Arkansas law permits the home schooling of students with special needs. The procedure for registering a special needs student to home school is the same as for any other student.
Public School Special Education Programs for Non-Public School Students
Federal law requires a certain portion of federal special education funds to be made available to non-public school students. The local school district decides which non-public school students to make these funds available to. They also decide how many students they will serve. Each year, as these federal funds are depleted, public school special education programs for non-public school students come to an end.
Practically speaking, there is so little funding available for non-public school students to receive special education services in public school, it is hardly worth the time and effort to apply. Check with your local public school district if you are interested in applying for enrollment in special education programs at your public school.
The web site below contains numerous links to information on home schooling students with special needs.
Home Schooling Kids with Disabilities
Below is information attained from HSLDA. YOu can visit their website at www.hslda.org.
IS MY CHILD A STRUGGLING LEARNER?
Joey, age 7, tries to read from the book his mom has chosen for him. It is from the series that she has successfully used to teach her other three children to read at this age.
“The f-a-t c-a-t s-a-t on the m-a-t,” he reads, sounding out every word like it is brand new, even though he has read this story many times. There seems to be no retention of the words from day to day, or even from line to line.
Joey’s lack of progress leaves Mom perplexed. She asks herself: Why isn’t he learning as quickly as his brothers and sisters? He seems bright enough—but just doesn’t get it. Am I teaching him too early, or does he have a learning disability? Can he be tested for one? And where would I take him to be tested?
This scene occurs in home school households across America, with children of all ages, in many learning areas other than reading. Children who have great difficulty spelling, writing, doing math and retaining information are often a puzzle to the competent, caring parents working with them. These parents don’t necessarily see their children as having special needs, or learning disabilities, but they do see that they are working with struggling learners.
There are many levels of learning struggles. If a child has a learning glitch, he/she is working harder than h/she should have to, but is not behind. If the child is struggling more, and has a learning dysfunction, he/she has to work even harder to learn, and is about a year behind. If he/she has dyslexia, dysgraphia, or other learning disabilities, he/she has to work much harder, and is at least two years behind grade level in one or more areas. He/she may even be at a complete standstill academically. Many of these struggling learners are gifted.
These bright, hard-working children do very well in a home school setting where the parent can tailor teaching methods and curriculum to them, and spend more time working with them.
There are two things that are important to do for this struggling child:
- Identify where the learning block is, and how to remove that block, reducing the stress in a child’s learning system.
- Find a curriculum, and more importantly, teaching strategies that help this child get in touch with the “smart part of himself/herself.”
Our goal is to inform and educate you, the parent, in how to accomplish these goals with your child. Whether your child is experiencing a glitch, dysfunction, learning disability, or has special needs in other areas, this information should help you weave through the myriad of symptoms of stress in the learning system your child is experiencing. It will also guide you to the various teaching methods that work for these children, curriculum, testing, and therapies that are available to you.
HOW TO TELL WHY YOUR CHILD IS STRUGGLING
Many children who are not struggling have one or two of the characteristics in the checklists on the following pages. It is a matter of degree, and how it is impacting the learning process that we will consider in determining the needs of the learner.
Many educators who follow brain research believe that there are four learning gates that need to be properly functioning for a child to learn easily.
The four learning gates are:
- Visual processing.
- Visual/motor (writing) processing.
- Auditory processing.
- Focus/attention processing.
These checklists show some of the characteristics that a child exhibits when a learning gate is not working properly. Also included is a list of informal evaluations that you can perform at home. In addition, you will find some resources for correction that can be done at home, or with a professional. Learning is all about energy output. Read the following characteristics and see if you can find where your child is experiencing an “energy leak.”
COMPENSATION OR CORRECTION?
Before you begin evaluating your child, you should know that once the process is complete you might face a fundamental choice: compensation or correction. Many educational experts debate whether it is more beneficial to help a struggling learner compensate for the learning processes that are difficult, or if time and effort should be spent in the pursuit of a correction of the processing problem.
An example of compensation would be for a child to use a keyboard at a very young age to write papers when he or she struggles with handwriting. A correction would be to do a handwriting exercise that eliminates reversed letters, for instance, and helps the child write more neatly. Another common compensation is to reduce the spelling list required at a grade level for a child who is struggling with spelling. A correction would be to train the child’s photographic memory so that the task of spelling is easier.
Many times this does not need to be a debate. One can easily pursue both compensation and correction simultaneously. Compensation makes the learning task easier while the correction reduces the stress in the child’s learning system so that learning can flow. We call this “opening up the child’s learning gate.”
SENSORY INTEGRATION ISSUES
Many times a child who appears to have great difficulty with focusing and attending to a task is really struggling with a sensory processing problem. The child’s sensory system is not functioning correctly, resulting in errant signals. An example of this would be a malfunctioning sensory system that shouts “pain,” when a tag on a shirt touches the skin. Another example is when a child covers his ears at fairly minor unexpected sounds, because the sensory system is giving the errant signal that the sound is too loud. This child is not just distracted by his outside environment, but is distracted by his inside environment as well.
The following are some of the typical symptoms of sensory dysfunction:
- The child displays sensitivity to loud noises.
- The child struggles with language skills.
- The child dislikes being in a group to the point of avoiding most group situations.
- The child struggles with transitions and changes of any kind.
- The child is bothered by certain food textures, such as lumps in yogurt.
- The child won’t eat meat.
- The child id a very selective eater, preferring mostly carbohydrates.
- The child dislikes it when food on the same plate touches.
- The child finds clothing tags an irritant.
- The child dislikes nonsoft clothing such as jeans.
- The child insists his socks have to have the seam “just right.”
- The child grinds his teeth.
- The child walks on his toes for an extended period of time.
- The child dislikes his hair being touched, combed, washed or cut.
- The child finds visits to the doctor to be very hard.
- Pediatricians may have some insight into this, or they may refer parents to an occupational therapist for an evaluation. With a referral, insurance plans are more likely to cover these visits.
- For further checklists, see Carol Kranowitz’s book, The Out of Sync Child. RESOURCES FOR CORRECTION
- The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun: Activities For Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction by Carol Kranowitz
- Occupational therapy.
- Nutritional therapy (very helpful).
- Brain integration therapy.
- Music therapy (as described under Auditory Processing Dysfunction).
- Chiropractic services.
A RIGHT BRAIN LEARNER STUCK IN A LEFT BRAIN CURRICULUM
You may have noticed that your children have totally different learning styles. Your left brain child tends to like workbooks and working on his own. The right-brainer, on the other hand, likes discussion, prefers projects to workbooks and tends to be a little higher maintenance during the school day, requiring more of your interaction time.
Since most curriculum teaches in a more left brain manner, focusing on auditory and sequential aspects, as well as writing, our children who are more right brain learners often feel left out, and even struggle with learning and retaining material using this same curriculum. Once we have identified the right-brainer who is struggling because he is stuck in a left brain curriculum, then we can tweak our teaching process to help these right brain children get in touch with the “smart part of themselves.”
Before we explore these many different teaching strategies, let’s identify the common learning styles of these children.
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF A LEFT BRAIN LEARNER
- Tends to seek structure in the school day.
- Memorizes best by repetition (auditory or writing).
- Likes to know the plan for each day, week, etc.
- Tends to work well independently.
- Likes to make lists, and check them off as tasks are completed.
- Thinks things through with multiple pieces of evidence before coming to a conclusion.
- Tends to find math interesting, and is very good at it.
- Likes the predictability and conciseness of workbooks.
- Can do well with self-paced and computer curriculum.
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF A RIGHT BRAIN LEARNER
- Likes spontaneous events, versus planned events each day. Seeks change.
- Memorizes best by using meaning, color, pictures, story, or emotion in material.
- Does not plan ahead regularly.
- Prefers much involvement with parent while doing daily lessons.
- Does not do items sequentially, but skips around in his or her work.
- Makes quantum leaps when learning. Figures things out from scanty evidence.
- Finds math quite repetitive and somewhat boring.
- Prefers projects and discussions rather than workbook learning.
- Does not do well with self-paced or computer curriculum, but rather one that requires more parent and teacher involvement, such as unit studies, or any curriculum that is more hands-on and interactive with the adult.
Many right brain dominant children can adapt to left brain curriculum without much effort. If that is the case, then no changes need to be made for this child. However, if a child is struggling to be successful in learning, then some accommodations need to be made. Sometimes just putting the struggling child in a more right brain friendly curriculum makes all the difference in the world in how easy his/her school day goes.
