Ruth Meed, SPED Homeschool Consulting and Blogging Partner

I have used charts, checklists and graphs over the years to track progress for real-world goals. What’s a real-world goal and why is it important? And how can we chart progress toward meeting our goal?

 

What is the standard for the subject and grade level?

A real-world goal starts with discovering age-appropriate goals for all children. You can find lists of goals by grade level at any of these websites.  Remember, grade-level standards are a suggested list of steps. You know your child and how they learn so the suggested sequence may need to be changed to meet your child’s needs. For example, a universal standard in most countries is that children should know their multiplication facts by the end of third grade.

 

Is this set of steps or end-goal appropriate for my child?

If they are realistic, then use the steps listed in the standards guide for your state/province. A child should have learned how to skip count these in 2nd grade. This sets them up for success in third grade to master multiplication.

If they are not realistic, then ask yourself:

  • How much of this goal can is realistic and will challenge but not frustrate my child?
  • Are there steps that they can do? If so, what are they?
  • Are there steps they cannot do? What are they?

You can print out the entire list sequence for a particular grade or subject and mark or underline it with green for good and red for hard rather than rewriting it.

 

Can it be made applicable to the real world?

Can you tell your child how they will use this as they grow older or become an adult? Sometimes this is easy. Balancing a bank account, measuring ingredients, or building a project are real-world skills. Other times the real-world application is that it teaches a life lesson like perseverance. Practice makes perfect is more important than the end goal because it gets you to the end goal. 

It is always wise, especially with kids who struggle, to consider what they will do with this skill in real life. Take multiplication facts, for example. If it looks like they might enjoy construction or engineering, they’re not going to be writing them out as much as they will be reciting them as they are figuring out how to measure lengths for a job. It is good to start with reciting them orally and also writing them down. Both of these skills take the concept of memorizing to a whole new level when spoken and written.

Learning a new skill that they find challenging and encouraging them that their choice to persevere is more important than getting 100%. Every time they persevere, they build not only brain muscle but also emotional, social, and spiritual muscle.

Practice makes perfect is more important than the end goal because it gets you to the end goal.

 

What can we see and measure for this goal?

In the education world, we talk about observable and measurable. This means you can see that your child can demonstrate their skill or knowledge. This can be measured on a test, a quiz, or some other form of assessment. Assessment can simply be a worksheet, quiz, test, report, activity, or project that lets you know your child can do what you want them to do independently. 

We can write our goal:

Student Sally will recite all the multiplication facts from 1 to 10 by the end of the school year. 

Typically the easiest ones to memorize after multiplying by one are twos, fives, and tens. So we might set up our benchmarks like this chart below.

 

Mastery Date Objective Test Method Mastery Goal
  By the end of the first nine weeks, my child will be able to recite all of the multiplication facts for 2, 5, and 10. written 100%
  By the end of the second nine weeks, my child will be able to recite all of the multiplication facts for 3, 4, and 6. written 100%
  By the end of the third nine weeks, my child will be able to recite the multiplication facts for 7, 8, and 9 with 100% accuracy. written 100%

 

Modifying the goal or objectives to match your child’s ability

I used the measure of all of the multiplication facts, which would be 100%. If your child struggles with memorizing things, you need to consider setting the bar lower to be more realistic. You may decide you will be happy if they can do 80% or 8 out of 10 facts. Or they may be successful based on their skills if they can learn 2, 5, and 10’s.

Another change could be, instead of reciting the facts, write them out. Or, have them point to a number on a chart to show that they know that fact.

Listing the goals and checking them off on a chart like this is one way to track goals and show your child what they have accomplished. For more examples and how to use them go here.

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., M ND, SPED Homeschool Partner and  Board Vice-Chair

This month, we have featured articles about Individual Education Plans, or IEPs, for homeschool students. But what if your child still struggles with achieving goals? Do you think your child is capable of meeting their goals but he or she may have a mental block for retaining information? Maybe your child can say all the letter sounds but struggles to put them together when reading. Or does your child still struggle with handwriting goals? An INP may be your missing link to success.

