Since my recent post about Autism awareness, I’ve been asked about some of my curriculum choices for my son, as I homeschool him.
So, I’ll share the journey of how we started with him, and the curriculum that didn’t work and what seems to be working now.
Fortunately, I have a VERY verbal son. I have encountered parents with children on the spectrum, who have told me that their autistic teenager still doesn’t speak or has a vocabulary of very few words. A cashier at Walmart once told me that she had yet to hear her 15 year old call her “Mom”. I still tear up when I think about that. I love hearing my kids call me “Mom”! A lot of kids on the spectrum don’t connect with other people (unless those people are invading their space, then you have a connection that you don’t want, meaning possible meltdown).
When I started homeschooling my daughter (she’s fine and not on the spectrum at all), she was ready to read at age 4. I figured that out after weeks of answering the question “What does that sign say?” while in the car running errands. So I used “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. This program was actually the one used in my class when I was in the 1st grade. It’s completely phonics-based. So in a short time, our daughter was reading her books to herself (which gave us a little break from reading “Go Dog Go” repeatedly. Don’t get me wrong, I loved to read to her, but I was hoping for some variety. To this day, I can recite some of her books almost verbatim). My son, was never interested in sitting down and having books read to him. He was still in “examination” mode. If you gave him a book to look at, he would examine it from every angle and then eventually toss it and move on to something else. If I read a story, he wanted to be doing something. Also, he didn’t start talking until he was nearly 3, so his vocabulary was limited and it only expanded about every 6 months. So when it was time for him to learn to read, he wasn’t really ready until he was about 9. I used the same program that I did with my daughter, and he caught on a lot quicker than he would have if I tried to force it at age 6 or 7.
For Math, I started with Saxon. From level K through Grade 3, we did really well. It was easy to teach and learn. After that, the curriculum switches to a text book and the teachers manual didn’t help me explain certain principals. It just gave the answers. Since then, I’ve checked out other math products and finally, found MATH-U-SEE, and now my daughter no longer dreads Math, and neither do I. With our son, he grasped the concepts of adding and subtracting single digits, but multiple digits throw him off. As far as multiplication and division go, he is totally thrown off. He knows the answers to a few multiplication problems (anything multiplied by 0,1,2, 10, and some of the 5’s).
For History and Science, consumable workbooks and textbooks don’t seem to work for my son. So what I have been doing is checking out books and DVD’s from the library. I’ve read to him (yes, NOW he’ll sit still and listen while I read) about various historical figures (when I told him that I was going to read about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, he asked, “They took the subway?”). “Bill Nye The Science Guy” DVDs cover all sorts of scientific topics. We’ve checked out DVD’s covering presidents, families in other countries, the United States, etc. He grasps that information better in that medium.
Now as far as helping him overcome his learning obstacles, a friend had told me about a learning service in the next town who had helped her son. So, I went there and had my son tested for what is called SOI (Structure of Intellect). This basically told us where his strengths and weaknesses were as far as how his brain functions. From that information, the company put together a workbook specifically for my son, full of worksheets to help his thinking and problem solving skills. Some pages are easier than others for him, and I always need to make sure that he read the directions and didn’t just look at the page and “figure” out what was being asked of him (and he doesn’t like to go back and correct things, but then again, who really does?). The SOI Systems website is here at http://www.soisystems.com/
Another great resource is Dr. Daniel G. Amen MD (yes, that is really his last name) who heads up the Amen Clinics. He has spent years studying the brain and how nutrition and whatever else we put into our bodies affect brain function. Occasionally, his seminars are featured on PBS and are really fascinating. His website is WWW.AMENCLINICS.COM
My son is also taking part in a health study for a supplement called Juice Plus. These are capsules that he takes every day and each capsule consists of whole fruits and vegetables. Feeding the brain basically. Their website is https://www.juiceplus.com
I have also been advised to take my son to see an optometric doctor who specializes in therapies for developmentally delayed children. A few years ago, I did have my son wearing Irlen lenses (www.irlen.com) . However, we’re holding off in putting him back into those until he’s seen the new eye doctor.
There are also daily exercises that he needs to do in order to help some things connect in his brain that will help him grasp what he learns.
Some other websites that have been recommended to me:
http://www.callirobics.com (for writing)
http://www.interactivemetronome.com (helps with motor planning and sequencing related to poor rhythm and timing)
http://www.MINDWAREonline.com (Brainy toys for kids of all ages).
And, at least to me, one of the best programs in character building (and I’m not biased because my friend owns the company. This is an excellent program) http://www.wechoosevirtues.com
Also the book, “Reflexes, Learning, and Behavior” by Sally Goddard has been recommended.
So that’s where we’re at now. This year, progress with the SOI program and schooling has been slow as the last two years have been a bit chaotic for our family (a move last year followed by a political campaign this year.)