Homeschooling a Child With Sensory Issues

sensory

Tater is in 2nd grade now, and while some of her sensory issues are improving, she can still have a hard time focusing, which means I need to get creative in our homeschool so she can reach her full potential. Homeschooling is an ideal environment for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder because you can teach exactly how they learn best, and tailor the curriculum to their learning style. There’s no “falling through the cracks” in the homeschool setting because of the one-on-one attention they get.

Since Junior’s sensory issues are worse than Tater’s because of his hearing loss, I know I’ll need to adapt even more once he starts doing school, but here are some tips that have helped me keep my sanity and Tater keep from getting (too) frustrated.

1. Create a Peaceful Space
Kids with sensory issues either get overstimulated and out of control or completely shut down if there is too much stimulation. It could be in the form of visual, auditory, or tactile stimulation. Between the constant sounds of Junior being a loud 3 year old, the dishwasher and washing machine running, and the visual distractions of cars driving by, birds flying by, and neighbors out walking, Tater sometimes struggles to focus. Hearing protection Headphones (we have a pair like these) have been great when she just needs some quiet in the midst of everyday noises. Too much visual stimulation can be a problem too. I make sure all the cabinet doors in the school room are closed and that she’s facing away from the window, so a car or bird flying by doesn’t distract her.

2. Make Movement Part of the Lesson Plan
Movement is important for helping sensory kids become stable and grounded because they need that Vestibular or Proprioceptive input. I try to add in movement into our lesson plans as much as possible. Sometimes we do Math Obstacle Courses…I’ll create an obstacle course in the backyard, and she will have to answer a math problem at each obstacle. I also do scavenger hunts…I write out her math problems and place one inside of a plastic Easter egg, then hide them around the yard. She runs around finding the eggs and does the problems.

When we’re studying music (lately we’ve been studying Tchaikovsky), I allow her to dance to the music. For history, sometimes she will act out a scene from our history book, or she will just take a break every 20-30 minutes to go do some laps or jump on the exercise trampoline.

3. Let Them Focus on Something Else
I used to make Tater give me her full attention whenever I would read aloud. I didn’t think she was paying attention if her eyes were not focused on me. Well, after some challenges with recalling what I read, someone mentioned that if her hands were otherwise occupied, she might be able to focus better. Wow, what a difference that made! She needed the Tactile input so she could focus auditorily. She plays with LEGOs, draws, plays with Kinetic Sand or Play-Doh while I’m reading aloud to  her, and she is able to repeat what I said verbatim. (I always ask some comprehension questions while I’m reading.)

4. It’s Okay to Take a Break
Sensory kids can easily get burned out and shut down. When we’ve hit a wall and she starts to shut down, we just stop what we’re doing and take a quiet time break. Sometimes 15 minutes of going to a quiet place to read or do a puzzle is all it takes to calm her down and allow her to focus enough to get back on task.

5. Create Hands On Learning Opportunities
For all kids, but especially kids with sensory issues, utilizing all their senses is one of the keys to their academic success. Some of the things we regularly do in our lesson plans to encourage sensory input are:

-Creating Lego models of what we’ve learned
-Doing a science experiment instead of just reading about science
-Acting out a chapter from a book, including dressing up as the character(s)
-Aforementioned “Movement” activities
-Field Trips to local museums, hands-on Children’s Museums, state parks and National Parks
-Cooking or baking a recipe from whatever area we’re studying in Geography

Remember, homeschooling doesn’t have to look like regular school. As long as your child is learning the concepts they need to, you can present them in whatever way they will learn best. And sometimes that means doing math problems upside down while working on a LEGO masterpiece :)

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Our Road Trip…20 Hours, 1200 miles, a 2nd Grader and a Sleep Hating Toddler

Sedona, Arizona
Sedona, Arizona

Since our last road trip was affectionately dubbed “Vacationpocalypse”, and the road trip before that we learned (the hard way) that Tater gets car sick, so understandably, I was a bit on the nervous side last week when we packed up for a week in Nevada and Arizona.

