Jenny Bailey, SPED Homeschool Partner Tales from Mother Earth

 

Many times as a parent, I have made up stories with my children. Invariably, all of mine have been about animals. We help them, or they start talking to us and magically allow us to enter their world. The best stories are the ones that have the power to connect with our emotions – and those are the ones we tend to remember. I believe there is something magical in the process of storytelling, especially for children. If you choose a wonderful topic that piques their curiosity, a child will literally lean in closer to listen more intently to your every word and, right there at that moment, you have the potential to change the world!

 

Storytelling has the power to communicate, engage, and connect people. Every culture has its own stories that are entertainment, education, and cultural preservation. Many of our myths, fables, and the fairy-tales we know today once began as a humble story that has been passed down through generations and retold countless times. With our imaginations, stories can be fact or fiction, and sometimes the two can collide.

 

When we at Tales from Mother Earth formed our collective conservation venture, we were in no doubt of the power of storytelling and the fact that it would play a huge part in our concept and vision. Right from our initial discussions, we wanted our stories narrated by Mother Earth and every story had to have a conservation message in it, complete with bulleted action points for the reader to follow and implement. We wanted our stories to be realistic, reach children’s hearts, and share the wonders and vulnerabilities of nature. Our mission was to reconnect children with nature and empower them to help the animal or insect we featured in our story, thus cementing their own special relationship with the wild through their experience.

 

When we connect with nature, there is a multitude of benefits for us both physically and mentally. For children, these benefits increase even further as their levels of confidence, creativity, well-being, curiosity, and happiness rise dramatically. Through engaging with nature and exploring the environment with our senses, a life-long love of learning can be sparked into action and amazing things can develop. 

 

Sadly, children throughout the world seem to be experiencing a great disconnect with nature. The research suggests that each generation is having less contact with the outdoors than the preceding one. Professor Michael Reiss (UCL Institute of Education) believes that “We owe it to all young people to reverse this trend – for their sakes, for our sakes and for nature’s sake.” 

 

Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and ecological activist also touched on this in a recent interview for The Observer, January 2021, where she stated that in her opinion, ‘Children today have less time for that because they are fascinated by iPhones, laptops and video games. Also, many more children grow up in cities, surrounded by concrete. The important thing is to get them into nature – the younger the better.’

 

Thinking of my own experiences with my children, it’s true that fascination with technology is a constant battle, but I believe there has to be a balanced approach to this, where you can make time for both pursuits. Today, children seem to be growing up very fast. Childhood, and the innocence that comes with it, is only there for a short period of time. It’s within that brief window of early years development where we hope to engage a child’s imagination and wonder with our storytelling – reconnecting them with nature.

 

Simply put, we believe that if children can experience nature and open their eyes and learn about the beauty and abundance that is just outside, they will love and appreciate it more. Then, they will also want to protect what they cherish. We also believe that once the connection is made, it would be very hard to break. So, it’s our mission to ‘re-wild’ children.

 

For us as parents and guardians, we can also become involved in the action. We can show our children and lead by example. By doing so, we can also feel empowered as we help and assist our wildlife that is in trouble and clearly needs our help. Perhaps through the experience of witnessing a child’s wonder of the natural world, we as adults can renew our relationship with it and learn to love and appreciate it even more. 

 

At TfME, we are aiming to perpetuate more of these moments for children and adults alike. Through stories that highlight the plight of our wildlife, we aim to ignite the conservationist in all of us – especially children.  

 

Phoebe the Bee is the first story in the ‘Tales from the Countryside’ series that aims to raise awareness among the young about the current threats our wildlife face from erosion of natural habitat, climate change, and plastic pollution. Told from Mother Earth’s viewpoint and narrated by her on the CD, this is an educational tale about a worker bee whose courage and determination help save the hive when her natural environment is threatened. We share a fictional tale about a real issue as bees are in steep decline across the world. It’s about reconnecting and empowering children with the natural world in a positive way. By providing guidance and conservation action tips, we encourage readers to get involved and help the featured animal or insect directly. Also, we’ve added many different age-related stimuli to the contents so that over time as a child’s understanding and abilities grow, their engagement is maintained with a fun, interactive, and rewarding experience. 

