By Dawn Spence

 

A common abbreviation that is used in special education is an IEP. It stands for your child’s individualized education plan, and it defines your child’s academic and behavioral goals. Your child’s IEP will be unique and is based on their abilities. This can help guide you in reaching their learning goals.

 

Before you get started writing your child’s IEP, you will need to gather the necessary information to form appropriate goals and objectives.

 

1. List Your Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses
You should start with a list of what your child is doing well and the areas that need growth. When you are listing the strengths and weaknesses, you are defining their present levels of performance (PLOPS). I found a form for $1.00 that is a great checklist to start with.  You can find that form here. I found others when I searched “present levels” in the search engine on Teachers Pay Teachers: some were even subject based (i.e. math, English, etc.). You may also search the acronym “PLOPS” and different forms will appear and many are free. 

 

This is one of the most important documents for writing your IEP. This information builds the foundation of what you want your child to learn and what you want your child to achieve. Their strengths and weaknesses should be written for both academic and behavioral areas.

 

2. Gather Former Testing or Observations
This can comprise of any testing that has been performed by a school district, home testing, or tutoring. Most testing always has a section that lists areas to work on and may even list some goals.

 

3. Collaborate with Therapists
If your child receives therapy, their therapists are a great resource. Therapists have checklists that they use to make their therapy goals. My daughter’s therapists and I work together so that we cover as many goals as possible. Therapists can also see different strengths and weaknesses that you can not always see.

 

4. Compile Work Samples from Current Curriculum
For example, if you are working on math and your child can add but not subtract that would help you develop a goal. Also, many curriculums have placement tests that you can use to find where your child is currently working and where their progression should lead. These placements are available on many websites and most times are free.

 

Now that you have gathered all your resources and information you will be ready to start writing your IEP. Later this month,  Amy Vickrey will be writing a post that will address the next step of writing an IEP.

In the meantime make sure to check out the IEP resources we have on our IEP Pinterest board.

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

One thing that I think all homeschooling parents can appreciate is free and affordable resources. There are many resources at our fingertips, but I am highlighting my top 5 resources that are great to use for your special needs learner.

1.Worksheetsworks.com
This is a new favorite of mine, especially because it is free. I do not use it as much for worksheets, but I use it for making handwriting sheets that my daughter can trace or copy. You can make traceables of your child’s name, copywork for Bible, and helps for learning cursive. The possibilities are endless with this website. To find this aspect on their website, type “print handwriting” in their search feature and then start creating.

2. Teacherspayteachers.com
This site provides so many hands-on resources, powerpoints, and lapbooks. You can search for your topic and add the word “free,” and you will be amazed at what is out there already made for you. You can search autism, speech, or special education, and all you do is buy and print. After you make a purchase, you can review products and earn points to pay for future purchases. If you are creative you can also post your original ideas and sell them.

3. Filefolderheaven.com
This site was created for kids with autism and developmental disorders that need hands-on tasks. What I really love about this website is that they break down their products by units, seasons, and holidays. There are bargains and also free downloadable products. They are ready to print, laminate, and go. They provide adapted books and behavior supports as well.

4. Mamajenn.com
This website and blog are run by a homeschooling mom. She provides crafts, how to projects, and much more. If you use My Father’s World curriculum, she has so many free printables to supplement your Bible, science, and copywork. I am so grateful that she did the hard work and shares: what a blessing!

5. Hubbard’sCupboard.com
This website states that it is a joyful journey into learning, and it is! There are so many resources for reading, science, social studies, and more. The audience is toddlers to kindergarten but can be accommodated or modified to meet your child’s needs. There are printable books and phonics lessons. I like the way they list a book and then explain how they used it. There are even family projects. 


If you know of other great free or affordable websites please share them in our  Facebook Resource Sharing Group so other families can benefit from your finds.

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

Over my years of teaching, I found one thing to be true, my students learned better if I could keep their attention and make learning fun at the same time. I have also found this to be true in homeschooling my own children.

One way of accomplishing this goal of keeping lessons fun and motivating is to combine learning with games or activities.

Here are 4 Examples:

Motivation Piece by Piece
Chutes and Ladders, puzzles, playdough, and building games such as Jenga work well to motivate the learner to complete a task. For instance, if you are using a puzzle, have your learner answer 1-3 questions. After completing the questions, allow him/her to have some pieces of the puzzle. Therefore, when the child has completed the lesson, the puzzle will also be completed.

This activity is a great way to use those games and puzzles that have been hiding in your closet. You can use any game your child is interested in such as Battleship, UNO, Kerplunk, Sorry, Connect 4, Perfection, building circuits, and LEGOS.

