Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why I Love/Hate iPads - Apps for the Kindle

Oh Apple! How I LOVE your wonderful product and the AMAZING array of educational apps; HOWEVER the cost is astronomical! By the time you get a new iPad mini 4 plus protection (because, let's be serious, your child WILL break it at some point!) and a STURDY case you are looking at spending at least $450! Wow!  It PAINS me to put something that expensive in the hands of a child; not to mention a child with impulse control issues! Even on the cheap end you are still looking at $250 (used iPad with no protection). We do have iPads at my house but mostly they are limited to ONLY being used while sitting down and completing homeschool work or working on Apple-only educational apps.

Kindle Kids Edition
So what's the solution? My friend, the Kindle! We got the children a Kindle when they were four! Now Kindle has a child's version with a huge rubbery case built in, and you know what else? The Kindle comes with a TWO YEAR replacement warranty through Square Trade for only $100! Nothing else to buy! Just so you know, I have dealt with Square Trade MANY times over the years and I have never had an issue with them. Now, what I don't like about this edition, it seems a bit slower, you have to use Amazon Free Time from what I can tell, and the Kindle functions are limited.  For the younger set, from 3 to 6 years old, I think this would be fine; however, for an older child, I would move to another version of the Kindle.

If you are wanting a tablet for an older child (and this is what I got my children) then you want to buy the Kindle Fire 7. To get the up-sized version, 16 GB with no ads, it's $85.00 (this is the non-sale price). Once you add in other things like a case, mini SD card, and the THREE year protection plan for $15.00 so you are looking at a total of around $150. So a used iPad, with no protection, will cost a minimum of $250, or you can buy a loaded Kindle with three years of protection for $150. With three kids, I want to save my $300 and have three years of protection!
Kindle Fire 7

The problem with a Kindle? It is not as fast to cruise the internet as an iPad. It does not look as sleek. The bigger problem? Not as many cool app developers!  I really wish someone would get on the Kindle platform and make some truly great educationally based apps. Does that mean there are not any? Heck no, they are just harder to find!  So let me give you a list of the apps we have used over the years with the Kindle to help get you started. I hope you find the list helpful! Let me know what games and apps you use that I may have missed!