My husband had a 2-day business conference in Nevada, and after that was finished, we took a 5 hour drive out to northeast Arizona to see the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert for a day, and then headed west two hours to Sedona for two days before heading home. All in all, it was 20 hours-plus of driving over 6 days, and while the kids did pretty good in the car, Junior didn’t sleep well at the hotels so we are starting off this week very tired!

It was definitely a lot of fun and we made wonderful memories. Because of homeschooling, I was able to write the trip into our curriculum, and the kids did hands-on science and geography lessons, explored the history of the region, did road trip math, and completed several Junior Ranger programs. (Plus, I purchased the entire Schoolhouse Rock series on DVD, so the kids were learning while we drove as well. Hahaha.)

Having Fun Building Cars at the Childrens Discovery Center
Having Fun Building Cars at the Children’s Discovery Center

While my husband was working, the kids and I headed out to the Children’s Discovery Museum in Nevada. This was our third trip there, and it never disappoints. Although, 7 year old Tater has stopped wanting to play at the imagination make-believe stations and has taken more interest in the hands-on science experiment areas. Sniff Sniff.

We drove through several sections of old Route 66 while driving from Nevada to Arizona. The random, side of the road attractions really made me feel like I was stepping back in time. The small town of Seligman, AZ was especially cool to see.

Driving Route 66 was Quirky and Just Plain FUN!
Driving Route 66 was Quirky and Just Plain FUN!
I Sort of Wanted to Stop Here for Lunch...
I Sort of Wanted to Stop Here for Lunch…
This is a Still Working Motel on Route 66
This is a Still Working Motel on Route 66

We finally reached Holbrook, which is the gateway to the Petrified Forest. It was 17 degrees when we woke up the next morning! We spent most of the following day at the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert, which is actually one park. It was beautiful, and because it was off-season, there were maybe 10 other groups in the entire National Park! We had the place pretty much to ourselves to wander around in.

The Snow and Blue Skies Made for the Perfect View
The Snow and Blue Skies Made for Perfect Views
The "Blue Badlands" of Northern Arizona
The “Blue Badlands” of Northern Arizona

Tater learned so much about geology and earth science while exploring the “Blue Badlands”…it’s such a surreal landscape, and we took some fantastic hikes.

If you ask my kids, though, the highlight of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest was becoming Junior Rangers. At every National Park and National Monument in the US, there is a Junior Ranger program, where kids fill out a workbook about the park and earn a badge or pin. The workbooks include scavenger hunt, puzzles, and “draw what you see” type activities to help kids get the most out of their time at the park.

The Junior Ranger Badges and Pins the Kids Earned on Our Trip
The Junior Ranger Badges and Pins the Kids Earned on Our Trip

After spending the day there, we packed up and headed two hours southwest to Sedona. The snow was just beginning to melt, but there was still enough snow on the surrounding mountains to give an amazing contrast between the red rocks and white snow.

Beautiful Sedona
Beautiful Sedona
Hiking in Sedona
Hiking in Sedona

Montezuma’s Castle was another highlight—and another Junior Ranger destination. The “castle” was a collection of Native American cliff dwellings that were mysteriously abandoned by their inhabitants about 800 years ago. Tater had so much fun imagining living in one of the cliffs!

Fascinated by Montezuma Castle's Cliff Dwellings
Fascinated by Montezuma Castle’s Cliff Dwellings

After a day and a half in Sedona, we headed back home. It was a quick trip, but we managed to pack a lot in as per usual. I can’t wait to see where our next adventure will take us!

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Top 10 Posts of 2015

It’s somehow 2016, and I know I say this every January, but how on earth is last year already over?

Our family had a pretty good year altogether–if you don’t count a rocky December, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Our year consisted of several road trips, lots of school, and some pretty exciting milestones from Junior.

Here are my Top 10 Posts of 2015…which post was your favorite?

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.

7.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.
Niagara Falls and Upstate NY with Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3,

30 Minute Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.
10 Reasons Having a Child with Cochlear Implants is Awesome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
1. Sharing Secrets…A Look Back at Diagnosis Day

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Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt

Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt for Kids...Make Learning FunHi, I’m Sara, and I have a book problem. Phew. There, I said it.

