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Special Needs, Dyslexia, Galloping the Globe!

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, October 16, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 44 October 16, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Special Needs (Part 1)
Helpful Tips
-- Report Writing Help
Resource Reviews
-- Galloping the Globe
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Additional Notes
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

This week I'm using both issues to feature articles written by
two different moms of special needs children.

This first article was written for me upon request by a mom who is
a very close friend of mine. She is loving, patient, kind and gentle.
I have known her for many years and I'm still amazed at all God
has brought her through. I can think of only 3 moms whom I would
trust to raise my boys if anything ever happened to my husband
and myself and Holly Hoffman is at the top of the list! -- Heather


Our Special Needs Children
by Holly Hoffman

"I have an autistic son. I also have an asthmatic son and one that
struggles with reading. And the youngest one I really messed up!
With too much pressure to potty train he ended up having a cath-
eter one day to relieve his bladder.

All of my kids have special needs. I do, too! If I don’t get my
coffee in the morning I’m a MONSTER!! And I don’t like to drive in
traffic either. All my friends help me out greatly. If a left turn is
not involved, we’re good to go!! I don’t treat one child differently
from the others. My expectation is the same for all: you will be kind,
respectful and honest. Everything hinges on those three. When we do
schoolwork, we aren’t watching TV. Expectations are laid out and each
child is to strive to meet his individual task. Of course, my reading
children will read more. From my math kids I expect advancement to come
more quickly. But I don’t force my struggling reader to come up to
the level of his brothers at the same rate. And so with my asthmatic
son, I don’t plan on him dusting or vacuuming his room. With my
autistic son I doubt he will ever eat broccoli or asparagus. At age
13 he still has a lot of texture aversions with food. When he hits his
limit with school, I don’t push. There is no use. He completely shuts
down. So we change what we’re doing. We include something that
he finds enjoyable. It used to be trains. Then dinosaurs. Now it is
creation science and dinosaur cartoon drawing. And boy is he ever
good at it!! He gets a lot of inspiration from Calvin & Hobbs. He’ll
probably be famous someday! We used trains for colors, numbers
and letters, dinosaurs for dividing subjects, and now drawing to
enhance a project.

But you know what? No matter what their individual successes,
their Dad and I will always be their biggest cheerleaders. We don’t
care if they want to work for the sanitation department. They’ll be
the best, brightest and sweetest workers in all the sanitation depart-
ments put together!! My husband started his own business a few
years ago so the boys would have some place to work if they were
either unable to hold down a job or just wanted to work along side
their dad. But, I think they will all four leave us in their dust!

Years ago special needs kids were institutionalized and parents
were blamed for being harsh or cold. Nowadays, these kids are
really rising to the occasion, perhaps because they got used to
working so hard to be 'normal'. But 'normal' has gotten lazier,
slower, and has lost its determination. So the outcome can be
special needs kids sometimes surpassing the 'normal' kids. We
have never used the word 'normal' in our home. We all have special
needs. We all need to be patient and kind with each others' short-

I think of the boy who was born with no legs. Loved football.
Played in high school. Until a referee threw him out of the game
for not wearing shoes! Really!! I mean, come on, the boy has no
feet! Didn’t stop him though. The league changed the rules.
Sports Illustrated even ran an article on him! My pastor’s daugh-
ter was born with part of her brain outside of her skull, part of a
neural tube defect. For her to survive she had to have that part
removed. She has low-vision, seldom spontaneously speaks,
really can’t hold a conversation, is learning disabled and has
seizures. But wow, can she play the piano! Can’t read a note of
music either. She plays it all by ear. She plays for choir, sing-a-
longs, Christmas programs, weddings, etc. She is really gifted!
So, should we teach her algebra? Not unless you enjoy banging
your head on a brick wall*. But, keeping a piano and music near-
by are a must!

Use what you have to work with to enable your child. Continually
setting them up for failure brings failure. Setting them up to be
winners brings winners.