3rd Grade Math Genius, 4th Grade (Kindle Tablet Edition), 4th Grade Science Reading Comprehension Free, 3rd 4th Grade Quest10x10 Word Search, A Charlie Brown Christmas (50th Anniversary - Interactive Book), AB MathAbby Monkey®: ABCs First Phonics and Letter Sounds, ABC 123 Fun, ABCMouse, Amazing Coin (USD): Educational Money learning & counting games for kids, Advanced Sight Words: High Frequency WordsAnimal Math Kids Math Games (there are several levels for this), Art Class with Dr. Panda, Avokiddo Emotions - Dress, Feed and Play with Animals, BT Handwriting with Dnealian, Bowling King (great hand-eye and turn taking), BrainPOP Jr, Bridge Constructor, But Not the Hippopotamus (interactive story), Caillou Check Up, Caillou House of Puzzles, Caillou Let's Pretend, Chuggington Traintastic Adventures (It says free but you need to purchase the app), Coloring, Cubistry (good hand-eye coord. if you can get them interested), Cut the Rope, CVC Word Recognition, Angry Birds, Daniel Tiger's Day & Night (there are a lot of Daniel Tiger apps), Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Play at HomeDragonBox Algebra 12+, Dora ABCs Vol2: Rhyming Words, Elevation Moon, Endless Alphabet(great game), Endless Reader (great game), Even Monsters Get Sick, EverNote (Note taking app), Farkel Dice - Free (can also use it to work on adding up the dice), First Grade (Kindle Tablet Edition), First Grade Learning Games (Full version), First Grade Math, Flasia HD (cool drawing app), Fourth Grade Learning Games Free, Fruit Ninja (great hand-eye and impulse control), Good Night Wubbzy: Bedtime Counting, Goodnight Caillou - Bedtime Activities, Green Eggs and Ham - Dr. Seuss (Interactive Book), Happy Math Multiplication Rhymes (never too early to start if they like the songs, rhymes are dumb but can work), Hidden Objects (good for visual discrimination; for older children), Hill Climbing Racing (good for  lessons in physics/gravity), How The Grinch Stole Christmas (interactive Book), I Was SO Mad - Little Critter (Interactive Book), It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (Interactive book), Intermediate Sight Words: High Frequency, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Just Go To Bed - Little Critter (Interactive Book), Kaleidoscope Drawing Pad, Kids ABC Letter Phonics,  Kids A-Z, Kids Doodle 2, Kids Measurement Science Lite, Kids Paint, Letters and Numbers Railroads, Little Critter Collection #1 and #2Lightbot : Programming Puzzles, Lola's math Trains FREE, Madagascar Math Ops Free, Math Bingo and Math Drills Pre-K to Fourth Grade, Math Claw Machine: Sweet Games, Math Jungle, Math is Easy, MathOpen Cool Math Game, Medieval Math Game,  Preschool All-In-One Learning A to Z - Letters and Alphabet School Adventure, Preschool to 5th Grade, Math Slice Pro,  Math Vs Zombies,  Monkey MathSchool Sunshine (this was a favorite), Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (THUP makes several of these games), Monkey Word School Adventure, Montessori Family and Feelings, Montessori Movable Alphabet, Montessori Words & Phonics for Kids, Moo, Baa, La La La! - Boynton (interactive Book), Moose Math (fun game),  Multiplication Flashcard Quiz and Match Game (Boring but works), Multiplication Memorizer, PBS Kids Video, Pair Up Free - Language Development..., Paperama (great game to think spatially), Peppa Pig Paintbox, Pet Bingo (another great game by Duck Duck Moose), Phonics and Reading with McGuffey, Pick the Odd One (great game for preschoolers; logic), Planets (Kindle edition), PBS KIDS video, PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit (interactive Book), Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games Free, Quell (puzzle game), Rope'n'Fly - From Dusk Till Dawn (first game I let my kids play that has very mild violence, when the character falls apart, when you fail; great for teaching gravity, physics, and hand-eye coordordination plus reflexes), Science Quest - Fourth Grade, Science Quest - Sixth Grade, Second Grade Learning Games (there are several grades/levels to this app), Sight Words Games & Flash Cards vol 1: Kids Learn to Read, Simple FractionsSixth Grade DetectiveSpelltowerStack the CountriesStack the States (1 and 2), SUPER WHY!, Simple Sight Words (Free), Simple Sight Words Sentence Builders, Simple Rockets, Spongebob Marbles & Slides, Starfall (there are a few of these), ABCs, Super Why: ABC Adventures, Teach Your Monster to Read (Great One!), The Berenstain Bear's Collection (there are several), Thinkrolls Kings & Queens, Thinkrolls 2 - Logic and Physics Puzzles for Kids, Toca Collection (there are several including Toca Kitchen, Toca Elements, Toca Labs, Toca School, Toca Nature, and Toca Pet Doctor), Toddler Sing and Play, Trucks by Duck, Duck, Moose, Wheels on the Bus by Duck, Duck, Moose, Where's My Perry?, Where's My Water?, Wonster Words (WELL WORTH the $15 for a Lifetime Subscription!!!), Word Market,  Word WizardsWriting Wizard Premium - Kids Learn to Write Words and Letters (Great game), Wubbzy The Superhero, and Wubbzy's Space Adventure.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Why I Think You Are Enough To Homeschool Your Special Needs Children

James studying Life of Fred
I LOVE reading other people's blog posts and insights on homeschooling!  It is always interesting to see different people's perspectives. One item that recently got my attention is a post by Pam Barnhill titled "Dear Self: Why you stink at homeschool consistency." I wanted to post my thoughts on this as a mom that homeschools her VERY differently-abled children.

In her article she says:

Homeschooling won’t work unless you do it consistently. As in most days. As in not taking off more unplanned days in a year than your husband would be expected to take from his job.

Go ahead — count up his paid time off — that’s your grace period for the school year (not counting your holidays and planned time off). Anything more than that you can consider “excessive.” Hey, I promised you tough love.

I have to say I don't agree with this.  First off, I am an unschooler; well, kinda. I look at my children and ask them what they want to study.  Knowing them, their interests, and learning issues I select a few different curriculum for them to try and test-drive. They have the final selection. I want to give them control over what they are learning since I OFTEN feel like I am not doing enough!  I mean, there are three of them with learning difficulties and just one of me. In the end, I had to remind myself of a few simple facts.
  1. If the kids were on homebound from a public school the school would only offer 4 hours a week of instruction (one hour a day, Monday through Thursday). If you question the school on this, their justification is, that direct instruction is MORE EFFECTIVE than classroom instruction. 
  2. Even a public school only completes 180 days of instruction per year. Why do I feel compelled to do more?
Now, for the record, I will address item two first; I tend to homeschool some over the weekends and all throughout the year. Do I keep track of the days or hours? No, in my state we are not required. I homeschool this way for the children so they do not forget the information (got two with memory issues). I do keep a record book on what we have covered, but it for my records. 

