Dawn Spence

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

Strategies for Helping with Language Disorders

 

Sign Language

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

 

Pictures and Schedules

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

 

 

 

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

 

Giving Time

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

 

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

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Assistive Technology, or AT, is defined as “any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities” by the Assistive Technology Industry Association . For individuals who struggle with communication disabilities, AT solutions can greatly increase accessibility and educational success, as well as improve other important life functions. Below are some great resources to help you find the perfect communication assistive technology for your homeschool student.

 

Communication AT Guides

Download or read online this free PDF Communications Guide from the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. Included in this 62-page guide is everything you need to learn about the various types of communication devices available, how to access your child’s needs as well as his/her ability to utilize various AT devices based upon functionality, sensory, implementation, and even environmental considerations. Additionally, this guide breaks down specific tech providers, their products, compares features, and provides links for viewing these AT products online.

Another similar guide can be found in a series of articles from iCommunicate Therapy starting with this article on this page. These articles provide a summary of communication AT devices from high-tech to low-tech devices as well as breaking down those categories into specific device types and what individuals benefit most from using them.

 

Communication AT for Children with Autism

Communication difficulties for children on the Autism spectrum includes some unique variables, therefore it is best when looking for communication AT for a child on the spectrum to take those considerations into account. This article by the Autism Parenting Magazine, Assistive Technology Devices for Children with Autism, does a great job of walking a parent through the various reasons children on the spectrum can benefit from using communication AT as well as what AT works best for certain communication issues. 

Autism Speaks has also developed a 2-page PDF,   Assistive Technology for Communication Roadmap. These pages provide an overview of assessing a student for a device, choosing a device, device funding pathways, and training a student for successful use.

 

AT Communication Apps

If you are looking for an app that is iPad or iPhone specific, this article from Friendship Circle provides a list of their Top 7 Assistive Communication Apps in the iPad App Store. This article includes general descriptions of the apps, pricing, and customer ratings.

On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for an app to put on an Android device, the first 4 of the 6 apps listed in this article by Easter Seals Tech,  6 Android Apps for Special Needs, are great communication AT apps to consider. 

Finally, if you are still trying to wrap your mind around what incorporating assistive technology for your homeschool may look like or if your child is interested in how other children use AT devices for their communication needs, I would encourage you to check out the Pacer Center’s YouTube Channel. Their channel has lots of videos highlighting personal stories of children and how they use AT for greater accessibility.

For children with communication disabilities, assistive technology may bridge the gap and allow them greater opportunities in homeschool and life.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

The United States Department of Health states that “approximately 7 to 8 percent of children in kindergarten” struggle with a language disorder of some type. Why then does an article on MedicalExpress.com refer to “language impairments” as “one of the most common childhood disorders that you’ve never heard of”? Likely it is because terms and diagnoses used to classify children who struggle in this area change depending on how issues exhibit themselves and at what age their impairment is detected.  

 

Language disorders can exhibit themselves when a child talks late, when a preschooler is unable to follow explicitly given instructions for a simple task or pick up on social cues, or not until a student starts struggling to learn to read or memorize facts. Most children with language disorders have no intellectual disability. Instead, they just can’t utilize language properly to receive information, express information, and/or process information. Thus, the main classifications of language disorders are Receptive Language Disorder, Expressive Language Disorder, Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, and Language Processing Disorder.

 

 

Key Indicators a Child is Struggling with a Language Disorder

 

Children with Receptive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understand what others are saying
  • Following simple directions
  • Picking up on the meaning of gestures
  • Learning new words
  • Completely answering a question
  • Describing an object

Children with Expressive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Building their vocabulary
  • Using complete sentences
  • Completely expressing their ideas, feelings, and thoughts
  • Using descriptive words
  • Using words in context properly
  • Telling stories
  • Repeating a poem or song
  • Identifying objects

Children with Language Processing Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understanding jokes or sarcasm
  • Word sounds
  • Sequencing in words and decoding
  • Reading comprehension
  • Understanding long or complex sentences
  • Figuring out the main idea of a reading text or discussion
  • Joining in on conversations
  • Following spoken or multi-step directions
  • Rhyming
  • Loud environments

 

 

Strategies for Homeschooling a Child with a Language Disorder

 

