Homeschooling Children with Apraxia: Where Do I Start?

When I made the decision to homeschool my son with apraxia he was 4 years old and hiding under his desk at preschool when it came to coloring time. He would run around at circle time, and was sent out in the hall daily. He couldn’t communicate his wants and needs very well, and the teachers didn’t seem to know how to get through to him even with my help.

When I removed him from school I was terrified. Could I do it? What if I fail? What if he can’t learn with me?

Looking back now, all of those questions were really unjustified. I knew him best. I had been watching every therapy session of his for years and knew how to increase communication through his communication device (Speak for Yourself), I knew how to use visuals to help him go from one thing to the next, and I knew what worked for him to motivate him to LOVE learning. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Fear can make it pretty easy to forget how capable we really are when it comes to our children.

Within two months of me homeschooling him, he was able to go to library circle times and sit quietly and listen. He was able to sit at a table and attempt writing his name willingly, he was able to read and was at age level in all areas.

If you are considering homeschooling your child with apraxia, here are some things you will want to consider and also to help you get started if you have already made the decision.

Research homeschooling laws and requirements for not only your state, but your county and school district. Do you need to file paperwork? Do you need to keep track of what you do, or how many days you homeschool throughout the year? Do you need to find a yearly evaluator who will submit paperwork to your school district? Does that evaluator have to be a special education evaluator? Do you need to comply with testing standards and do standardized testing? Also, it is important to know what you HAVE to do so that you also know what you don’t HAVE to do. You don’t want to create more work for yourself than needed. Some states don’t have any requirements and maybe you want to keep records for yourself instead. You can look up requirements here.

Find homeschooling groups. Another way to find out information is to ask questions in special needs homeschooling and typical homeschooling groups on Facebook and on forums. Obviously, you will need to follow up with what is said, but it is helpful to get those initial ideas of where to begin by people who have already been there.

Speaking of homeschool groups, you will want to find a local one. Not only to ask questions and get ideas from, but also to help your children make some friends and for you to set up a support group for yourself as well. I’m not talking a co-op, although that is one thing homeschoolers do enjoy doing and Classical Conversations is a co-op many people who have children with apraxia have said to be a beneficial one if you can find one in your area.

I am really talking about a group that will want to go on field trips, meet ups, and provide support in your community though. If that is a co-op, great! In our case it was just a group of like-minded homeschooling moms wanting their children to experience everything other children do. To find our group I met one person on Facebook who I got to know really well, and then we asked a few others she had met to meet together at Chik-Fil-A one day. We started planning some group events our kids could get together at and soon our group grew to over 100 families in our area and is one of the biggest and most active local homeschooling groups. It’s all about how much energy you put into making sure your children have the same opportunities as other children (if that is what you desire).

Discover the way your child learns best and the way you teach best. Now, just because your child is an extremely visual learner (like mine) doesn’t mean you can ignore all the other ways of learning. It is important to strengthen the areas that are not so strong as well. My son has difficulty with auditory learning and we also focus on that to strengthen it. The best way for children with apraxia to learn though, is using  a multi-sensory approach to everything you teach. Use touch, sight, hearing, taste, movement, and smell to guide each lesson and you will see the learning come easier. Look for curriculum that is multi-sensory based.

How do you want to teach? Do you think your child will have an easier time with a more unschooling approach  or a more structured setting? I would love to unschool, but my son needs A LOT of structure or he is pretty lost. You just have to find what works for you and your child.

For our kids with apraxia also think about how they learned to speak. Sometimes breaking a lesson down by using things that helped them learn how to speak really helps. For instance, using visuals cards, or a communication device, sign language, or backward chaining ( starting with the last sound or syllable and building on. Like “der, Lad-der”) to help with reading and spelling.

If you choose to use curriculum, I personally suggest picking and choosing different programs instead of going with just one that covers everything. By choosing different programs for different subjects you can meet their needs more efficiently because if your child is anything like mine, their skills are pretty scattered. However, there are full curriculum sets like Sonlight that let you choose different curriculums to add to their own curriculums. For example, you can choose Math U See, or All About Reading to be added to an all in one curriculum that they offer to make everything easier to follow. Cathy Duffy offers great curriculum reviews if it interests you.

