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 find everything to get started according to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (hslda) 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 do your own research about 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 200 families in our area and is one of the biggest and most active homeschooling groups in our area. 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, or modify it to be multi-sensory.

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, but others find unschooling exactly what their child needs. You just have to find what works for you and your child. The important thing is to not get stuck on the way you WANT to homeschool and forget the way your child NEEDS to be homeschooled. Flexibility, creativity, and compassion are 3 ways to help ensure you are on the right track. Ask yourself if you are accomplishing those three things and if you are then chances are you and your child are in good shape.

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. I’ve found that following your SLP, OT, and even PT’s leads on how they teach your children new skills can really help you educate your own children at home

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. I list below some for different core subjects that have been reported to work well with kids who have apraxia.

If you would like to follow the curriculum your school district uses, just ask! In most cases I’ve seen the school district is happy to provide you with what you need. Textbooks need to be returned, but workbooks don’t usually.  This is a nice free way to get curriculum.

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.

Edited to add that the new The Good and The Beautiful language arts program is phenomenal. It is not secular (meaning it is a religious based program), but it is very thorough and gentle at the same time. It is well-rounded and seems to take all the best features of top language arts curriculums and rolls it into one beautifully done curriculum. Check out their math program while you’re at it. I was certainly impressed at the amount of energy The Good and The Beautiful has been putting into their programs. Over the past year many families who have kids with apraxia have been raving about their language arts curriculum, and once I checked it out for myself I can see why.

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

Explode The Code I personally do not feel this is comprehensive enough, but others may and it is an inexpensive option.

Phonics programs to look into are Lively Letters, Preschool Prep Co., Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program, and other Orton Gillingham approaches like Logic of English (see more on Logic of English and why I LOVE it in the handwriting section).

Find a Math Program: (we are currently using Singapore Dimensions, but am not currently able to recommend one way or another because I know of only one other family who has a child with apraxia who enjoys the program. We do love it, but it took me a year to get into a groove with it because it is a bit intense.)

Math Lessons for a Living Education (Master Books) This is a gentle approach to math that was fantastic during the younger years especially because it didn’t overwhelm my son, yet covered everything he needed with a fun twist of stories embedded into the text book. It is inexpensive, which is a plus.

Right Start Math is a very visual approach to math that often works for children with apraxia. It incorporates a lot of games and is very comprehensive. Downside is it is expensive

Saxon Math is a spiral math program meaning it teaches one concept and then comes back to it later (nice for kids who need extra review often) and is used in a lot of schools, but has been modified for the homeschool family. I personally do not know anyone who has had this program work for their child with apraxia, but it is worth noting as an option because it is a nice program that is trusted by many in the homeschool community.

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

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. However, if your child is now doing better with speech and needs extra practice while learning reading, writing, and handwriting at the same time Logic of English: Foundations is an EXCELLENT program and I can’t recommend it enough. My son has made phenomenal progress with his program. I am convinced after using this program that learning handwriting, reading, and spelling at the same time is the best way to go for kids with apraxia and this program is incredible at doing just that. Downside is that it is teacher intensive. You will be facilitating a lot of games and instruction with every lesson. I personally love it because it tells me EXACTLY what to do.

Education.com They have an excellent typing program

Science, Art, History, and Electives? Totally up to you! I create my own unit studies to hit these subjects. For instance, we loosely follow the book “What your Second Grader Needs to Know” (insert whatever grade you need). We read aloud a small part of the history section and I create art, music, science, geography, and history lessons using the country of origin in the history lesson. So, when we studied India, we created art (from A Trip Around the World books), studied Indian dances, learned about the scientific properties of soap nuts, and extensively studied history and geography. We use an incredible amount of books from the library for this or make due with what we have. Every week on Sunday I have a “Big Reveal” to tell them what we are studying next for our unit studies and it’s always really exciting for my kids. 

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!

Stack the States and Stack the Countries. I have no idea why my kids are OBSESSED with these apps, but within a month they knew all of the states capitals, flags, and locations, as well as major cities and landmarks, plus the location and languages spoke in most countries around the world.

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!

Updated August 2020 The Homeschooling SLP