View Full Version : waffling on how to approach homeschool with SPD/Aspergers son

06-08-2015, 11:38 AM
I've been homeschooling my older daughter for two years now, and it has gone very well. My son is two years younger than her and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Way back when I started kindergarten with my daughter, I figured I would repeat the same curricula with the boy, but now I see they are two very different people that learn very differently.

I know kindergarten should be more play than work, and that is what I did with my daughter. The bit of school we worked on was handwriting (HWOT), math (Miquon), and reading (OPGTR, though that is another story).

My son has sensory issues, probably Aspergers (he's on a waiting list), and some fine motor skill issues. He's been seeing an OT for the last six months for the fine motor stuff. It's helping, but it's a slow go. He cannot write his name or other letters or numbers.

Mentally, he is quite intelligent. He knows his letters and what they say, he can count, do simple addition and subtraction, and is a great memorizer. I want to work on his strengths but don't want his weaknesses, mainly writing, to inhibit him.

I plan on starting HWOT with him, but at the very first pre-k level. I have loved Miquon Math and I know he will do well with the manipulatives, but writing on those worksheets is going to be beyond him. Is it okay if he figures out the answer but I write it on the paper? I don't want absolutely everything to end up being a difficult writing task for him.

Are there other curricula that is out there that he would benefit from? What else should I consider?

06-08-2015, 12:07 PM
My son is 7 and I still write for him sometimes, although it has started to get less, but only recently and he's nearly 7 1/2! I think there is something in one of the Miquon books about having cards with numbers on rather than making kids write, even. I totally think that it's OK to scaffold for your child (i.e. provide support in weak areas).


06-08-2015, 12:24 PM
My son is also 7 and is on the spectrum. I will occasionally write for him when it is a problem. He also has sensory issues and lots of difficulty writing.

I don't know if there is a better curriculum for kids on the spectrum, as each kid is different. I have noticed that DS learns much better from videos than reading or listening to me! I have given him access to videos that he can watch on his own time, over and over again, as he wants. I have found his interest, retention and comprehension of complex material to be better. He is able to understand much more complex concepts than his ability to read and writing will indicate. For us, I try not to pressure the reading and writing. I work at his level, help him write when needed. In fact today, I was writing down the answers to his math work as he dictated it to me, but then he wanted to do his phonics worksheet himself. Don't worry and let him try, but don't worry if it is not happening quickly. Keep his mind working.

One thing that we did, is DS liked to compose stories that he would either dictate to me, but more often he learned how to make videos on his tablet. That would help quite a bit.

06-08-2015, 12:38 PM
My son couldn't even hold a pencil well enough to write until he was almost 7. We were in a cyber charter online school at home for K, which was worksheet heavy (too much so, IMHO) and we still did 90% of his work orally. Well, let me clarify. He was not fully verbal, so often I would ask questions and have him nod or point to an answer. He still learned a ton. We saved all the writing energy for handwriting. Everything else we used was modified. Multiple therapies every day were the bulk of our time, and I counted all that as "school work", and gave it more importance than getting math or reading done. He would always have a chance to work on academics later. Making sure we had the health and developmental issues on track was just far more important. The best thing about homeschooling a child with challenges is that you can integrate the academics and therapies into a whole. Unlike PS where a kid is pulled out for OT 15 minutes once a week, and then that's the only work he gets on that issue, we incorporated OT, life skills, PT, speech, SI, CBT, etc, etc, into everything, including academics, all day.

Even though my kid needed a lot of intellectual stimulation, the best thing we did for him in the first years of homeschooling was find his interests, follow his lead on those, and teach him to wonder and ask questions. Getting outside every day was a big help - even if it's just in the yard or a short walk. That gave me a chance to model curiosity that leads to education in the form of "Look at that cloud! I wonder what clouds are made of? I wonder what kind of bird that is. What do you think he eats? Lets put these seeds into this pot of dirt and see what happens." And then having books on hand to tie in to all that. It's your homeschool, you can do what you want and what works best for you kid. Respect his abilities and limits. Don't hold him back, but don't push him too hard before he's ready, either. And go easy on yourself, too. One bad day, week, or month will come along. It's not the end of the world. Just take a break and regroup.

06-08-2015, 12:59 PM
Have you seen the Mat Man that goes with HWT? Our OT has the full ginormous HWT kit - maybe some of the other components would be useful for you?