So, what is in INP, and what is the difference between an IEP and an INP? An INP is an Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan. NeuroDevelopment (ND) has to do with the brain’s development in three strategic areas of input (getting information accurately into the child’s brain) through the auditory, visual, and tactile channels. We all process information through our senses of hearing, sight, and touch. The brain’s three areas of development for output are language, fine motor, and mobility (ability to move body parts in space, including coordination). To respond to our environment, our brains help us speak, write, and move. Why is this important? The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory. The IEP focuses only on output, or specific performed ability, as the goal. The INP focuses on stimulating the brain to make the goal more easily achievable.

Let me give you an example. If the educational goal is to increase handwriting skills, the traditional approach is to have the student practice writing with specific verbal instruction or a visual example. But, what if the tactile pathway from the brain to the fingers is immature? What if the fingers are not getting the correct feedback from the brain to make the letters well? Or, what if the central detail vision is not fully developed or the eye-tracking and convergence are off, and the visual images are distorted as they are writing? All the practice in the world is not going to overcome these areas of incorrect information from the brain to help the handwriting.

Instead of focusing on the child’s performance, the emphasis should be the root cause(s) of the deficit. Here is where an INP can be very helpful. Allow me to give you an example from my own experience homeschooling my daughter that was developmentally-delayed. On my homeschool IEP, I had the goal of her reading phonetically past CVC words. Of course, a step toward that goal, in my mind, was the mastery of all the phonograms that make up larger words. We used a phonics program with 70 cards representing the sound(s) of each phonogram. My daughter mastered all the cards, even the phonogram with six sounds! But, she was rarely able to hold the sounds together to read beyond three-letter CVC words. 

The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory..”

After getting her INP from a NeuroDevelopmentalist, I understood the additional developmental issues that held her back from reading with phonics. The first issue was her low auditory processing ability. Her processing (short-term memory) was so slow that it prevented the retention of the sounds to make a word after the laborious pronouncing of each phonogram. The second issue that caused reading to be a struggle was my daughter’s central vision had not developed well and, because of this, she kept skipping lines, words, or parts of words. Her INP addressed these areas of neurodevelopmental need. Her plan included eye-tracking activities, specific activities for developing the central vision, and lots of practice for her auditory short-term memory. By adding this input, along with other short, brain-stimulating sessions, she was able to read longer words, which would have been the goal on an IEP but able to be achieved through an INP. 

If you are interested in finding out if an INP (Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan) is right for your situation, call for a free personalized consultation  with a NeuroDevelopmental Specialist. Or, to see if low auditory or visual processing is an issue for your child, go to www.BrainSprints.com and scroll down to “Tools” to get the free processing test kits.

 

 

 

 

 


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by Alicia Goodman, PhD, NCSP, SPED Homeschool Partner Simply Psychology, LLC

 

From the time children are born, they are interacting with others. As infants, they cry and coo as they discover how to get our attention. As toddlers, they are mobile and engage with others verbally to develop friendships. As tweens and teens, they are exerting their independence. By 18 years of age, a typical human will have approximately 78,840 interactions (information extrapolated from the 2018 study of Zhaoyang, R., Sliwinski, M, Martire, L. and Smyth, J). That’s a lot of behavior!

 

Behavior is “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others,” according to the Oxford Dictionary (2021). Meaning behavior can be positive or negative. In this article, the term behavior will refer specifically to unpleasant or unwanted behavior that impacts others. We want to start with an unwanted behavior and then consider the more appropriate behavior within a given set of circumstances. 

 

Let’s meet Emma. Emma is eight years old. She goes to her grandmother’s house every Tuesday and Thursday morning and other times when her parents have other obligations. Emma clings to her parents at drop off and begs them to come inside the house. Emma loves her grandmother, and they like to play together and do crafts; however, she is not willfully separating from her parents at drop off.

