by Sarah Collins, from Homeschool OT

 

Four years ago, my 7-year-old son was playing at a friend’s house when they created a club. The interesting thing about this club was that you had to read the rules. My son, though interested in reading, had amazing comprehension, but could not phonetically sound out the most simplistic sentence. In my gut, I knew something was holding him back, but getting to the root of his specific issue was the most important part.

 

Was it his difficulty regulating his sensory system, causing him difficulty to sit and attend long enough to grasp the concepts?

Was it his perception of the letters?

Was it his visual scanning?

Was it that our environment with a busy mom and other children homeschooling wasn’t giving him the 1:1 time he needed?

Was it simply that our curriculum was confusing?

 

As homeschool parents, we are the experts in our children. Similar to this situation, we often feel in our gut when something isn’t quite right. The next step is then finding the most cost effective and time efficient sources.

  1. Find the correct professional committed to working with you as a parent to provide resources and recommendations. This open communication promotes carryover into your homeschool. In our case, I started asking him questions when we would sit to read. How does your body feel? What do you see here? After probing over the next few weeks, he admitted that the words seemed to be moving on the page. So, the professional we sought out was a vision therapist committed to working with him and me to strengthen his eye musculature and address his retained primitive reflexes throughout our homeschool day.
  2. Educate yourself on the root cause- Instead of googling solutions, search to better understand the “why”-

Some of my favorite books are: 

    • The Whole Brained Child by Daniel Siegel
    • Interoception, How I Feel by Cara Kosinski
    • Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom
  1. Begin to address the root cause within your life and environment- You can read more about how we tailored our homeschool to fit his needs here.
    • We naturally target skills by incorporating more time outside. SPED homeschool and I talk about this more on this episode of Empowering Homeschool Conversations.
    • Many websites provide ideas for activities once we understand the root. SPED homeschool has a fantastic list here.
  1. Rest in knowing your child has a specific purpose. Sometimes these difficulties help to build compensatory strategies and life skills so much bigger and better than our vision for our children. Through this trial, my son’s observation skills and an appreciation for nature both grew substantially. He learned to scan his outdoor environment and then bring his attention to his paper. As a result, he draws what he sees with an attention to detail and desire to understand his world.

 

Sarah Collins, is the owner of Homeschool OT, with 10 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist plus 4 years as a homeschool mom.

 

 

 


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By Sarah Collins, OTR from Homeschool OT

 

In early 2017, my eight-year-old was hit directly in the eye with a Frisbee. He could see the Frisbee leave his friend’s hand, yet did not know that it was about to give him a swollen black-and-blue eye. This occurred around the same time that he asked me, “Mom, how do you read when the words are moving on the page?” As an occupational therapist, a specialist working with people to succeed in what they specifically want and need to do, I recognized that he clearly wasn’t able to be successful in his educational or social goals. It was time to seek help. 

 

As homeschoolers, our children’s education is individual. We can change the pace of study to fit the needs of our family; we have curriculum options that can be purchased or altered to fit needs; and we can adjust the environment for the best time and place to reach our children. However, building a team of people to work with us and our children can be beneficial. Sometimes we can build a team, which includes doctors and therapists, with a prescription from our pediatrician, yet when our child’s struggles are specifically affecting educational performance, an IEP can be warranted. In our case, I needed more specific information to further adjust our day and be his best teacher. We contacted our public school system and formally requested educational testing.  

 

After three full days of testing with an educational psychologist and school based occupational therapist, the diagnosis written on our son’s IEP was “reading delay, unspecified”. On a basic level, this meant that he was having difficulties and was behind the norms of his peers, although they identified no specific reason. The school outlined the need for testing accommodations, offered the option to dual enroll (homeschool while using public school services) for the Wilson Reading System instruction, and recommended OT one time per month. For us, the testing accommodations—a person reading standardized test questions to him—was the most important part. In order to receive accommodations for college entry exams, like the SAT or ACT, required proof of the accommodation need. Going through this process allowed us to document his need as early as second grade.  