We had a lot of success with the Letter Quiz app for our fine motor skills. First he just made the shapes with his fingers, now we are building stamina pincer grasping a stylus. (Now that we see he can make the shapes, we are aware that he needs to build strength and endurance - seems like a constant back and forth with OT!)

06-08-2015, 01:23 PM
One of my kids is 12, not on the spectrum, and I still write answers for him sometimes just because it goes faster! We also do math on white boards - for some reason that always seems less painful.

06-08-2015, 01:59 PM
I would scribe for my then-teenaged 2e son on the whiteboard while he was learning algebra--nothing wrong with that.

My (mostly) neurotypical son is about a year behind in the modern HWT series which is roughly equivalent to "right at grade level" in the editions of the workbooks that his siblings were using at the turn of the millennium.

If you can get your hands on an older edition of Louise Bates Ames' well respected books on child development, you will see that she finds it perfectly appropriate for children to write in all capitals well into first grade.

Your son is the right age to enjoy practicing his capitals on the slate (wet-dry-try), using his index finger to trace them in a brownie pan or cookie sheet filled with dry rice or cornmeal, and driving micro-machines (a smaller version of matchbox cars) along the wooden pieces, which you can make yourself out of cardboard or craft foam from the template on page 84 of the teacher's guide (http://www.stemmom.org/2012/07/mat-man-handwriting-without-tears.html) if you have it or here (http://tiredneedsleep.blogspot.com/2009/10/build-letter-templates.html) if you don't.

06-08-2015, 02:31 PM
Hi, I'm a long time lurker and Homeschooling Mom from the UK. My eldest child has some similar sounding difficulties to your son (SPD/Dyspraxia/possible Autism) whichwas one of the reasons I withdrew her from mainstream school here, as they are not really adequately catered for, unfortunately.

Anyway, I've finally decided to register so I can let you know the things that have really helped her writing progress, although she is still far from the level of her peers, writing is no longer the struggle it used to be.
firstly, she uses special grips on her pens/pencils, which were recommended by the occupational therapist. They are not the usual type of grips used to correct a poor pen hold, but designed instead to provide increased sensory feedback. We have a variety of different textures- hard/soft/squishy/with dots/ridges. The OT explained that without these, holding a pen to write felt to DD, kind of like how it would be for me if I tried to pick up a pen and write while I had 'pins and needles' (do you use that expression in the US? It means like when you hand goes numb if you sat on it for a long time) in my hand. Its hard to actually feel where the pen is and be able to control it properly, and make it go where you wanted it to. to compensate DD needed to grip the pen harder to feel it properly but not only did this hurt and make writing tiring, she still couldn't control the pen properly as she was applying too much pressure.

The other thing that has also made a big difference is a program called Write From the Start. It is a handwriting program, based on the Teodorescu Perceptuo-Motor approach, but it doesn't really look like one as for the majority of it, there is no actual letter formation instruction. Instead it is a series of different worksheets where you have to join dots, follow patterns or draw different shapes. Each booklet works on a different skill needed to build the muscles needed for handwriting and develop the co-ordination between hand/eye/brain. Its made a whole load of difference to DDs handwriting just by doing a few of the exercises at the start of each day.
I've copied the sheets from the workbooks as I found in some areas she had no difficulty, but others she needed to go back to several times to keep practicing. the book also has further suggestions for activities to work on each area if needed, using lots of sensory stimulation e.g using sand/clay/foam. the great thing about it is DD never viewed it as 'work' so was always keen to practise each day. we still do some of the exercises now, alternated with other activities, usually while I am reading aloud to her.

06-08-2015, 10:38 PM
Is this the workbook? Write from the start: Unique Programme to Develop the Fine Motor and Perceptual Skills Necessary for Effective Handwriting 3 volumes: Amazon.co.uk: Ion Teodorescu, Lois Addy, James Alexander: Books (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Write-start-Programme-Perceptual-Handwriting/dp/1855032457/ref=sr_1_1/280-5198564-0429967?ie=UTF8&qid=1433817200&sr=8-1&keywords=write+from+the+start)

It doesnt appear to be available directly from the states. :( But it looks really intriguing!
And the symptoms you describe with how your daughter grips the pen too hard - really resonates with what I think is going on with *my* darling. Why else would he be exhausted after only a couple minutes?!

Thanks for bringing your suggestion!

06-09-2015, 06:51 AM
Thank y'all for all your suggestions and words of encouragement! I will write down his answers for the math and not feel guilty about it. :-)

I have seen the Mat Man with HWT but don't have much experience with it. I will look into it.