Strategies for working with children with Receptive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide outlines of reading material using charts, pictures, or an organizer
  • Break down reading into smaller parts
  • Act out what the child is reading
  • Break down complex tasks into smaller sub-tasks
  • Encourage questions and asking for clarification
  • Check a student’s understanding of a lesson frequently while teaching a new concept to ensure there are no gaps
  • Use the same words to refer to the same thing. Keep language consistent and understandable
  • Talk at a slow and consistent pace when providing instruction
  • When giving directions break down sequence order and if needed provide a checklist for steps
  • Accommodate with word lists, term glossaries, or a customized student dictionary

Strategies for working with children with Expressive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide communication tools or assistive technology to aid communication
  • Be a good communicator that your child can mimic
  • Use prompting to gently guide your child to help them express what they want to say
  • Don’t rush an explanation or answer
  • Ask for clarification to ensure you understood what your child was communicating when needed
  • Occasionally repeat your child’s words with an additional descriptor word added in

Strategies for working with children with Language Processing Disorders are:

  • Use pictures and other visuals to expand upon language-based lessons
  • Provide extra time for a child to process a concept and understand the information
  • Use a collaborative approach to learning that requires back and forth interaction between you and the child to ensure understanding is taking place
  • Make lessons shorter, allowing for time in-between lessons for the child to process information while playing or doing a non-learning activity, and then return to the subject to

 

Overall, it is important to understand as a parent that you can’t teach these language disorders out of your child, nor can you find a curriculum that will “catch your child up” to a norm. Your child needs to be taught at the pace he/she can learn and you have to do your best to be encouraging and patient with whatever progress he/she is able to make.

 

Additional resources for language disorder teaching strategies

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

One of the biggest struggles in teaching a child who struggles to read is finding content that appeals to their intellectual level as well as their instructional level in subjects other than reading. Below are some great free resources available to parents/educators who are looking for modified instructional reading texts to improve your child’s reading and comprehension skills.

 

Instructional Reading Text For Reading Comprehension: already modified for you

ReadWorks – ReadWorks is a nonprofit that provides teacher resources to help with teaching reading comprehension. Search by topic, subject, reading passages, specific articles or even text paired to already developed lessons, vocabulary sets, or comprehension questions.

Newsela – Newsela is a free to access news content site providing text at 5 reading levels, including applicable comprehension quizzes. Search for content by reading level, topic grade level, and articles that include writing prompts.

 CommonLit – Free teacher resource with a searchable text library of passages to use from reading instruction from grades 3 to 12. Not only can you create a teacher account on this site, but you can also create student accounts, assign comprehension assessments and track progress. An additional feature on this site is the Spanish passages and comprehension questions.

TweenTribune   – K-12 Lexile-leveled free resources for teachers created by the Smithsonian based on current kid-friendly news topics. Each article is written at 4 different Lexile levels and also includes a critical thinking question at the end to use for testing student comprehension and understanding of the topic’s broader application.

Breaking News English  – Free current event articles written at 7 different reading levels. This site is based in the U.K. and each article is written in at least 3 different reading levels and includes a teacher lesson plan with vocabulary words, a table for organizing the text’s ideas, as well as a critical thinking exercise.

 For the Teachers Articles – A variety of free fictional articles written at three different reading levels for students from grade 3 to 10.

UNC Charlotte Adapted Popular Chapter Books – Over 20 free online adapted chapter books including Where the Red Fern Grows, Because of Winn-Dixie, and works by Shakespeare.

Teachers Pay Teachers – Two stores on Teachers Pay Teacher offering an extensive selection of lessons, books, and other teaching material with modified reading texts are Miss A’s Mismatched Miracles  & Ms Meghan’s Special Minds and Hands  

 

Modified Instructional Reading Text for Reading Comprehension: modified by you

If you still haven’t found what you are looking for, here are some other free online resources you can use to modify instructional text you already own.

Rewordify – Copy and paste in complex text and this site will simplify the language to make it easier for a struggling student to comprehend. This site also provides you the option to include definitions of complex vocabulary words or create word learning sessions based on the vocabulary converted in the text and builds spelling as well as vocabulary skills.

Special Reads – This site sells modified books for special needs readers, but also provides this free instructional article on how to modify your own text or books for your student.

 

Improving reading comprehension and finding resources that are the right fit for your child’s interests and abilities make an enormous difference for academic success, and these resources don’t have to cost a fortune. Rather than spending your time and energy searching for modified instructional reading texts to fit your reading comprehension goals for your student, spend your time actually helping your child progress and find success.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Few moments match the exhilaration of your child reading for the first time. When his eyes light up and he sees a word he can read, your whole world lights up with him. On the other hand, seeing a child struggle to the point of tears with letters and words and sentences can be discouraging and heart-breaking. The challenges of teaching reading are many, particularly for families of children with learning differences. How do you meet these challenges and persevere? Our SPEDHomeschool team members tell their stories.

