View Full Version : I really need some help,

07-25-2010, 01:03 PM
This is long, but I really need help.

My name is Matt, and my wife and I have a son, Stephen. He is 11 now, and when he was in second grade, he started struggling in school. He had a terribly rude teacher (made him feel stupid, grabbed his face one day for something silly, etc.). And so we pulled him out to home school him. He made great strides right away. His reading and comprehension got much better, not quite his grade level, but much better. Other things like math, history, science he enjoyed and did ok at. My wife took an eclectic approach. We made lessons out of everyday life. We would sometimes make history fun by just watching a show on the history channel and quizzing him over it later. We would do science in our garden or at the zoo.

Well this past year, we wanted to start mainstreaming him a little bit more. More of the traditional style of learning mixed in with some life lessons. But we could not get him to do anything for us. He seriously cannot sit and just do an assignment. Also, his spelling and handwriting is severely behind his grade level. And no matter how many accommodations we make, like writing out a thank you letter and just telling him to copy it, he would start crying and just could not do it without it taking tons of time and tears pouring.

One thing my wife and I wondered is if he had asperger's syndrome or something like it. He fit a lot of the characteristics, so we had him tested. Well he has been to a bunch of different types of therapists. We are still in the process of a diagnosis, and when we get a diagnosis, they are going to give us some suggestions...But until then, I am trying to get as much research done on curriculum since we are trying to get him to the point where I or my wife can teach him a concept in math and do some problems, or tell him to write a story on something, and let him do it. Right now, we would have to sit over his shoulder the entire time. And we have a 4 year old and an infant, so there isnt time for that. We do not want to put him back in school because he would be set up to fail.

Some of his problems we know so far is his eye muscles do not work like most people's. He has depth perception difficulties. And he has a condition called convergence insufficiency which causes him to have difficulty reading and has eyestrain. His handwriting is poor because of this. And when he reads, his eyes uncontrollably jump around the page so he skips tiny words, misses letters, etc.

Now the interesting thing is, he is not dumb. When we had him tested, his vocabulary was that of a 16 year old. He simply learns better in an auditory way. So we need a curriculum, (secular one of course which creates another challenge), that is more hands on, something I could teach him, but uses more pictures than tons of reading. We are going to have to slowly implement more reading. But if he is required to just read, he will not be able to. We are probably going to have to give him around 3rd grade level spelling, reading, and writing exercises. So does anyone have any suggestions about what curriculum we should use?

Thanks for your time,

07-25-2010, 02:11 PM
Hi Matt~
I am so sorry that you all have had such a hard time. My oldest had much of the same problems in school, and with the skipping words while reading. After much trail and error, here is what we are doing for him. Try and see if any of these will work for your family! First we found out that he is visual learner so we have had to adapt to what works best for him. We do Time4learning.com (http://www.secularhomeschool.com/Time4learning.com), because it teaches in a cartoon based way, we also for writing have tried alot of different avenues, time4writing.com (http://www.secularhomeschool.com/time4writing.com), which worked fairly well, he did get a B in it. Others we have tried are writing strands, and all about spelling because we also still have issues with those. I do alot of literature based LA, having him read books that he likes and make him do assignments based on them. (I have some lesson activities on my site HomeschoolLiterature.com (http://www.secularhomeschool.com/HomeschoolLiterature.com) if you wanted to look at some examples) We are still looking for a science curriculum, but i have found that doing experience that he is interested in is working for us right now. We also have enjoyed Story of the World because of all the activities that they do with each chapter, but I know some members haven't liked it.

My best advice is to look for things that interest him in reading and give him assignments related to those books, at least for now. It will give him hopefully an enjoyable experience and then you can work on getting him to read the others. Another suggestion is read to him, (books that he wouldn't like to read himself) just to get him exposed to different books.
There are alot of members who are going thru this as well so I know that they will chime in with what worked for them too.

Keep us posted on what is working for you!

