By Melissa Schumacher

 

#10 – DIY Occupational Therapy Tips (http://spedhomeschool.com/diy-occupational-therapy-tips/)

Why it’s worth the read: These five hacks are budget-friendly and can make a huge difference with fine motor skills.

 

#9 – Does Your State Require Homeschool Evaluations?(http://spedhomeschool.com/does-your-state-require-homeschool-evaluations/)

Why it’s worth the read: If you live in a state that requires testing (not all do), this quick reference will help you know what to anticipate if you homeschool or are considering homeschooling.

 

#8 – 20 Holiday Special Education Homeschooling Activities (http://spedhomeschool.com/20-holiday-special-education-homeschooling-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: We love a great list and this list was perfect for 2020’s low-key, closer-to-home Christmas.

 

#7 – Free or Inexpensive Outdoor Learning Activities (https://spedhomeschool.com/free-or-inexpensive-outdoor-learning-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: Bookmark this page for spring! So many ideas for spending time outside. Our favorite was a visit to the Farmer’s Market!

 

#6 – Teaching Life Skills in Your Special Needs Homeschool (https://spedhomeschool.com/teaching-life-skills-in-your-special-needs-homeschool/)

Why it’s worth the read: Talking about life skills is easier than teaching life skills. How and where do you start? This quick read has a few suggestions to get started.

 

#5 – How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives (http://spedhomeschool.com/how-to-write-iep-goals-and-objectives/)

Why it’s worth the read: Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) can be used when homeschooling, too! No more long meetings, intimidating information or unclear goals. This is the second post in a series on creating homeschool IEPs.

 

#4 – 20 Adaptable Thanksgiving Homeschool Activities (https://spedhomeschool.com/20-thanksgiving-special-education-homeschooling-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: This year, more so than other years, it was important to reflect on what we can be truly thankful for. We had fun with #2 and #8 from this list.

 

#3 – 4 Things to Prepare before Writing Your Child’s IEP (http://spedhomeschool.com/4-things-to-prepare-before-writing-your-childs-iep/)

Why it’s worth the read: The first part of starting the IEP process is getting organized. This article is the first in a series on creating homeschool IEPs. Don’t miss our new series on IEPs coming soon in 2021!

 

#2 – Fun and Motivational Homeschool Learning Ideas (http://spedhomeschool.com/fun-motivational-homeschool-learning-ideas/)

Why it’s worth the read: Both new and experienced families can struggle with keeping students motivated. These ideas are easy-to-implement for all homeschool families.

 

#1 – 30+ Free or Online Assessment Tools for Your Struggling Learner (https://spedhomeschool.com/30-free-online-assessment-tools-for-evaluating-your-struggling-learner/)

 Why it’s worth the read: Assessments do not have to be something you dread for your exceptional learner! This HUGE list of assessments was our most popular article this year for a reason. Whether you are looking to start a new curriculum or get a baseline of math or reading skills, there is a resource here for everybody.

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist & SPED Homeschool Board Member

Teaching methods have come and gone, been expanded, and even more defined through specific curriculum. Some are geared toward specific learning styles and, since humans are all unique, it is good to have various means to get information into young brains. What if I told you about three small ways to make a big difference in your child’s education?

 

Why consider a Brain-Based Approach to learning?

Well, for starters, the realization that the brain controls everything you do would point to the importance of such an approach. If the brain is well-organized and information flows freely to all parts of the body without any sensory interference, the chances of concentrated learning go up significantly. If the individual’s short-term auditory and visual memory is humming along on all cylinders, that makes learning easier as well. If information goes into long-term memory in a way that can be easily retrieved with none of the “but you knew this yesterday” drama, the learning cycle is complete. The question is, how do we get from where we are with learning inefficiencies that make most traditional methodologies challenging for both student and teacher to that complete learning cycle outlined above? The answer lies in The NeuroDevelopmental (ND) Approach.  

In a nutshell, The ND Approach focuses on using the brain’s extraordinary ability to change and grow – plasticity (find out more about Brain Plasticity at this link). By giving the brain specific stimulation or input, it responds by building brain pathways to create better overall function. The central theme of this methodology is to use the Three Keys to Input to attain better coordination, improve sensory feedback to the brain, increase short-term memory, and ensure information is stored efficiently for future use.