For item one, dang, it took me awhile to come to grips I was enough to educate my children! I remind myself the public school thinks one hour a day, four days a week is enough, AND I KNOW I provide more direct instruction to my children each week per child!  Does it feel like enough, no; but,  in reality I know it is. How?  When I had to enroll my children into public school last year to qualify for money from my state to homeschool my children were tested. ALL the teachers and administrators were IMPRESSED by the amount of knowledge my children had for their learning difficulties. That, that right there, let me know I was on the right tract. Do you know how often I directly teach my children? About an hour a day, 5 to 6 days a week, and they are learning!  They spend about another hour or so a day, on their own, reading or playing educational games. That is all I homeschool in a day!  Will that always be enough learning for them? I doubt it, but it does work for us to at least fourth grade. 

Then Pam goes on to discuss a few main points:

You lack good morning habits
  • Okay, I think there is a point here. It is good to have a habit or routine. I do have a schedule for my children but in that schedule there is free time, outside play time, and time to hang out with their parents besides meal times.
You don’t treat your homeschooling as a job
  • This I am GLAD about!  I mean my job was STRESSFUL!  I do not want to approach homeschooling with the same feelings of stress I felt for my job. I also want homeschooling to bring me joy.  I don't know about you, but I did not have a lot of joy going on in my job. I want homeschooling to be as fun as possible, for both me and my children, while still engaging them in learning. Do watch that you are homeschooling more days than not but I can't begin to tell you how much learning we can manage in the car or in a doctor's office! I have the kids chant times tables in the long car rides or practice their American Sign Language in the doctor's office. Learning CAN be done on the go!
You are ruled by perfectionism
  • Bawhahaha!  I WAS ruled by perfection, but the quads have beaten it out of me!  LOL  No, really, I was a VERY perfectionistic person and wanted to have everything in a certain way/spot. I still have some issues with that. Heck, I was just telling my husband I wanted my own tool bag so I can have my own tools in it. I want to know where the tools are, and that I can ONLY get mad at myself if I have something missing. Silly? A bit; however, it would make me happy. I feel this way about homeschooling sometimes too.  I NEED something to get a lesson done (usually these are ingredients for a chemistry experiment) and if I can't get what I need then I WON'T get the lesson completed. After awhile I figured out, if I do not have what I need, I can look for the experiment on YouTube. Did you know there are a TON of videos on there showing a vast array of chemical reactions???  There is no need for me NOT to do the lesson. We can watch the video.  Is it as fun, no; however, we still get the lesson covered and this tired mom can hit the store over the weekend and pick up what I'm missing.  I guess what I am saying is: Where there is a will, there is a way!
You don’t have a plan
  • I should mention here, I rarely have a firm plan. I mean I schedule out our time, but it is something like this:
    • 8am - Get up and Get Ready
    • 8:30am - Eat breakfast
    • 9:00am - Life of Fred
    • 10:00am - Occupational Therapy
    • 11:00am - CodaKid
    • 12:00pm - Fix and Eat Lunch (follow by free time)
    • 2:00pm - Grammaropolis
    • 3:00pm Science
    • 4:00pm Outside Play
    • 5:00pm - Tutor (along with free time)
    • 6:15pm - Dinner
    • 8:00pm - Get Ready for Bed
    • 8:30pm Daddy Time (He reads, play a game, or covers History for me)
    • 9:00pm - Bedtime!
  • The schedule above is James's schedule for today. You see we cover some subjects, have some free time, have some play time, and some time with Daddy. Notice Science is general because I have not completely decided what we are going to cover. I ask James what he wants to cover or investigate in science and we study his topic of interest. In my state there is a homeschool requirement that we teach Reading, English, Science, Social Studies, and Math. There is nothing in the law stating how much time I have to spend on each topic, what topics we are studying each day, nor do I have to meet the educational requirements for my son's grade (he is basically in fourth grade). So I tend to study the things the kids want and in the order they want to cover them. I just make sure we cover each of the five subjects required by the law each week. Simple! I write the things we study (even Life Skills, YouTube videos, and educational apps) in my planner for each child. According to my state law there is no need to keep a record, but I do anyways, so we can look back and see what we have accomplished in a year.  Homeschooling, is often, only as complicated as you make it. Keep it simple on yourself and your children!
You’re trying to do it alone
  • This is the closing point of Pam's article. I completely agree with her!  It is SO hard to homeschool your children without someone to bounce ideas off of when you get stuck! Teachers have each other in the public school system and they get professional development. What do we get?  Maybe a homeschool conference and Pinterest (which is sometimes hard to live up to!) for our professional development! Not in the same league at all!  The best things I can tell you to do is to network with other homeschooling parents. Hopefully this means you can find yourself a local buddy. Having another harried mom you can visit ,and have some caffeine with, is super nice!  I'm still working on finding a local buddy. I do network with large homeschool groups. This includes a few local groups I created along with a few larger groups on Facebook. The best one I like is Special Needs Homeschool. It is a large group and many of the parents in there are happy to help point you in the direction. If you need to help with curriculum choices or just to help you figure out your homeschooling style (I'm eclectic or modified unschooling) Special Needs Homeschool will help you out. There are a few Facebook pages I really like including: Eclectic Homeschooling, Homeschooling/Unschooling, Practical Homeschooling, Homeschool Snark, and SEA Homeschoolers. These are a suggestion just to get you started!  Keep looking for more resources that fit your needs!