 

Tracy Glockle

My oldest nearly taught himself how to read. He breezed through kindergarten in half the time and devoured books well above his supposed “reading level.” I’ve often been thankful that he was my first child, giving me the confidence that I could teach a child to read and that I could homeschool successfully. I’m thankful because my next two children have had considerably more difficulty learning to read. My daughter’s dyslexia made reading an uphill battle. Slowly we’ve gained momentum, and she now loves to read. But it took her until about the third grade to hit her stride. My youngest is now fighting his way through confusing phonograms that don’t always do what he’s learned they should do, and words that seem to jumble together and dance across the page.

For each child, the resources that helped them to overcome their reading challenges have been different. What worked well for one child didn’t work as well for the next. One child needed a curriculum that focused on sounds and phonemic awareness. Another child needed a more visual curriculum. One child loved fantasy books. Another child thought she hated reading until she discovered Judy Moody and realistic fiction. Each child is different. Rather than feeling as though either myself or my child is failing, I have to look at our toolbox and decide which tools aren’t serving us best at this time and need to be replaced.

In the meantime, we’ve immersed ourselves in stories. We use a literature-rich curriculum with read-alouds and audiobooks. Piles of books are everywhere, and we’ve always got an audiobook blasting in the car. Though it may seem odd to have settled on a literature-rich curriculum with struggling readers, it’s been perfect for us. We love books and stories. Our reading challenges have never gotten in the way of enjoying a good book.

 

“No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child.”

Peggy Ployhar

My kids have been all over the place when it comes to learning to read. One child finally caught on at the age of 11, and by the next year, he was reading at a college comprehension level. Another child of mine struggled through high school and still, as a young adult, finds reading a laborious task. Then there is my youngest, who taught herself to read at age 3. What I have learned through these three unique children, who all learned to read in our homeschool by the very same teacher (me), is that my ability to teach reading has had much less to do with their ability to learn to read than the pace each child just naturally needed to master the necessary steps to become a proficient reader.

It is said that one of the most stressful times for a homeschooling mom is when she is tasked with teaching her child(ren) to read. And now looking back, I recognize how much of my self-worth I allowed to be determined by the pace each of my children took in this process. I can see exactly why it was a stressful time in our homeschooling.

No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child. Yes, there are some tips and tricks that will help your student to conquer some of the hurdles of reading a bit quicker, but on the other hand, you also need to make sure you are not pushing your child so much that they don’t like reading at all once the basics are mastered.

 

Dawn Spence

When I taught in public school, I loved reading because my students came to me already knowing how to read. When I started homeschooling, I realized how complex it is to teach reading. For my oldest, reading came naturally with very little effort. My twins came next, both with learning disabilities, and my challenge began.

Looking back I realized that my one daughter had no developmental delays; she was simply not ready to read. Being ready to read is very important to the process. So I read to her and waited. I waited and waited and decided she was ready when she was loving letters and sounds. But she still struggled. During this time we discovered that she had dyslexia and knowing why she struggled made it easier to research and develop her reading program. I gleaned all I could from others and figured out that she saw the world in pictures. When I taught to her learning style it became easier and she became more confident. She loves reading and I have to make her quit reading and go to bed. She read in her own time and in her own way.

My last daughter is still learning to read. She has multiple learning difficulties. Reading for her has to be hands-on and repetitive. She struggles, but we work through it together. We play reading games, and I read to her. Reading is a gift that I know she will open fully when she is ready.

 

The challenges of teaching reading vary with each child, but persevering through those challenges means that we recognize a few important things.

  • Different tools work for different kids
  • Our identity and self-worth do not depend on our child’s reading skills.

Each child learns at his or her own pace. And when that light bulb moment happens—whenever it happens—all the uphill battles and challenges of teaching reading will be worth it.

 

 

 

 

 


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Faith Berens, M.Ed., Reading and Dyslexia Specialist &
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

When it comes to reading levels, choosing books at just the right reading level can help your child enjoy reading and will help them succeed in becoming a better reader. Being able to determine your child’s instructional reading level and then select books to match this level can certainly be a helpful skill for you, the parent-teacher, to master. Doing so will aid in your child’s success and can save your sanity because it means fewer tears of frustration! Let’s face it, most of the time, people avoid things that are too hard! Books that are too hard, or at “frustration level” can be very discouraging for children. However, reading books that are too easy (while helpful for practice for fluency and expression) don’t provide enough of a challenge to help kids grow in their decoding and vocabulary skills.  