07-25-2010, 02:24 PM
Thank you so much for the reply. I like that time4learning.com and I think I will test out some of that. I do read a lot to him, but we really want him to slowly start reading to himself. It is such a struggle because is just exhausts him. Thanks again for the reply

07-25-2010, 02:46 PM
Matt, first of all, know that you are not alone! And that you may see a big change in the next year or so. I saw a huge leap in Jazz's development this past year and evidently it is fairly common for non-linear learners to make such a jump at this age. He is able to do more academic work independently now, though he still gets frustrated from time to time (especially with anything named math--I think he's convinced himself he isn't good at math and this, more than anything else, is what is getting in the way now). Jazz was struggling with spelling, writing, and math last year, and is probably working almost at grade level for all three now.

What you've written makes me wonder if your son might be a whole-to-part learner, rather than the usual part-to-whole. Your physicians and other specialists will be able to tell you whether or not this is true. If he is, then he may learn similarly to Jazz. Some things that helped us--

A writing tutor with experience working with kids with learning differences. Ours used to teach at a school for 2E kids (bright but with LDs), and she is worth her weight in gold!

Knowing that we made a good choice in homeschooling Jazz so that he can go at this own pace and not feel like he has to "keep up" (unless his dad or I somehow imply this--something we've struggled with a bit).

Right Start Math (http://www.alabacus.com/pageView.cfm?pageID=270) -- the only math curricula that has made sense to him so far. It is teacher-intensive, but very thorough and I feel great about what Jazz has accomplished with it. The link has a questionnaire to help parents figure out where to place their kids.

It sounds strange, but the thing that seemed to turn on the light-bulb as far as spelling went for Jazz is Vocabulary from Classical Roots (http://www.rainbowresource.com/prodlist.php?sid=1280083475-583523&subject=8&category=1963). It's as if he finally noticed and cared how words were spelled after learning about how they can be broken down. I started to hear "Mom, is this how you spell ______?" a lot, and nine times out of ten he was right. We started with the first book in the elementary course (level four), and he breezed through the first and second books. Now we're switching to Michael Clay Thompson for LA, which has Caesar's English (more word roots).

Visiting websites like these:





Hope you find some of these suggestions helpful. Wishing you all the best!

07-25-2010, 02:56 PM
I have some ideas that may be helpful:

For Writing:
Have him do a handwriting assignment each day to help improve his writing, but allow all other writing for school to be done on hte computer or by dictation. That way, he can focus on getting across his thoughts without the worry of grammar, spelling, punctuation, handwriting, etc
Writing Strands has been a wonderful program for my daughter, writing is her weakest subject & this program (combined with allowing her to do her writing on the computer) has improved her writing greatly over the last few years

For Spelling/Vocab:
I would get something like Natural Speller or Roots & Fruits Vocabulary, something that gives all the words for all grade levels in one book instead of a different book for each grade. Then, you could use the words that he needs to learn & skip the ones he already knows. You can make up your own activities for him to do to practice the words. There are plenty of sites that will create worksheets, word searches, crosswords, etc for free, all you have to do is enter in the list of words

For Math:
You might want to consider something like Videotext (http://www.videotext.com/homeschool.htm). It's a DVD Math program. I haven't actually used it myself, but it might be worth checking out. I'm not sure if they have programs like that for lower Math, but it's something to look into. Teaching Textbooks is another option. I haven't used anything below the Pre-Algebra book, but I think others here have (maybe they can give you a better idea of what it's like in the lower grades). It has the lecture for each lesson on disc, so they can watch it on the computer. It also has step-by-step answers, for every question, on disc. For Pre-Algebra & up, it comes with a textbook, the discs, an answer key & tests. I think the lower grades have a workbook.

For Science:
I would suggest building a Science program around hands-on Science kits, at least for now. There's a plethora of Science kits available, on pretty much any topic you can think of. I would get kits, and then find books he can read, audiobooks (for books he can understand, but may be too difficult for him to read), documentaries/shows, websites, games, etc relating to the topic.

For History:
You could do something similar to Science. There's hands-on kits & activity books for any time period you would want to study. You could then round it off with some documentaries, books & audiobooks (both non-fiction & some historical fiction), websites, etc.

I don't think you'll find one curriculum that will work for him. You'll likely do best by continuing to piece it together in an eclectic manner.


07-25-2010, 03:09 PM
Some of his problems we know so far is his eye muscles do not work like most people's. He has depth perception difficulties. And he has a condition called convergence insufficiency which causes him to have difficulty reading and has eyestrain. His handwriting is poor because of this. And when he reads, his eyes uncontrollably jump around the page so he skips tiny words, misses letters, etc.