    I would love to hear you opinion and I hope you found this post helpful. 

For the Audio Learner

Joseph is my audio learner. He can learn ALL sorts of information from a song or singing a small rhyming ditty. He just AMAZES me what he can learn from song since he LOVES to hum and tap a beat! He was counting money today. This is a super hard task for him. He has been watching this YouTube video on money so while he was sorting money he hummed the music from the money video. This is how my little guy thinks! I swear, I think he hears EVERYTHING I say to him in more of a melody (tone and modulation of my voice) than the actual words. So here are some resources to help you audio learner get started:


For a $15 annual fee you can stream many books from My Audio Homeschool. They have Classic books, old-time radio theater, historical radio and television broadcasts, and more make My Audio School a treasure trove for educators, parents and students alike. Each book on My Audio School is broken down, chapter by chapter, allowing children to listen to their daily assignments in manageable chunks. Links are provided for those who prefer to read the book online, or for parents who want to burn a book to CD, subscribe in iTunes or download it to an MP3 player.

Bookshare is an awesome program but you have to have someone verify your disability (school psychologist, psychologist, or doctor) and Bookshare is only for a limited range of disabilities such as dyslexia, low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents you from holding a book.

Audible is an audio book services that is available to anyone. Amazon has a subscription service that costs $14.95 per month. That gives you 2 credits for the first month and then one credit per month plus 30% off any additional purchases.


These Addition and Subtraction rhyming cards help to teach your child their facts with little rhymes and hand clapping.

Times Tales uses multiplication stories to help your child remember their upper times tables.

Sing and Learn offers an array of audio resources across multiple grades.
The BBC has a ton of audio resources for learning including podcasts, a program called Numbertime (teaches Pre-K math)

Mr.R's World of Math and Science has math and science songs, poems, and stories.

Flocabulary offers a variety of subjects put to song and video over a range of grade levels along with books and CD.

A+ Interactive Math has an auditory component to its lessons. The visual lessons and graphics are all accompanied by the audible explanation. Every question is read every lesson is spoken, it is simple and easy to follow and incredible comprehensive! Before you begin you can take the Adaptive Placement Test to see where your child is at and what learning gaps they have.


The Mystery of History is a religious based instruction but it has a nice audio component (MP3 download) so your audio learner can listen along with reading the text. The audio version comes in $10 instructional segments making it very affordable.

This list is FAR from complete. There are a TON of resources out there!  I would love to hear what you have found. I will also keep coming back to this post and updating it over time. As always, the links to the various resources are embedded into the post and I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Burden of the Sibling of Special Needs Children

From L to R: Margaret, James, & Joseph
In my case all the children are special needs but James is, by far, the highest functioning child of my three surviving quadruplets. Though it feels vastly unfair I have all ready told him he may have to be the caretaker of his brother and sister one day.  Nothing like that settling into a nine year old's psyche. Sigh! I wish I could live forever and not saddle him with this possible burden but I doubt I will live to be Methuselah's age!

All this was brought up last night during dinner.  James was discussing that he wanted to visit Tokyo. He was talking rather animatedly about the subject and then stopped and looked at me and asked, "What would I do with Joseph?" I asked him what he meant and he said he would worry about taking Joseph with him and how would he keep Joseph safe if he was not there. At that moment, my heart broke a little. It makes me sad that James thinks Joseph is so disabled he would not consider taking Joseph with him. Joseph is actually quite a smart little guy. And James was concerned on who would watch Joseph while he was gone!

James asked me if I could watch Joseph. I told him, if I was around, of course I would watch him!  Then he asked what he should do if I was not around and I said he would have to find a reliable caretaker for him. Margaret said she wanted to go to Tokyo too. James said he would take her ONLY if she would listen to him and stay close. That is brave of him since Margaret is the wanderer and I can see her getting distracted and lost in Tokyo.

