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Archive for the ‘autism spectrum’ Category


Hi! I have been away from my blog for far too long, I know. We have been busy, busy, busy (and I am lazy). Dana is currently starting a series of in-depth retesting and re-evaluation at Children’s Hospital in Columbus. We are still homeschooling and still struggling with his severe dysgraphia, which I worry will seriously impact any future academic study success. I am hoping they can help with that.

As we start into his high school years, I find myself balancing our plans between giving him a curriculum that will satisfy a college or technical school (should he decide to go) and providing him with the knowledge and skills that I know will be critical to him for the rest of his life. For some reason, thorough grounding in nutrition (even general health), sex education, and financial literacy seem to receive, at best, only a minor nod in high school requirements. Not to mention other life skills, like shopping, cleaning, etc.. To me, these are possibly the most critically important things for him to learn. Thankfully, since we homeschool, we can cover those. The problem is in finding material to use.

Each year I research online to hopefully identify text books and material that best meets his needs, interests and abilities. When I purchase regular textbooks, I buy them used on eBay or Amazon, usually. In some cases, though, there is just nothing available, or what is available is of low quality or is otherwise unsuitable, or needs to be supplemented. Fortunately, I have found material that is either low cost or free that we are going to try. In some cases, it is in pdf format and must either be used on the computer or Kindle, or be printed out and put in a notebook or bound some way. In some cases, you can actually receive free printed material through the mail and not even pay shipping! In some cases, books are available free as e-books. I will cite some examples which we will be using at some point in the next 4 years.

FREE BOOKS
Financial Literacy: Along with some little books from Bluestocking Press, that seem impressive, we will use some paper back books in a series called “Building Your Future” from The Actuarial Foundation. These 4 award-winning educational books, accompanied by teacher’s guides, are available free on request from the Actuarial Foundation.
(I also purchased “Life Prep for homeschooled teenagers” by Barbara Frank, on Amazon. This book covers a lot of basic skills, including financial)

FREE E-BOOKS
Sex Education:
(Acknowledging the fact that many do not approve of too detailed sex education,(a mistake in my opinion), I will caution you to check the content of these books before sharing them. Since they are free, this is easy to do.)
These books are available in several formats from CK12. I downloaded them to my Kindle, but also have the teacher guides in my computer in pdf format in case I want to print them, or portions of them. Titles include: “Your Changing Body”, “Human Biology- Sexuality”, “Human Biology-Reproduction.” These were written for middle school to high school ages.
Science and More: CK12 also has many more text books, particularly in the sciences, some of which we will likely use. Usually, teacher guides are also available, and sometimes student workbooks can be downloaded. They are all free.

FREE TEXT BOOKS IN PDF FORMAT
Physics – Electricity:
Due to Dana’s strong focus on computers and electricity, we will probably go a bit further than most in his study of those areas. I located a site where you can download free open-source textbooks written by an instructor who was disappointed in the textbooks available for his students, so wrote his own. They are for upper high school or beginning college level. Visit “Lessons in Electric Circuits” to download.
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There is a strong move toward providing college students with downloadable, free textbooks in e-book format. Sometimes these may also be suitable for upper level and/or advanced high school students as well. Check out “Open Access Textbooks“.

I have only scratched the surface here, I am sure. If you have a free resource for high school students, please post a comment to tell us about it!

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“My child hates lessons!” “My child can’t write (hates math, can’t read, all of the above)!” “Homeschool is a constant battle.” “I am frustrated and worried to the point of tears.”

I am seeing many posts like this on the e-mail lists I belong to lately. I read them and think, “Yes, been there, done that.” I am so glad that things are changing for us lately. But can I tell these parents how to change things for their student? Maybe not. Each child is different. Yours may or may not have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum or some other learning difference. Each parent/grandparent is different,too. But I can share what is working for us, and I can try to provide some hope. I hope something I say here will at least let you know that you are not a bad parent or a poor homeschooler.

First, I want to make three confessions: 1. It took us a long time to get this far. 2. It may all change for the worse tomorrow. We can only take it a day at a time. 3. Not everyday is a good day. Some days still s…!

Tip number one is that it takes more than a schedule and the right curriculum to turn things around. For my 11 year-old boy it took the right diagnosis and medication at the right dosage to help him control his behavior and thinking ability. It also helps that he has a case manager/ counselor who visits him for an hour once a week. We also use the Total Transformation approach with him (it works). Sometimes there are therapies or therapeutic programs you can use that will help your child.

Next, my boy needs activities in and outside the home, including play dates at least once a week, when possible. Occasional classes and field trips provide variety, enrich his learning, spark interests, and give him a chance to interact with others outside the home, both authority figures and peers.

 Exercise does a lot to help him with self-discipline and focus, as well as being good for his health. In warm weather he loves swimming and he has year-round karate classes twice weekly, with daily practice. He is very proud that he is so close to attaining his junior black belt. Karate also teaches him many positive attitudes like respect, responsibility, self-control, and confidence.

Consistency in discipline, schedule, and expectations is the hardest for me to provide. But I am getting better at it. Some days I feel lazy, too. Having him help make what few rules we have, helps, too.