Build Focus Through Interest-Based Activities
It is best to use this technique when your student is confronted with a challenging activity. Not only do we use this technique at home, but my daughter’s therapists also use this technique to keep my daughter focused during her therapy sessions.

One way my daughter’s focus can be enhanced is if she is allowed to build a Jenga tower. She actually eagerly completes any difficult activities she is given so she can, in turn, build her tower. While in therapy, my daughter completes her articulation exercises at the same time she is completing a pattern with her Jenga blocks. In the teaching world, this is a win-win because the child’s focus causes learning to happen quicker and overall the learning process is seen as fun and engaging.

Motivators Matter
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use things that motivate your child while instructing him/her. If your learner loves to roll playdough, use that. If he likes to build towers and then knock them over, then use that. If she wants a sticker every time her work in done, use that.

When you use motivators you are not bribing your child to do school, you are instead giving them an incentive. Some children are very incentive driven, so if that is your child use that bend to motivate learning.

Set Clear Expectations
When you set your expectations out front with a clear directive, using “if/then” statements, your child will be less likely to expect any rewards before his/her tasks are completed. For instance, if you are using blocks as your motivator, tell your child that “if” he answers three questions “then” he will earn three blocks.

Depending upon the age of your child, his/her cognitive understanding, the motivation tool you are using, and the type of task you are asking your child to complete, you can change the rules and rewards to make learning more fun and motivational. Break down the puzzle or game into little chunks you are teaching your learner delayed gratification.

An Added Bonus
As you practice these techniques your student will also be developing two very important life skills, delayed gratification and the desire to be a lifelong learner. These bigger picture goals for any child are always worth the work, but isn’t it great that along the way they actually work to increase day to day learning as well?

 


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By Dawn Spence

I first learned about workboxes and visual supports when I taught a self-contained classroom for children with special needs. I saw how the organization and the predictability of workboxes and visual supports helped my students to become independent. 

Independence is important to all learners, but it is especially so for children with special needs. Now that I homeschool, I use a workbox system and visual supports for my own children. Even my older son who has no learning challenges thrives with his system. 

Workboxes for Older Students/Typical Learners
Here are some examples of how I have organized workboxes for two of my children.

 

You can download free tags from different sites to label the drawers. I found this on one of my favorite pages http://mamajenn.com/blog/2010/08/workbox-tags.html. I find my workboxes on Amazon, and there are many options to choose from.

My kids know that when the work in the drawers is done, then their regular school day is done. This way my children are responsible for checking and completing their own work. You can label each drawer of your workboxes with a number and they will complete each drawer in numeric order. 

Another way to label your workboxes is with the subject of what is inside. I even added a label that says, “work with mom ‘so they know that the task inside needs more direct instruction. 


Workboxes for Struggling Learners
My other daughter’s system is very different because I have tailored it to her needs. My daughter needs a more structured system. She knows that when she completes her boxes in order from 3 down to 1, that she then gets to pick a preferred activity for her reward. 

 

She can pick Play-Doh, puzzles, or her all-time favorite: bubbles. Knowing that something fun is coming helps her make it through the challenges. I found labels and visual supports I like on Teachers Pay Teachers, and I have included the link: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Countdown-Stoplight-Boards-137565

 


As you can see in the picture, I use the same visuals on the wash tubs I bought at the Dollar Tree and on her desk. As she completes a bucket, she puts that number down until she is all done. When we started setting up this routine, I had to remind her of the end goal and the fun activity that awaited her, but now she knows and anticipates it on her own and will complete her work.


Workboxes are a tool to help you and your child organize your homeschool day and also provides expectations and independence. I was amazed when I used this system with my curriculum I was already using how it made our day flow better.

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

Expectations is one of those words that either conjures up positive or negative emotions.

Growing up, expectations to me meant I needed to change all the things I was doing that were wrong. It made me fear I was not good enough. 

Fast forward to becoming a teacher. My view of the word expectations completely changed. This word became my personal mission directed towards my students because I viewed my students as having unlimited expectations.

All children can learn, and all children have strengths. As a teacher, I finally grasped that expectations were needed to grow. They were the goals my students needed to see for themselves. And now as a homeschooling mom, I use this same approach to expectations while teaching my own children with learning challenges.

Positive ways to insert expectations into your homeschool:

1- Provide IEP Goals to Quantify Expectations
Having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a great way to provide goals for your student as well as measure growth. Sometimes growth takes a while, and it is hard to see how far your child has come. Whether you measure weekly or monthly, it is important to measure and celebrate all successes.