Hi Matt,

Is he under the care of a COVD developmental optometrist ?? Many of the problems you described can be helped through vision therapy. Our 7 yo is a vision therapy patient. He is being treated for problems with convergence, eye teaming, suppression, tracking, focus changing, and some visual processing problems. He has all the symptoms of what is called "dyseidetic dyslexia". He gets phonics and can decode single words very well, but short frequent words and any non-phonetic sight words are really hard for him to process. He wants to laboriously sound everything out. Staying with a sentence and processing it and getting its meaning is tough for him. It's also very hard to get him to spell non-phonetically. And he is resistant to writing anything at all. It's very slow progress getting him to write. Anything that involves written language is extremely difficult for him. The first ten weeks of therapy brought absolutely huge improvements for him. We are continuing through a six month course of vision therapy.

A few changes I have made for him are:
*Overall I am trying to do more things verbally with him since he's been tested and found to have some serious visual processing deficiencies...but we know he is quite intelligent, and I want to keep him learning in other areas.
*I switched his handwriting "font" to the D'Nealian/Modern Script style. It is more relaxed for him and since the slant takes away the visual symmetry in the words and letters it helps with his reversal issues. He practices two letters a day.
*I am using a book called "correcting reversals" that I bought from Rainbow Resources. I don't know if your son struggles with letter and word reversals but this is an inexpensive reproducible workbook that may help. His vision therapist is also working with him on reversals.
*Since he struggles with spelling and reading sight words, I bought the four sheets for the "Sight Words in a Flash" (but didn't buy the cards) from Rainbow Resources for 25 cents each. I'm using these groups of words and each day we work through verbally spelling some of them. We stay with a word until he masters it. It may also help to make words out of play doh or pipe cleaners, spell them with letter magnets or scrabble tiles, or paint the words. He sees a reading tutor once a week who does more of these types of activities with him. If he can learn to quickly process sight words when he reads, and remember how to spell the most frequently used words without a struggle, I think this will go a long way toward making the whole thing easier for him.
*He is interested in math and seems to get more advanced math concepts easily, but has really struggled with learning the basic addition facts. He just wants to add them up in his head by counting over and over. He did this for over a year without remembering any of them. We've switched to a fast drill with flash cards so he doesn't have time to add them in his head. His progress is slow and he requires a ton of repetition. But I want to give him the mental tools to do basic math without having to grind everything out every time.

I will also be using workbooks from Remedia Publications. I bought four that are specifically to help with learning to write sentences. But they have a large selection of materials that are written to cover various subjects for older kids who need materials with a lower reading level. If our son continues to have a written language delay, when he is ready for more advanced subject matter, I will probably purchase materials from Remedia so he can do his own reading. They may have some materials that can be helpful for your son.


I also saw that Calvert has a program called Verticy for students with language-based learning differences.


If you are looking for a structured comprehensive program, it might work for you.

07-25-2010, 03:14 PM
Yeah we just recently started vision therapy. How often do you go to therapy sessions? like once a month, week, etc. And how often do you work with him at home?

07-25-2010, 04:24 PM
Hi again~
We also did the vision therapy, it was 5 days a weeks and then we did the sessions at home on the weekend. IT WAS A PAIN! He did better while in the program but didn't improve afterwards. Just wondering if it was much help for mine, hopefully it will be helpful for you!

07-25-2010, 04:30 PM
Yeah we just recently started vision therapy. How often do you go to therapy sessions? like once a month, week, etc. And how often do you work with him at home?

He sees the therapist once per week for 45 minutes, and we do the assignments at home at least every other day.

The first ten weeks were mostly Brock String, focus changing, and various tracking exercises. He got a huge improvement from those. He is still working more on the same areas but with more complex exercises now.

07-26-2010, 12:37 AM
Hi again~
We also did the vision therapy, it was 5 days a weeks and then we did the sessions at home on the weekend. IT WAS A PAIN! He did better while in the program but didn't improve afterwards. Just wondering if it was much help for mine, hopefully it will be helpful for you!