Being a homeschooler, I have noticed a teensy-tiny tendency to buy hoards of books, and justify them as “for school”. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we now have a bunch of really neat and fun educational books. But, it didn’t really matter because Tater wasn’t really reading them. I mean, if you’re 7 years old, why are you going to pull out huge copies of A History of the World or 1000 Animals of the Ocean when you could read Berenstain Bears? So, I was pondering how to get Tater to really delve into these encyclopedias we have, without it feeling like a chore.

A scavenger hunt!

It hit me all of a sudden…Tater loooooovvvvesss games and puzzles, so one evening after dinner, I pulled out a copy of our Ocean encyclopedia and gave her a list of things to find. Some were easy, like a fish or a dolphin. Some were subjective like “something adorable” or “a funny looking creature”. It took her about 10 minutes to finish the hunt, but then she spent a while looking through the volume and pointing out interesting facts and trivia. She read the encyclopedia until it was time to get ready for bed (that’s an impressive feat since most of her free time has been going to Minecraft lately!) She even asked me to create another hunt for the following day.

The next day I pulled out an illustrated atlas of the US, and had her find things like “a city that begins with ‘M'”, “a state bird”, and “a lake in a southern state.” Again, she asked for more. I’m going to start doing one of these a week with her, since she truly enjoys it and is learning in the process.

Tips for creating an Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunt

-Have a Variety of Difficulty
     -Kids will lose interest if it’s either too challenging or too easy. You want to vary it up a bit. You could do something really specific, followed by a super easy task.

-Make Some Subjective
-In our Natural History hunt below (which is basically a big book categorizing all living plants and animals), I made sure to have a couple of subjective tasks on there, including “an animal you would want for a pet”. Kids will read more in depth if they feel they should form an opinion about it.

-Don’t Overdo It
-As fun as these are for Tater, I need to create them for her just a little less than she wants to do them. That way, it’s a treat and a novelty instead of a commonplace activity.

-Explore New Genres
     -If you don’t have a  book problem like me, you can borrow some books at the library to do these hunts with. Use different subjects, such as Encyclopedias of History (either broad or specific time frames), Bible, World Cultures, US Geography, Zoology, Marine Biology, and Botany.

Now that I’ve found a use for all these books, I think it’s time to start looking into a bigger bookshelf!

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Update on Junior: Fall 2015

IMG_7725I can’t believe it’s already Fall. Summer really did fly by…between our family vacation to the beach, Tater’s and my journey to Canada and seeing family in New York, Junior’s therapy, house projects, and school (Tater started 2nd grade in August), I feel like I’m finally coming up for breath.

We had planned for Junior to begin preschool at a local church two days a week to help him learn good speech habits from his peers, but at the last minute, we decided with his speech therapist and OT to keep him home until he turns 4 in May. So, he’s starting to do “school” while Tater does. It’s taken two years of therapy, but he’s finally learning to sit still and focus on a single task. It’s so incredibly exciting to have him color or play with blocks for a solid 10 minutes while I work with Tater when this time last year he wouldn’t sit still more than one to two minutes. It’s the little things :)

As far as his speech, he’s starting to understand a lot more (receptive language), and is starting to say more words (expressive language). His receptive language is close to age level (he’s behind by a couple months), and his expressive language is about the level of a 2-2.5 year old. He’s doing pretty well, although his enunciation is lacking. In true little brother form, he can often be heard telling Tater to “go to timeout” when he’s mad at her, and has started saying “Bless you, momma” when I sneeze. So, he’s up to 3 word phrases. We’re hoping to get him saying full sentences soon!

Thanks to LeapFrog Letter Factory he’s started running around the house singing his ABCs, and can count to 20. He also sings Amazing Grace every night before bed, which brings tears to my eyes. Every. Single. Time. His cochlear implants conked out a couple times this summer and had to be replaced, but we were grateful that he was able to wear his backups so he didn’t miss out on any hearing time.

Junior received a big boy bike for his birthday (with training wheels), but just recently started riding because we had the hardest time finding a helmet to accommodate his cochlear implants. We finally had great success with the Giro Raze Kid’s Helmet (affiliate link) and it’s been fabulous. He can keep his ears on and keep his head safe! He also enjoys pretending to play golf and climbing whatever play structure he can find. Junior is so sweet, but all boy. There is never a dull moment with him!

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