 

These Three Keys are Frequency (F), Intensity (I), and Duration (D) – FID

Frequency is the number of times the individual is exposed to the same stimulation/information. Intensity is how strong the stimulation is given. Duration is short periods of time one or more times a day and then over a period of days, weeks, or months. 

What would the Three Keys look like practically in a subject area? Let’s take math computation, for instance. This is an area where we are often in a hurry for the student to be independent. Teaching is really inputting information to the students until mastery is achieved. Typically, we use techniques that are “output-based” like worksheets, speed drills, and flashcards with no answer on them. Where do we think the child will get the answer when we hold up a card with 4+5 on it? We don’t even think much about it. It is just what we do. This output method often reinforces the wrong answers and makes it even harder to master the new concept. An example of FID in math computation is when a new concept is presented, you do 3-5 problems (F) demonstrating how to do the problem. This takes very little time (D) since you are proficient in that skill. The interaction is positive, short, and pressure-free for the student (I). After the initial day or two of input in this way, it is recommended that you do 50% of the math lesson (every other problem) to keep this FID technique going. 

Brain Sprints created the  Rapid Recall System. This is the best Brain-Based Teaching technique where the student sees, hears, says, and writes five math facts 14 times a day (F) and it only takes 6 minutes (D). There are special sound effects to add intensity (I) to the listening sessions. Children that have had trouble remembering their math facts in the past now have them mastered. 

Do you think you don’t have time to sit with your child every day for math? Let me ask you how much time do you spend checking the paper, marking, re-explaining, and dealing with frustration? Trust me, you have time if you rearrange your approach.

 

Three Keys to Input for Reading

Another example of FID for reading proficiency is input instead of output with phonograms. Use the phonogram cards as input cards instead of asking the student what the sound is. Pick 5 cards; hold one up at a time and say the sound; mix the order of the cards and repeat this input for 1 minute. Repeat this process twice a day for about a week. Voila! Sounds are known. If this is not the case, you have to look deeper into the brain function.  The questions would be: 

    • Is there a vision challenge?
    • Is information being stored in the wrong place and can’t be retrieved easily?
    • Does short-term memory need to be improved?
    • Is the brain disorganized?

Once the child knows all the sounds, if there are issues with using phonics, like holding all the phonograms together to be able to decode a word easily, you will want to check on the auditory processing (short-term memory). Good auditory processing is the essential prerequisite to being able to read with a phonics approach. This topic is too lengthy to enter into here, but you can learn more about this important skill with this short video: Auditory Processing  

An individual’s sensory system is an important part of being able to pay attention and not be distracted or in some cases completely overloaded with hypersensitivities. If your child is not receiving sensory information well, you can get facts about the impact and some solutions from these videos from Brain Coach Tips on YouTube.  It Is Not That Loud! (Hyper auditory); It’s Just a Sock  (tactile oversensitivity)

The Brain-Based Teaching known as Brain Sprints NeuroDevelopmental Approach has proven effective with children with all types of labels – Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Autism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Down, Sensory Integration Disorder. You understand more when you realize that the brain controls everything you do and when there are glitches, it just makes sense to get to the root of the issue in the brain. If you would like some guidance about where to start using a Brain-Based Approach, schedule your Free Consultation or visit  www.BrainSprints.com for more information.

 

 

 


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Sonlight Curriculum SPED Homeschool Partner

If you took a poll of special needs families, you would likely find one thread that is common among every single family: flexibility. Because flexibility is so critical when raising special needs children, choosing a literature-based homeschool—the most flexible of the curriculum-based approaches—makes so much sense.

 

1. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Environment

With a literature-based education, days are more organic. Rather than forcing our children to sit still at a desk for long periods of schoolwork, we can allow them to draw, build with blocks, or stretch out on the couch while they learn. 

When my oldest son was young, he struggled with dysgraphia, and we worked with an occupational therapist for quite some time. He hated writing, but he quickly learned that he loved to draw while I read aloud. This gave him the flexibility to work on his fine motor skills without really noticing that he was improving his fine motor muscles. Now, ten years later, you’d never know the struggles we had early on. I attribute our Sonlight Read-Alouds to his tremendous success in overcoming dysgraphia. 