 

At Tales from Mother Earth, we believe that, through collaborations with like-minded individuals and organizations, lasting change can occur that can benefit everyone. We are working hard to re-wild children through storytelling as a means of educating the next generation. While being on this journey, I have the privilege to chat with many professionals in the areas of conservation and psychology. Time and time again, I’m reminded that we must reach the children in order to change the future.

 

I believe there has never been a more important time to connect children with nature than right now. In these troubled times, we need to re-wild childhood and give many children the opportunity to explore the outside. 

 

Some people say that ‘happiness is seeing a bee on the flower you planted’, but that for a child is momentous – and that is the connection we are aiming to create. By doing this, we hope to reach out to many more youngsters so they too can experience hours of fun, reading, listening, and engaging with Phoebe’s story, while learning how to help our bees!

 

Every storybook we create will allow the readers to be involved and help the character in the tale. We want children to understand and appreciate that one person really can make a difference. By taking simple steps in conservation to help wildlife, their re-wilding journey can begin.

 

 

 

 


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Rebecka Spencer, SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner

 

A few weeks ago, I shared a story about our daughter’s experience starting school, a life-changing autism diagnosis, and our successes in addressing underlying issues through exercises like Brain Hemispheric Integration. I also mentioned the significance of something called primitive reflexes. 

 

What are Primitive Reflexes?

Primitive Reflexes are the special reflexes that develop in the brain stem before birth. This set of involuntary primitive reflexes help the baby with positioning in the womb, birthing, the first breath of life, feeding, urination, etc. Most of these reflexes go away in the first year of life as higher brain functions begin to control development. If the reflexes remain, though, they can interfere with the neurological organization of the brain and can cause learning, behavioral, social, sensory, and health problems. These remaining reflexes are unnoticed muscle movements in older children and adults that are not normally noticed if one isn’t looking. They cause ongoing issues until they are resolved through exercise. 

  

Why Are Primitive Reflexes Important?

Retained primitive reflexes have been found to cause neurological underdevelopment in some areas affecting learning, behavior, development, vision, and sensory processing. Children with autism spectrum disorder often benefit from primitive reflex integration. Research has indicated there is a relationship between the retention of infant reflexes and a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. 

 

Symptoms when Primitive Reflexes Remain: 

Because primitive reflexes start at the base of the brain. Functions that try to develop above them cannot wire properly. It can cause or contribute to: 

  • Autism 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders 
  • Asperger’s 
  • Hemispheric Imbalance
  • Sensory Processing Disorders 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • ADHD 
  • Speech Disorders 
  • Social Disorders 
  • Asthma 
  • Dyslexia 
  • Dysgraphia 
  • Dyscalculia 
  • Immune Problems 
  • Other Health Issues 
  • Other Learning Disabilities 

 

There are many children and adults that, for one reason or another, still have one or more primitive reflexes remaining. Some causes may include a traumatic birth, lack of tummy time, too much time laying in seaters or swings, induced labor, and traumatic C-Section birth. Most of the time, there is not a known reason. 

If any of them remain past 12 months, they are called Retained Primitive Reflexes, and they are a problem. There are simple exercises that can solve each one. This process is called Integrating Primitive Reflexes. Once they are integrated through these little exercises, many learning disabilities, behaviors, sensory disorders, and health issues disappear or greatly improve. You need to check for each of them, even if your child is not displaying the usual symptoms. If one remains unnoticed, it slows improvement in cognitive function. 

While we do not fully understand autism, primitive reflexes, and the marvels of the brain and its development, the first rule of thumb with Cherish Children Ministries is to give yourself grace and do not blame yourself.

