SPED Homeschool Team

During the homeschool struggle with special needs, it’s not uncommon to feel like you are treading water or getting nowhere. Standard educational and developmental goals are out of reach and overwhelming, but we all inherently know our kids can and do make progress. Our children can achieve realistic goals. Sometimes it just takes thinking outside of the box. Our SPEDHomeschool team members shared their creative methods for helping their children achieve goals.

 

Dawn Spence:

Goals for our children as they learn is a wonderful way to look at their progress. As I set goals for my children, I first look at their individual talents and their interests. 

My son needs an outside motivator. He needs to see at the end there is going to be something that he works toward. Reading the Narnia books with the goal of getting to watch the movie, for instance, helps him to complete his reading. It can be something simple, but it has to be something that interests him. 

My next daughter, who flourishes in art and has dyslexia, needs a creative way to express herself. Allowing her to use her art to draw out her math problems or illustrate her vocabulary words motivates her to work toward achieving her goals. Combining educational goals with her creativity helps her to be successful and enjoy the learning process even when lessons are tough. 

My last daughter has multiple learning issues, and I find myself creating hands-on activities to meet her goals. I have learned through her that the world is more abstract than I realize. I need to make it more concrete and tangible for her. I find new ways to use play-doh, games, and puzzles. Meeting her where she is and using manipulatives helps her meet her goals. Also, breaking down a goal into smaller goals has helped my daughter.

 

Cammie Arn:

I’ve learned I have to think outside the box.

  • Reading a description at a museum is reading (and history, and sometimes science as well.) 
  • Growing food in a garden teaches not just science but also problem-solving skills. Go a step further and prepare a meal with that food, and you have Home Ec. 
  • If our goal is to read a novel. I let them pick the book. If they are interested in the topic, they are more likely to glean more information. If the skill is reading, then it truly doesn’t matter what they are reading just that they read it. If the skill is to learn the content, we often use audio and videos. 
  • Use a museum as a scavenger hunt and take advantage of the free resources that they provide for teachers. Many military bases have museums for a nominal fee that cover WWI & WWII battles, aircraft, ground vehicles weaponry. I’m seeing museums offer Sensory Friendly rooms or sensory sensitive exhibit times as well. Download our free museum guide and checklist to help your next museum visit go smoothly.
  • Take advantage of the Parks and Wildlife Agency in your area. Many offer free materials to do unit studies on things like plant identification, water conservation, taking care of our environment, and more. 
  • Use your library. Mine has computer classes open to the public and offers gardening classes for all ages.

 

Amy Vickrey:  

My children are younger (7 and 3). My 7-year-old has autism, and my 3-year-old has some developmental delays, too. Some days, trying to get everything done can be a real challenge! One of my big goals this year was to help my children be more independent. To do this, I have had to get a little creative and flexible. I have to discern when to stick with our plan and when to give a little. This “dance” takes time and energy to maintain, but when you see it through, you can accomplish your goals and so much more. Here are some of the ways I help my kids be independent

 

  • Use visuals such as checklists, schedules, reminders to knock, and labeling drawers and bins.
  • Enlist their help and praise what they do right. If something needs to be fixed, it is done with little fuss. The focus stays on the positive (most of the time). 
  • Give some freedom to make decisions. My 7-year-old son can choose where he keeps his markers as long as they are put up. He sorted and organized the cup cabinet himself. This “buy-in” gives him ownership and he’s more likely to maintain the system. 
  • Rewards are great motivation. I always start out with a bigger reward for smaller tasks and then start decreasing the reward and increasing the expectation. By the time it becomes a habit, the reward is intrinsic!
  • Sometimes money talks. When I was having some extremely challenging behaviors like talking back and leaving dirty socks on furniture (yuck!), I created a money system to let him earn money for positive behaviors and lose it (or get charged) for the negative. He figured it out really fast, and the negative behaviors disappeared (or greatly diminished). By the time he made his goal (he wanted to buy a movie), behaviors were manageable without continuing the system. Now all I have to say is, “Do I get a dollar or are you going to _______?” 

 

Peggy Ployhar:  

For each of my children, I have had to be creative in different ways to help each with various goals. Below are some ways I have helped all three of my children over the years work in accomplishing a goal or set of goals we set for them.