Other times a child needs a totally different strategy to make learning easy. That is when we turn to right brain teaching strategies.
WHO NEEDS RIGHT BRAIN TEACHING STRATEGIES?
- Children who have underdeveloped memory skills.
- Children who have an auditory processing glitch.
- Children who have a focusing or attention issue.
- Children who have a visual/motor (writing) glitch.
- Children who dislike school work.
- Children for whom the more common methods of teaching are not working.
WHAT ARE RIGHT BRAIN TEACHING STRATEGIES?
In 1981 Dr. Roger Sperry received the Nobel Prize for his split brain research. Prior to that, little was known about the separate responsibilities of the two brain hemispheres. President George Bush declared the 1990s as the Decade of the Brain. Much brain research came to the forefront during that time. It has been a very exciting time in beginning to understand the processes of learning.
The right brain is responsible for long-term memory storage. Ultimately, we all store learned material in our right brain, for easy retrieval. Generally this process of storing material in the short term memory (the left brain’s responsibility), and then transferring it to our long-term memory (the right brain’s responsibility) is automatic, and we don’t even think about the intricate process that is taking place. However, when the left brain methods of repetition (either orally or in writing) are not transferring to the right brain long-term memory storage unit, then we need to look at ways to make this transfer more efficient. This is where right brain teaching strategies comes in. When we use right brain teaching strategies with our children, they are required to use much less energy to store learned material. Both right and left brain learners love these techniques!
Right brain teaching strategies involve using “visual Velcro” to easily memorize material. For example, if learning math facts through oral repetition, games, or writing them isn’t working, then by making little stories (not rhymes because these are auditory) with emotion, and adding picture and color to the math fact, the child finds that it is easy to recall. This is using an easy, inexpensive learning strategy that totally transforms how a child remembers something as important as math facts. This type of teaching applies to all areas of curriculum. When a child says, “I can’t remember,” then it is time to use right brain teaching strategies to make the memory process so much easier. Let’s explore some of these troublesome learning areas:
- Train a child’s photographic memory capability while teaching spelling words at the same time!
- Teach the word retrieval technique that spelling bee winners use!
- Avoid using the “writing gate” for learning spelling words, since this technique is inefficient for a right-brained child.
- Place color and picture with humor on the letter or letters in a word that are silent, or hard to remember. Have the child take a picture of the word using his internal camera.
- Teaching Your Right Brain Child video by Dianne Craft
- Right Brain Child in a Left Brain World by Jeffrey Freed
- Have students draw cartoons to aid in memorizing vocabulary words.
- Make a drawing of the meaning of the word. Then superimpose the vocabulary word, or science term directly on the picture. The brain receives it in a “chunk,” and then retrieves it in a “chunk.”
- Use pre-made vocabulary cartoons by home school dad Sam Burchers for regular weekly vocabulary enrichment lessons that are easy to remember.
- Elementary and high school editions of Vocabulary Cartoons by Sam Burchers, available at www.vocabularycartoons.com.
- Teaching Your Right Brain Child video by Dianne Craft
• Teach the problem and answer as a whole rather than in parts. Make a story and picture for each hard math fact. Keep these on the wall for child to take a mental picture of it for a week. Teach only five hard math facts a week using this picture method.
• Use Hollywood techniques employing stories, emotion and pictures to help struggling math students.
• Put math processes such as fraction rules, division steps, decimal rules and algebra steps into long-term memory storage. Keep these pictures of the processes, called templates, on the wall for easy retrieval. They won’t be needed for long.
• Right brain multiplication cards, available at www.diannecraft.org.
• Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World: Unlocking the Potential of Your ADD Child by Jeffrey Freed.
• Use color and pictures to make phonics easy. Every day read lists of long words with the decoding unit in color. If you have a child who is a word-guesser, you will see great results with this technique.
• Train the brain to store the sound and picture as a unit for easier retrieval of letter sound by placing the letter directly on the picture that gives that sound.
• Right Brain Phonics Reading Practice Book by Dianne Craft
• Right brain phonics cards by Dianne Craft
• Lindamood Phonemic Awareness Program (http://www.lindamoodbell.com/404.html)
• Beginning readers who have an auditory processing problem that causes them to struggle to learn the names of sight words learn them easily when a picture of the word’s meaning is superimposed on the letters of the word.
• Teach both the reading and spelling of sight words using picture directly on the word.
• Sight word cards (36 words) by Dianne Craft.
• Your own homemade cards made by you or your child.
• Train your children to change words into pictures when listening and reading.
• Teach them how to make a movie in their head as they read to dramatically increase their reading comprehension and memory.
• Teaching Your Right Brain Child video by Dianne Craft.
• Teach Both Sides of the Brain by Tony Buzan.
• Lindamood Bell’s Verbalization/Visualization program.
• Model for your children how to see their whole paper, or paragraph, before they write it.
• Model pre-writing by using webbing (right brain) versus outlining (left brain).
• Show them how to write only one or two words to remind them of the whole thought.
• When grading the papers, give points for every positive thing on the paper. Ignore the errors initially, addressing them later when students prepare to write their next paper.
• Don’t correct spelling errors on the paper. Instead, put the misspelled words into the next spelling list for the student to learn.
• Don’t require that a paper be rewritten until a child has achieved success at the writing process.
• Give the child a list of transition terms, topic sentence starters, and concluding terms to use in his writing at first.
• Tapestry of Grace Writing program by Marcie Somerville, available at www.tapestryofgrace.com.
• Step Up To Writing by Maureen Auman, available at www.sopriswest.com.
• When giving oral directions, use quick doodles to help a child remember what is said.
• Later, have the child make a picture in his head of what you tell them to do.
• Using color and circling to help show a child how to break down the steps of written directions for easy understanding.
• Teach your child how to take picture notes for history, science, grammar and other subjects. Their test scores and understanding will improve dramatically.
• When teaching any amount of sequential material, use doodles and pictures, in a story, or in a row, touching each other, for easy storage and retrieval.
• Teaching Both Sides of the Brain by Tony Buzan
• Teaching Your Right Brain Child video by Dianne Craft
VISUAL PROCESSING DYSFUNCTION CHARACTERISTICS
A child struggling with visual processing issues will display some of these characteristics:
• Reading reversals (“was” for “saw,” “on” for “no,” “big” for “dig,” etc.) after initial introduction of the words.
• Skipping of small words when reading.
• Needing to use finger to track after age 7.
• Oral reading that is smooth at the beginning of the page, but becomes more labored the longer a child reads.
• Experiencing eye fatigue shortly after reading begins (watery eyes, rubbing eyes).
• Yawning shortly after reading begins.
• Continuing to struggle even after being prescribed eye glasses.
These informal evaluations can be done at home to help a parent determine if a child is experiencing a blocked learning gate. Be sure as well to have your child’s vision acuity checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to make sure that this is not the cause of the child’s reading problem.
Eye tracking: With the child standing three feet in front of you, take an interesting object and slowly move it in a left-to-right manner in front of the child’s eyes. Ask the child to keep his eyes on the target. Do this for about four swings of the target. Watch to see if the child’s eyes skip in any spot, or if they begin to water. Then slowly move the target in a horizontal figure eight manner within the child’s shoulder width, making sure that the target is not too close to the child’s face. See if the child can look in those various directions without skipping or his eyes looking stressed in any way. Make a note of your findings. There are specific exercises that can be done to strengthen a child’s eye teaming abilities to reduce the stress in the visual learning system.
Cross crawl: Many times younger children have difficulty reading because they are not efficiently crossing the midline of their body. This is the process that normally occurs when a baby is crawling. However, some children develop a learning gate problem in this area because they did not crawl, or they crawled but had a traumatic event (such as a fall, or back-to-back ear infections) that inhibited this natural process and made it much less effective.
Stand in front of the child and demonstrate the cross crawl movement by lifting the right knee and tapping it with the left hand, then doing the same with the left knee and right hand. Do this for a minute so the child can observe you. Then ask the child to do it also. Don’t correct the child at first, but let him or her figure it out while you continue to do your cross crawl movements in front of him. If the child can’t do it, and becomes frustrated, then you can start him out by having him march with his legs while you touch the opposite knee with his hands. After doing this for a bit, remove your hands from the child’s hands, and let him do this himself.
Make a note of your findings. If you confirm your child has midline issues, there are specific things that you can do to address this problem.