 

I see many children who experience separation anxiety who “refuse” to physically separate from their parents. The word “refuse” is in quotes because we need to understand that it may be due to anxiety or lack of skills, but this is how others usually see the issue. Separation anxiety comes in all forms, including separating for school, playdates, going to a relative’s house, and bedtime.

 

STEP 1– The FIRST STEP is to objectively define WHAT the target behavior is that you want to see. You may want to write the goal as “Emma will stop clinging to me.” It is a common mistake to focus on the behavior that we want to stop. Instead, focus on what you want to happen. Also, “Emma will go into grandma’s house independently,” is slightly better than “Emma will separate from parents,” as it is more specific. This step can also include the WHO if someone else will be involved, which, in this case, is grandma. You can also add something like, “with one prompt from parent” or “without prompts from others.” Of course, there will be age-appropriate variations for this. For a 2- or 3-year-old, you are likely helping them with the car door and walking them to the door. Emma does not need this assistance. In this example, we will start the goal with, “Emma will independently exit the car and enter Grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent.”

 

STEP 2– Define WHEN the desired behavior needs to take place. When will your child separate? Think about how often drop off is. Do we want Emma to separate every time we are dropping off at grandma’s, even if there is no warning? Typically, anxious kids need a heads up, and, let’s assume, this is a goal that gets lots of practice. For this goal, let’s answer the WHEN. “On Tuesday and Thursday mornings or when given a one-hour warning, Emma will independently exit the car and enter grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent.” Looking great!! Your fail-proof goal is well on its way!

 

STEP 3 – Determine the baseline for the current behavior. How often is Emma already doing the desired behavior? Take some data to truly know. The easiest way to report assessment data for growth is out of a certain number of trials or a percentage. For example, currently, Emma is completing this goal in 2 out of 10 drop-offs (2/10 trials) or 20%.

 

STEP 4 – Decide on the percentage of success you want to consider the goal achieved. You can use objectives under the goal to set smaller targets. Or, set your goal at 50% and then write a new goal for 70%, 90%, etc. When you write your goal, you should also consider how you will be assessing the progress. “On Tuesday and Thursday mornings or when given a one-hour warning, Emma will independently exit the car and enter her grandma’s house with one prompt from a parent 75% of the time as measured by counting successes over a 2-week period.”

 

Behaviors are tricky. Behaviors are communication, a way of expression, and I urge you to understand what is behind the behavior. With appropriate intervention, addressing deficient skills, empathy, structure, and appropriate expectations, unwanted behaviors will melt away. That means that we often have the power to impact even the toughest of behaviors, not by forcing them to change,  but by changing our approach and reaction/response. But sometimes unwanted behaviors persist, and behavior goals are necessary.

 

BONUS: Helping promote success

  • Discuss and develop goals with your child and explain the purpose behind them. Having buy-in will help tremendously.
  • Pre-teach expectations, role play, and model target behavior for your child.
  • Identify and address any skill deficits that might be impeding success.
  • Have your child take data on the goal. This is a great way for them to get involved and take some ownership.
  • Break down the goals into manageable subgoals or objectives.

 

Find additional resources and workshops at www.simplypsychservices.com

 

 

 

 

 


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By Janet Giel-Romo, SPED Homeschool Partner Austin & Lily Curriculum and Consulting 

 

One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that parents have the freedom to guide the education of their child. Parents can individualize instruction and teach the topics they want to. Last week, we shared about creating a student education plan (SEP), a homeschool version of an Individual Education Program (IEP). One of the important considerations in developing a student education plan is what to teach. For instruction to be effective, we need to start with what the student already knows and add to it just a little bit at a time. Students need to feel successful. But how do you know where to begin?

 

What is PLAAFP and PLOP?