 

There are 3 different levels of reading:

  • Easy level: at this level, the student can read the text with 95% or better accuracy for word recognition
  • Frustration level: at this level, the student is only able to read the text with 89% accuracy or less
  • Instructional level: at this level, the student can read the text with 90-94% accuracy; this level is the “sweet spot,” known in the education world as the “ZPD”-zone of proximal development. In this zone, learning is just right! You want to find text that is in this zone. 

 

Follow these easy steps to select books at just the right level for your child.

1. Determine your child’s measured reading level.

Parents can get an approximate (but pretty accurate) idea of their child’s reading level by using the San Diego Quick Assessment of Reading Ability. (Download a PDF of the assessment.)

2. Look for books that match his/her level.

Many children’s books list a reading level on the back cover, book jacket, or spine.  Scholastic’s Book Wizard can help you search for books at your child’s reading level. 

3. Use the five-finger check to determine if the book is too hard, too easy, or just right!

Ask your child to hold up five fingers and read one page of a book. Each time your child doesn’t know a word, put one finger down. If all five fingers end up down, the book is too hard.

4. Use oral narration or retelling to do a quick comprehension check. 

After reading a few pages, have your child pause and tell you about what was just read. Get him to describe what he was picturing or imagining in his mind while he was reading. If he is unable to tell you what he was picturing, he may not be “making a movie” in his mind while reading and this skill can be taught.  

 

Often, there can be a discrepancy between a student’s silent reading comprehension level and oral reading comprehension level. If the student performs better with comprehension by reading aloud to himself, this can indicate the need for more auditory feedback and could perhaps signal weakness in auditory, working memory, or even visualization skills. 

 

Comprehension Levels:

When it comes to reading instruction, it can also be helpful for parent-teachers to understand that there are different comprehension levels for reading:

  • Listening level comprehension: what level of text the student can listen to being read aloud and understand 
  • Silent reading comprehension level: what level of text the student can read to himself silently and understand
  • Oral reading comprehension level: what level of text the student can read out loud and understand

Many bright but struggling readers can listen to and comprehend text at much higher levels than they can decode on their own. So, reading aloud, shared reading and echo readings, and providing books on audio are great ways to accommodate and facilitate reading. Also, using audiobooks while following along with text (audio assisted reading) is a research-based intervention that has yielded positive results with struggling students. Often, there can be a discrepancy between a student’s silent reading comprehension level and oral reading comprehension level. If the student performs better with comprehension by reading aloud to himself, this can indicate the need for more auditory feedback and could perhaps signal weakness in auditory, working memory, or even visualization skills. 

 

Looking for teaching tips and types of texts to motivate and encourage struggling or reluctant readers?

  • Use a program, intervention, or curricula such as Visualizing and Verbalizing, available at Gander Publishing, Equipping Minds, available at www.equippingminds.com, or Diane Craft’s resources, available at www.diannecraft.org, to train and equip students to make connections, visualize, comprehend, remember, and express their thoughts with language in organized ways.
  • Graphic novels, such as the Histronauts series, can be a great choice for struggling students! Read this post at Understood.org about why graphic novels can be a great choice for struggling readers.
  • Try Reader’s Theater, poetry/rhymes and jingles, and repeated readings to increase fluency and develop expression and prosody, which will, in turn, improve comprehension skills. Be sure to check out Dr. Timothy Rasinski’s teaching materials, available through Scholastic publishers.  
  • High interest/low or easy readability materials can be particularly motivating and helpful for older students or reluctant readers. Check out the many resources at High Noon Books, https://www.highnoonbooks.com/index-hnb.tpl

 

Let’s Talk Book Leveling Systems:

Keep in mind that finding books that are not too hard, not too easy, but in the “just right” zone is not an exact science, but rather an art that homeschool parents can master. However, understanding designated reading levels can sometimes be confusing for parents particularly because there are several different leveling systems out there—grade level, interest level, Lexile levels, guided reading levels, to Accelerated Reader (AR) levels, your head could be spinning!  

And you may be wondering, where did the levels/numbers come from? They are generated by a mathematical readability formula. Readability formulas were created in the 1920s when science teachers expressed an interest in having simplified texts for students. Readability formulas were created to count the number of syllables and words and then rate the complexity of sentence structure in any given passage; the higher the number, then the more difficult level the text. And textbooks were then created/written at varying levels of difficulty. Series of books, such as those used in classrooms around the world during guided oral reading lessons, are “leveled” on a text gradient of difficulty, from levels A-Z. The popular homeschool reading curriculum A Reason for Guided Reading, https://areasonfor.com/collections/guided-reading, employs this leveling system.  