Find a reading or language arts program

Look into All About Reading Many homeschoolers with children with apraxia have stated this has been a great program for their child with apraxia.

The Spalding Method or The Writing Road to Reading is also multi-sensory and a great program to look into.

Explode The Code

Phonics programs to look into are Lively Letters, Preschool Prep Co., Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program, and Orton Gillingham approaches

Find a Math Program

Math Lessons for a Living Education (Master Books) This is a gentle approach to math that does not overwhelm my son, yet covers everything he needs with a fun twist.

Right Start Math is a very visual approach to math that often works for children with apraxia

Saxon Math is a spiral math program meaning it teaches one concept and then comes back to it later and is used in a lot of schools, but has been modified for the homeschool family.

Math U See is a mastery program that was a little too much writing for my son, but many others have seen success with this program and it is multi-sensory with wonderful manipulative that we still use even though we have switched to Math Lessons for a Living Education.

Find a handwriting, cursive, or typing program. My son has significant fine motor challenges and teaching him cursive first was much easier than teaching print. He already knew how to read in print so I didn’t need to worry about that, but here are some handwriting, cursive, and typing programs that are excellent for our children with apraxia.

Learning Without Tears also known as Handwriting Without Tears

Logic of English I love their cursive program, but handwriting without tears also has a cursive program. We actually use Logic of English Foundations for Language Arts, but I would not recommend it for a child with more severe apraxia as it could be pretty frustrating with how much it asks children to use their articulators to discover phonemes. Feel free to ask me more about this program though because we are using it right now and are doing well with it.

Education.com They have an excellent typing program

Science, Art, History, and Electives? Totally up to you!

Don’t forget the power of your local library! Getting a library card is the single best thing you can do. They have curriculum, DVDs, resource books, and any book to increase literacy that you can imagine. Take advantage of it!

Find fun ways to get extra practice in

Education.com  We use education.com constantly to make lesson plans, find activities, and track progress with their fun learning games.

Star Wars Workbooks

Preschool Prep Co.  

Board games, imaginative play, crafts, art and science projects. Don’t forget the power of listening to your child, following their lead and creating learning moments through play and fun! Fundanoodle (an educational readiness program developed by pediatric OT’s and elementary school teachers with super fun hands on activities), and SimplyFun (educational board games that are suited to special needs and neurotypical children) are great choices to help with that…so is nature.

Resources to look into if your child is non-verbal:

Accessible Literacy Learning (ALL) Curriculum 

Literacy Instruction

Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing (LiPS) is a multi-sensory approach to developing phonemic awareness. By Gander Publishing

The Writing Road to Reading

Also, when my son was completely non-verbal we used PreschoolPrepCo DVDs especially Meet the Phonics:Letter Sounds. It is slow and repetitive and makes it easy to sneak in multi-sensory activities during the video, as well as teach him the concepts in sign language or on his communication device to ensure that he could demonstrate what he was learning. My son learned how to read before he could speak because of preschool prep DVDs and because I taught him to communicate these concepts in alternative ways. It was necessary to really watch these DVDs daily though.

Apps We Love:

SnapType Pro-upload a photo of the worksheet you are working on and they can type in their answers and print instead of using all of their energy on fine motor.

Speak for Yourself-Our communication device that we use for education as well.

Letter School-easily learn how to write letters the correct way. Buy a stylus pen to give even more handwriting practice during use of the app.

Teach Monster-Fun reading game app that really works.

Endless Numbers and Endless Alphabet is one many  people love who have children with apraxia so definitely check those out too!

Unfortunately, the name of the game in homeschooling is going to be a lot of trial and error. It may take you a while to find what is perfect, but it is important to just get started and not be afraid to modify anything to fit your child and their needs. There is no one way to homeschool and that includes homeschooling a child with apraxia.

I could talk on this topic forever, so I’m sure I will be editing this a lot. Please be sure to message me or find me on Facebook at The Homeschooling SLP and let me know what you do for your child with apraxia and what you would recommend to others when first starting!

April 2018 The Homeschooling SLP

Thanks for reading! Here is something extra just for you:

Students will have a blast as they splash their way around in the kayak while doing this fun subtraction learning practice. Be sure and check out Education.com for more math activities just like this. 

 

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