Simple assessments and exercises can be done 10 minutes per day for a few months to integrate reflexes. Then, you can stimulate the other brain functions with additional cognitive exercises and symptoms improve.

After any diagnosis, primitive reflexes are one of the first things to check. Primitive reflexes can appear with many diagnoses but are the foundation for other therapies. Other therapies or brain stimulation, such as Hemispheric Integration Therapy, work best if retained primitive reflexes are already integrated or are being exercised simultaneously. When we assessed our daughter for retained primitive reflexes and completed exercises to integrate those reflexes, she began to succeed with higher-level learning.

While we do not fully understand autism, primitive reflexes, and the marvels of the brain and its development, the first rule of thumb with Cherish Children Ministries is to give yourself grace and do not blame yourself. There is a wide range of reasons these things occur, so rest assured it is not your fault. 

Our struggling learner with autism is now finishing up her eighth-grade year, and we continue sessions together to make sure we are exercising the needed areas. She is excited about the future and wants to enter the field of education!  

 

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

 

 

 

 

 


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by Brandi Timmons, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, SPED Homeschool Partner at Incuentro and Social Motion Skills

 

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

 

“He doesn’t talk much. He reads at a 1st grade level. We’re working on coloring and staying in the lines.”

 

As a public school special education teacher, nothing upset me more than statements like these in an IEP meeting. An incoming 6th grader, the student went on to gain three years of academic growth that year. By the end of 7th grade, he was in all mainstream classes, played baritone in the band, and was a fantastic cross-country athlete. 

 

The most recent prevalence study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that almost half (44%) of children identified with ASD have average to above-average intellectual ability. A 2016 study of 1,470 children discovered that nearly half of individuals with minimally-verbal autism had high nonverbal intelligence (Zeliadt, 2016). Compare that to a 2015 study–less than 20% of students with autism in Texas public schools are in a mainstream setting and, in New York, less than 10% (Kurth, J., 2015, pp. 249-256). Those students are not being educated with and in the same setting as their peers. For adults with autism, the statistics are just as alarming. National data indicates that most adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed (Migliore, Butterworth & Zalewska, 2012). Some sites report the percentage as high as 90%. How has this even happened?

 

What are the consequences of presuming incompetence? Learners are often educated in more restricted settings. We communicate with them differently–we use more basic vocabulary or “baby talk.” How many times have you heard someone talking to a teenager with autism as if they are 5 or 6 years old? What an insult to someone who may have the cognitive abilities of a genius! They also often don’t get invited to participate in groups and activities in which their peers do. 

 

What is the harm of assuming competence? NONE! Yes, in some instances, we might spend some time working to find supports that help them be successful, but in no way have they been denied their right to try. A large part of the level of success learners will ultimately achieve depends on the level of expectation we set for them. When you set high expectations for students, the amazing tends to happen–they meet them! 

 

The following intentional strategies will help empower your program or organization to create a climate of high expectations for all learners:

  • Know your learners. Find out their interests. Ask about their learning styles. What supports do they already receive that help them succeed? 
  • Set short-term goals. Set goals for them that you are certain they will achieve. When they master a short-term goal, use the momentum from that success to introduce another slightly more difficult goal.
  • Utilize the Goldilocks Principle—give students tasks that aren’t too easy, aren’t too hard, but are just right for them. (Estrada 2018)
  • Build on the learner’s strengths. Set goals that allow the student to utilize natural abilities. Incorporate those strengths into other tasks as much as possible. 
  • Make expectations explicit. Define instructions clearly and concisely. Don’t “dumb down” your language, but rather cut out any unnecessary words. Give instructions one or two steps at a time if necessary. Use visuals to support understanding of expectations.
  • Provide praise at a 7:1 ratio to correction. There is ALWAYS something good you can say about someone!
  • Use positive language. Re-frame your corrections in a positive way. Instead of saying, “Don’t run!” you should say, “Walk in the hallway, please.” 
  • Don’t GIVE the correct answer. Probe for answers. Ask leading questions. When a student solves a problem or realizes a solution on their own, he or she is much more likely to remember. 
  • Don’t just tell a learner what they’ve done wrong. Again, probe. When a learner understands the rationale for a skill and recognizes the personal value of that skill, he or she is much more likely to use that skill. 
  • Give longer response time. Wait at least 5 seconds before you repeat a question. For some, this time may need to be longer. As you get to know your learner, you will begin to recognize what length of wait time is sufficient. 
  • Always remember that behavior is communication. Take a course in Behavior 101. Understand the four functions of behavior (escape, attention, tangible, and sensory) and be familiar with strategies to address behaviors related to each function. 
  • Provide equal response opportunities. Because the level of support needed for them to practice may be high and they might take more “work,” our inclination might be to not call on them as often. Be assured they will recognize this slight. 
  • Treat them like everyone else. Talk to them about the same, age-appropriate topics. If a student is non-verbal, have a conversation with them anyway. Never talk about them in front of them. Include them in age-appropriate activities. Everything their peers do, they should do as well. 
  • Do not ever give up. Provide high levels of support. Finding supports that work may take trial and error. Don’t get frustrated. Often finding the right supports requires thinking outside the box. Consult with others who might have great ideas. 

 

You may be thinking that these strategies are obvious and should be done anyway. You’re right. They should. But unfortunately, they often aren’t. Very sadly, many individuals with disabilities are often denied the dignity of being treated as capable individuals and knowing someone believes in them. When strategies for creating a climate of high expectations are implemented, students will know. Students will trust you because they understand you are going to treat them with dignity and respect. Those on the spectrum need us to see them as a person first. They need us to believe in them. Most importantly, they need us to provide a climate of high expectations so they have the freedom to learn, succeed, and fulfill their potential. 

 

 

 

 


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

 

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

 

An autism diagnosis has become alarmingly more prevalent, moving from 1 in 10,000 births 25-30 years ago to 1 in 66 in recent reports. This increase is not explained away by better testing or the “gene pool” theory. So many children today fall into this label because of the broad spectrum of symptoms that are currently included under the umbrella of autism. As neurodevelopmentalists (NDs), the thought process is that the symptoms causing behavioral triggers resulting in this label should be addressed directly and not simply labeled. The question is, where do you start? 

 

Every individual on the planet learns through their senses. The bulk of the information comes primarily from three of the five sensory avenues – auditory, visual, and tactile. In the case of a diagnosis of autism, these sensory messages can be too sensitive (hypersensitive), not sensitive enough (hyposensitive), or a scrambled message. All of the above cause misinterpretation of sensory input by the brain. Every child does the best they can to function with the information provided through these sensory input channels. If one or more channels are giving distorted information to the brain, it compounds the challenge of the daily demand to function in a typical manner.

 

The NeuroDevelopmental Approach uses brain plasticity (its ability to grow and change) to improve the functional ability of the child. We also acknowledge the huge part that the chemistry of the body plays in individual progress. There isn’t enough space to expand on the metabolic aspect of spectrum disorders, so we will focus here on the ND help that is available. Let’s look at the main areas of input to the brain for some examples.

 

Vision:

When peripheral vision is hypersensitive, it means the detail or central vision is not working well, and the peripheral is working too well. When this happens, it is easy for a child to “play” with their vision by moving objects, flapping arms, or moving fingers, just to name a few common repetitive actions that we refer to as sensory play or stimming. These actions produce endorphins that are the same chemicals that make you feel good when you run. Running to get this feeling is good and very different from continuously pumping this chemical into your system by engaging in sensory play. The more this destructive behavior happens, the further the child retreats from the world around them. NDs encourage a multi-pronged approach to this situation. 1. Discourage the sensory play and redirect as much as possible. 2. Work to improve the central detail vision through specific stimulation so the child’s payoff (endorphins) is no longer there and the behavior stops.

 

By addressing the root cause, these symptoms can diminish significantly and allow more typical functioning to emerge.”