Reading: There are four components to reading successfully:
• Eye Tracking ability.
• Sight Word Memorization.
• Phonics (letter sounds and word decoding ability).
• Reading comprehension.
We can observe a child’s oral reading to help use determine if eye tracking ability is contributing to the child’s reading difficulties. If the child can read, have him read a passage, and carefully watch his eyes to see if he reads to the end of the line, and then starts the new line, but quickly darts back with his eyes to the last line to make sure that he is in the right spot. We all do this once in a while. Watch to see if the child does this frequently. This takes much more effort to read when this saccadic eye movement is occurring.
Also observe if the child begins reading the word “dig” by forming a “b” with his mouth first. Any time a child reverses a letter or word, six months after being taught to read, indicates a sign of stress in the child’s visual processing system. Make a note of your findings. There are specific things that can be done to make this process easier for your child.
Colored overlays: At times, a child will experience a mild scotopic sensitivity syndrome, which means that the reflection of the white background of the paper makes it more difficult for the child to see the black letters that compose the text.
One of the ways that you can informally determine if this is any issue, is by obtaining some plastic colored reading overlays (available at www.diannecraft.org.)
Have the child read a paragraph or a few lines. Then place a blue colored transparency over the next paragraph and have him read. Then place a green overlay over the next paragraph when the child is reading orally. Listen for subtle changes in fluency. Ask the child what he experienced in fluency while reading with the various colors. Many times the child will say that a particular transparency acted as a magnifying glass, making the letters bigger, and easier to see. There are other colors that you could try, but blue and green are the main ones that seem to help children right away.
If the child does markedly better with one of the colored overlays, continue to use it to reduce the visual stress that he/she is experiencing. However, it will only act as a temporary aid, until you correct the underlying problem, which is lack of eye convergence. The eyes can be encouraged to work together as a team while reading by doing various home exercises, or by working with a vision therapist using both home and office exercises.
RESOURCES FOR CORRECTING VISION ACUITY PROBLEMS
• Prescription eyeglasses.
• Vision therapy from a developmental optometrist. (This kind of therapy can be quite expensive.)
• Brain integration therapy. This program can be conducted at home. For more information see www.diannecraft.org for the Instruction Manual.
• Colored transparencies. For information on how to obtain these visit www.diannecraft.org
• Irlen Lenses (colored lenses placed into glasses for easier use. For more information look for the Reading With Colors book available at www.irlen.com.
• PACE program done with professionals.
VISUAL/MOTOR PROCESSING (WRITING) DYSFUNCTION CHARACTERISTICS
The processing glitch that affects children the most is an interference in the writing system (spatial, visual/motor system). The process of writing has not been taken over by the child’s automatic brain, which is the right brain hemisphere. This causes the child to have to use much more energy to write. This can make a child look lazy, uncooperative and unmotivated because writing is involved in so many learning activities. See if your child has many of the following symptoms of stress in the writing system:
• Reversals in written letters both laterally and vertically, six months after being taught to write them correctly if written daily.
• Reversals in written numbers.
• Poor spacing in writing.
• Difficulty copying from book or board.
• Resistance to learning or writing cursive.
• Displaying awkward writing posture, with eye and hand very close together.
• No “helping hand” used when writing despite being instructed to do so.
• Failure to complete written assignments despite performing well on tests.
• Spaces math papers poorly.
• Tells great stories orally, but writes very little.
• Leaves out letters in a spelling test, but could spell the word orally correctly.
• Wants to do all math “in his head,” no matter how long the problem is.
Check your child’s eye/hand dominance: Tear a hole in a piece of paper that is the size of a dime. Have the child stand five feet in front of you and hold the paper with arms extended, in front of him. Ask him/her to look through the hole and find your nose. As he/she is looking at your nose through the hole in the paper, you will be able to see his/her dominant eye.
Now to see if he/she is using that same eye for close-up work, place a small, round object on the floor about five inches in front of the child’s feet. A toy construction cone is good. Ask the child to hold the paper at arm’s length and look through the hole at the object on the floor. Tell the child to “freeze” his/her hands when he/she has seen the object. Then get behind him/her and cover one of the child’s eyes with your hand. Ask the child if he/she can still see the object, or if it disappeared. Do the same with the other eye, making sure that the child does not move his/her paper. The object should disappear when you are covering the child’s dominant eye.
We always use only one eye when looking through a small hole, and we use our dominant eye. If the child found that the object disappeared when you covered his right eye, then he/she is right-eye dominant. If he/she is also right-handed, then we call that “uniform dominance.” The brain finds it more efficient to be uniform dominant.
If the object disappeared when you covered the child’s left eye, then he/she is left-eye dominant. If the child is also right-handed, then he/she is considered “mixed dominant.”
Being mixed dominant can be very helpful in sports, such as baseball and golf, but is less efficient for writing. However, if a child has good brain hemispheric integration, then it is not very bothersome for him/her. If the two hemispheres of his/her brain are not communicating well for the act of writing, then the writing has not transferred into the automatic hemisphere, and the writing process can be very laborious.
Make a note of whether the child is uniform or mixed dominant. This gives you a clue as to one reason why your child has been struggling with writing. Many times these mixed-dominant children do not develop a hand dominance until they are 4 or 5 years old, as opposed to other children who develop a hand dominance earlier.
Clockwise or counterclockwise circles? Have your child write a word with the letter “o” in it, or just write the letter “o.” Watch to see if he/she writes this clockwise or counterclockwise. If a child is hard-wired to be right-handed, he/she should be making all letters counterclockwise. If a child is hard-wired to be left-handed, he/she will tend to make his letters clockwise.
We are only concerned when a child who has chosen his/her right hand to write with, but is making all letters clockwise like a left-hander. This creates great stress in the child’s writing system. Make a note of this, because there are specific exercises that can be done to take the stress out of this system. We do not have to change a child’s handedness.
Bottom-to-top letter formation: Ask your child to write the alphabet in lower-case print. There is a natural flow of electricity in our body that God put there. When we make our letters according to that flow, writing is effortless. When we write letters against the flow, writing is laborious. Observe, but don’t correct. See if the child makes letters bottom-to-top, which is considered a vertical reversal. See if the child finds it difficult to remember the next letter to write. See if the child writes a mixture of lower-case and upper-case letters. Watch for clockwise letters, and letters that do not go below the line. These are all signs of stress in the child’s visual/motor/spatial system. Make notes. These problems can be corrected, and the stress taken out of the system.
RESOURCES FOR CORRECTING WRITING DYSFUNCTION
• When teaching, have the child answer as many questions orally, reducing the need to write until you can take the stress out of the writing system.
• Eliminate copying tasks because of the labor involved until the child’s writing improves.
• Do timed math tests orally if possible.
• Do the Writing Eight Exercise designed by Dr. Getman, to encourage the child’s kinesthetic midline to function well, eliminating both lateral and vertical reversals. This daily exercise, when done in a deliberate, monitored manner, will convert the writing process to the automatic hemisphere. The exercise is described in the manual Brain Integration Therapy for Children by Dianne Craft.
• After the child has a strong midline, then you can use the writing program Handwriting Without Tears.
• Teach your child keyboarding to encourage computer use for longer papers.
• LinguiSystems has several books that talk about writing issues, such as the dysgraphia described in the characteristics section.
AUDITORY PROCESSING DYSFUNCTION CHARACTERISTICS
Your child may be struggling with auditory processing dysfunction if he or she exhibits the following difficulties:
Difficulty remembering sight words, including:
• Trouble retrieving names of letters, words, people, and things.
• Laboring over verbal expression.
Difficulty with phonics, including:
• Trouble remembering sounds of letter combinations such as “au,” “oi.”
• Difficulty applying phonics rules in a reading setting.
• Sounding out the same word over and over in the same reading passage.
Spelling difficulties, including:
• Trouble spelling phonetically (the child may spell “team” as “tie” or “went” as “wat.”)
• Spelling the same word differently each time.
Difficulty sequencing sounds, including:
• Trouble learning and retaining days of the week and months.
• The child guesses at words because reading longer words is very hard.
• The child puts extra sounds in a word (ie., contribution becomes contribu’ta’tion), “band” becomes “brand.”
Difficulty saying longer words:
• Transposing letters: “animal” is “aminal;” “magazine” is “mazagine;” “suddenly” is “sundenly.”
• Avoiding difficult words when speaking.
