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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Penny Rogers

In the flurry of therapy, homeschool, and general life needs, life skills are one of those things that often get pushed to the back burner, even though we know we need to teach them. If we’re being completely honest, it’s simply easier to do it ourselves than it is to teach our kids how to do it. But helping our kids to achieve things will not only keep them safe, but it will also give them the confidence to try new things.

 

“Everyone wants a meaningful job or purpose. It’s basic human nature. Letting them be responsible for as much of their own care as they can, gives your child purpose and confidence.”

 

Teaching Life Skills for Long Term Rewards

Here in  Autismland,we believe that the more Logan knows how to care for himself, the safer he is when he’s not in our presence. While we are blessed that Logan will be able to live at home during his adult life, there will come a day when we are not here to care for him. He will need to live either with his sister or in a group home. In this instance, the more life skills he has mastered, the less he has to depend on someone to help him. Knowing life skills will protect him from being victimized by someone who may not have his best interests at heart. It will also make it far easier on his sister should she become his caregiver. Though teaching f life skills may be more work right now, learning life skills pays off in the long term.

 

Teaching Life Skills to Build Confidence

Even without the long term in mind, teaching life skills helps boost a child’s confidence. That one facet cannot be stressed enough. As our children grow into adulthood, they want to contribute to something. They want to take care of their own needs. They want to be a meaningful member of the family. These are things we all want. Having special needs doesn’t change that for anyone. Everyone wants a meaningful job or purpose. It’s basic human nature. Letting them be responsible for as much of their care as they can, gives your child purpose and confidence.

 

Tips and Resources for Teaching Life Skills

How does one teach life skills? The key is to pick one skill at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your child. 

  • Teach your daughter how to brush her hair. 
  • Teach your son how to brush his teeth. 
  • Teenagers can learn how to shave or how to take care of their menstrual needs. 

Basic life skills are always a great place to start and life-changing for the entire family dynamic.

 

One resource we have used and often recommend is  Skill Treklife skills curriculum. It has over 500 skills to work on and allows you to place your child at their developmental level, not their chronological age. 

  • I love it because it gives me a plan that didn’t have to come from my often overworked brain. 
  • It has all the steps listed out to teach it along with videos. Seriously, sometimes mama needs it spelled out for her. 
  • It guarantees that I will work on it and not put it on the back burner while I try to plan some Pinterest worthy lesson. 

Skill Trek helps me teach my kids, special needs or not, basic life skills as well as skills I would not have thought to teach them (like how to change a windshield wiper.) 

 

It doesn’t matter how you teach life skills to your special needs kids; it only matters that you do teach them. The benefits far outweigh the tediousness, the inconvenience, or the aggravation.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

 

Are you looking for quick instructional videos that will show you some of the best tips and techniques homeschooling speakers, consultants, therapists, and curriculum providers share for helping struggling learners achieve various goals? Look no further than the SPED Homeschool YouTube Channel. Below is just a sampling of some of the videos you will find on our channel to help you prepare for helping your child reach various goals.

 

Social Skills

Scaffolding for Playdate Learning Success

 

Behavior Intervention

Teaching Behavior Modeling Through Audiobooks

 

Self-Esteem

Helping Your Highly Sensitive Teen Develop Self-Esteem

 

Large Family Group/Combined Learning Different Levels

A Large Homeschool Family That Plays Together, Learns Together

 

Reaching Enough High School Credits

Combining Credits for Homeschool High School Transcripts

 

Spelling

Making Spelling Tactile

 

Writing

Spotting Writing Blockages and Making Modifications for Your Student

Breaking Down Writing into Bite-Sized Tasks

 

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension Strategies

 

 

Need more help?  Search the SPED Homeschool video library, or check out one of  our playlists.

 

Also, make sure to  subscribe to our channel so you are the first to know when our newest video has published.  And, make sure to check out our broadcast schedule for a listing of all of our upcoming live interviews which allow you to interact with our special guest.

 

I leave you with one final video that provides a bit of encouragement when you start looking at your child’s pace and wonder if you are doing enough, you question your child’s ability, or you are falling into the comparison trap we all too easily fall prey to.  

Why Parents Should Forget About Developmental Timelines

 

Be encouraged. You got this…and we are here to help you stay strong through your homeschooling journey!

 

 

 


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Amy Vickrey, MSE

Some children seem to learn new skills quickly and effortlessly, almost as if they were born doing them. For other children, it’s not so easy. We push and push and teach and teach, and eventually, they might do one of the steps on their own. It can be exhausting! How do we get our kids to do tasks on their own? What is the key to teaching independence? The answer is creating routines and gradually teaching each step of the process.

Tips for creating routines and teaching independence:

  • Break it down...Think about each step in the routine or task you want your child to do. Teach one step at a time. By the time you get to the last step, they should be able to do it independently.
  • Keep it simple. If you want your child to be successful with much, start with little. Start with putting just the forks away. Then the spoons, etc. Keep just a few things in their room for them to put away and keep organized.
  • Reward progress. Start with big rewards for little progress then slowly start increasing the expectation and decreasing the reward. Eventually, it will be a habit.
  • Give it time. All the steps should not always be taught at one time. This can be frustrating, overwhelming, and create more dependence than independence. You may have to teach Step 1 of a process multiple times until it is mastered; then go to Step 2.
  • Use a checklist or visual. (Pictures work great for kids that are not yet reading!) Follow the checklist with your child, whether you are completing the tasks or they are. This helps builds the routine and the process for them. When your child becomes more independent, you can have them check the schedule/routine themselves to see what is next. Be sure to keep your checklists visible. When you walk around my house, you see checklists everywhere—in the bathroom, on the doors (reminders to knock), for schoolwork, for Morning and Bedtime Routines, and much more.  
  • Life Skills are Homeschool Skills. We include therapy and life skills such as putting laundry away and other “jobs” as part of our homeschool day.  
  • Sheet Protectors are Your Friend. As our kids grow and change, so do their schedules and routines. I use smooth sheet protectors and a wet erase marker (Crayola also makes dry erase crayons) to mark off our schedule as we complete tasks. Laminating works too. Whichever works best for your family is the key.

 

Recently, I needed my 7-year-old who has Autism to be more independent. I needed him to take on some of the responsibilities of helping put laundry and dishes away. I needed him to become more independent at getting dressed in the morning and getting to bed at night. Within each of these responsibilities lies a list of smaller skills that have to be taught to him because he does not just “pick them up.

 

For example, when putting away laundry, I first helped him sort his clothes into the different types of clothes (underwear, socks, shirts, shorts, etc). I put labels on his drawers to help him know where things went. Now, I hand him the pile and he puts them away by himself. He can even put away his brother’s clothes, but I do still have to sort them by person.

 

For morning and evening routines, I created “checklists” of things he needs to do. Sometimes he follows the checklist in the exact order I have listed. Once he mastered each step in the process (some of these we have introduced individually over time), I work on switching the order at times to build flexibility in his thinking and routine. I even created a thermometer to help him know what type of clothes are appropriate for the weather, and have him check the weather each day.

 

Now I am beginning to work with my 3-year-old. I know that the time I put in now will pay off later. I sort his clothes and he puts them in the drawers. He is slowly learning to sort silverware too. (Score one for math skills!) The key is to start where your child is at developmentally, one step at a time, and then slowly increase. Before you know it, your child will be doing it independently!

 

 

 


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