Squirkle, what exactly were the pencil grips you used? The way you explained the pins and needles thing sounds a lot like what my son is dealing with. I've had my eye on some weighted pencil grips that I think might help him.

06-09-2015, 07:33 AM
Yes, that's the one! Shame its not available, I wonder if there is anything similar that is? I know one of the co-authors (Lois Addy) has another program called Speed Up, that is often recommended over here, though I haven't used it. from memory when i was looking at both, Speed Up was cheaper than Write from the Start but it required extra equipment to begin with, so potential for a bigger loss if we didn't find it a great fit.

06-09-2015, 07:45 AM
I will be asking our OT about this Wednesday! Maybe there is some secret cache of where OTs can find specialty things. :)
And as Nautile said, how you described the problem with writing seems so spot on!

One of the senior members here says they learn the most from people who've gone through what we are experiencing - so true!

06-09-2015, 07:57 AM
Our son has similar issues and is almost 10 now. For reading, I used the Starfall readers, Bob Books, and the set of grade 1 readers from McRuffy. For handwriting practice, I love the McRuffy workbooks because they are full color. For getting into written work, I used the Spelling Workout workbooks. I had him learn to type early on, using Dancemat and Read Write Type from Talking Fingers. When he was asking me how to spell things (so he could type them onto signs in Minecraft), I had him do Looney Tunes Phonics (I don't recommend for beginning readers btw - it starts slow and then has a steep curve in the middle), Click'n Spell, and Wordy Qwerty.

By this age, he's not writing paragraphs, but he can write two sentences, complete most workbook assignments without help, and can type whatever he needs to for communicating in games, searching for videos to watch, etc. He can also read pretty much whatever he chooses to read. He doesn't often choose it, so I was worried, but then he decided to read Maze Runner and then Hunger Games right after his 9th bday and finished them both quickly, with much discussion, and I knew then he was fine with reading. I still have to push him to write two sentences together, and to make progress on math. He memorizes song lyrics and scripts so easily, but not math facts and procedures.

I give him a lot of time to pursue his interests on Brainpop and YouTube. Tornadoes are a hot topic, and currently anything about radiation, and especially nuclear energy. He's learning all about how nuclear power plants work. So he's behind in math and writing and still gets the days of the week mixed up and doesn't tie shoes well, but he can tell you exactly how tornadoes form, what each F category is like, and talk about fission, fusion, steam, turbines, generators, cooling towers, fuel rods, control rods, spent fuel ponds, dry storage, etc. He also saw some stories about D-day this weekend and decided to learn about WWII, so now he can discuss that as well. I think I really have no choice but to keep helping him with basic skills whether he wants the help or not, exposing him to starting material in science/history/social studies, and then letting him chase his interests. He's totally different from our older son.

06-09-2015, 07:58 AM
Also, ours both had over a year of OT and while I think it was helpful for some things, it really wasn't helpful for handwriting or fine motor skills. Sometimes I scribe for him with math so he can keep going on the math without the fatigue from handwriting shutting him down.

Our older son has had written expression problems as well as handwriting challenges. He can write multi-paragraph things now, but they are always typed. He still works in a handwriting workbook and has decided to learn cursive.

06-09-2015, 11:28 AM
Hi Nautile,
I have a 10 year old daughter aspie. Back when we were in preschool and kindergarten her OT liked to use the handwriting without tears books. They seemed to work great but am not sure her fine motor was as impacted as that of your son. That said it took lots and lots of practice. I used boring old "Hooked on Phonics" to help get her reading which actually worked great. I am really glad I did because once she went to kindergarten in public school there was virtually no phonics and all sight words. I honestly do not think she would have read if I had not done that before school. I ended up taking her out before the beginning of last school year. While I had been told everything was wonderful and they were at the point of weaning out an aide (which she only had for 1/2 hour a day), and reducing speech to monthly (she was using for pragmatics) I had a rather rude awakening once I brought her home and had to remediate in several academic areas. With Emily, the key is using her obsessive interest with history to lure her into other nonpreferred areas of learning. If your son has an obsession - use it! I hear you on the videos. Emily would watch TV all day every day if I let her. She loves all things history documentary or NOVA. Best aspie moment ever was watching Monty Python and the knights that say "Nee". It was the part of the movie (sorry I don't remember which one) where the knights approach the castle (with the guy behind him clicking his coconuts together) and start an argument with the guys in the castle. Before long there are farm animals flying over the wall of the castle. My husband and I are cracking up and then realized that Em wasn't laughing. When asked if she didn't find it funny she replies that the movie is totally unrealistic. The people in the castle would have beheaded the animals and then thrown them over the walls in order to spread disease in the attacking troops. Yeah......
Anyway sorry to get on a rant. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job integrating the therapies with education. If I could have a do over this is totally the way I would go so good for you for being so proactive with your sons needs:)

06-09-2015, 01:49 PM
I'm so glad to hear about y'all's journeys through this as well. It helps to know I'm not alone.