 

Tactile/Touch:

Many children with an autism label have an aversion to light touch. Certain clothes bother them, hugs are rejected, washing hair, haircuts and showers can be a nightmare, and food sensitivities make it hard to get nutritional meals consumed. At the same time this hypersensitivity exists, children may also have trouble distinguishing deep touch or pain (hyposensitivity). They might have unexplained bruises or ear infections that are not acknowledged as a problem until the eardrum bursts. All of these examples reflect a brain that is not getting the right messages from the tactile sensory stimulation in the environment. The ND’s solution again is to provide enough tactile input to change the brain and thus the reaction to the outside stimulus.  

 

Auditory:

Many autistic children are so hypersensitive to sound that much of the auditory stimulation in their world is painful. To combat this pain, many children simply turn off their auditory systems. This results in two very negative outcomes. 1. Withdrawal from friends and family as well as struggles with negative behaviors in noisy environments. 2. Lack of use of the auditory channel creating deficits in auditory sequential processing, which is holding pieces of information in short-term memory. This results in the inability to follow directions, stay on task, comprehend what is said or read, understand cause and effect as well as posing a challenge to reading with a phonetics approach. This deficit causes behavioral and academic challenges. For example, if you have a 9-10 year old that is only processing like a 2-year-old, you may have behavior and even academic abilities more like a 2-year-old. 

 

To address the first issue of hypersensitivity, the auditory system needs stimulation to reduce sound sensitivity. For low processing (short-term memory), the children need to learn to stretch their ability over time to be more age-appropriate. This is done through specific 1-2 minute interactions that happen multiple times a day. The results have astounded parents as well as professionals working with these children. To find out more about this important aspect of the autism diagnosis, visit this link. You will find a free test kit to check your child’s short-term memory level for yourself, information about the importance of auditory processing for successfully navigating life, as well as how to enhance this extremely valuable, life-long skill. 

 

In conclusion, it is the author’s opinion that we must pay much more attention to the cause of those negative indicators. By addressing the root cause, these symptoms can diminish significantly and allow more typical functioning to emerge. The best place to do this is at home, so homeschooling a child with autism is highly recommended. When parents are equipped with the right kind of information to stimulate the child’s brain at the root cause, progress toward typical function can be achieved. This is in stark contrast to public schools that have rooms that overstimulate with random stimulus. When there is a room full of children with sensory issues and non-typical behavior, how can you expect your child to gain typical development or behavior? Home with the model of parents and siblings is a much better option. 

 

 

 

 

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

Refreshing Outdoor Time

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

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

 

Conversation and Engagement

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

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

 

Quiet

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

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

 

Companionship

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

 

Spontaneous Fun Sprinkled into the Day

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

 

Refresh Yourself

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

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

 

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10, my daughter’s confirmation verse

 

 

 

 

 


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Rebecka Spencer, SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 


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by Penny Rogers, SPED Homeschool Blogging Partner

When it comes to the overall  sensory system, vestibular and proprioceptive inputs play a huge role in its function. Without understanding them, most kids have issues that are passed off as something else and not treated, which can cause problems later in life.

Perhaps you’ve identified these sensory issues in your child and are looking for activities to improve their overall attention. Keep reading to find out what vestibular and proprioceptive inputs are as well as activities to help with  sensory processing.

 

What is Vestibular Input?

Without sounding too encyclopedia-ish, vestibular input is the sensation caused by any change in position (direction or movement) of the head. This sensory system is made up of canals filled with tiny hairs and a bit of fluid. When our head moves, the fluid acts as triggers that, when touched by the hair, then become receptors that tell the brain we’re moving. 

Children seeking vestibular input will constantly be on the move because they want to max it out, so to speak. These children climb super high, spin, swing, and hang upside down.

Vestibular input is important because it also affects other areas, such as visual-motor skills and body awareness.

 

What is Proprioceptive Input?

