tension and stress in both you and your child. You have a sounding board, someone in the same proverbial boat, with which to share. We choose if we’re going to homeschool in isolation – rarely very funny – or share the journey with others and laugh sometimes along the way!

 

It’s ninety percent mental, ten percent physical.

It is said that when a person trains for a marathon, only ten percent is about the physical aspects of training, and the other 90 percent is about building mental fortitude for when your physical limitations kick in. 

The same can be said for any endeavor that is spread across a long-distance or time. Even when you aren’t communicating directly with a fellow homeschool parent, understanding that your friends are in the trenches with you can be all it takes to keep going. Simply knowing someone else who is making her way through the same curriculum with her kids is often enough to help you power through a challenging week.

 

Celebrations are all the more sweeter.

Consider this: when you are cooking for one, and you master a particularly challenging recipe, who cheers for you? But when you are cooking for a family and you get it right (meaning everyone loves it!), you have your own little fan club. 

In the same respect, homeschooling within a community is equally fulfilling when you triumph through a tough subject, or your child breaks through in his understanding of a concept that was once difficult. Who else knows what it’s like to teach your kindergartner the long and short vowel sounds? Who else would understand why you broke into your happy dance? The answer: a fellow mom who is rejoicing because she has been there too!

 

Children feel more secure.

Not all of the benefits of homeschooling in community are for parents! 

While they may be too young to voice their feelings about it, even the littlest of your brood needs community. It could be that they are reading the same book of ABCs at the same time, or that they get to meet up for a playground date nearby, or that a child their age in a different country is learning about the same author. 

When a child knows that there is someone else like him learning the same thing, it can be reassuring and bring hope, especially when the learning gets tough. Community gives a student the foundation of knowing he isn’t alone in learning all about fractions, even if the community is a virtual one. 

Our kids need to know that other kids have actually mastered their multiplication tables. This can give them the extra boost they need to keep trying. Knowing this can also be the cushion on which they rest when a break is needed, knowing that when they return after a few days off, they aren’t starting over alone – there is a team of friends around them doing the exact same thing.

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Are you a homeschool mom looking for some encouragement? Here are 20 articles on our website that provide homeschool mom encouragement for just about any situation or struggle you may be currently facing.

 

Purpose

Living Out Your Calling While You Homeschool 

Do you ever wonder if you will ever accomplish your life’s purpose? Does it feel at times like homeschooling stands in the way between where you are now and the dreams that God has laid on your heart?” Read more here 

 

Marriage

Thriving in a Special Needs Marriage

Reading this, you are likely a special-needs parent and/or married to someone with special needs. You might need encouragement or strategies for marital happiness in the face of trials. Well, my prayer is that this article will provide both.” Read more here

 

Patience

Growing in the Shade

Sometimes we pushed our young children more than we should have, and invariably we then witnessed…behaviors … I knew that our children would not thrive in…overbearing pressures. “ Read more here

 

Forgiveness

5 Mistakes I Made as a New Homeschooler

“…factors set me up to embrace homeschooling like a drowning person grabs a flotation device. Some great things resulted from those bumpy beginnings, but eleven years later, I see my mistakes during that time too.” Read more here

 

Endurance

Pressing Through the Hard Places

When I think of hardship, I think of special-needs moms. Parenting is difficult, but parenting with special circumstances… that’s excruciating at times.  These words are for you. Soak them in and walk through this year – through the challenges – bravely.” Read more here 

 

Uniqueness

Uniquely Fitted for Your Calling as a Homeschool Mom

Coming together in our uniqueness is what sets us apart from the world. We choose not to fall into comparison traps or in judging others on their walk with God.” Read more here

 

Teaching Challenges

The Peaks and Valleys of Our Special Education Homeschooling Journeys

“…the lessons we learn in our valleys are what propel us to our peaks. The special education homeschooling journey is not without its challenges, but the rewards are well worth it!” Read more here 

 

Inadequacy

Am I the Best Teacher for My Child?