2 – Have Your Children Set Expectations for Themselves
Allowing your children to be involved in setting their own goals and where they see themselves will help empower them. Personal goals are a part of life and who better to teach your child this lesson than you. Whether your child’s goals are to learning to tie shoes or getting a job, reaching these goals will provide confidence as well as ownership of learning.

3 – Pursue Expectations with Hope
If you have an expectation and an accompanying goal, these simple steps provide hope for potential growth. It does not matter how fast a child reaches or attains a goal but the important part is that learning is happening. As homeschool parents, we get to be there when they learn to write their name, read their first word, or overcome a certain behavior. Marking this victories, noting the process, and celebrating the successes provide the hope to keep focusing on the expectations yet ahead.


Need Some Help?
If you are looking for help in developing expectations or goals for your student, and documenting them as part of your homeschooling lesson plans, feel free to contact me or check out my team member page to find out more about the consulting services I offer special education homeschooling parents.  

You may also want to check out SPED Homeschool’s IEP Pinterest board and other SPED Homeschool’s Consulting Partners who offer various special education homeschooling consulting services.

I am praying you and your child embrace how expectations can be a help and a hope in all your homeschooling endeavors.

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

Sometimes the best gift that we can give someone is being able to relate and give them compassion. What better person to give this type of understanding than one that has walked in their shoes?

 

My Journey
I have always had a love to teach and especially to teach those who struggle. I believe this love came out of my own challenges. You see I grew up with an undiagnosed learning disability believing that I was dumb and lazy. I could walk into any English classroom and the words would flow from my heart to my pen to the paper without a second thought but put me in a math class and I was almost paralyzed with fear. I was afraid to fail or struggle another time, but I always did. It started in elementary school and followed me to college. The worst part was that I felt stupid and I believed it.

So my senior year in college, I decided to get myself tested. For once and for all I needed to know what was wrong with me. Then on that sunny Friday afternoon, I finally had an answer. I was not stupid or lazy as those voices in my head had always told me. I found out that I had Dyscalculia. It is a learning impairment that affects mathematics.The label did not change who I was, but it helped me understand what my struggle was.

Important Lessons Learned
 
Knowledge Is Power
Understanding the glitches helped me develop strategies to work through my learning disability. I learned how to work through my mathematical challenges and continue to use these strategies to this day.

Labels Do Not Define the Learner
Having a label does not define you or your child but gives you a door into unlocking their full learning potential.Some parents struggle with getting their child labeled but labels can help you understand your child’s struggles and how to meet their needs.

Learning Disabilities Do Not Limit You

Even with an undiagnosed learning disability, I was able to graduate high school and college with honors. It was difficult, but I believe it made me stronger and able to help my own children with learning disabilities.

In my life, I learned that struggling with a learning disability can lead to resilience and determination.  It can for your children too.

 


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By Dawn Spence

This is the second article in my series on accommodations and modifications. In my first article, I explained the differences between accommodations and modifications.  But now I will tackle the subject of math.

 

No one curriculum is one-size-fits-all, including math. Children with special needs and learning differences can make it a challenge to find a curriculum that meets all their needs. I have bought curriculums and then realized that my child could not complete the activities how they are written. That is when I have to make the curriculum fit her.

 

Math is an easier subject to accommodate and modify as it lends itself to use hands-on materials and can be done on a computer. Math is an abstract subject, but by using manipulatives or other accommodations, it provides a way to make it more concrete.

 

 

Accommodating Math
Here are some ways to accommodate your present math curriculum. This is how we teach our learners:

  • provide graph paper to line up numbers so that information stays organized especially helpful with long division (I printed mine free from www.printfreegraphpaper.com)
  • allow the use of calculators
  • provide visuals and stories to learn math facts
  • provide a list of the steps in written or visual form
  • use dry erase boards instead of pencil and paper
  • reduce the number of problems and even do some problems with your student before having them do it on their own
  • draw a picture of story problems

 



Modifying Math
Here are some ways to modify your math curriculum. This is where we are changing what we teach the learner and what they learn.

  • creating work boxes that address a specific skill
  • using stamps for writing numbers for those that cannot write numbers yet
  • making a math problem multiple choice
  • using stickers or hands-on objects to help your learner count
  • writing some steps for the learner and they have to complete the remaining steps 
  • use real objects to work out story problems

 

 

This list is a starting point to modify your math curriculum. If you have specific questions about how to modify or adapt your curriculum, please see my page  on the website for consultation information.

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

If your child has ever been in special education, you have probably have heard the terms accommodations and modifications. So now that you are a homeschooling parent, what do these terms mean to you? 