The child’s silent voice disappears:
• He or she subvocalizes when reading silently, or needs to read aloud to understand a passage.
• He or she needs to repeat the alphabet in his head when writing it out.
Difficulty with speech, including:
• Trouble articulating many sounds.
• Exhibiting language delay.
Difficulty understanding verbal instruction:
• He or she needs to ask for directions to be repeated frequently.
• He or she says “what” a lot.
• An apparent hearing problem can mimic a focusing and attention issue. The key is determining whether the child really is not hearing and storing the information auditorally, or if the child is not focusing on what is being said.
• He or she is easily confused or is never quite sure he understood the speaker.
An auditory processing dysfunction can manifest itself in so many different ways. Many adults and children have mild auditory processing problems, but find ways to compensate for it in their daily lives. It is a bigger struggle for a child to learn with an auditory processing issue, than with just a visual processing issue, or a visual/motor (writing) processing issue. The left auditory brain hemisphere is responsible for retaining sounds, words, and auditory information. When this process is experiencing a block, the child doesn’t know why he can’t remember what was just taught, nor does the parent.
Storing and retrieving information: Ask the child to write the alphabet. Observe carefully to see whether the child hesitates after writing several letters, then begins again. Watch for this hesitation throughout the writing of the alphabet.
If the child hesitates in writing a letter that follows a letter that has a directional component to it, such as “b,” “d,” “p,” “q,” “j,” “g,” then it could be that he has a spatial problem, and had to think about what direction the letter should be written. However, if the child hesitates after writing “e,” or “h,” then you can suspect that he has lost his silent voice…his “thinking” voice, and is having to go back and say the alphabet over and over in his head.
With older children, you can ask if they had to say the alphabet over several times in their head while doing the alphabet, and they can tell you exactly where they felt they had to stop and repeat. The efficient storage and retrieval of 26 units is one sign of an auditory processing dysfunction.
Sequencing: Ask the child to say the days of the week, and then the months of the year. The months represent sequencing and ordering unrelated sounds. If this is difficult for the child despite being taught it before, or if the child leaves out some months (they often leave out either October or August, because they start with the same sound), assure him that many children do.
However, these difficulties could indicate that the auditory channel of sequencing is not working as well as it should, and causing your child to struggle with learning. If a child is laboring with auditory sequencing then the popular way of teaching multiplication tables through skip counting will be more difficult for that child. That child would greatly benefit from using right brain teaching strategies, using the child’s photographic memory to memorize multiplication facts easily.
Word retrieval: The two brain hemispheres have individual responsibilities. When we understand these responsibilities we can see understand where a child’s processing is breaking down in the reading process.
The right brain stores pictures. This means that all of the sight words (words that cannot be sounded out, such as “the,” “many,” etc.) are stored in the right brain after the child has been exposed to these words for several days. The name of the word is stored in the child’s left auditory hemisphere. Normally, when the two hemispheres are working well together, when the child sees the word (a right brain function), the name comes up quickly (a left brain function), and the child remembers the sight word.
To check the efficiency of this process, have your child read a list of words at his grade level. If your child consistently hesitates at words such as “would, what, know and neighbor,” or if he/she attempts to sound out every word, then make a note of that. If the child is not reading yet, you can have him/her read, or attempt to name the alphabet letters that you have taught him/her. If this is very difficult, then we can assume that this is a child who is struggling with the word retrieval portion of an auditory processing dysfunction. There are wonderful methods to help this child.
Hearing individual letters: This is the auditory channel that is involved in learning and remembering the sounds that letters and letter combinations get. We teach this in great detail in phonics. Have your child read a list of words that are on the child’s reading level. If your child cannot sound out a word, for example, cannot remember the “f” sound to begin a word, or laboriously sounds out “f-a-t,” and then says “fan,” you know you have a child suffering in this area. If your child is older, and guesses at longer words, because he/she cannot remember the phonemes (vowel and letter combinations) to sound it out easily, then that child is suffering also in this area. Many times these are children who played the Phonics Game well, and knew all the “pieces” (left brain function), but cannot put it into a “whole” (right brain function), when reading a passage. Make a note of your results.
RESOURCES FOR CORRECTION
• Speech therapy.
• Brain training with music. Various programs include:
o The Listening Program by Dr. Tomatis helps retrain the auditory processing area of the brain.
o AIT (Auditory Integration Therapy) home program that requires a speech therapist to work with parent.
o Samonas Listening Program, which requires a professional.
o Interactive Metronome (corrects child’s timing, among other things) non-home professional program.
• LinguiSystems (word games, workbooks, etc.)
• Brain Integration Therapy for Children, a home-based therapy program for parents to administer. Visit www.diannecraft.org.
• Specialized reading Instruction. Various programs include:
o Right brain teaching strategies (bypassing the auditory glitch)
o Merrill Linguistic Readers (very few sight words)
o Lindamood Phonemic Awareness Program (professional program)
o Wilson’s Reading Program
• Nutritional Therapy:
o Article “Ear Infections: Impact on Learning,” and “Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain,” available at www.diannecraft.org.
o Contact a nutritionist or chiropractor in your area.
FOCUS/ATTENTION PROCESSING DYSFUNCTION CHARACTERISTICS
When a child is needing to use too much energy to attend to his/her work, then that is the area that is a learning block to him/her. This child often has a body chemistry that is upset, and can be changed with simple methods at home. Other times a parent finds that working with a professional in this area is most helpful.
Often a parent will say of such a child: “He/she can focus on movies, video games, or Legos for hours, but can’t focus on his/her schoolwork for more than five minutes.” It is important to realize what is going on, so we don’t become frustrated with this type of child. Movies, video games, or Legos require little energy because children find them interesting and undemanding. On the other hand, a history or math lesson requires much more effort on the child’s part. If the child has an “energy leak” in a certain area, then he/she will have to work much harder to remain focused. Therefore it is important to distinguish whether a child is struggling with an academic task because of an actual learning block, which causes task avoidance because of its difficulty, or a focusing problem.
Many times these children are struggling with sensory integration issues that make them look unfocused.
We’ll look at the characteristics of a child struggling with a focus issue, and a child struggling with sensory integration issues separately, even though they often overlap.
The official terms that are often used for children who have difficulty remaining focused on a task that they are capable of doing are Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
ADD refers to a child who is not acting out or moving around, and can even look attentive during a task, but is generally absorbed in his/her own thoughts and daydreams to the point that he/she gets little done in the amount of time allotted.
A child who is thought to be ADHD is generally hyperactive. This child has a motor that is always running that he/she seems incapable of controlling. He/she does everything in a hurry, and some part of his/her body always appears to be moving, which keeps him/her quite distracted.
The hyperactive child (not just hyper-fidgety), is usually easy to spot in a group. The inattentive child, on the other hand, is not easy to spot. This child just appears to be slow in finishing work, or in following directions. He or she may seem lazy or uncooperative.
In a home school setting we do not have to focus on labels or official diagnoses most of the time. We just need to see if the child we are working with exhibits enough symptoms to warrant further exploration on this topic. In home schooling we can focus on the solution, rather than a label. Since learning is all about energy output, we ask ourselves why a child has to expend more energy to remain focused on a task than his or her siblings. Once this question is answered, then the action becomes clear.
• No persistence with a task.
• Inconsistency in performance from one day to another.
• Excessive daydreaming during a school related task.
• Needs to have mom next to him or her in order to finish work.
• Forgetfulness (of previously learned material, daily plans, etc.).
A child struggling with the more active form of a focusing issue will display some of these characteristics:
• Excess motor activity (something is always moving).
• Impulsiveness (acts without thinking much of the time).
• Insatiability (never satisfied with an activity).
• Poor response to discipline.
• Sleep disturbances (very restless sleeper).
The difficulty with determining if your child has a focusing issue is that parents often do not have a strong basis of comparison if they only have one other child at home who is home schooling. Thus, it is important to solicit information and observations from the other adults in the child’s life who works with him/her in both an academic and non-academic setting.
Remember, that to be a real focusing issue, the symptoms must present themselves in more than one setting. It is important to differentiate between a child whose main problem is focusing, from a child who is exhibiting task avoidance because of academic struggles. For example, if your child’s Sunday School teacher says that he or she listens attentively to lessons, and participates lively in the discussions that follow, but “gets silly” or doesn’t complete assigned worksheets, you can consider that this child has a learning glitch instead of a focusing problem. The child with difficulty focusing frequently does not attend to orally presented information enough to participate well in the ensuing discussion.