Proprioceptive input is the sensation gained by body awareness through the movement of joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Think in terms of pushing, pulling, and lifting heavy objects. This connects with vestibular input by making the body aware of where it is in space. 

Proprioceptive input has a role in self-regulation, posture, body awareness, coordination, speech, and the ability to focus. While this input can be calming for some, many autistic children seek this input to regulate their emotions. 

On the other side, some children are over-responsive to proprioceptive input and avoid certain kinds of activities. By now, you can see how these two inputs work together and deserve attention for the child who experiences challenges.

 

Indicators for Children Seeking Vestibular & Proprioceptive Inputs

 

Vestibular-Seeking Input Indicators

For children seeking this kind of input, they are fixated on certain movements because their brain under-processes vestibular input. Signs of this are:

  • Never getting dizzy.
  • Always running and moving.
  • Frequently spinning.
  • Climbing extremely high

 

Indicators for Proprioceptive-Seeking Input

This kind of input can be alarming to children who are overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. In essence, you may see some of the signs listed below;

  • Biting or chewing on objects.
  • Enjoys playing roughly.
  • Likes to sit with knees tucked.
  • Toe walks. 
  • Bangs body part.

 

Activities for Enhancing a Child’s Vestibular & Proprioceptive Input

These inputs can be worked simultaneously or individually. In most cases, these activities can act as a calming technique and be stimulating and arousing. The best way to gauge what your child needs is to pay attention to how they respond to the activities.

Modify them as you see fit. And although some suggestions are being provided for you below, don’t hesitate to create your own.

 

Vestibular Input Activities

  • Rocking on a yoga ball.
  • Practice yoga techniques.
  • Pretend to row in a boat (rocking back and forth).
  • Skipping.
  • Galloping.
  • Running.
  • Jumping rope.
  • Handstands with feet against the wall.
  • Cartwheels.
  • Jumping on a trampoline.
  • Roller skating.
  • Riding a bike.

 

Proprioceptive Input Activities

  • Crawling. (weight-bearing)
  • Push-ups. (weight-bearing)
  • Playing tug-of-war (pushing and pulling). (resistance)
  • Carrying boxes or books. (heavy lifting)
  • Running. (cardiovascular)
  • Blowing bubbles. (oral)
  • Tight hugs. (deep pressure)

 

When should you do these activities?

If you have identified your child’s triggers, you can begin an activity before they show signs of anxiousness or distress. Incorporate the activities naturally into the child’s schedule to help keep the flow of other activities already established.

 

Give your child cues they can use to help identify when they may need to do an activity. Consider labeling it something as simple as a “calming activity” and provide a visual support cue as well. A visual reminder can be used to point out a particular activity your child wants to do.

When it comes to how often these activities should be done, it will depend on the sensory need of the child. Regardless, the activities do not need to be long as short activities can be the most beneficial. Activities can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.

It may be hard, in the beginning, to figure out what activities your child needs. Whatever you do, be sure to include your child’s suggestions and keep trying until you find what works.

Penny blogs over at Our Crazy Adventures In Autismland. Based on her personal experiences with autism, she educates autism families on how to navigate their world from diagnosis to adulthood. She offers real-life advice and ideas through her blog by providing homeschool printables, at-home therapy techniques, ebooks, and DIY posts. You can also follow her adventures on Twitter ,  Instagram, Facebook, or in her group, Life In Autismland.

Also, check out this YouTube video on Penny’s channel for additional information on this subject.

 

 

 

 

 


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

 

Documentation of your daily efforts to homeschool a child with special needs can seem tricky. Each state has its own requirements, so you have to stay abreast of that, of course. Beyond that, you need a system that can easily assure you – and well-meaning relatives – that the best education possible is happening for your child.

 

Remember Homeschool Is the Best Place for Your Child!