Sometimes these terms have been used interchangeably but they are different. They are both used to help the learner to access learning at their own cognitive levels, while highlighting their strengths. These tools will also help you if you have group time with all learners in your homeschool or if you teach at a co-op. Understanding and using accommodations and modifications helped me write my child’s IEP and also led me to use my current curriculum to meet my daughter’s specific educational needs.
 

ACCOMMODATIONS
The definition of an accommodation is giving your student a different way or path to complete the task or assignment. This is how we teach our learners. This does not change the grade level or material; an accommodation just allows your student the flexibility to be successful using their strengths and at the same time addresses their weaknesses.

Accommodations generally are broken down in the following five ways:  
Time – giving more time to finish an assignment or more time to finish test
Alternative Scheduling – giving more days to finish their project
Change of Present Setting – providing a quiet place to complete assignments or tests
Change of Presentation – changing the way you present the material. You might use a video or a hands-on way instead of reading from a text.
Varying Response Method – allowing your learner to be able to complete a project instead of test or type a report instead of writing it out. Allowing for verbal responses would also fall in this category.

 

MODIFICATIONS
On the other hand, a modification is changing what we are teaching the learner and what they are responsible for learning.

Using a modification is reducing the amount of learning we are expecting our learner to be responsible for. Again we use the strengths the learner has to help them to be successful.

Modifications can be summed up in three major ways.
Presentation of Material – this would be using a special education materials or curriculums.

Adapted Materials – simplifying content and vocabulary. Instead of introducing 10 vocabulary words you would hold the learner accountable to only 2.
Grading and Testing Altered – instead of testing the whole lesson you would choose certain parts that are important for the learner to grasp.

This is the first part in a series where I will be taking different subjects and showing how to modify or accommodate lessons. If you have something you specifically would like for me to address as I write about these important topics, please post a comment.

 

 


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It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel you say
Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to just breathe

– Jonny Diaz

 

These lyrics from Jonny Diaz speak to my heart and I find myself needing to breathe some days more than others.

 

Breathe Reminder – You Are Accomplishing Things
I know as a homeschooling mom I find myself sometimes thinking of all the things that I think I should be doing as a mom and a teacher. These thoughts of inadequacy take over and I lose sight of all things that I am doing as a mom and a teacher.

 

Breathe Reminder – You Are Enough
I then remind myself to “just breathe.” There are so many things that I can teach my children but one of the biggest lessons is to remain at peace.I am not in control of everything. I am not going to be perfect and that is okay. I am enough! It is through this I am teaching my children that they are enough and they will make mistakes. It is through making mistakes I feel the biggest life lessons are taught.

 

 

Breathe Reminder – Perspective Provides Pathways
When my kids get upset, or are in meltdown mode I say,  “blow out your candles.” Sometimes my kids even remind me to blow out my candles. When we stop to breathe and even pray, it changes our heart and changes our perspective. Breathing lets us see that the situations may not be as impossible as we originally thought.

 

Breath Reminder – God Equips

Just breathe today and now that you are enough and God is equipping you on this journey.

 

 

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

 

We start every school morning with our Bible Lesson. We have chosen to use My Father’s World because I found it easy for me to modify for my daughter. My children are learning to memorize Bible scriptures and place them in their hearts. I found that my daughter loves to hear scriptures as well as my other two children but needs something tactile to remember them.

 

Making Scripture Visual
All three of my children are visual, and I found the perfect website that helps me teach scripture in both ways. I want to give credit to Hubbard’s Cupboard 
for making my life and planning much easier.

Hubbard’s Cupboard Link

 

4 Easy Methods for Using Hands-On Teaching

Here are ways I use this website to help my daughter learn, with demonstrations on how you can modify these ideas to meet your child’s needs.

 

Method 1 – Visuals for Words
Introduce the Bible verse with a coloring sheet that depicts a visual that matches what the verse’s content. I chose Matthew 4:19 and added dots under the words to provide one-to-one correspondence of the words she reads.

 

 


Method 2 –  Act It Out
Act it out as you read by using hand motions, such as pretending to catch fish.

Method 3 –  Matching
Take the verse, type it up and cut it so they can match words to words or phrases. You can have your child match and glue the words on top of the given word. You can also have them match it right underneath. This can also address occupational therapy skills if your child is working on cutting and gluing. 
 

 


Method 4 –  Abbreviated Writing
Have your child write the verse.  If they cannot write, you can have them type it or match up the words like my daughter does. You can shorten as needed or pick the most important phrase you have been working on. My other two children copy this verse down on the lines or in their Bible notebook. I write on one copy and make a copy to reduce work for me.

 

 

Something simple and fun can make memorizing Bible verses both engaging and functional at the same time.  It is amazing how much these steps have helped my daughter memorize scripture.

 


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