As a homeschooling parent, you know that all children learn in different ways. Some are visual learners, while others learn best through a hands on approach. Providing instruction in a way that works best for your child will greatly enhance the learning experience.
It’s the same for children with disabilities. They have their own unique way of learning. Integrating a child with disabilities into your homeschooling might take some adaptations, and you may have to experiment to see what works best for your learner. But don’t give up, because it’s worth the work! The joy of all learning together is priceless.
I’m a homeschooling mom to seven, and my second oldest child is severely disabled with Angelman Syndrome. Because of his disability, I know that his learning will never look the same as the other kids. But I really wanted him integrated into our routines. I want to expose him to as much academically as I can, since I know he learns a lot more than he can show. To make that happen, here are five strategies I’ve used to help ensure that everyone is learning.
Use A/V resources
Many students with special needs thrive with audio/visual learning supports. These include audiobooks, YouTube videos, and PowerPoint presentations. You can find many of these materials ready-made and ready to go. Lots of them are free to use, which means you can experiment with them without busting your budget.
Others you’ll have to create. PowerPoints are an example of this type of resource. You can create interactive quizzes and books for your student to incorporate what your other students are learning about. By recording your voice, you can have these presentations read automatically to your child.
No matter which kind you use, A/V resources can be a great help for learners with special needs.
Utilize hands-on learning
There’s something about kinesthetic learning that helps the brain make lasting connections. Many students with disabilities benefit from hands-on learning activities.
If your curriculum doesn’t include these activities, you may have to source them yourself. There are tons of resources on Pinterest. Use your search engine to find appropriate projects that correlate to what you’re learning.
Having a variety of learning manipulatives on hand is also helpful. Try pattern blocks in math, models in science, and magnetic letters with a cookie sheet to practice spelling. Keep these manipulatives up so that when you bring them out for school they’re a refreshing change of pace.
Try to incorporate games and activities into your homeschool routine that get your students out of the book and physically into learning.
Integrate Sensory Learning
Sensory learning moves beyond simple hands-on learning. It integrates multiple senses, enhances fine and gross motor skills, and can really help learners with special needs make important connections about the world.
Sensory learning doesn’t have to be difficult or elaborate. You can use a simple sand or rice tub to practice measuring. You can bring out the sandpaper and have your child help cut letters or numbers to feel. Playdough can be used to sculpt for most every subject.
If you’re looking for more ideas, here’s a post that offers eight ways to integrate sensory play into your day without a ton of effort.
Offer plenty of time for thinking
Think time is essential. Some disabilities slow processing time, which means your child may need extra time to think about the question and figure out how to solve it. They may need more time to hit the correct button on the iPad, or reach towards the correct card.
Try not to jump right in with a solution. Step back and wait for a while. If you’re using a computerized or video based curriculum, be sure to keep the controller nearby so you can hit pause as appropriate.
This time allows your child to not feel rushed or start to doubt his or her own abilities. It’s an important piece to help your child gain confidence.
Finally, ensure that you take time to review the material you’re studying frequently. Repetition is key to mastering a concept for any child. However, a child with a disability will likely need many more repetitions.
To keep it interesting, change up your review process. Create a Jeopardy style review game using PowerPoint. Hide vocabulary words around the room and have your child hunt for them. Use an app that teaches similar skills.
Utilizing a variety of strategies will help your child learn to generalize the knowledge instead of simply relating it to book work.
Are you homeschooling a child with disabilities? What strategies do you have for integrating them into your learning routines?