Today, libraries often use reading levels and also book publishers use them to provide adults with an age range or reading level on the back of the book which then makes selection easier and handy. In public and private schools across the nation, computerized reading programs, such as Accelerated Reader (AR) have been adopted. Such programs use readability formulas to calculate a reading level as well as assign numbers of points that are awarded for passing a comprehension quiz after the student has read the book.  

But when it comes to reading leveling systems—here’s the rub—each publisher and each computerized reading software company uses different readability formulas, so the same title can have several corresponding levels depending upon the formula that was used. It can be confusing trying to understand what is meant, for example, by a Guided Reading level M as opposed to a Lexile of 240. 

 

Other Helpful Websites & Articles:

 

 

 

 

 


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Jan Bedell, PhD, Master NeuroDevelopmentalist

The controversy, almost hostile conflict, over the best way to teach reading has been waged for decades. The pendulum seems to swing to one side or the other to an extreme. When the extreme is reached on either side of the issue, many children struggle to read and the pendulum swings back in the other direction. If you are a homeschool teacher of young children, chances are very good that phonics is your go-to approach. A conviction that phonics is basically the ONLY way to teach reading leaves many parents purchasing one phonics program after another to no avail. Maybe your current phonics program is failing to produce the reading level that you desire or maybe it worked for other children in the family but not for this particular child. Sound familiar?

Many years ago, when I was in elementary school, reading instruction was a whole word approach. I know that method works as I got through college on the Dean’s List. My first job after graduation was teaching kindergarten where phonics was required. I learned right along with the children and find it very helpful in decoding unknown words to this day.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love phonics as a way of teaching reading! I “taught” both of my girls to read in our homeschool with an intense phonics program. Actually, I successfully taught one of my girls to read with phonics and the other one struggled to read anything past a three-letter-word even though she mastered all 70 phonograms in isolation. I was perplexed, to say the least!

“Many families have been helped with the alternate approach to teaching reading. Children’s belief in themselves as readers has been restored with this different approach. “

I discovered that there are prerequisites to reading in general and for phonics specifically. One of those prerequisites is good auditory processing. Phonics is an auditory approach to reading. You have to hold pieces of information in sequential order and sometimes even a rule together in your short-term memory to decode the word. The capacity to hold auditory sequential pieces of information together is called your auditory processing ability. Without good auditory processing, phonics is a painful, frustrating and often an ineffective way to learn to read. The good news is that with practice, a person’s auditory processing can be raised and then phonics can be successful. An individual needs a strong level 5 or better yet, a 6 auditory digit span for phonics to work well. To get a free test kit to discover processing levels for your family members go to www.LittleGiantSteps.com. This information will give you a clue as to whether low processing is a root cause of an individual’s reading struggle. 

If your child’s auditory processing is low and reading recognition, as well as reading comprehension, are a challenge, a sight word approach to reading may be helpful. I know the following statements are almost heresy in the homeschool community, but let me ask you a question. Do you sound out each word when you read? No, absolutely not. After you learn a word, you never sound it out again as it would be to slow and laborious. 

Many families have been helped with the alternate approach to teaching reading. Children’s belief in themselves as readers has been restored with this different approach. 

  • While you are working on the child’s auditory processing for two minutes twice a day, teach “sight words” by flashing cards and telling the child what the word is. 
  • You can also read a sentence and have the child read the same sentence after you. This is called Echo Reading and is a temporary but very effective approach to building reading confidence!  

So how do you square up your belief that phonics is the best way to teach reading with this new information? Simple, as soon as your child’s auditory processing is at a level to handle phonics, go back to the phonics approach. In the meantime, your child has developed a really good sight word vocabulary and will feel encouraged by a new ability to read. The best of both worlds is now achieved! Your child has a head-start on identifying a word immediately and then will master an ability to phonically decode unknown words.     

If a phonics approach or the sight word approach is not effective in teaching a child to read, one must explore other root causes by looking at how the eyes are working or where information is being stored in the brain. For more information about The NeuroDevelopmental Approach to reading struggles, go to www.BrainCoachTips.com or Brain Coach Tips channel on YouTube and search “reading”.

 

 

 

 

 


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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!

 

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today