This conversation poignantly reminded me that having disabled sibling(s) may be a life-long burden for one of the other children. I am going to do the best I can to plan for Margaret and Joseph. I pray James will find, and marry, a very understanding wife! In the meantime, we live our life with purpose and plan for the future.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Educational Versus Medical: Why You Need to Understand the Difference!

Photo Credit: www.samuelmerritt.edu

Medical Versus Educational Diagnosis

The word diagnosis is thrown around a lot when it comes to educational issues. This is VERY important: the school CANNOT make a MEDICAL diagnosis for your child! When the school says your child has autism and they will provide special education services to your child they are NOT medically diagnosing them with autism! What the school is saying is that your child fits the educational definition of autism as defined by your state.  

Under federal law (IDEA) there are only 13 categories that are recognized. These are autism, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment (including deafness), intellectual impairment, other health impairments, orthopedic impairment, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment (including blindness).  A school will only provide special education services IF your child falls into one of these categories.  Also, each state may have further refined how each category is defined making things more complicated.

A medical diagnosis is made when someone fits a medical definition for a condition.  This definition is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V).  We are currently on the fifth edition.  The medical diagnostic criteria for autism is:

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):
  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understand relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
There is more to the definition but you get the idea.

You will often see a doctor use a ICD 10 billing code. Autism is F84.0. For medical billing you WANT SPECIFICALLY F84.0 versus F84.5 which is Asperger's syndrome. Why? Because your insurance company will probably reimburse you for F84.0 but not for F84.5! It is very important to pay attention to medical billing codes! Medical billing codes dictates what an insurance company will cover in the way of therapy and equipment. If you ever want to look at 

Related Services

These are the services you get from a school district like occupational, speech, and physical therapy.  These are the most common related services but there are many more that you can get in the educational setting.  I want to explain the difference between medical therapy and educational therapy.  This is VERY important for parents to understand since it is the source of many disagreements parents have with their local school district.

Medical versus Educational Model of Therapy

Educational Model
The Educational Model focuses on the skills impacting educational performance in all subject areas. Deficits are addressed through an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan that is agreed upon by the school-age child’s educational team. This model will focus solely on the outcome that enables a child to benefit from his/her educational program. Therefore, the school therapist(s) [Physical Therapist (PT), Occupational Therapist (OT), Speech Therapist (ST), or a combination thereof] will direct therapy so the child will gain skills to maximize his/her opportunities within the school environment. Therapy services are provided in school and most often within a group or classroom setting.

Eligibility: Eligibility for related services must be based on assessment, an educational need for service, and there must be approval of the IEP team.

Medical Model
The Medical Model generally focuses on the impairment regardless, of severity level to ensure that the child can successfully perform the basic activities of daily living (i.e., putting on their clothes, feeding themselves, speaking clearly their wants and needs, walking). Services are performed on a one-on-one basis in an outpatient clinic.

Eligibility: The physician or other certified practitioner along with a child’s parents/ guardian and licensed therapist determine the severity and impact on developmental areas or self-care skills and develop a Plan of Care (POC) for the therapist to follow.

Why is this Important?

Personally, I prefer medical therapy. Why?  The child gets direct one-on-one service with a therapist, there is no need to call a meeting to determine service, and the parent gets to help determine the goals of the therapy while educational therapy has the goals determined by others. I have rarely had my children in public school to take advantage of educational therapy.  We tends to stick with medical therapy. When they were small (4 years old) we got both educational therapy through the school and medical therapy from our insurance.  Yes, you can do both!  I HIGHLY urge you to do both if you have the opportunity! Why? Because it is practically impossible to get too much therapy!  Therapy is VITAL to resolve educational and sensory issues that impair learning! Even now, while we homeschool, therapy is the main goal for my children; not academics! They can learn better when their issues are addressed so it's worth spending the time on therapy.

I know this is a brief explanation but I hope this helps you understand the subtle but important differences in the medical versus educational model of therapy.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  You can also join my Facebook group at IEP Assistance and Special Needs Parenting Advice. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fluid Reasoning: What Does it Mean?

Photo Credit: education-evaluations.com
Fluid reasoning.  I often see this listed on neuropsychological and psycho-educational testing but what does it mean and how does it impact education? Fluid reasoning is the ability to solve new/unusual problems without relying completely on past experiences and information. Fluid reasoning is related to math achievement, written expression, and to a lesser degree, reading skills.