Did you actually have to go to the practice 5 days a week ? Were there strange machines involved ? I am asking because I had to choose between two practices, and one of them required more frequent office visits and less work at home and involved special machines, while the other (the one we went with) is once a week, lots of work at home, and pretty simple tools.

07-26-2010, 12:43 AM
Update: I spent a little time looking at the Verticy website. The program can be customized. There is a placement test, and you can order different grade levels in the different subject areas. You can also use just specific areas of the program. I found posts on another forum from people who had used only the language arts portion of Verticy and were very pleased with their child's progress.

07-29-2010, 12:55 PM
My son has some of these same issues, and I have found that audio books work great for him. He does much of his school listening to CDs. I would get Story of the World on CD for him and then let him do some map work. I would also visit the library and rent an audio book for him to listen to every week.

I would probably do Teaching Textbooks for math because he should be able to do it on his own, and it is not necessary for him to work in the workbook. For science I might look into Lyrical Science.

Writing and spelling are going to be a challenge. I would suggest Phonetic Zoo for spelling or maybe an online spelling program like Spelling Time. Writing is going to take time. Have you thought about just basic copywork. Maybe start with a sentence or two a day and work up to a paragraph within a month or two? I think that is what I would do just to get him into the habit of writing something everyday.

08-12-2010, 02:29 AM
Hi there. I'm new here so I hope you don't mind me chiming in. I would wait until you have an ASD diagnosis for sure. We have autism at our house and I know that if there is one thing that can put a person over the edge it is feeling as though you're not capable or in some way unable to do something. It's an emotional nightmare that all the perfect penmanship in the world can never fix. I am encouraging my son's writing by letting him narrate while I type. Dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia are totally common with people on the spectrum. My son has the former and I have the latter. Gently gently is the best approach in my experience and humble opinion.

I am encouraging my son to learn touch typing.
I am using Sequential Spelling from AVKO to help build his literacy confidence. (It is FANTASTIC and he hates doing it but loves the accomplishment he gets from knowing how to spell ten letter words at 7 years of age).

It's important for autistic people to know WHAT PURPOSE THERE IS FOR THEM to do something painful. Eg. I encourage my son to write by having him add what he wants from the shopping on the grocery list and by modeling why writing is important. (If you want something and don't write it down it is likely we will forget to buy that thing). I print off forms for the transport department and pick up forms from everywhere we can find them. (This is a form you have to fill out to be able to drive a car. If they can't read it, you won't be able to get a driving license. We definitely want you to have a car one day so you can drive around so we need to practice writing legibly so you can have these things in life.) Autistic people need to know why more than NT people. If a child is not interested in writing creative stories for a living, that is not enough reason to bother and it can be incredibly painful to feel misunderstood: "Why are you forcing me to learn something that hurts me that I am never going to use in my life?!!" This can lead to real meltdowns and a breakdown in self esteem and confidence. :(

One of the things we are now working on is a claymation presentation. We developed characters together and I wrote down what we brainstormed the characters would look like. He loves drawing, so I very casually asked if he would draw what he thought we could make the characters look like. He asked how he could remember and I said oh here we wrote it all down. I casually mentioned it was a good thing we wrote it all down because otherwise we'd have done all that work for nothing and would have completely forgotten.

I would honestly wait until you have a dx on the ASD front before pushing it. Also realise the world is digital and it's probably going to be more valuable to learn how to type in life than it is to learn how to write. I personally rarely write by hand unless I am doing the former mentioned (filling out a form or making a grocery list).

08-12-2010, 08:52 AM
Have you had him tested by psychologists or educational diagnosticians or a developmental pediatrician?
He sounds like he is battling ADHD to me.
I have one son with ADD and a daughter with dyslexia. They were both tested by Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas (for free).
My daughter received therapy for two years from their Dyslexia Lab.

I was told by Scottish Rite that Vision Therapy has no peer reviewed studies to show efficacy for issues other than strabismus and stroke and that you have to really watch the practitioner because it is a big bottom line booster for them. So, if you haven't yet, you might want to consider a second opinion with a different type of practice (i.e. NOT a vision therapist).
I was told by our optometrist that all three of my kids needed vision therapy. All current research shows that Dyslexia is NOT related to the eyes or vision. It is a neurological processing issue.