Parents can use the same strategies schools use to determine a student’s current knowledge and future goals. The IEP process involves testing, observations, and writing a narrative about the student called the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP or PLOP). This information is the starting point for writing goals. It includes a student’s strengths, skills, challenges, and the most effective instructional strategies. It takes time to gather accurate data to write a good PLAAFP, but this is the starting point that can help parents map out a plan.

 

How to Find Present Levels

I homeschool my 19-year-old daughter, Lily, who has Down syndrome. I had a good feel for her reading and writing skills because I have worked with her on these skills. 

Math was a different story. I did not do much with her on math, so I wasn’t sure what she knew and what she did not know. I decided to assess her skills related to money. I made up a game on the fly. Lily likes Taco Bell, and we had several Taco Bell sauce packets on the counter, so I used them to play “Taco Bell Sauce Store” with her. I gave her a pile of coins and told her that each sauce was a nickel. First, we sorted the sauce packets into sauce types. Then, I role-played the store clerk and asked her what she would like to buy. As we played, I figured out what areas need work. For example, when I asked her for a nickel to buy a sauce packet, she handed me a quarter. That told me we need to spend some time learning the names of coins and looking at how to tell them apart. I also realized she didn’t know how much they were worth. At school, she had been doing money problems on worksheets but hadn’t made the connection to real money. I knew that teaching her the names of the coins wouldn’t take long, but that would be a good goal as well as memorizing how much each coin is worth. 

I also looked at Lily’s adding skills. I noticed when Lily had a problem like 4+5 she counted the four items and then the five items, and then she recounted all of them to get the answer. I will outline how I went about figuring out how to teach to skip count.

 

It takes time to gather accurate data to write a good PLAAFP, but this is the starting point that can help parents map out a plan.”

 

Knowledge + 1 =

I asked myself questions that I needed to answer to figure out what the problem was. I bought workbooks for K-3 math to see how lessons were sequenced. This helped me understand how strategies unfold for general education math curriculum. I discovered the skill Lily needed to use to not recount is called skip counting. 

Can Lily skip count? I gave three numbers in a row and then asked Lily what came next. EX- “22,23,24…..what comes next?” She said, “25, 26, 27”. Yes, she can skip count.

Did Lily know how to skip count when adding? No. She didn’t realize that you can look at the first number and count from there to add on the second number. For example, 3+2 would be counted as 3…4,5. The answer is 5. The teaching strategy that worked best for Lily was for me to model this using my fingers several times.

 

Brainstorming Goals and Strategies Based on Present Levels

Based on her present levels, I have a variety of goals and strategies I can choose. 

  • Pick the highest of the two numbers as the starting point to add the smaller number.
  • Skip count by 10s, then 5s, etc. For example, counting by 5s starting from a number like 20. We want her to say, “25, 30, 35, 40.” This skill is needed to count nickels.
  • Skip count by 5’s using nickels. For example, something costs 25 cents, so she counts by 5s to 25. 

If she is successful at skip counting, an additional goal could be to skip count by 10s with dimes to pay for something that costs 50 cents. An even more ambitious goal is to start with a coin and skip counts from there. For example, she has a quarter, and she needs 35 cents. She needs to recognize this is when to skip count… 25, 30, 35. That would tell her she needs two nickels. This may be too advanced so I know not to start with this more advanced goal. 

Right now, we are working on combining nickels and dimes. I think we are making progress and I am going to stay with it for now. 

Thank goodness for groups like SPED Homeschool that make it possible to share information and ideas.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Faith Berens, M.ED., Reading and Dyslexia Specialist, HSLDA Special Needs Consultant and SPED Homeschool Board Member

Home education is growing as a viable education alternative and solution, particularly for students with unique learning needs. Due to its very nature, homeschooling is an excellent individualized educational program. Parents who have children with special needs can navigate the lingo of the special education world, which includes diagnostic terms, labels, and acronyms! However, if you are not already familiar with the term, IEP, individual education program (or plan), that is what we are delving into here. So, get a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s chat.