James, my most academically skilled child has a relative weakness in fluid reasoning.  He falls into the borderline range (below low average) with a standard score of 74.  James is a great problem solver as long as the problem is straightforward. If you confuse him in ANY way in the problem he has NO idea how to find the solution.  This is an example of a problem with fluid reasoning skills.  Margaret has a fluid reasoning standard score of 85 which puts her in the low average range.  I know her fluid reasoning ability is greatly impacted by her inattention (executive functioning) issues. Joseph scored a 79, which is right at the borderline/low average score range, meaning his fluid reasoning impacts his learning.

Working memory impacts fluid reasoning. Many tests that determine fluid reasoning use one of two methods to determine fluid reasoning.  One is using a rapid-timed test.  This method relies more heavily on someone's capacity for working memory. The second method uses an untimed test. The untimed method does not rely as much on working memory and gives more time to use other cognitive functions to complete the task. I know for Joseph, due to his slow processing speed, he can show his intelligence and fluid reasoning skills better with an untimed test. If you have a child with impaired processing speed it is important you ask for some of the testing to be untimed to allow your child to show their ability!

What is the Impact of Fluid Reasoning?
Fluid intelligence or fluid reasoning tends to be lower in children who met the criteria for the following psychiatric disorders: bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional disorder, conduct disorder, substance use disorders, and specific phobia. James, my child with the lowest fluid reasoning score, has ADHD and Autism along with battling low levels of depression so I see this correlation personally. Academically, here are some things you may see your child exhibit if they are struggling with fluid reasoning:
  • Has difficulty with recognizing, forming, and understanding concepts.
  • Has difficulty with determining a relationship in a pattern.
  • Has difficulty with drawing conclusions from information that is given to them.
  • Has difficulty with understanding the consequences of an issue or action.
  • Has difficulty with solving complex problems.
  • Has difficulty with understanding and using "and logic."
  • Has difficulty with  understanding and using "or logic."
  • Has difficulty with following a logical pattern through to the end.
  • Has difficulty with math and math reasoning.
  • Needs to rely on language to help with comprehension of new concepts and complex problems.
  • Displays difficulty with using past knowledge in new situations.
  • May appear confused with demands when given a task.

What can be done to help my child learn?
Classroom modifications, whether the child is homeschooled or in a public school setting, are important things to consider to help your child succeed in their education.  Here are some examples of classroom modifications:

  • Rely more on verbal instruction than visual instruction or aids.
  • Pair verbal instruction with visual information so you can verbally explain what the child is viewing.
  • Ask clear, concise questions versus open-ended questions.
  • Rely more on verbal responses versus production of graphic material.
  • Test verbally for knowledge whenever possible.
  • Ask students to show all their work when possible and give partial credit if they can show the correct process.
  • Explain to the child how they will be graded on an assignment so they understand the assignment requirements.
  • Use a testing strategy familiar with the child and keep the questions simple and straightforward.

Besides classroom modifications here are some classroom accommodations to help your child/student:

  • Provide all instructions for tasks verbally if the child is verbal.
  • Encourage the child to verbalize thought processes to help clarify their thinking.
  • Rely on the students verbal memory skills to teach problem solving though repetition and recall (kill and drill).
  • Teach strategies for problem solving including giving the proper sequence of a process so it can be memorized.
  • Provide repetition and review of concepts to ensure over-learning of concepts.
  • Teach mechanical arithmetic in an organized, simple, step-by-step fashion with verbal instruction.
  • Use real objects and manipulative when teaching concepts.
  • Teach using strategies that increase understanding and learning, such as verbalizing thought processes on a problem or procedure, along with providing lists of steps to take to complete a concept or task.
  • Teach problem-solving techniques in the context where they will most likely be applied.
  • Teach and emphasize reading comprehension so the student can learn to read and re-read material for learning comprehension.
  • Teach verbalizing strategies to help the student organize written work into sequential steps.
  • Adjust the difficulty of the task where possible and keep instruction simple and straightforward.
  • When teaching concepts avoid complex instruction, figurative language, and complicated or lengthy directions/instructions.
  • Watch for problems with organizational skills and social skills since these are often impaired.
  • Locate a peer helpers to help the child stay on task.
  • Start a task and complete one example with the child so the child has a correct model to use to solve the rest of the work.
  • Provide a practice test with questions similar to the actual test.
  • Weight grades in favor of concrete information and skills acquired instead of creative use or application of concepts and skills.
  • Due to difficulty with deductive reasoning, the student may experience problems using a learned procedure or rule to solve problems, so provide various examples of how the rule or procedure can be used across different situations. 
  • Due to difficulty with inductive reasoning, the student may experience confusion with discovery learning in which the student is expected to arrive at a rule to explain examples, so the student appears to work best when a rule is stated or a well defined set of steps is established to solve a problem.
  • To promote understanding and generalization in use of a rule or procedure, clearly describe the rule or procedure and provide numerous concrete examples.
  • Break complex tasks or procedures into component parts.
  • Help the student sort our relevant from irrelevant information when solving a problem.
  • Move slowly when presenting new information and tie new concepts into previously mastered concepts and information.
  • Teach new information in groups or families and clarify how the items or examples are alike.
  • Provide a routine or practiced sequence for approaching a difficult or complex task.
  • Provide structured opportunities for the student to use a concept or skill in real life contexts.
  • Consider using a teaching assistant, volunteer or peer tutor to work individually with the student to teach and demonstrate a new skill or concept.
  • Explain the purpose of an assignment in order to make the task meaningful to the student, since they may not independently perceive the relationship between completing a task and greater learning outcomes.
  • Make an effort to explain in clear, concrete terms why a procedure is being used in a particular problem.
  • The student demonstrates reasoning difficulties that might impede understanding of instruction. A study guide might be beneficial to help the student organize information, identify the most relevant information and provide a conceptual framework to understand instruction (or passage reading).