Readiness and interest are very crucial to learning and willingness to learn! Probably my boy’s change in attitude and effort on lessons is due in large part to changes he is going through naturally as he approaches adolescence. Focusing on and valuing what he truly wants to learn about is also very important. Another blogger quotes, “Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” ~ Katrina Gutleben

Finally, finding out how he learns best (learning style) and which materials really work for him took a long time, but I think we are there! The curriculum that I outlined in my blog post titled “Our New Year” seems to be a good match for him – at last! We are still following it and haven’t dropped a thing, so far. We are getting ready to add back in lessons on programming in Visual Basic. I am very pleased with the materials we are using because he likes them and is learning willingly (for the most part), but as they say, “Your mileage may vary.”. For details see “Our New Year,” If you are an unschooler, and it is working, ignore this. We definitely do not do “school at home,” though, and he still likes for me to be beside him or working with him.

Schedule:  We spend from 2 to 3 hours daily, mostly 5 days a week on lessons or learning activities. Because we are both natural night owls, we start late, and sometimes wait until afternoon, when he seems to do better. I also remind him to practice karate daily. He is asked to help with a few basic chores or lend a hand now and then. Otherwise, he is free to play Roblox, Algodoo, etc., build with Lego robotics, mess around with electronics, or whatever he is currently interested in. He also watches a few cartoons on TV and plays games on his 3DS. Since many of these activities are also educational and he especially loves them, we have no real limits on them, except to get to bed reasonably on time, where I still read to him nightly.

As you can see, I take what Tracey on the “All Kinds of Learners” list calls a bottom-up approach. In other words, there are fundamental needs that must be addressed first before curriculum matters at all. If they are not, even the best materials will not work, the child will not learn and no one will be happy. I believe in working with the whole child as an individual with individual needs. I don’t care what the schools or even the psychologists/psychiatrists say, the child is the only expert on him/herself.

Disclaimer: I speak as a grandmother raising one particular child with mild Aspergers. I have learned from many other homeschoolers and have researched, read and tried many things. This is where I am now, but my advice might be different a year from now (or even next week!). Who knows? If what I say helps you, that is great. If it doesn’t, feel free to ignore it or leave contradictory comments. One of the best things about being homeschoolers is that we are constantly learning, expanding our understanding, reshaping our philosophy, and changing our behavior. And remember, children are fortunately quite resilient! Challenging and exciting, isn’t it?

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Like many homeschoolers, I am tired of the old “socialization” issue coming up. Recently, it has been coming from Dana’s counselor and child psychiatrist wo are trying to help him deal with anxiety, behavioral issues and Asperger’s Syndrome in general. Because he often does not want to talk or interact much with them, they tend to assume that he is always like that, despite what I tell them.

I won’t go into the many excellent arguments and discussions concerning what “socialization” really means and the pros and cons of learning social skills in brick and mortar school versus in homeschool. There are many blogs and websites that cover this quite well. I am just going to share a recent page I made for his scrapbook/portfolio so that I have something to show them as proof that, yes, he does interact with kids his age, as well as adults, and yes, he gets along just fine with them, thank you, and even has a small circle of special long-time friends.

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Dana demonstrated confidence and ability and earned his Kenpo Karate blue belt. His instructor also chose him as the “Little Dragon of the Month”. Looking good, Dana! One of the parents also complimented me on his politeness and good behavior. I was very proud. He has come a long way.

See my previous posts about why karate is so good for kids, especially those on the spectrum.

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I have been concerned that while my 10 yo can read quite well, he doesn’t seem to read for pleasure and only reads stories when I put it on the schedule. He loves for me to read them to him, however.

Yesterday I went into his room to have a discussion with him about how to help him choose to read on his own. I couldn’t talk with him, though, because he was on his computer reading a detailed tutorial on how to add laser light shows to the fireworks displays on Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 and did not want to be interrupted.

LOL. I forgot that he actually prefers reading for information (reading to learn, not learning to read) and does it when there is something he wants to know. He tests his own comprehension by following the instructions or using what he learns in some unique way. And I had been worrying that he didn’t seem to be pursuing knowledge on his own lately! I just need to remember that what I want him to learn and what he wants to learn are not always the same, but may get him to the same point. For example, he is learning problem solving, logical thinking and physics while he is “playing” at designing and building robots.

Now I just need to figure out how to work enough math into his interest areas!

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 “Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, interviews his mother, Sarah. Joshua’s unique questions and Sarah’s loving, unguarded answers reveal a beautiful relationship that reminds us of the best—and the most challenging—parts of being a parent.”

View this cute and moving short video with excellent animation to a real-life mother-son conversation at : http://vimeo.com/11305685

Don’t forget to return after you view the video.

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Understanding Autism


From the website:

YALE’S AUTISM SEMINAR(click on it)

Understanding Autism in the Yale Seminar on Autism and Related Disorders Online

“The Yale Seminar on Autism and Related Disorders is the United States’ first undergraduate course of its kind. Our goal for this website is to make all of the lecture content and supporting materials available online for free for anyone who desires to learn about Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

I am in the process of watching these great lectures. What a wonderful free educational resource online!

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