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Posts Tagged ‘special needs’

A couple of months ago, I learned of a program that Memoria Press has for special needs children. To my knowledge this is the first of its kind. When Little Man was first diagnosed to have autism with very significant developmental delays, I began a 3 year search for a school or homeschool curriculum that was designed for special needs children. Again and again, the answers were always the same when I spoke to the publishing companies. Either they suggested preschool materials or they knew of nothing that was available. The problem was (and continues to be) that Little Man is not capable of doing a preschool curriculum as it is written for typical children. Preschool curriculum usually is designed to include a lot of tracing, cutting with scissors, pasting, coloring, counting, and other early academic skills. Many special needs children are unable to do those things, which leads back to the original question. What do we use to teach a child with significant developmental or physical delays?

As I looked through various homeschool catalogs that arrived in our mail, I noticed that Memoria Press has a program called, Simply Classical. The program levels are as follows:

Level A – for age 2-3 years

Level B – for age 3-4 years

Level C – for age 4-5 years

Level 1 – for age 5 years

The ages given are not looked upon as only the child’s physical age. The program is designed to match the child’s levels in cognitive, language, and motor skill development. In our case, Little Man is testing at the developmental age of 25 months by his occupational therapist. So, the program’s Level A is perfect for him. It will given him just enough challenge in the fine motor skills area to help him progress, yet not be overwhelming.

One of the things that has drawn me to using this curriculum with Little Man is that they have a list for each level of program levels A, B, and C, of the developmental skills that are addressed and taught in that particular level. I was able to print out a copy of the list and give it to Little Man’s OT and now, she is able to include many of these things into the therapy sessions. As she looked through the list, she found them to be on target for what she was planning to work towards. A few of the skills, he is just beginning to learn, but most are ones we will be teaching him as we go along through the curriculum.

The curriculum is based upon a 4-day week schedule. This perfectly matches up with Little Miss’ curriculum from My Father’s World. Being that we have one day each week devoted to traveling 79 miles from home to take Little Man to his therapies, the 4-day week works out perfectly. On the 5th day, we go on an outing or do extra activities that blend in with the lessons of the week.

On the website, I was able to print out a Supply List for the Level A program. Much of what I saw on the list are basic art supplies. I already have nearly everything on the list. They went to the effort to offer options for many of the items. For drawing paper, in example, they list two different brands that are highly recommended. Play dough is another item that they include, but they also provide a recipe to make your own. At the end of the list, there is a special section listing items recommended for fine motor skill development, gross motor, sensory play, and problem solving.

When the order arrived, I was thrilled to see a box filled with colorful board books. Little Man loves these. While he is able to handle paper books without tearing them, the board books are going to be even better in the long run. Often, they have more vibrant colors, which he enjoys. I have often noticed that the more colorful a book is, the more time he spends looking through it. This is one reason why he spends long periods of time looking through photo albums.

The lesson plans are very simple to follow. Everything is very detailed on one page. It is in grid format without extra pages to flip through. For record keeping purposes, I am making a photocopy of the lesson plan pages, which I will have in a binder. When opened, the lesson plan grid will be on the page to the left of the binding and a lined page for notes will be on the right. This will allow me to make notes about his progress as we go along. If there are any activities which he has difficulty in doing, I can make a notation. At the end of the year, I will have a detailed portfolio of his daily work. Another reason for the lined page is to give me space to list Montessori activities, Letter of the Week pages, or any other projects that we work on each day. One advantage of having the copy for my records is that I can reuse the same lesson manual as often as necessary until the skills being focused upon are achieved.

I am still at a big of a quandary in the academic part of things. Little Man is firmly at a developmental age of 25 months where his fine motor skills and some cognitive skills are concerned. However, he is also able to learn things that a 25 month old would not be able to do. So, I am still using Montessori activities and the Letter of the Week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Both will also help his fine motor development. They will also be providing more academic learning than Simply Classical Level A program will give.