 

IEPs, ISPs, 504 Accommodations Plans, and Student Education Plans!

IEPs and 504 Accommodation Plans can best be explained as legal contracts between a school and parents that provide detailed information about how a student’s needs will best be met by the school. If your child was or is enrolled in a public school, he/she may already have an IEP that was created by you and the school staff. Or perhaps he/she has an official written 504 Accommodation Plan that lays out what types of accommodations the student needs to access content/information or be able to “output” and show what they have learned. Examples of accommodations may include things such as enlarged text, extra time, frequent breaks, adaptive equipment, or the use of assistive technology.  

These written plans contain the specifics of an organized and cohesive education plan, which include the following:  

  • What? The plan should describe any special education, related services, therapy, or specialized instruction and intervention the school will provide for the student – for example, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, specific reading intervention, or remediation strategies. 
  • When will services be given? The plan should specify the duration and frequency of those services, like 2x/week for 20-minute sessions.
  • Who will deliver and implement the intervention, instruction, and therapy services? It could be a special education resource teacher, reading specialist, occupational therapist, speech/language pathologist, or paraprofessional.
  • Where will services occur?  Services can be in the regular classroom, therapist office, or resource classroom.
  • How long? IEPs are developed annually for specific areas that typically include behavior, social, emotional, language, and academics.

Some states allow homeschooled students to access special education-related services. If this is an option in your area, you may choose to request that the IEP shift to an ISP, Individual Service Plan. To check your state’s policies regarding homeschoolers accessing special education services, access the HSLDA website, and then select your state to read about your state’s special education provisions.

But what if your child does not have access to special-education related services OR you do not wish to tap into those services? What other options does a homeschool parent have?

 

Student Education Plan (SEP): A Homeschool IEP

Homeschool families may choose to draft a Student Education Plan (SEP), or Special Student Educational Plan, the homeschool version of an IEP. Think of this document as a blueprint to your child’s success with his home education plan. It can be a great way to keep you focused on your child’s academic needs and goals as well as prioritize other important interventions, services, and growth opportunities during a particular school year.

This document should contain the following parts and information:  

  • Student information (name, date of birth, grade level, etc.)
  • Student Education/Special Education Team members (parents, medical specialists, diagnosing professional, therapists, or tutors)
  • Current levels of performance (levels of functioning cognitively and academically, such as skill levels for math and reading, and a summary of difficulty areas, strengths, and weaknesses)
  • Annual goals (behavioral, emotional, self-help/daily living, spiritual, and academic)
  • Services and interventions (this may include therapies, specific interventions, tutoring, and remediation plans or curricula)
  • Accommodations and modifications (adaptive equipment, assistive technology tools, and supplemental supports provided)
  • Progress monitoring and reporting (how will your student be assessed, such as standardized testing, teacher observation, anecdotal notes, portfolio review, developmental assessments with specialists, etc.)

 

Why Drafting a Written Student Education Plan Can Be Beneficial AND encouraging!

Many parents wonder, why would I want to or even need to draft a student education plan?  

  1. Peace of mind: By crafting, maintaining, and updating your student’s education plan in your homeschool file, you, as the educator and administrator of your school, are documenting the important steps you are taking to provide for your child’s unique learning challenges and needs. This document will then be at-the-ready should your homeschooling ever come under question by authorities, doctors, well-meaning professionals, or even family members.  
  2. Access to accommodations: If your child needs access to accommodations or modifications, such as at a vocational school, for college entrance exams, and even at the local community college, you can then provide a copy of your student’s individualized educational plan.  
  3. Encouragement: From one homeschooling mama to another, writing out this plan can be truly encouraging, particularly on days when we feel we are not doing enough or doubt we can provide what our child needs. It is helpful to pull out this document, review our child’s progress, reflect on our goals, and remind ourselves of all the ways home education is truly an excellent, individualized educational plan! You got this!!