I like the idea of teaching Sam to type early if it works better for him. I know I certainly type faster than I write!

06-09-2015, 02:52 PM
These are her favourite style of grips Sensory Direct | Special Education | Handwriting - Pencil Grips - Ridged Comfort (set of 10) | Sensory Direct (http://www.sensorydirect.com/special-education/handwriting/pencil-grips/grp06ric.html)
Its hard to tell from the photo but they are foamy texture and the ridges 'flex' so as you push down onto the paper they are pushing back into your fingers.

We also had some similar to these
Kush-N-Flex Pencil Grips (http://www.tts-group.co.uk/shops/tts/Products/PD2056325/Kush-N-Flex-Pencil-Grips/)

06-09-2015, 03:31 PM
These are her favourite style of grips Sensory Direct | Special Education | Handwriting - Pencil Grips - Ridged Comfort (set of 10) | Sensory Direct (http://www.sensorydirect.com/special-education/handwriting/pencil-grips/grp06ric.html)
Its hard to tell from the photo but they are foamy texture and the ridges 'flex' so as you push down onto the paper they are pushing back into your fingers.

We also had some similar to these
Kush-N-Flex Pencil Grips (http://www.tts-group.co.uk/shops/tts/Products/PD2056325/Kush-N-Flex-Pencil-Grips/)

Excellent; thanks so much! I've never seen the ridged and bumpy ones -- we'll give it a try!

06-09-2015, 05:48 PM
I'm not alexsmom's OT, but is this (http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=14168431342&searchurl=isbn%3D9781855032453)what you use, Squirkle?

ds7 used these (https://www.therapyshoppe.com/category/P1825-penagain-twist-write-pencils-good-grasps-writing-tool) for most of his first grade year and only recently "graduated" to regular pencils.

The extra time and attention to proper pencil grip and letter formation has paid huge dividends, Nautile. He doesn't hate writing and is looking forward to learning cursive, although we may butt heads over the Spencerian Script he wants unless I reframe it as "art" or "an inexpensive hobby" in the privacy of my own mind. ;)

06-09-2015, 09:00 PM
Rightstart Math has very few worksheets and is a very solid program. It's also pricey, but they sell the first edition on Homeschooler Buyers' Co-op for a more reasonable price.

06-11-2015, 06:43 PM
Hi Nautile - welcome! I know from your OP that you are not new to homeschooling..I have a kiddo (DS 7 almost 8!) who sounds a bit like yours - not on the spectrum, but sensory issues, fine motor delay, bright, and he is ADHD - like, big time. We started homeschooling in Kinder. He was about where you describe your guy as being at.

I would: go gently on the handwriting. Don't make it a 'thing'. Scribe for him with anything that you want him to focus on that's not handwriting practice. For reading practices (if you do that) get magnet tiles/white board or those cheap plastic alphabet letters or something he can use to spell without writing. Write for him for math. Come up with other ways to motivate writing letters - cards for friends/families, grocery list for you of things he wants, etc.

Consider not doing traditional pencil and paper math at all, especially if he 'gets' it. Play games (mathy games like Sum Swamp, but also regular card/board games with dice to add and scores to keep track of - Monopoly, Rat-a-tat cat, Uno, etc.), use manipulatives or real life situations to show him stuff, do oral math "story problems" where you talk through how you solve them mentally. Then you take the pressure off writing entirely. I had a current 2nd grade teacher tell me there's no need to do any paper/worksheet work. Not until the math gets more complicated/the numbers bigger (like 3rd/4th grade level-ish?). I think it can actually wind up being a strength - a sound conceptual foundation without only "rote" memorization of facts/procedures. We've used Miquon some (orange and red books) and I have the Singapore PM textbooks to show me a sequence/ways of introducing topics.

Don't want to sound like a BTDT know-it-all - I have regularly scheduled freak-outs and routinely change my mind on stuff (I say I'm "consistently inconsistent" :o).