“… 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.” Read more here

 

Hope

Finding Hope Despite Your Struggles

“…one of the most common heartbreaks I see lies in having no hope. It’s a tough thing to bear when your daily struggles of life have no foreseeable end.” Read more here

 

Support

Vulnerability and Staying Connected When You Homeschool

“…we were designed for community, and there’s simply a gap in our lives without it.” Read more here

 

Expectations

Homeschooling Lessons Cultivated by Looking Up and Beyond Circumstances

Over time their difficulties have not lessened but increased. We have learned to relax our expectations, but not the quality of our courses or methods.” Read more here

 

Doubting

How to Homeschool Amidst Your Imperfections

“…many days prompted several overarching concerns that sounded like this in my mind: “Am I hindering my child? Is there a better way to teach this? Are my children picking up my bad habits? my husband’s? “ Read more here

 

Anger

Why We Should be Talking About Parenting Anger

I would love to tell you my struggle with parenting anger was not destructive to my relationship with my children when it was at its worse, but I can’t. I vividly remember the days when my children feared me..” Read more here 

 

Setting Aside the Books

Field Trips ARE School

“When I went from public school teacher to homeschool mom, I decided that it was my chance to provide as much hands-on learning as possible.” Read more here

 

Anxiety

Just Breathe

“…as a homeschooling mom I find myself sometimes thinking of all the things that I think I should be doing as a mom and a teacher. These thoughts of inadequacy take over and I lose sight of all things that I am doing…”Read more here 

 

Tempted to Quit

Never Give Up as a Homeschool Teacher

“At some point, we all have visions of the clean, organized, quiet house we could have if we’d just enroll our kids in public or private school. Homeschooling can be challenging at times.” Read more here

 

Worn Out

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

“…one constant that I’ve seen in most parents who homeschool their children with special needs is that most do not have a lot of time to themselves.  Because of this, our “cups can be empty” before we even realize it.” Read more here

 

Family Crisis

5 Homeschooling Tips When There is a Crisis

“During times of crisis, it’s okay to take a break from homeschooling….especially if you know you won’t be able to teach adequately.”Read more here

 

Depression

Looking into the Face of Childhood Depression

“It was tough enough realizing my son was struggling with depression at such a young age.  But, what made the road ahead seem even more bleak, was since I had been his age I’d silently battled the same enemy.” Read more here 

 

Relationship Issues with a Child

Your Greatest Homeschooling Superpower

“…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.” Read more here

 

We hope these articles have provided you the encouragement you need to keep going. Our goal at SPED Homeschool is to empower you to homeschool your student successfully and we do that by making sure you have access to quality resources, top-notch training materials, and on-going support. Click on these links to see how we can continue to equip and encourage you on your homeschooling journey.

SPED Homeschool Resources

SPED Homeschool Support

SPED Homeschool Tribes

SPED Homeschool Partners

 

 

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn

In my own family, I often find it difficult to see progress in the goals we have set. So, instead of just celebrating large goals, we make it a point to celebrate every triumph our children have on a daily basis.

In your own homeschool, how often do you recognize the little things your children do that are smaller parts of a larger goal? Learning letters means a child is one smaller goal closer to learning a word. Moving a limb means a child is one step closer to using a communication board.  Making a pot of macaroni and cheese means your young adult is that much closer towards establishing independence.

Whatever your goal is for your child, be sure to recognize the small things they do every day. My husband works within the public school system and his school has developed a way of recognizing students “caught being good.”  These “good” behaviors are the little things the school has determined to reward so students eventually learn the value of multiplying good behaviors.

“Collecting pennies means eventually those pennies will add up to a dollar.”

In a way, each good behavior rewarded by my husband’s school, and each smaller goal we reward in our homeschools, is like saving a single penny towards a larger investment. Collecting pennies means eventually those pennies will add up to a dollar. Slowly, but surely, little things add up to BIG things.

Affirmation for good behavior, wise choices and good school performance can leave your child with a healthy sense of accomplishment, and you with the realization both of you are getting there…

 

One
Penny
At
A

Time.

 

 

 

 

 


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