 

In our son’s case, we declined the other opportunities because: The Wilson reading program is an Orton-Gillingham approach to reading that we felt we could provide with All About Spelling and All About Reading. I based this decision on my expertise in my child; many other families have chosen the Wilson reading program within the school system and thrived. In addition, now that we had the standardized test results and my being an occupational therapist and his mother, I could use the results to develop a program for his motor skills within my home and to build his own personal outside team—a vision therapist and hockey coach. Again, this was based on my expertise in my child and on his desired occupations. 

 

My son took part in primitive reflex integration at home and vision therapy through a private practice. While we were completing these therapies, we used only narration and my reading aloud at home, as well as focused on spelling rather than reading. He needed time to focus specifically on the underlying skills of visual scanning and convergence without the added pressure of recognizing and interpreting the written word. We carried over his vision therapy specific exercises and also set up our day to build on visual-motor skills. For example, we 1) spent a lot of time on nature hikes where I would identify something to find and he would scan the location to find the specific tree, leaf, or animal 2) set up his closet so his shirts were all hung up and he would scan left to right to locate his favorite shirt 3) make grocery store visits our weekly date where he would scan the shelves for the specific item I requested 4) track hockey pucks from a distance to close up.  

 

Now, four years later, my son will return to the public school to retest for an IEP. He is reading large print books with glasses, yet no longer requires glasses for his everyday activities. He recently made an advanced hockey team and has no difficulty following that tiny black puck at high speeds across the ice. Most importantly, his love of nature increased and his engagement in learning never suffered.

 

Using the school system for specific information to inform our homeschool program helped us to build the right team to support my son in what he needed and wanted to do. If you need insight from an occupational therapist on your next steps or on how to incorporate strategies throughout your day, please contact Homeschool OT for a consultation.

 

 

 

 

 


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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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Sarah Collins, SPED Homeschool Partner Collins Academy Therapy

 

Homeschool families are not exempt from grief. In July, we lost my husband’s grandfather. He passed away after a long life and a very short battle with pancreatic cancer. We were fortunate he lived his last seven weeks in our home. We quickly moved him and his wife of 72 years out of their assisted living home when the COVID-19 pandemic started. When they came to live with us, we worried they were exposed to COVID, but that worry quickly passed, and then he was diagnosed with cancer. Can you imagine the fear, then love, then happiness, then uncertainty, then joy, then sadness that my children felt? As a result, I drew on my background as an Occupational Therapist and am grateful for our choice to homeschool so that we can teach to the heart during our homeschool day.

 

The American Occupational Therapy Association provides a list of recommendations for Occupational Therapists to implement when treating those dealing with grief. Here are four ways to adapt those recommendations to your homeschool:

#1 – Help children get back to regular routines because they have an organizing effect and encourage feelings of well being. Of course, some time off is necessary. However, this works well with our overall philosophy of rhythm vs. routine. We can get back to a rhythm in our day, like morning time together, books at lunch, afternoons outdoors, very quickly.

#2 – Encourage participation in enjoyable but low-stress activities with close friends to minimize feelings of isolation. Being connected with other homeschool families allows kids to divert attention to more pleasurable activities with friends and also gives them a support system to process their emotions.

#3 – Provide creative activities such as art projects and journaling to foster self-expression, which can help with processing strong feelings. Drawing, painting, craftwork, scrapbooking, making memory boards with photographs, and collages naturally lend to meeting the needs of the grieving child (Milliken, Goodman, & Bazyk, 2007). My 11 year old made a photo montage of our time during what we lovingly call the “Collins COVID Cancer Chronicles”. We also spent time reading many picture books to help give a language to grief. Our favorites are The Invisible String, Lifetimes, Badger’s Parting Gifts, and Ida Always.

#4 – Provide activities to do in remembrance of your loved one. What hobbies did they enjoy? Or what memories do you cherish of your time together? Baking cookies, wood-burning, flower arranging, scrapbooking, drawing, and painting were some of the occupations that we have done to help memorialize Pappy and keep our hands busy.