On the other hand, if your child’s karate teacher says that he needs to continually redirect your child’s attention during lessons (ones that are very active and hands-on), you may consider that this child is struggling to maintain focus when his peers do not need to expend any energy for this task.
HOW YOU CAN DETERMINE IF YOUR CHILD HAS A FOCUSING ISSUE
• Checklists, such as the one above help identify a child with an issue.
• Pediatricians can help decipher the observations you have of your child.
• Conners Behavior Scale, or BASC can be obtained by your physician. These are informal questionnaires to be completed by parents and other adults who work with your child in an academic setting. The results are calibrated to determine if the child is merely at risk of an attention problem, or actually is showing attention problem symptoms in more than one setting.
• Sunday School teachers, co-op teachers leaders and other adults who work with your children can help determine if he or she is experiencing a problem.
RESOURCES FOR CORRECTION
There are two ways that children who have to expend more energy than their peers to focus can be helped. One way is to use compensation, and the other is to employ correction of the problem. Since it takes time for any correctional program to work, we really need to do both procedures. We compensate for the problem, while designing and implementing an effective correctional program.
In determining the best way to correct a child’s processing problem that is affecting his/her ability to focus on a task, we need to consider that this child likely has an upset chemistry. The basis for this assumption is the long history of the use of medication used with children with a focusing issue. These medications are designed to help the child focus with more ease by making the neurotransmitters responsible for the process of focusing, more available to the brain and nervous system.
If a parent decides to try some medication for this purpose, then the child’s pediatrician is the place to start. Sometimes parents try various medications, only to find the side effects to be unacceptable. So it’s a good idea to also consider alternative ways to help balance the child’s upset body chemistry.
Other times the parents are not interested in pursuing medication at all, but realize that their child is struggling too hard to focus, so still needs some help in producing and releasing the necessary neurotransmitters. This is when parents often turn to a nutritionist, naturopath, chiropractor, or nutritionally oriented physician to explore alternatives that seem to help so many children.
In this packet we will explore both compensations and corrections for these struggling children. In home schooling we have a unique opportunity to help the child learn how to control his/her own behavior, through gentle behavior modification. We also have the opportunity to give this child more time and attention, taking the burden off of his focusing system. We can plan schooling days that help this child gain as much information as possible from the material, without the frustration of always being behind, or not knowing what to do. It is very rewarding to work with these learners in the home setting.
Employ one-on-one tutoring. Children with attention problems thrive when an adult works one-on-one with them. These children struggle to complete work on their own, and find the frequent reminders to hurry up and complete their work debilitating. (See “Managing the Homeschool Teaching Day with a Struggling Learner” in the section following, to learn how to get this important time with your child, while still working with your other children).
Choose a curriculum that does not require mainly independent work (such as a computer curriculum program, or a self-paced program).
Reduce workbook exercises and busy work, such as copying and repeating math problems, as much as possible.
Buy good quality earphones for this child. He/she could use them to block out distracting noise, or you could have him/her listen to classical music softly while working on assignments.
Keep this child close to you throughout the day. Your proximity makes a big difference in his/her ability to focus. You do not always have to be interacting with him/her. Just be near him/her. Even when you are teaching another child, this child can be next to you with his/her earphones on, completing his work.
Group assignments. When approaching a math page with many problems on it, put a star by the ones you want him/her to do in that sitting period. If you are only having him/her do some of the problems on the page, not all, then he/she can put a large “X” over the ones he/she doesn’t have to do. This is very satisfying for the child. If you can’t do that, then use construction paper to cover the problems on the bottom half of the page so he/she doesn’t have to see them when he/she is working on the top half.
Focus on study skills. If your child is prone to make mistakes when doing math problems, have him/her mark all the similar problems with red, and do them first. These children don’t transition well, because transitions require more focusing power. Doing all like problems together greatly decreases their need to focus, ensuring few errors on a page.
Take breaks. Many little breaks, versus one big break, helps these children stay on task.
Involve dad. Assign one subject for dad to do with the child in the evening when he is home. Dads often have a different approach to teaching, and the child gets the important one-on-one time that helps him/her be successful. Make sure that dad knows the chunking approach, and how to reduce mundane, repetitive tasks.
Use more right brain strategies, since these employ color, humor, weirdness, etc., to put “Velcro” on the information presented. These children may not necessarily be right brain learners, but the engaging aspects of right brain strategies keeps them interested, and uses less focusing energy. For example, when explaining a new concept or showing how to memorize material, make it fun by having your child help you draw sketches with colored markers.
Adjust your expectations. Your other children may complete tasks without constant reminders, or may actually be able to perform chores without your intervention. If your special needs child could do that, he/she gladly would. He/she wants to please also, but does not have the physical ability to bring this about. He/she is as disappointed in himself/herself as you are. If you have asked him to do three things, and he completed just one, and comes to you, think about saying, “Let’s do the other two tasks together.” This takes such pressure off the child, and models how to get several tasks done in a row, without the feeling of failure.
If your child had a disabled arm or leg, it would be so much easier to adjust your expectations without feeling that you weren’t teaching him/her how to be responsible. This child has as real a disability, but because it is not visible it can so easily be seen as sloppiness, irresponsibility, or laziness. God will help you find the right way to work with your child.
Medications: Even though most home schooling parents are not interested in the use of medications to help their child focus, the discussion is warranted here, since there may be times when it is necessary, even if it is only for a short period of time.
• Serotonin boosting medications:
o Ritalin (short release time)
o Concerta (sustained release time)
o Antidepressants (Zoloft, Prozac, Effexor, Wellbutrin, etc.)
o Adderall (amphetamines)
• Dopamine boosting medication:
All medications come with the risk of side effects, of course. Parents must weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before deciding whether or not to use medications.
Diet: It has been known for over 20 years, first starting with Dr. Feingold and his famous Feingold Diet, that by reducing sugars, colorings and preservatives, children with attention disorders have a much easier time focusing.
Many parents report that when they change the diet of all children at home, that they see a tremendous difference in learning ability and behavior. Some of the diet recommendations that seem to be the most effective include:
Reduce sugar intake. It’s the hidden sugars that get us in trouble, such as the sweeteners in fruit juice, boxed cereals, granola bars, fruit rollups, soft drinks, chocolate milk, pancakes, waffles, etc. Remember that a Snickers candy bar has about 30 grams of carbohydrates, and 35 grams of sugar. When you add the two together, you get 65 grams. Without realizing it, we often feed our children this same amount of sugar by just giving them juice and a bowl of cereal. For many children, consuming this much sugar contributes to their difficulty focusing and controlling their moods.
Increase raw fruit and vegetable intake. As we know from the research in books such as Children with Starving Brains by Dr. Chandless, many children are low in essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. These children either are not getting the daily nutrients they need for their brain to function well, or they are eating the correct foods, but are not absorbing the nutrients found in the food.
The enzymes contained in raw foods greatly assist the digestive system in absorbing nutrients. This can make a huge difference with some children. To make this difference, parents always had grapes, apples, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, and other fruit around to eat, and made sure the children had three servings a day. These parents also kept a plate of raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and green pepper strips along with plenty of ranch dressing around for lunch.
Use less processed food. As the pioneering Dr. Feingold, and many of the researchers following him found, when food is boxed, it is filled with preservatives. Those preservatives can be very toxic to a child’s nervous system. Processed food also has no life in it. The rule of thumb for brain-healthy eating is to shop as much as you can in the periphery of the grocery store, where the plugs are in the walls. Buying food that is refrigerated in the store ensures you that the life-giving nutrients are still in there. When it is canned or boxed, the live nutrients, such as the fats that are good for the brain have been removed so that they do not go rancid on the shelf. Of course, there are some good brain fats that are not refrigerated…such as cans of tuna or salmon, and mayonnaise.
Increase water intake. Children are often tired because they are dehydrated. They do not drink enough water during the day. A great book that details all the symptoms of being low in water intake is Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by Dr. Batmangahlidj. He recommends that children drink half their weight in ounces of water. Making adequate water intake during the day a family priority is very helpful for many families. Water helps eliminate histamine and other toxins from the body.
CAN I DO IT?
Hundreds of parents who now home school their special needs children can testify that you, too, can do it. They will probably also admit to their own initial fears at the prospect of withdrawing their child from a school setting to educate that child at home.