Literature-based learning also lends itself to flexibility in our surroundings. It’s really easy to take our reading outside on nice days, and small changes like this can really help our sensory craving children to thrive. We’ve read on the grass, in the swing, on a tree, and in the car. Anywhere that you can take a book becomes a classroom when you use a literature-based curriculum.

 

2. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Format

Because much of the education in literature-based learning stems from discussion, we can teach subjects like science and history without paper and pencil, making those subjects more stress-free for those children who despise paperwork. While most people may be accustomed to worksheets and tests, a literature-based curriculum can set you free from the hum-drum of paper-based practice and assessment. 

For example, Sonlight contains very little testing. With a literature-based program, children show their understanding of a subject through narration—repeating back what they learned in the reading. My children and I have

  • learned geography by mapping the places we read about
  • learned science through reading living books and doing fun experiments
  • learned history through fictional accounts of true events

This type of education spells success for children who strongly dislike or struggle with paper and pencil work.

 

3. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Learning Styles

  • Does your child love to write? Then have them take notes or doodle while you read.
  • Does your child hate to write? Have them build with blocks or learn to sew while you read. 

With a literature-based curriculum, you aren’t trying to stuff your child into a box. Instead, you give them the flexibility to be themselves. This is of the utmost importance with special needs children. They need the flexibility to learn in the way that is best for them without any stigma, and this is exactly the freedom that  a literature-based curriculum offers.

 

4. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Choice

Literature-based learning is so beautiful because of the choices available to you. Take Sonlight for example. In the elementary years, you have three to four choices of topics of study, so you are able to pursue your child’s interests in selecting each year’s program. What sounds more interesting? World history or US history? You can choose!

Choice can mean the difference between your child buying-in or checking-out on their education. Give your special needs child a reason to buy-in to their education by sitting down with the  Sonlight catalog and helping you choose the curriculum for the year.

 

5. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Schedule

There’s nothing quite as overwhelming as feeling that you are behind. Special needs families are especially aware of this constant pressure to keep up in the midst of fluctuating moods, non-stop doctor and therapy appointments, and the basic hum of life’s requirements.

With a literature-based curriculum, being behind really isn’t a problem. First of all, you’ll likely find yourself slightly ahead of schedule because of what I call, “One More Chapter Affliction.” This affliction affects probably 90% of all literature-based students. Symptoms include continually asking to read “just one more chapter, please.” This seems to be pretty much incurable and is usually characterized by a collective groan once the adult reading has worn out their voice and ended the read-aloud for the day. I tease, but in all seriousness, we love reading aloud so much that being behind schedule never worried me.

Also, when you have a literature-based curriculum, it doesn’t feel so much like doing school. So you can save a book for the summer or for bedtime reading, and catch up without pressure. You could just school all year by stretching out the curriculum over 12 months instead of 9. Or you have the freedom to skip a book all together without ruining the flow of the overall curriculum. 

I believe that a literature-based education offers the most flexibility and the most organic learning experience of all the homeschool approaches. Both of these qualities make a literature-based education a great option for special needs children.

 

 

 


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Lara Lee

When my son was diagnosed with autism at five years old, I knew he couldn’t attend school. Even though we had always been around other children at church, play dates, library reading time, and mommy-and-me music times, my son developed a phobia of other children. He would have a meltdown or curl-up on the ground from fear when a child walked into the room. I had to homeschool him. My question in starting was, “HOW do I teach this child?”

You notice I didn’t say, “WHAT do I teach this child?”

The “what” to teach is built into every curriculum out there, but when I taught my son these “self-teaching” lessons, he would sit and fidget, not doing anything I asked.

Maria Montessori’s book, Absorbent Minds, opened the door for me. This book is not the Montessori Method most Americans associate with gifted programs today. In the early 1900s, Montessori had started her career teaching children with disabilities who had been institutionalized. Her students went on to test academically higher than the typically developing children of her day. Here are five things I learned from her time at the institution working with disabled children:

 

1) Don’t do anything a child can do for themselves – the hand-over-hand method

This may seem contradictory to you. The hand-over-hand method is when you gently take a child’s hands and guide them through an activity. With my son, I put a pencil in his hand and slowly traced letters. How is this having a child do something themselves?