In a public school, your child would have an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). That plan would put in place modifications and recommendations for more individualized instruction and traditionally only includes academics. What could be more individualized than a parent who understands their child better than anyone in the world and can modify on the fly for academics and life-skills? The answer: NOBODY! A motivated, informed parent is the best advocate for successfully educating a child with special needs, but progress for a child that learns differently is sometimes hard to document. 

 

Be Creative with Your School Day!

Depending on the severity of the developmental, academic, or intellectual delay, your school day will look different. It is not like a typical student where you show how many pages were completed in a given period. At Brain Sprints, we encourage our families to use a detailed checklist where each item for the day can be easily checked off for documentation of work done with the child. The list would include non-traditional school activities like how many times a day you work together on auditory or visual processing (short-term memory). Or what work you did to normalize the tactile system with specific stimulation. Or activities that would organize the lower levels of the brain for better coordination as well as organized thought. Each checkmark is a step in the right direction for the functional ability of the child and should be celebrated. These activities can be more important than completing a particular page or reading that is done each day. Academics can be on the checklist, too, but addressing the root of the challenges a child faces is even more strategic. The list can quickly help you see where you need to focus more or just a reminder of progress, even if it may not be evident to others yet.

 

Plan for Interruptions

Checklists can be divided into two different lists. One list consists of the activities and/or academics you do with the child. We call it the Daily Parent/Child Conference list. The other list is the activities the child can do independently called My Responsibilities. These lists can keep you both focused and productive each day. When there is an interruption, you can say, “Work on your My Responsibility list while I do x, y, z.” This can keep the progress for the day going when those inevitable interruptions happen. The My Responsibility list can also give the child some say in their day. He/she can decide what gets done first, second, or third instead of someone else dictating every step, which is important for maturity and self-reliance. We often find that if the child has some say in what is happening, there is more compliance. Also, the My Responsibility list helps with accountability and motivation.

 

Life Skills Are Work, too!

Don’t be shy about documenting life skills like learning to wash hair, cooking, making a bed, or tying shoes. These may be just as important or even more strategic to your child’s future as anything else in the educational plan. If you document it, you will feel better about your time spent each day. You are making a difference!

 

For more information about a neurodevelopmental approach to homeschool: www.BrainSprints.com

 

 

 

 

 


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Ashley Campbell, SPED Homeschool Blogging Partner

I have never met anyone more passionate about their child’s education than a homeschooling parent. I have also seen how these same parents stress themselves out to the point of losing their peace by not remembering why they started the journey in the first place. Do you remember why you began this journey?

I have been homeschooling for the last fourteen years, and I want to share what I have learned for tracking my children’s achievements and goals. I hope this gives you encouragement as well as a reminder that you are more than qualified to teach your children. You were made in the image of God, and He has given you the authority to rule and subdue the earth. Influencing the lives of your children is the first step.

 

So, how do you track your child’s achievements and goals?

Let’s look at both words – achievement and goal. The word achievement means to accomplish; finish successful (Webster Comprehensive Dictionary). It is different from a goal which means, “a point toward which effort or movement is directed” (Google definition). One is the end, and the other is the means to that end.

 

Here are some questions to consider when considering goals and achievements:

What do my children know?

What do my children not know?

What is their age?

What content do I expect them to learn?

Is what I am expecting what I expect for someone else?

Is this realistic for them in the context of what they do know and what they still need to practice?

What do they need? 

What resources are needed to fill that need?

 

I use end-of-year testing to see what my children have achieved and what goals we need to set. If a score is REALLY LOW, that is an indicator I need to set a goal for them. The goal is for them to know more than what they demonstrated on the test. I will then get resources that will give them what they did not have. When they test again, and the score has increased, they achieved their goal. Of course, not all qualities that are taught can be tested. One example is I focus on character building and living by values. I have yet to see that on a test. 