 

Grief is difficult because it is manifested differently in every person. Even though homeschool families are not exempt from loss and grief, we have the advantage of completing meaningful occupations together as a family/ homeschool and within a community.

 

Looking for more encouragement for homeschooling during a tough season? Check out this recent SPED Homeschool mom encouragement blog round-up.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Most teens outgrow the therapy model at some point in their junior high or high school years. Transferring ownership for continued growth in these therapeutic areas is a key element to ensuring that your student doesn’t stop working on new skills or practicing ones already mastered in a traditional therapy program. To accommodate your student’s desire for independence, this transitioning process requires your child to adopt regular activities which will assimilate therapy work into his or her normal routines.

 

Here are some ways your teen can continue working on occupational, physical, social, and speech therapy goals without going to regular therapy.

 

Speech Therapy Ideas:
Read out loud
Order food at a restaurant
Ask for directions
Sing
Memorize jokes and then tell them to others
Story telling
Make videos or voice recordings


Occupational Therapy Ideas:
Cooking
Yard Work
House Maintenance
Auto Repair
Assemble Purchases (“Some assembly required”)

Laundry
House Cleaning
Gardening

 

Physical Therapy Ideas:
Martial arts
Swimming
Golf
Tennis
Rollerblading
Ice skating
Biking
Running
Walking

 

Social Skill Therapy Ideas:
Join a club or special interest group
Participate in a local event as a volunteer
Be a mother’s helper
Volunteer at church
Start conversations with vendors at your county or state fair
Participate in 4H
Join a book cub

 

I am sure you can think of many more great ideas, and we would love for you to share them with our community by commenting below or on our social media shares of this article.

 

If you are looking for more resources for homeschooling your teen through high school, make sure to check out these other resources on our website:

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

We have been blessed to have a wonderful Occupational Therapist that comes to our home to work with our daughter. Occupational Therapy (OT) can be a valuable tool for children who have special needs. They help with sensory integration, fine motor skills, everyday living skills, and much more.

What if your child needs OT but insurance does not cover it or does not cover as many visits as your child needs? 

Here are some tips and links to products that you can use at home to help your child.

1. Special Pencils and Adaptive Tools
My daughter used golf pencils and Y pencils when she was learning to write. Golf pencils are small and force your child to hold the pencil with their thumb and index finger. Broken crayons can also serve this purpose.

Handwriting Without Tears  sells  these small pencils, but you can buy any type of golf pencil. The next pencil that helps children who have a tight grip or need extra help to put their fingers in the correct position is the “Y” pencil. You can find them on Amazon.

Another adaptive tool that helps children who need to have input when they are writing are weights for the pencil. Each weight is a little different, and you will have to figure out which one is the best fit for your child. Here are some examples.

2. Slant Boards
Some Children need a slant board to visually track while they read and write. They can be expensive, so I took a 3-inch binder and attached a clipboard with velcro. The slant board can also stabilize their paper so that they can focus on writing correctly. 

 

 

3. Cutting Skills With a Smile
Cutting is not always easy for children with special needs. Sometimes figuring out where to place their fingers can be difficult. Drawing a smiley face on their thumb is a great visual reminder for their finger placement because the face needs to be facing up. KUMON books have great cutting skills books.

4. Using Tweezers to Improve Fine Motor Skills and Pincer Grip
Tweezers can be a cheap, easy tool that can help your child. You can use tweezers to pick up buttons or beads, and while your child thinks they are playing, they are also working their muscles and grip. Lakeshore has some games that you can buy called  Feed The Animals Fine Motor Games.

5. Using Special Paper
Writing can have challenges, but finding the right paper can help your child. Using raised lined paper can help the child who needs a tactile writing experience. If your child also needs a visual cue, there is paper that has raised colored lines.

These are some of the tools that you can use at home to help your child be successful in everyday learning activities.

More Ideas
To find more ways to provide DIY therapy for your homeschooled student, make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Therapy Resources page as well as the SPED Homeschool Occupational Therapy Pinterest board and the SPED Homeschool Therapy Pinterest board .

 


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