I have learned over the summer, that taking break from the homeschool routine does not work with him. He lost momentum over the summer as well as now having to relearn some of the things he had done last school term. This is not unusual. Even typical kids can lose a bit of ground. They get out of the routine and habits that they were using in the previous school term. So, in the beginning of a new school year, the habits have to be reestablished. With some special needs children, this issue can be more problematic. Some kids simply cannot take that long break without it having negative affects. Little Man is one of those kids. He has to stay on the routine of homeschooling year round to make the best amount of progress.

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It is homeschool convention season here in the US.  As the current school term winds down, families are planning their purchases for next term.  This also means that curriculum catalogs are starting to arrive in the mail.  I always have enjoyed looking through them to see what new products are available.

Yesterday, the post brought a catalog from Memoria Press.  This is a curriculum based on the classical education taught to earlier generations.  What makes this one a little unique is the emphasis on teaching children Latin from a young age.

As I read through the catalog, I came across something that excited me.  They included in the catalog their Special Needs Curriculum.  According to the website, these lessons are designed for ages 2-21, which pretty much covers the entire school career of a person with significant learning disabilities due to their special needs.  A writer of the curriculum, Cheryl Swope, and her husband home-schooled their 19-year-old adopted special-needs boy/girl twins (autism, learning disabilities, and mental illness) from the twins’ infancy with classical Christian education. She holds a lifetime K-12 state teaching certificate in the areas of Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders. She has worked with special-needs children, youth, and adults for over thirty years, … but nothing compares to the humbling education she receives walking alongside her own children daily through their struggles and achievements. (Taken from the article: Words of Wisdom: Cheryl Swope on Teaching Special Needs Children Classically)

The curriculum starts out with a program that is designed for 2-3 year olds.  For parents of special needs children, this age refers to their cognitive/developmental age rather than their chronological age.  For families without a special needs child, you can use the age information as the chronological age.  The following is a chart of the age ranges & programs available.

Simply Classical Curriculum, Level A, ages 2-3 years

Simply Classical Curriculum, Level B, ages 3-4 years

Simply Classical Curriculum, Level C, ages 4-5 years

Simply Classical Curriculum, Level 1, ages 5-6 years

Simply Classical Curriculum is a full program and it also has plenty of supplemental materials if needed.  The lesson plans for the Levels A-C include a space to record therapy homework/activities which makes it easier for those having to follow an IEP program.

The program can be completely tailored to the child’s specific needs.  You can take it as slowly as necessary to ensure that your child is retaining the information and skills being taught.

I am seriously looking at this as a foundational curriculum for Pookie.  The Letter of the Week curriculum that I previously talked about can be used as supplemental work.  After years of searching for a homeschool program designed for children with significant developmental delays, this curriculum may be a great find.  It is definitely worth looking at.

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I wanted to touch on an idea that I am using with my family. Those of us with a special needs child knows that there are often items that our children need that are out of the ordinary. Maybe it is a therapy related item or a toy that can help with building a skill that your child is needing to be improved upon. Let me share with you an idea that I have been using with our kids.

Amazon has a great wish list feature that you can customize. You can create as many wish lists as you want, each having it’s own privacy setting. You can make the lists private for your viewing only, public, or view-able only by those whom you give the direct link to.

This year, I set up a wish list for each of our children. Pookie’s wish list contains toys that are not only ones that interest him, but also are skill building. These are often based upon the activities that he does with his therapists are the therapy center. Often, a family member may not know what to get your special needs child. Toys and such that are the typical age appropriate choice for a child without a disability are not always the right choice for a child with special needs or developmental delays. That is where the wish lists come in handy. Once set up, you can share the link with family members who ask for gift ideas. Then, they can either make note of the items listed, or they can make the purchase through Amazon.

This idea isn’t only beneficial for special needs children. Little Miss has her own wish list as well. Her list contains the things that she is interested in. Like with Pookie, the link to her list can be shared with family who are looking for ideas.

These wish lists are also a help for me. Once the lists are created, I am able to go to the lists and choose items as we have money for them. I don’t have to use the search feature to find the gift ideas. They are already organized and ready for me.

If you homeschool, you can set up a list for homeschool related items that your children need as well. There are no limits to how you can use the wish lists. For family who live a distance away, the lists can be especially helpful.

It is an idea that works for us. Maybe it can help others as well.

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