Another way I track is to separate subjects into skills and content. Skills are what can be done. They are reproducible and take repetition. Content is more information-based. This is more comprehensive when the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how are considered. I will track their achievement depending on what I am assessing: skills or content. As far as skills, if they write poorly in terms of letter formation or struggle to read because they don’t know the letter sounds, I will make it a goal for them to practice their handwriting and learn the letter sounds. I will know they achieved it when I can read their writing and they can read BOB books. With content, I find out where they were low in science or history and just YouTube it! After we have gone over the information long enough, I ask them questions and, if they can answer them, I know we are in the process of achieving our goal to know what we did not know before.

Do you remember why you began this journey?.. Let your reason you started this journey be the passion you have to spark the life inside your children.

I encourage them for what they know and give them resources for what they don’t. I set goals that will fill in the gaps of what is needed. When the goal is met, I praise them for that achievement.

If you homeschool, you must establish why you decided to homeschool and, as your children grow older, find out what their interests are. This will make the homeschooling journey enjoyable for you and your children. You will have peace knowing your motives and spark their hearts to finding their purpose. There are skills ALL children should know. Listening, reading, writing, speaking, and math are all foundational. These are skills useful in finances, careers, and relationships. Other subjects like history and science can be more interest-driven. What are you interested in? Let your reason you started this journey be the passion you have to spark the life inside your children.

 

 

 

 


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The SPED Homeschool Team

Record-keeping is an art, not a science. What works for one may not work for another, and what may work for you now may need changing in the future. 

Founder of SPED Homeschool, Peggy Ployhar, and the rest of our team created a list of what records and documentation we have kept over the years. Requirements vary from state to state, so make sure you know what the requirements are for homeschooling where you live. Even if certain records are not required, it is great to keep examples of work and see what progress your children have made. Of course, your system may change from year to year.

 

Checklists for planning and tracking:

  • Booklists
  • Calendar
  • Daily or weekly lesson plans
  • Daily or weekly checklists
  • Grading rubrics
  • Necessary supplies
  • Student tasks/assignments
  • Teacher prep tasks
  • Unit study items
  • Syllabi
  • Scope and Sequence from curriculum or homeschool co-op

 

Schedules:

  • By unit
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Monthly
  • Per student
  • Student activities
  • Therapy 
  • Travel and field trips
  • Weekly
  • Yearly

 

Grading:

  • Report Card
  • Rubrics
  • Spreadsheets with project and test scores
  • Transcripts

 

Records:

  • Annual goals or focus
  • Binder 
  • Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Student Education Plan (SEP)
  • Picture collages of a student’s year in review
  • Pictures or scans of assignments, tests, stored on Cloud or Google Drive
  • Yearly testing summaries (required state standardized testing)
  • Yearly portfolio boxes

 

Our Pro Reminders:

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Our team members Amy, Dawn, and Melissa save lesson plans and daily checklists. These are not just planning tools but also records of your school day. “Every day, my son has a checklist of ten assignments to do for school. He is seven and, while that may seem like a lot, most assignments take under 10 minutes! Most days, he is free to skip around on his checklist, and he frequently completes his reading or math before we start our school day. This list has been one of the best ways to make homeschooling a smooth experience,” says Melissa.

Dawn adds, “Keeping track can help you and your child what needs to be done and gives everyone a way to visually see what is expected.”

 

UtilizeTechnology

Amy utilizes technology to keep records as well as share them with people outside the immediate household. “I take pictures of tests, work samples, and activities and upload them into organized folders in a google drive that is set up dedicated for this purpose. I share those folders with the other person, and they can view them as they need/want. I try to include samples from all required areas, as well as an annual email about what our focus and main curriculum will be for the year. I also include evaluations and results from any standardized tests we participate in, and for any therapy my boys are doing. I even have a folder for extracurricular and other fun activities.”

 

Mastery over Grades

Our team members Cammie and Dawn believe in mastery. Cammie adds, “I’m a strong believer in mastery as well as following directions. As a result, a student will only receive an A or an incomplete. This makes grading simpler and reinforces learning.” 

Dawn reminds us, “If they don’t do well, the beauty of homeschool is we can go back and relearn till they master the material.”

 

 

 

 


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