Here are some specific suggestions for math:
  • Model problem solving through talking aloud.
  • Teach math mnemonic strategies that specifically identify the steps for solving problems.
  • Teach patterns and relationships such as skip-counting or patterns on 100s chart to help learn multiplication facts. 
  • Attach number-line to desk to help with number sense and pattern recognition. 
  • Specifically teach the way a number or problem can be represented.
  • Provide manipulatives in order to help make information concrete and less abstract.
  • Have students explain their strategies when problem solving to expand solving options.
  • Require the student to show their work.

Here are some specific suggestions for reading and reading comprehension:
  • Use graphic organizers to help summarize information.
  • Model self-monitoring skills while reading, demonstrating how to stop and ask oneself if material/words have been understood.
  • Teach cues for identifying main ideas such as looking for transition words.

Some suggestions for writing strategies:
  • Use graphic organizers to help sequence information for effective communication.
  • Model brainstorming for generation of ideas.
  • Explicitly teach about genres and writing to an audience.
  • Present models of good writing with guidance in determining why the writing was effective for its purpose.
Current Studies on Fluid Reasoning
Fluid reasoning, beyond any other cognitive or numerical ability, predicts future math performance. This study by Green et al. (2016) is small, only 69 kids, but the results of the study showed children with higher levels of fluid reasoning have a higher likelihood of showing higher levels of math achievement beyond what can be explained by age, vocabulary, or spatial reasoning skills.

In a study by Pagani et al. (2017), all most 5,000 students at the 7th grade level had their scores in fluid reasoning examined and tracked in Canada.  As students dropped out of school or failed to graduate within two years after expected graduations their fluid reasoning scores were examined. It was found that for every standard deviation a child fell below the norm increased their risk of dropping out of school before graduation by 21%!  This shows you how big an impact fluid reasoning can have on a child and a low score in fluid reasoning IS a learning disability!

Dehn (2017) acknowledges the strong relationship between working memory and fluid reasoning.  What was interesting is he went further and conducted neuroimaging (brain scans) and found the prefrontal cortex is active during fluid reasoning/working memory tasks.  This area of the brain (dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex) is the SAME area that controls attention and inhibition.  So if your child has ADHD then they likely have lower working memory and fluid reasoning abilities since that is the same area of the brain. 

A watershed model was proposed by Kievit et al. (2016) to show the interdependent relationship of fluid intelligence (fluid reasoning)  with processing speed and working memory.  This paper says that white matter organization affects processing speed and processing speed affects fluid intelligence. Again, I see this in my children.  I suspect Joseph has diffuse white matter brain injury across his entire brain.  He does have the lowest processing speed and; therefore, low fluid reasoning. Margaret, who I KNOW has diffuse white matter brain injury to part of her brain has a low score for processing speed (but higher than Joseph) and, again, I see an impact to her fluid reasoning.
Wrap Up
I hope this post has been helpful!  As always, the links to resource material are embedded into the post for your reading pleasure! Researching the impacts of fluid reasoning has been valuable to me since I am the teacher of my children.  It explains many of the issues I see in my children and their learning process. I hope you will be able to find ways to help improve your child's learning! 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Feeling Recharged For Homeschooling!

Photo credit: Homeschool-Life.com
My blog has been slow since I have been working on many things including my children being in a public school online.  Once we got done spending our time in public school online to qualify the Empowerment Scholarship I think we all needed a break!  So we took a break and just relaxed for a bit.  Now that July is upon me, my thoughts are back to homeschooling, and what we are going to do this school year.  This year I was able to attend my local homeschool convention.  I must say, if you have never gone to one, GO!  I feel recharged and full of some good ideas to help my children!  What a great way to feel to start the next academic phase of my children's education!