They will tell you that they wanted their child to persevere, so they learned to model that ethic of “plugging away” and “sticking with it”—even on those days when giving up seemed desirable. (Most home schooling parents, whether the child has special needs or not, will confess that they have felt like “throwing in the towel” at some point during their years of home schooling.)
You, like them, know your child best and can teach your child at home using real-life experiences in a natural setting to make learning meaningful. You establish a “need to know.” That is taking advantage of actual—not artificial—motivation for them to learn. In the process of doing this, you can emphasize your child’s strengths while you are working on his relevant needs. What had previously been drudgery now has the potential to become a joy.
Armed with the truth that fearful feelings are normal, you can now proceed to some other concerns:
• Who is out there to help me?
• What curriculum shall I use?
• How can I spread myself around and manage to teach and care for my other children also?
WHAT HELP IS AVAILABLE?
Parents of struggling learners or children who have special needs are often made to feel that they need to have their children taught by a professional in order for them to reach their potential. This opinion is often presented by very loving people. The parents can’t help but ask themselves, “Am I doing a disservice to my child by teaching him or her at home? Would he/she be making more progress if he/she were in a school setting, with the professionals?”
Home schooling a special needs child is an individual decision, of course, but if you decide to home school such a child, we are here to help you be the best special education teacher you can be. With the literature, teaching aids, and other resources now available, any parent who desires to help their child learn can find that help, and eventually do a much better job with that child than any school could do.
At times there may be a need to enlist the help of some of these professionals in areas such as speech or physical therapy. However, the bulk of the teaching can be done by the parent, and is being done by parents across the nation very successfully!
Special needs coordinators: Where else can you talk to a professional about your child’s special needs in learning, just by picking up the phone? This is a very valuable service for HSLDA members. There are two special needs/struggling learner professionals available at HSLDA to answer your questions, and guide you on your way to make your child’s learning successful.
Legal advice: State-by-state laws, testing issues, progress expectations, and transferring IEP’s from the public school setting are just a few of the areas of legal advice that are available to HSLDA members, along with all the other general membership benefits.
Rental of skills tests to determine grade levels: HSLDA has copies of the Brigance Skills test available for you to rent to find the achievement levels of your child at home. Other informal tests are also available through your special needs/struggling learner coordinators.
While the bulk of the child’s education occurs at home, outside interventions for a period of time can be very beneficial in helping a child overcome some larger obstacles. These therapies are offered by professionals in your community. Their services are paid for by the family of the child. Even though it can be a hardship financially, most places offer payment plans and reductions for certain situations.
There are times when some of these services can be paid for by the family’s medical insurance. This is particularly the case if the service is recommended by the child’s pediatrician. Then a local hospital or clinic would provide the speech or occupational therapy or such, with the insurance company picking up the majority of the cost.
If the parent chooses to have his/her child’s services provided by a regional center, or public school, then there is a chance that there could be some strings attached. For example, the professionals could decide that the child is not being served well in the home school setting, but would be better served in a government-sponsored program. This is not always the case and, if it happens, please contact The Education Alliance office at 501-978-5503.
There are times when a child would benefit from therapy that is difficult to provide at home. An example of such therapies would be:
Hospital settings: Most children’s hospitals provide speech therapy services through the child’s insurance. This is weekly or biweekly one-on-one therapy or small group, and continues for a set number of weeks. This is generally done with a referral from the child’s physician.
Public school settings: If the child has been tested by the public school and determined to need speech therapy services, the child is brought to the school one day a week for about an hour for this service, usually in a small group setting. This method carries the most risk to parents, because of the involvement in a government program.
• There are many speech therapists who work privately with students. They will see a child once or twice a week, and always in a one-on-one setting. They regularly test to see if services are still required. Parents take the child to the setting, and are responsible for payment. Local home school support groups are the best source of information about good speech therapists in your area.
• Scottish Rites Speech and Language Clinic offers free testing and language services to qualified applicants.
• The video tape and manual, Straight Talk by speech pathologist Marisa Lapish is available for home school families. (Available at www.nathhan.com.) It contains daily lessons that the parents can implement at home to help their child with speech issues in both articulation and speech delay.
• The Listening Program, a home program designed to help children hear frequencies they did not hear before, improves both speech and auditory processing disorders. (Available at www.advancedbrain.com.)
• Mouth Madness: Oral Motor Activities for Children by Aby Catherine Orr
• Earobics is a computer-based program to improve auditory memory and sound discrimination and is very inexpensive.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY OR PHYSICAL THERAPY
Hospital settings: If your child’s physician is made aware of your child’s need for occupational therapy for gross or fine motor development or physical therapy, a referral can be made for this therapy to take place at your local hospital, if the services are available there. This is often paid for in part by your insurance company.
Public school setting: If you have had your child tested through the public school, then they will provide the services. These are generally provided only once a week and you will need to bring your child to the school to receive the services. This is inexpensive, but does come with some risk of involvement with a government agency.
Private clinic: If you suspect that your child would benefit from occupational or physical therapy intervention (very common with autism, and very special needs), you can explore the services provided in your community by calling the clinics listed in the phone book, checking with your support group , or asking your child’s physician.
• It is possible that after watching several therapy sessions with your child, you may feel confident continuing these same activities at home, if your child is cooperative. Some parents also pay for the therapist to come into the home. For private therapists who are stay-at-home moms, working just a few extra hours a week, this works very well, and they will train you to work with your own child. You can also inquire at a private clinic, if an occupational assistant could come into your home and work with your child. That is generally less expensive.
• Interactive Metronome has home programs that are similar to the ones used by occupational therapists used in clinical settings.
Private clinics: If you suspect that your child has a visual tracking problem, you can have your child screened by a developmental optometrist. If vision therapy is recommended, you can take them to the optometrist’s office for weekly or biweekly visits, and continue the exercises at home.
• Some vision therapy offices will show the parents how to do the exercises at home, eliminating the need to come to the office for continued therapy. This is far less expensive. Other parents have found that if they do the exercises and retraining in brain integration therapy, there is much less need for vision therapy services.
• HTS (Home Therapy Systems) is a computerized program that helps reduce symptoms of eyestrain. For those who don’t have the time or finances for in-office vision therapy.
• PTS (Perceptual Therapy Systems), is a home-based computer therapy program to improve visual processing
APPLIED BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS THERAPY
Public setting: In public schools and regional centers a specific method of modifying the difficult behaviors of children with autism, PDD, or other disabilities that affect behavior, is employed. ABA, as it is commonly called, is used with the children on a daily basis, in a special education, self-contained setting. This has the advantage of giving the parent some break time from the difficult behaviors, and allowing the child to be exposed to other authorities. The disadvantage is the risk it carries of having a government agency involved in our child’s life.
Private clinics: Local clinics often provide the intensive behavior modification program called the Lovaas method on a daily basis. A parent takes the child to the clinic each day. This is paid for by the parents, or possibly with some help from an insurance carrier.
Home setting: Some parents use the home consultation program that Lovaas offers. Therapists come into the home daily to train the parent to work with their own child. This can be very helpful for parents who need this type of intervention for their struggling children. Again, if the child’s physician sees the need, and makes a referral, the parent may receive some help in paying from an insurance carrier.
• The National Association for Child Development is one organization that employs this brain-based therapy, which can be done at home with the guidance of neurotherapists. It is quite expensive, but parents who do it report good results.
• Brain integration therapy, can be done at home with your child, and the other children at home also. It is very inexpensive, but is an independent program, totally parent-led.
• Brain Builder is a neurobic, computer-based training program designed to build memory and thinking skills
SPECIFIC EDUCATIONAL THERAPY
• Lindamood intensive phonics program is designed by speech/language specialists. This sequential system of teaching phonemes can be very effective for children struggling to learn to read. It is usually provided by local clinics, and is expensive.
• PACE program (Processing And Cognitive Enhancement) is clinic-based, with additional exercises to be done at home. It is geared more towards visual processing deficits, but includes other areas also. It is usually proved by local clinics and is fairly expensive. Home programs are less expensive.
• Learning Rx is a clinic-based program that uses exercises to stimulate better visual and auditory processing. It is an intensive program that is clinic based and expensive.
• Brainworks (formerly SOI) is a clinic-based program aimed at helping a child with balance issues, visual issues, etc., through exercises. It is usually provided by local clinics and is fairly expensive.
• Interactive Metronome is a clinic-based program that helps a child or adult gain better rhythm, timing, etc., to aid in reading and many life activities. It is fairly expensive. Home programs are less expensive.