 

*If you are a member of HSLDA, please feel free to reach out to our special needs consultants to obtain a Student Education Plan template, guidance with creating your SEP, review, and feedback on your SEP draft, and/or finding therapy as well as other support and resources! 

** If you would like to write your homeschool SEP by yourself or with the help of your student’s therapy providers or an independent homeschool consultant, check out this page on our website for our free IEP template and guide.

 

 

 

 


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By Melissa Schumacher

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 


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

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

 

Why consider a Brain-Based Approach to learning?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Three Keys to Input for Reading

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


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Sonlight Curriculum SPED Homeschool Partner

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

 

1. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Environment

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

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

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

 

2. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Format

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

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

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

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

 

3. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Learning Styles

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

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

 

4. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Choice

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

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

 

5. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Schedule

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


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Lara Lee

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

2) Don’t talk so much!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3) Children learn through their senses

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

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

 

4) Observe your child and record data

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

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

 

5) Relationships are primary!

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 


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The SPED Homeschool Team

Christmas can be stressful on our kids and our families. But it is important to find the right traditions and the right rhythm to the holiday season, especially this year. Our SPED Homeschool team shares their traditions that have worked – and some that have not worked – in their families.

 

It’s Okay to Mix Things Up

I LOVE Christmas! I’m all about family traditions and creating expectations through the holiday, but we have had to be flexible. Because of my son’s autism, there were years in which we could not listen to any Christmas music. Other years, we listened to the same five songs over and over again. There were a few years with no Christmas lights. And many years in which extended family was baffled at why we had to leave the chaos of a massive gathering early. Still, we were able to create yearly traditions around the picky eating and sensory overload. One tradition, from when I was a child, was picking out a toy shaped ornament that described that year. My son loves this tradition. Our tree is covered in odd-shaped ornaments that give our family great memories whenever we put the tree up. Another tradition is an online advent calendar from Jacquie Lawson we buy every year. We love the videos, games, and trivia each day. A new tradition is matching pajamas in our stockings that we open on Christmas eve and wear all day on Christmas. We don’t do massive gatherings anymore, just us, so we take as long or as short a time to open presents as necessary and eat a unique Christmas dinner that fits us. We have done different things each year to remember Christ, but the one thing my son has continued to love is having a nativity that he can touch, study, and play with. Every year we try new things. Some succeed and some are a disaster, but what we keep, we look forward to every year afterward.

-Lara Lee

 

Gathering ‘Round the Table

For our family, Christmas has always centered around eating. Not overeating, but special meals with extended conversations where we take time out of our busy schedule to eat together and share stories while enjoying each other’s company.  

In the past, I have shared some of these beloved recipes on our website, including my grandmother’s  raw cranberry relish, my kid’s favorite  triple chocolate biscotti, and my favorite, sugar plums.

This year has taken a new twist though, as I am on a very restricted diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April. So, while I am cooking some favorites for my family that I can’t eat, I am also making new dishes that may one day be added to our “favorites” while updating older recipes so they fit into my new diet. 

Thankfully Christmas has not lost its meaning nor has the primary purpose of our meals just because I have had to make some diet changes. This season is still about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and our mealtimes will continue to be cherished gatherings around food with the family members we love and are blessed to have around our table this year.

 Peggy Ployhar  

 

Every year we try new things. Some succeed and some are a disaster, but what we keep, we look forward to every year afterward.

 

Christmas in 2020

Holidays are in our family are never the same. It depends on the year and who is in town. This year the holidays will be over Facetime or Zoom. Even though we will not be together, we still plan on making family important. We try to spend some time taking pictures, riding the Christmas train, baking cookies. My favorite thing to do is to load up the kids in the car and go look at Christmas lights. There are so many houses in our area that have their lights set to music. We decorated early this year because we all needed the lights. This year we will try to enjoy the family, the time, and the slow pace. 

– Dawn Spence

 

 

 


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