For my oldest, his biggest struggle was reading and writing. We took the slow-and-steady approach to help him get better at these skills while at the same time not making learning so difficult that he would shut down on me. I wrote about this process in a previous article called Slow and Steady: The Key to Homeschooling Success which includes a link to my interview with Andrew Pudewa and how I used his curriculum IEW to help my son eventually reach the goal of learning to write. We took one little step at a time and trusted the curriculum would help my son learn all the basics he needed.  

For my middle son, one subject he struggled with consistently was math. Not so much the concrete computations, but the theoretical aspect of the subject. I learned very quickly I had to make sure math was presented to him in a language he would understand, which meant I often had to change the subjects in a word problem from something he didn’t relate to (like a piece of produce) to something he was used to thinking and talking about (like superheroes). As he got older this became more difficult and after doing a year of Geometry using a hands-on approach with the Patty Paper curriculum we moved to less theoretical math and dove into a course on stewardship and then the following year we moved onto  advanced logic in place of upper-level algebra and trigonometry/pre-calculus.

With my youngest, I had a different issue in achieving a goal, and that was teaching her art without actually teaching her. I had been advised by a variety of professional artists that she should take some time to develop her skills using the basics she already knew and therefore create her own style. Therefore, to help my daughter have content to draw and a regular schedule for her to use her artistic skills we used a curriculum that led her through the process of writing a magazine over a year for her language arts credit and then she created the art for her magazine to keep working on her art style. In the end, she finished a well-written and well-illustrated magazine at the end of the year.

 

Tracy Glockle:  

Last summer, I was really struggling with motivating one of my children who struggles with learning anxieties. She quickly gets overwhelmed by anything that takes effort and then shuts down. From there, every subject seems like a fight. I read a book that was extremely helpful: Self-Reg by Dr. Stuart Shanker.

The book helped me to see how allowing my daughter to have more control over her school and schedule (even when she didn’t appear ready for that control) could help with stress. I allowed her to set some learning goals and tell me what she wanted my help with. I set a few guidelines for her to work within and then respected the schedule she created for herself, even when her schedule took longer to accomplish the work than I thought she needed. The results were amazing!

Writing is a specific subject area that creates a great deal of stress for my daughter. So using this idea of letting her have more control over the areas where she is overwhelmed, I allowed her to create display boards of topics that interested her rather than writing papers. The result was that she wrote several strong paragraphs for each display board willingly and with no anxiety. She actually wrote more than I would have required if she’d been assigned to write a paper on the topic!

 

Our kids with wide ranges of academic and developmental abilities have just as wide a range of goals to achieve and unique gifts to share with the world. Sometimes, it just takes a few creative methods to help them achieve those goals and find success.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Kimberly Vogel

Students with learning disabilities need modifications. There is a fine line between what modifications are needed and when and the time to remove or lessen the modifications. Many parents of students with learning disabilities over-modify, which makes things easier, but doesn’t lead the child to overcome the struggles. The goal is to help our children to learn how to learn and overcome their struggles.

How do you draw that line? How do you know what to do and when?


Goals

If you’ve read many of my articles, a phrase I use often use is meet a child where they are at. Because, once you are operating in a child’s “zone,” they are able to learn. A great way to do this is to find out where your child is through placement tests, formal assessments, or informal assessments (such as checklists or reading levels).

Teaching your child from where they are, you can then modify each assignment based on what they can do and what they need to do. For example, in a math assignment, the objective is math calculations. Ease the burden of reading by allowing the word problems to be read to the child. In a writing assignment, if the objective is to plan for a writing assignment then you may want to implement drawing pictures, using a graphic organizer, or dictating the ideas as a way to complete the assignment instead of writing an outline.


Keep track of the modifications

An IEP is a helpful tool for tracking modifications. Once you have your list of modifications, make a goal for phasing out those modifications. For math, I do not give students a calculator. First, I have them use charts to aid in basic operations. I love multiplication charts because they give a student an overall view of how the numbers relate to each other. At first the multiplication chart is used freely. The more math facts are memorized, the chart is used only for a few of the number groups. Eventually the chart is put away and the child has to ask for use of the chart. Eventually, the chart is no longer used!


Re-evaluate periodically

As more milestones are reached, evaluations of the student need to be made to see what modifications are still needed. Students can become dependent on the modifications and find it stressful to not have access to them. That’s why phasing out modifications is recommended. It provides a level of safety for the student while also teaching them to advocate for themselves. The goal is for a student to ask for help in an appropriate manner and for them to self-evaluate.