I was able to attend several workshops at the Arizona Families for Home Education (AHFE) convention. There were some that I thought were a real stand out and I wanted to share with you some of the ideas I learned. One of the workshops I liked was Monica Irvine's discussion on scheduling.  Having multiples we live, and died, by the schedule from the time we brought the children home until they were five and I went back to work for awhile.  I have tried to make a schedule once or twice before but we did not stick to it.  This year, since I have the addition of ESA money, it is vitally important to make a schedule and stick with it.  A schedule will be the only way we can time manage our day with therapy and the schooling that needs to be completed.  The second, and truly most important thing I learned, is to make sure I schedule some fun time in with the children.  I often forget that the kids need some time to just have fun with me versus being the person always making them do the not so fun things in life (grooming, cleaning, and school).  I will be putting game/fun time with mom into our schedule this year so that will be my commitment to them!

The workshop by Heather Haupt discussed why movement helps the brain to form neural connections.  I have experience this first hand!  The way I got Margaret to learn spelling words was to make a cheer out of them.  Joseph likes to march to the letters or drum.  He LOVES drumming ALL OVER EVERYTHING!  LOL  So he taps out a beat on the table as the learns his words.  Now I know why this is an effective teaching technique for them and I need to work on incorporating more movement into their lessons.

Beth Mora gave a great presentation on how to develop an educational plan for children with ADHD, Dyslexia, and Dysgraphia.  Honestly though, her S.O.A.P. method is great for any child with a disability or not.  She explains we need to study our children.  We need to understand their quirks, when they learn best, how they learn best, their love language, and to put all the information into a notebook.  By doing this we can remind ourselves WHY we are homeschooling in those tough moments and HOW we can help our children best by using their love language.  She covered a lot more but her lecture notes can be delivered to your email box by simply clicking on her name.  I hyperlinked all the speakers to their website.

Overall, I really enjoyed the convention.  There was a lot of great moments, I got to meet a lot of great parents, and I am looking forward to the next convention in October for special needs and gifted students.  I am hoping I can get a speaking engagement there so I can discuss the Empowerment Scholarship, the law, how to advocate for your children with their doctors/therapists, how to interpret testing in IEPs or testing completed by neuropsychologists or psychologists for the homeschool environment, how to teach multiple disabled children at one time, and how to fit therapy and everything else into your day.  I know I would be happy to share what I have learned homeschooling my children since they have been old enough to sit up in a high chair.  I have learned a lot over the last ten years and would love to share!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Fun (NOT!) Of Online Public School for Special Needs Children

Image from EducationNews.org
It has been awhile since I was last able to post.  So many things have happened with the online public school my children were attending.   I will explain the challenges I have seen in having children with special needs trying to complete an online public education.

One of the first problems that comes to mind is: Do the online public schools realize they MUST follow IDEA? Right before Christmas break I was able to get the IEPs for the children completed with the school.  As a parent who has not had their children in online public school before I did not really understand the 2 tiers of service offered by the school. There was no real continuum of service at the school.  You either get A or B; there is no other choice!

James was placed in Tier A.  There he was expected to attend two online classes a day and still carry the load of online lessons.  This was not what I was initially told. I was told he would no the classes and the lesson would be completed in the class.  Nope.  Margaret was placed in Tier A for English and Tier B for Math. The common core math concepts taught (base 10, confusing work problems, and multiple ways shown to solve a problem were confusing) were WAY over Margaret's head.  She was not learning anything.  Her dyscalculia is quite severe.  :(  Joseph was placed in Tier B.  The pace there was WAY behind and WAY too slow!  Joseph would never learn much information of quality and he would never have caught up (or had a chance to catch up) with the pace he was being taught.

The biggest issue I had with the school was the expectation I was to drive all the children to their various therapies AND get them back in time to make it to their online classes.  One therapy for Joseph was 45 minutes away, one way, for a 45 minute therapy.  I complained to the school and was told they would only reimburse me for part of my travel expenses.  Nope, that is wrong!  Via IDEA, there is regulations on how much I would be reimbursed (think IRS mileage expense). Anyways, it was either fight the system to get therapists to come to my home OR pull the children from the school.  So I pulled the children.

In Arizona we have the Empowerment Scholarship.  This gives me the money the state would pay a school to educate the children and I get to decided (within limits) how to spend the money.  This will allow me to pick how the children will be taught, get them tutors, aides, and other help.  I am quite excited about the prospect and so are the children!