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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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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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 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 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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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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