While modifications are needed, over modifying doesn’t help in the long run. If you need help, the Thinking and Learning Center’s coaches and SPED Homeschool’s resources can help! We would love to help you in any way we can to be confident in homeschooling your child through his or her struggles.

Still looking for more ideas on how to modify your student’s curriculum? Check out these other articles on our website.

 


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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

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE


After you have  gathered your documents, written your goals, and  decided on your accommodations, you are ready to start working towards those goals, right? Let’s look at some frequently asked questions.


But how do I know what progress is made and when my child reaches his/her goal?

Tracking goals is just as individual of a process as the actual goals. Some goals can be tracked through a portfolio of work that shows the student progress over time (be sure to date the work sample and write down any accommodations you have used to help your child complete the work). Other times, a tally sheet or checklist might be useful. The most important thing to do is document it so you can see the progress!

What happens if my child is not making progress?
If your child is not making progress after working on the goal for a significant period of time (for some children this may be a few weeks, but for others it may be a few months), look at how you can change your approach to the goal or offer more support so that your child can achieve the goal with help. Check out my article on levels of support:  Is it cheating when I help my homeschooled child? Over time, you can gradually lessen the support and help your child be more independent with the goal. You can always re-evaluate the goal and change it if you need to make it more achievable. The same goal can also carry into a second year.

What happens if my child progresses quicker than I expected?
First, you celebrate!!! Then, you write a new goal for the next skill you want him/her to accomplish. Even though these are commonly referred to as “annual goals,” children grow at different developmental rates and at different times. Sometimes by focusing on a skill, your child will pick it up quicker than you expect. In that case, move on to what comes next, but always take time to celebrate!

How do I report these goals with report cards?
If you are keeping grades or report cards every 6 or 9 weeks, you can write a quick summary for each goal and/or the objective. This will also help you summarize all the data that you have gathered and give you a nice single page to keep as documentation at the end of the year. This will help you look at where you need to set goals for the next year.

Check out our  IEP Tools Pinterest board or check out these links for more ideas:
SMART IEPs 
Setting Annual IEP Goals: What You Need to Know
IEP Goal Tracking Sheet
 Progress Monitoring for IEP Goals

 

 


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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.

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

I hear a lot of homeschool parents saying they feel like they are “cheating” when they give their child an answer or help them to find the answer. As a teacher from the public school world, let me tell you that teachers give answers and help students find answers on a daily basis in the classroom! However, teachers have been trained to use different language for this process of “answer giving.”

 

Helping is Training
In the world of sports, a specific movement has to be repeated at least 300 times perfectly to create the proper muscle memory. If any part is learned incorrectly during this process, it can take 1500 times to re-train those muscles in order to correct the error. In academic learning, and especially for our students who have special needs, the process is similar (the number of repetitions is not as high, although it might feel like it is). 

Errorless Learning/Teaching
For children who take time to learn skills in the first place, or who have a difficult time unlearning things that were learned wrong, there is a method of teaching that helps eliminate the possibility for things to be learned incorrectly. It is called “Errorless Learning/Teaching.”

This method is usually done through a series of prompts, or “hints” that become less as the student becomes more independent at the task. Independence is definitely our goal! If a child struggles, you go back to a higher level of help, then begin to back off again. Here are six ways this type of teaching might look like:

1 – Full Physical Prompt
With a full physical prompt, you would guide the student’s hand, arm, leg, etc to complete the task fully. If the student is writing the letter “C,” you would place your hand over theirs and guide their hand through the process of writing “C.” This is also referred to as “hand over hand.”

2 – Partial Physical Prompt
This would be used to get your student started in the right direction, but the student completes the task on his/her own. If the child is presented with a letter “C” and an “A” and you ask the student to hand you the “C,” you might tap his/her hand in the direction of the “C” but allow the student to pick it up on his/her own.

3 – Modeling
Modeling is done by doing something first and then having the student try. For example, when my son draws a letter “p,” I would first draw the “p”, then have him draw it based on what I drew. Modeling is used a lot in teaching, no matter what the ability level of the student. Basic teaching is a lot of modeling and then having the child try.

4 – Gesture
A gesture could be drawing the letter “p” in the air or indicating a part of the paper or book where the child can look in order to find the answer independently.