• Sylvan Learning Centers, a tutoring clinic, is designed to help a child gain reading or math skills using regular curriculum and techniques. The centers help children who just need more exposure to systematic teaching in various subject areas. It does not correct processing skills (visual, auditory, visual/motor). It is expensive. Sylvan now offers online tutoring for home use.
• Brain integration therapy for children is a home program that can be used with all the children in a family, to make processing skills (visual, auditory, visual/motor…writing) easier. It is inexpensive.
HELPFUL PARENT RESOURCES
How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and on to Learning by Carol Barnier
• No More Ritalin by Mary Ann Block, DO
• The Parent’s Guide to Attention Deficit Disorders by McCamey and Bauer
• Help For Your Hyperactive Child, by William Crook, MD
• Smart But Feeling Dumb by Harold Levinson, MD
• Audio tape, Is It Really ADD? by Dianne Craft
• Teaching the Tiger by Dombush and Pruitt
• Website article, Natural Alternatives for ADD/ADHD, Dianne Craft
• Crazy Makers, Carol Simontacchi, Feeding Your Child’s Brain
• Sharper Brain computer program
• Play Attention computer-based interactive program with the same technology as NASA uses for pilot training.
• Excellent website information: National Home Education Network
• Homeschooling the Child with ADD or Other Special Needs, by Lenore Colacion Hayes
• Email support group: Homeschooling Spirited Kids at yahoo.com
• Inside the Brain of the Hyperactive Homeschooler, by Israel Wayne
(see Speech Disorders)
• www.gfcfdiet.com This largely biological disorder responds dramatically to diet and supplement implementation
• Brain integration therapy by Dianne Craft (helps special-needs children use their right brain to see the big picture)
• Sensory Integration and the Young Child, by Jean Ayres
• The Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz (sensory disorder is a big part of the picture)
• Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments, by Brenda Smith Miles & Jach Southwick
• Upsidedown Brilliance, by Linda Silverman, Ph.D.
• Asperger Syndrome: A Guide For Educators and Parents, by Brenda Smith Miles & Richard Simpson
• Excellent website information: National Home Education Network.
AUTISM (ALSO PDD)
• Different Roads to Learning Catalog
• Autism, by Stephanie Marohn, the biological basis of autism
• Children with Autism, by Michael Powers, Psy.D.
• Children with Starving Brains, by Jaquelyn McCandless, MD
• Autism Research Institute, Dr. Bernard Rimland
• Auditory Integration Training (sound therapy)
• The Listening Program (brain training with music)
• Important nutritional and diet strategies for this mainly biological issue, www.danwebcast.com (defeat autism now) www.gfcfdiet.com, www.autismndi.com, thundersnow.com/enzymebook.htm,
• Homeschooling Children with Special Needs, by Sharon Hensley (Available at www.almadenvalleychristianschool.com)
• Newsletter, PREACCH for parents home schooling autistic children
• Newsletter, SHEPHERD BOY
• Newsletter, NATHHAN NEWS
• Label and Learn for the mostly non-verbal child
• The Lovaas Institute, an applied behavior analysis approach to modifying a child’s behavior at home
• Huge amount of information regarding help for children with autism, www.Autism-Treatment.com
• Excellent website information: National Home Education Network
AUDITORY PROCESSING DYSFUNCTION
• Brain Integration Therapy for Children, by Dianne Craft
• Auditory training through music programs, available at www.advancedbrain.com, www.aitresources.com, and www.samonas.com
• Help for Auditory Processing, by Lazzari & Peters, available at www.linguisystems.com
• The Central Auditory Processing Kit, Mokhemar, available at www.linguisystems.com
• Teaching the Right Brain Child video, alternative teaching methods for children with auditory processing glitches by Dianne Craft, available at www.diannecraft.org
• Straight Talk video and manual by Marisa Lapish, speech pathologist, available at www.nathhan.com, covers speech and auditory processing issues
• Earobics computer based program to improve auditory memory and sound discrimination
A STRUGGLING RIGHT BRAIN LEARNER
• Teaching the Right Brain Child video tape by Dianne Craft, available at www.diannecraft.org
• Right Brain Children in a Left Brain World, by Jeffrey Freed
• Understanding and Helping the Struggling Learner video by Dianne Craft, available at www.diannecraft.org
• Teaching Reading To Children With Down Syndrome available at www.woodbinehouse.com
• National Association for Down Syndrome provides info dealing with the special metabolic need of DS children.
• National Association for Child Development offers neurodevelopment program that can be done at home.
• www.downsyn.com Information for new parents
• Woodbine House (800.843.7323) Special Needs Catalog
• Riverbend Down Syndrome Parent Support Group offers dietary info.
• Kirkman sells nutritional supplements.
• Excellent information: National Home education Network
DYSGRAPHIA (WRITING PROBLEMS)
• Brain Integration Therapy Manual by Dianne Craft available at www.diannecraft.org
• Handwriting Without Tears Manual by Jan Olsen, available at www.hwtears.com
• Understanding and Helping the Struggling Learner video by Dianne Craft
• Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
• Homeschooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley
• Learning in Spite of Labels by Joyce Herzog
• The LCP Solution: The Remarkable Nutritional Treatment for ADHD, Dyslexia & Dyspraxia by Jacqueline Stordy, Ph.D
• Right Brain Phonics Practice Book (simplified color-coded phonics method) by Dianne Craft, available at www.diannecraft.org , inexpensive
• Go Phonics Reading Program is a complete program that goes fairly quickly.
• Merrill Readers is a complete program that moves very slowly with much success. It’s available at www.sra4kids.com, and www.wisdomseekersinc.com.
• Right Brain Sight Word Cards (36 sight words made by a successful dyslexic child) by Breanna Gates and Dianne Craft
• At Last! A reading Method for every Child by Mary Pecci, available at www.onlinereadingteacher.com
• Reading Mastery program by SRA, available at www.sra4kids.com
• Primary Phonics Story books, available at www.dyslexiabooks.co.uk
• Lindamood Home Phonemic Awareness program, intensive, and pricey, but very good. Available at www.ganderpublishing.com.
• EPS reading program, available at www.learningabledkids.com
• Online support groups for parents at Yahoo! Groups
• Wilson Reading System
• Fast Track Reading Program for older students who are two years behind.
• REACH System for older dyslexic children.
• Homeschooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley, available at www.almadenvalleychristianschool.com, an excellent resource
• When Slow Is Fast Enough by Joan Goodman
• God’s Special Child by Donna Adee
• Slow and Steady Gets Me Ready by June Oberlander is a parent’s handbook of weekly developmental activities from birth to age 5. Available at www.home-school.com
• NATHHAN is a homeschool organization for special needs children.
• LinguiSystems provides teaching tools for kids with special needs.
• Kirkman sells nutritional supplements for special needs children.
• Excellent information: National Home Education Network
SENSORY PROCESSING DYSFUNCTION
• The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz
• Sensory Integration and the Young Child by Jean Ayres
• Brain Integration Therapy Manual by Dianne Craft
• Is Your Child’s Brain Starving? by Michael Lyon, MD
• Crazy Makers by Carol Simontacchi discusses how to feed your child’s nervous system.
• Homeschooling Children With Special Needs by Sharon Hensley, available at www.almadenvalleychristianschool.com is an excellent resource.
• Straight Talk video and manual by speech pathologist Marisa Lapish (home program), available at www.nathhan.com
• Childhood speech, Language & Listening Problems, by Patricia Hamaguchi
• Speech Language Catalog from Woodbine House
• Label and Learn sign language to start with some communication
• Super Duper Publications sells many speech and language materials.
• Help for Articulation by Lazzari, available at LinguiSystems
• Mouth Madness: Oral Motor Activities for Children by Catherine Orr
• Home schooling Your Vision Impaired Child website
• Six Friends, resources for Christian families living with a visual impairment website
• Resources for Parents and Teachers of Blind Kids website
• Support group for families who are home schooling a blind child at Yahoo! Groups
TESTING AND CONSULTANTS FOR STRUGGLING LEARNERS
PUBLIC DOMAIN TESTING
When parents suspect that their child is struggling with a processing problem, their first inclination often is to get the child tested by professionals. The intention is to find out what the processing problem is, and mainly, how to instruct this child differently at home, to make the learning process easier.