You do not force a child to do this against their will. The task is completed together for children who will not reach out and try to do something independently. The hand-over-hand method creates muscle memory and neuro-pathways. Parents sometimes use this method intuitively when teaching young children how to wash their hands or brush their teeth. You can use this method to teach writing, typing, cutting, and many other skills. As a child learns the skill, you move your hand up their arm to guide their wrist rather than hand-over-hand. You may then have the child try to do the task one time alone before doing the others hand-over-hand.

The connection between hand-over-hand and independence made sense to me when I observed a classroom where the teachers were busily cutting and pasting an activity for teenage special needs students. The teens just sat and watched them. These students were not learning how to cut and paste. They were learning helplessness. It would have been better for the teachers to take their hands and help them do the activity themselves. 

Using this method, my son learned how to write both print and cursive on his own. He has also become a fan of drawing Sonic characters from online tutorials.

 

2) Don’t talk so much!

Montessori observed a student-teacher instruct a class on what a square was.The student-teacher held up a red square and said, “Look class! This is a square. It has four straight sides. One, two, three, four. Four corners: one, two, three, four. It is not a circle…” and on she talked. The children began to fidget and wander off from the lesson.

Then Montessori took the red square and a red circle. She asked the most fidgety child which one was the square. The child couldn’t say.

Montessori handed the red square to him. “This is a square. Say square.”

The child held the square and played with it. He said, “Square.”

Then Montessori took the square back and handed the child the circle. “This is a circle. Say circle.”

The child played with the circle and said, “Circle.”

Finally, Montessori asked the child which one was the square. The child knew the correct answer.

For the special needs child, much of our curriculum is fluff. Cut the fluff and focus on the one thing you are trying to teach. If a child learns one thing during each lesson, you have accomplished something. That is often enough. Take education one step and one goal at a time.

 

3) Children learn through their senses

Montessori observed that children learn by touching, tasting, looking, and hearing things. We all learn this way. Many of us have know about visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners who learn mostly through one of the senses. Researchers have discovered that even if that is true, the more senses we use, the better we learn something. The majority of Montessori’s methods revolved around “toys” that were child-sized. She was not a fan of worksheets. She believed that children learned best during play. This is their work.

This was a difficult concept for me to use. My son hated crafts and coloring. He was also so distracted by manipulatives in Math to the point he couldn’t learn while they were out. Through trial and error, I discovered that songs with movements worked well. Doing real chores (hand-over-hand at first) was great for him. We did science experiments, YouTube videos, games on the tablet, typing, play-doh, field-trips, flashcards, and felt-boards. We did cut and paste matching activities, timeline pages in a notebook. I researched ideas on TeachersPayTeachers.com for any way to teach the topics in our curriculum that required less talking and more sensory input. It took a lot of prep work, but it made learning possible for him.

 

4) Observe your child and record data

Montessori was a physician first and an educator second. She approached teaching like a scientist. She observed what a child was doing and recorded their developmental progress. Parents of children with autism may be familiar with ABA therapy’s method of trials and data collection. Speech therapists and Occupational therapists do this too. I highly suggest trying to do this yourself.

I did this by downloading a developmental list from some websites and checking off what my son had learned as he grew. I wasn’t grading him or comparing him to other children. I used this to know what we needed to work on next. One list I found focused on social skills. Another list was the Texas Teks that is used by public schools to design curriculum. Another list I found was for speech development. All of these were free. I would look at these lists every month to check off what he could do and date it. Then I would find a few things he couldn’t do to make our next goals and work on those.

 

5) Relationships are primary!

Out of all I learned from Maria Montessori, the most important was her teaching relationship. She cared about the children she taught. She played with them and showed them new ideas with motivation and exuberance. When you are interested in what you are teaching, your child will soon become interested too. Don’t teach something that bores you to tears. Find the format of that information that you and your child can enjoy together.

 

I hope the lessons I learned help you as much as they helped me!

 

 

 

 

 


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