5 – Direct Verbal Prompt
If your child was given a two-step direction: “Pick up the paper and throw it in the trash,” a direct verbal prompt would be to then give each step as they are doing it. First, “Pick up the paper,” and after they pick it up say, “throw it in the trash.” As a pre-k teacher, I would give instructions to the whole class such as “put your jackets in your backpacks,” then generally repeat it 20 times to each child individually to ensure they did it, especially at the beginning of the school year.

6 – Indirect Verbal Prompt
Teachers use a lot of indirect verbal prompts in the classroom. This is where questioning comes in, such as asking, “What’s next?” or “What else?” The psychologist Vygotsky is well known in the teaching world for his work on Scaffolding. This is a great tool for teaching any child because it helps them think through the steps. When I am doing math with my son, and he is solving an addition problem, I might ask him, “What’s next?” in the problem he is working on. I will also use indirect verbal prompts to help him stay on task when he is having trouble focusing.

Independence is the Goal
This is our goal in teaching any child. Our aim is for our children to be independent and have complete mastery of the skills we are striving to teach them. Mastery is the point at which they can complete a task completely by themselves, with no questions, no “hints,” and no prompts! When they reach this point, we know they truly understand!

How to Document IEP Goals That Use Prompting
As a special education teacher, when I wrote goals, I always wanted my students to be and feel successful from the beginning so I would write the goal to include prompts. (Download our free IEP template and check out this resource page to learn more about writing your homeschool student’s IEP.)

For example:

“John will write his name, using 0-3 prompts, successfully in 2 out of 3 trials.”

From this goal, I would have John work on writing his name. At first, I would start with hand-over-hand. Next step would be my writing it as a model for John. Next, I might form the letters in the air as he wrote them on paper. Then I might remind him directly of the letters, and then move to asking him, “What’s next?” Finally, with time, he would write his name independently. As we moved through each phase, I would make a notation on the paper each time we wrote his name and what I did to help him be successful. That way, I am able to track the progress he is making and how independently he is writing his name.

As parents, we know that our students receive assistance when they are in the classroom, but it is hard to know how much to give at home. I think at times we hold ourselves to a higher standard because we don’t want to get it “wrong.” Just know that there is no wrong way to do it. The most important thing is to document – write it down – so you know how much progress has been made and how much your child has grown!

 

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

If your child has ever been in special education, you have probably have heard the terms accommodations and modifications. So now that you are a homeschooling parent, what do these terms mean to you? 

Sometimes these terms have been used interchangeably but they are different. They are both used to help the learner to access learning at their own cognitive levels, while highlighting their strengths. These tools will also help you if you have group time with all learners in your homeschool or if you teach at a co-op. Understanding and using accommodations and modifications helped me write my child’s IEP and also led me to use my current curriculum to meet my daughter’s specific educational needs.
 

ACCOMMODATIONS
The definition of an accommodation is giving your student a different way or path to complete the task or assignment. This is how we teach our learners. This does not change the grade level or material; an accommodation just allows your student the flexibility to be successful using their strengths and at the same time addresses their weaknesses.

Accommodations generally are broken down in the following five ways:  
Time – giving more time to finish an assignment or more time to finish test
Alternative Scheduling – giving more days to finish their project
Change of Present Setting – providing a quiet place to complete assignments or tests
Change of Presentation – changing the way you present the material. You might use a video or a hands-on way instead of reading from a text.
Varying Response Method – allowing your learner to be able to complete a project instead of test or type a report instead of writing it out. Allowing for verbal responses would also fall in this category.

 

MODIFICATIONS
On the other hand, a modification is changing what we are teaching the learner and what they are responsible for learning.

Using a modification is reducing the amount of learning we are expecting our learner to be responsible for. Again we use the strengths the learner has to help them to be successful.

Modifications can be summed up in three major ways.
Presentation of Material – this would be using a special education materials or curriculums.

Adapted Materials – simplifying content and vocabulary. Instead of introducing 10 vocabulary words you would hold the learner accountable to only 2.
Grading and Testing Altered – instead of testing the whole lesson you would choose certain parts that are important for the learner to grasp.

This is the first part in a series where I will be taking different subjects and showing how to modify or accommodate lessons. If you have something you specifically would like for me to address as I write about these important topics, please post a comment.

 

 


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