The public school system special education team administers psychoeducational testing to students who live in their geographic area. These tests generally include a cognitive test to measure IQ, an achievement test to measure grade levels, a speech/language test, social worker evaluation and possibly a Conners Behavior Scale test for ADD/ADHD. Even though this testing is free to the parent, it can come with a higher cost: interference from the public school system in your child’s home education.
The criteria used to determine if a child is qualified to receive special education services used to be a “discrepancy scale” only. This meant that the child’s IQ and achievement levels were found to be around 15 points apart. When that level of discrepancy occurred, it was determined that the child had a disability that was interfering with his true learning ability. The criteria that schools are moving towards now is to use various tests to determine if a child is “resistive to learning” (the new term), and needs various interventions such as reading, writing, or math tutoring in order to achieve up to grade level.
The problem with public school testing for home schooling families is twofold:
1. The tests “quantify” the problem, but do not give the parent any recommendations for remediation at home, aside from common suggestion, including:
• Sitting closer to the teacher,
• Using hands-on teaching methods,
• Giving the child something to fidget with,
• Breaking longer assignments into smaller units,
• Giving clear deadlines,
• Allowing more time for tests,
• Providing a quiet room for testing,
• Using a word processor for longer written assignments.
Common services offered by public schools include:
• Speech therapy once a week (in a small group),
• A special education resource room for help with reading, or writing, or math three to five times a week,
• Occupational therapy once a week,
• Meeting with a psychologist or social worker once a week for behavior management.
Other than the use of the school professional services, many of these suggestions generally have already been implemented at home by the frustrated parents.
2. After the testing has been completed, a meeting is held in which the test results are revealed to the parent. During this time, the child’s needs are outlined, and the parents usually are strongly encouraged to sign an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for services provided by the public school. It’s tempting for parents to agree, since the services are free. However, they are not free in the fullest extent. The IEP is a government document authorizing the school system to use their means to meet the child’s educational and emotional needs. The government then becomes responsible for the child’s remedial education. The child needs to be registered with the school system as a student in order to receive these services. Many times the parent is strongly advised to enroll their child in school, so that the full education can be provided…not just the special services.
If the parent declines to sign the IEP—rejecting school services—sometimes that is where the process ends. Other times, and more often than we would like, the school district advises the parent that the only way for this child to make the progress that needs to be made is to avail themselves of the school’s services. If this doesn’t happen, they insinuate, it could constitute neglect.
This, of course, is a very uncomfortable position for the parents to find themselves in. They never expected to encounter so much interference; they just wanted to find out how to better teach their child at home. It is for this reason that it is strongly recommended that parents secure testing outside of the public school setting in order to pursue the needs of their struggling learner. As we will see later, many times formal testing is not even required to find out where the child’s learning problem is, and how to work with a special needs child.
PRIVATE DOMAIN TESTING
The telephone directory for every city lists various centers or individuals who perform psychoeducational testing for IQ and achievement. Your statewide home school group also often has names of local testers who are home school friendly.
Even with private testing, parents face the question of how best to educate their child. Tests alone do not answer this question: They are designed to reveal a child’s learning level, strengths and weaknesses—to “quantify” the problem through a standardized set of scores. And those who administer private tests generally make the same instructional recommendations as public school officials, with one exception.
Private consultants often recommend various outside services including:
• Private Speech Therapy
• Private Occupational Therapy
• Outside tutoring such as one provided by a reading clinic in your area.
Parents generally must pay for these services themselves, unless their child’s pediatrician recommends them. If that is the case, often the parents’ insurance company will pay for all or part of the therapies.
Unfortunately, there are times when parents spend much money on testing, only to find they still lack direction as to how to instruct their child differently, to make the learning process easier.
These valuable consultants do not do psychoeducational testing, but rather tend to rely on the achievement testing to find the child’s present grade levels in subjects, and to find the child’s strengths and weaknesses in learning. If they do use some cognitive measure, they generally use the Woodcock Johnson Cognitive Testing as opposed to the more in-depth WISC IV testing.
The reason is that the Woodcock can be given by anyone with a college education, whereas the WISC IV requires extensive training and education to administer. What is the difference? Technically, the differences are huge. Practically speaking, for home schooling purposes, the differences would be negligible, since the focus of all testing should be on the interventions or change in instructional practices for the child, versus the test scores achieved.
Many private home school consultants bypass the more formal, standardized testing such as the Woodcock/Johnson and instead use more informal tests, such as the Brigance test or their own tests. Their goal is to determine grade levels and weaknesses in the learning process so that the emphasis can be on correcting those weaknesses using both therapies and instructional practices in the home.
It is recommended that all parents of children with special needs use the services of a consultant to help determine levels of functioning and progress made throughout the year. Most importantly, consultants can help provide instructional techniques that the parent can use instead of the typical curriculum that works well for the other members in the family, but not for the struggling learner.
These consultants help the parent explore many different methods to help their child get past the learning blocks that are preventing him from succeeding. They can serve as your encourager, instructional guide, and vouch for the progress your child has made each year, if this should ever be called into question by any officials.
How can you find a good consultant to partner with you in your endeavors? First, seek out the recommendations from your local support group. They have first-hand experience, and know the names of the people currently providing this service. You can also check with HSLDA’s consultant database. You can contact them at www.hslda.org or 540-338-5600.
The checklists provided in this packet were designed to serve as a guide for parents to determine where their child’s learning is “blocked.” Home school parents are the ultimate “do-it-your-selfers.” If parents study the material presented, an understanding of their child’s struggles can be gleaned from the checklists. After all, the parents have observed their struggling learner more carefully than any tester, no matter how long the testing time allotted is.
This packet also contains many suggestions for a significant change in teaching strategies for the struggling learner. Thus, the information provided in these pages serves as an informal tutorial for parents, as they search for the reason why their child is struggling with the learning process. It does not have to be so hard anymore to determine the cause of your child’s struggles, and to find some very good avenues to pursue in overcoming them.
For parents who want to do a more formal testing at home, HSLDA provides the Brigance test for rent. This test will give grade levels that the child is presently on, and give some idea of the processing problem. It does not, however, give any strategies for teaching or instruction that would correct the processing problem.
End-of-the-year tests can be a helpful source of information concerning your child’s strengths and weaknesses in subject areas. If you give the same test each year, you can chart your child’s progress, or lack of it, and adjust your teaching emphasis and style. Some home schoolers do not consider end-of-the-year tests their friend, but they can be. They give parents the feedback they need, to see if they are spending enough time on a subject, or if they need to make curriculum changes, or instructional changes for next year.
End-of-the-year tests serve three purposes for the home schooling family:
• They give the child practice in test-taking (a skill that will be needed all their lives).
• They provide important information for the parent/teacher, so that adjustments can be made in curriculum, content, instructional time, etc., for the next year, if necessary.
• They give encouragement. Many home schoolers doubt that their children are making substantial progress each year, because the daily struggles overshadow the view. They are often pleasantly surprised to see the steady growth in reading, spelling and math, as they test their children at home.
Where can you get these tests?
1. The California Achievement Test (CAT), the most well-known end-of-the-year tests, can be obtained at Christian Liberty Academy (www.homeschools.org). This tests levels 2nd -12th grades.
2. You can also get a good home test from Seton Home Study School (http://www.setonhome.org/testing/default.php). This tests levels K-12th grades. No special qualifications are required to give these tests. They are very inexpensive.
3. You can get the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills from The Sycamore Tree (www.sycamoretree.com). It tests levels K-12 grades. Along with the scores, you will receive a professional critique.
4. You can get a norm-referenced test from Bob Jones University Press (www.bjup.com). You can choose from either the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) or the Stanford Achievement Test 10th Edition (SAT10). They both test levels K-12 grades.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this packet was obtained from the Home School Legal Defense Association website, www.hslda.org. Neither the Education Alliance nor HSLDA warrant this information. The reader must evaluate this information in light of the unique circumstances of any particular situation and must then determine independently the applicability of this information.
Being listed as a resource does not constitute an endorsement by HSLDA or the Education Alliance. The list of resources is not intended to be an exhaustive inventory of all available materials, but rather a sample listing of resources.
Health information provided on these pages is meant for educational purposes only, to assist home schooling parents in their research on how best to instruct their special needs children and struggling learners. The information is not intended for use in diagnosis or treatment of health problems, or to prescribe particular therapies, medication or nutritional supplements. For specific medical advice parents should consult licensed physicians and other certified health professionals.