Joyce Herzog wrote a great book, 'Learning In Spite Of Labels'.
Everyone can learn. We teach them even when we aren’t trying
to. They will pick up things just by routine and watching us.
Drs. Fox and Azrhen proved that in their potty training book for
severely mentally impaired. It just depends what we teach them.
Redundancy and time are the best teacher's helpers there are.
Everyone goes at a different pace.

My best advice would be: slow down; enjoy each day with your
children; remember to have fun doing their 'thing', too. All of this
will promote whatever their God-given talent may be. And it just
may surprise you! They may come up with some cool idea,
like -- post-it notes!!"


[Holly Hoffman and her husband, Dave, are the proud parents of
4 amazing boys in SE Michigan. If you wish to contact Holly,
email heather@familyclassroom.net with "Holly Hoffman" in the
subject line and I will make sure she gets your email.]

*incidentally -- banging your head against a wall burns up 150
calories per hour, but it is NOT recommended. ;-)


Do you have comments about this article? Please share!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Report Writing Help

"Several times when my son had a report to do (traditional school,
homeschool & hs group) I have had him dictate to me. He talked
much faster that I type (and my typing is not that slow) so I would
have him take breaks to let me catch up. I made sure to resist the
urge to edit as I was typing but I *did* take some opportunities to
prompt -- asking him to start the next sentence differently, suggest-
ing he find a different adjective -- I was not terribly consistent with
this but whenever we did papers in this manner they turned out to
be longer, more interesting and more indepth than usual. Teaching
typing early on is promoted by visual spatial experts such as Allie
Golon. My eldest will write nicely when doing copywork but not in
essays. He is extremely creative and a good artist so the cursive
was not hard to teach him. Look for their strengths!" -- Sue in MI


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Reviews

Resource Review -- Galloping the Globe
Review by Cindy Prechtel, http://homeschoolingfromtheheart.com

Written by two homeschool moms and designed for elementary
students, Galloping the Globe takes children on a tour of the seven
contintents, stopping at several countries within each for more
indepth study. Along the way students learn about geography,
meet various historical figures and missionaries, and study many
different animals. In true unit study fashion, Galloping the Globe
covers a myriad of subject areas all built around the study of geo-
graphy. Each country/continent has eight divisions with activity
and/or book suggestions for each. There are also reproducible
maps, country information sheets, country flags and fun activity
sheets. These will be filed in the student notebook, which each
child sets up at the beginning of the year. This unit study is geared
toward 1st - 4th grades, with many activities and books being more
appropriate for children on the younger end of that range.

One thing you will not find in Galloping the Globe are lesson plans.
Instead, the authors offer suggestions for using the curriculum,
provide you with extensive lists of books, activities, recipes, etc.,
then set you free to plan your days as you see fit. The activity
suggestions are detailed enough so you are not left guessing and
there are lots of interesting facts for you to share with your children.
Galloping the Globe is a wonderful introduction to world geography.
The hands-on activities will appeal to elementary-age children and
moms will enjoy having multiple children all studying the same material.

This is an abbreviated review. To read the review in its entirety go to:

Last Issue's Reader Question(s)

Last issue we had 2 very similar questions...

"My seven year old daughter struggles with reading and spelling.
She does better at math. I've noticed her switching letters around
alot. I know that some of this is common at this age, but I wonder
if it might be that she's dyslexic. She shows other signs as well.
I'm going to get her eyes checked to make sure it isn't an eyesight
problem, but I was wondering what would be the best thing to do.
Should I go ahead and find a curriculum that is better suited for
children with this problem? And what curriculum is out there for
this?" -- Rhonda


"I have been homeschooling for a few years now and everything
has been running pretty well until I ran into problems teaching my
third daughter how to read. I am almost positive that she has dys-
lexia. She often jumbles up her letters and misreads words that
she should be able to read at her age. I think her case is not very
severe as she can read fairly well but below grade level. I was
wondering if anyone has had this problem and what techniques,
curriculum, or resources have been helpful in dealing with this.
Also, has anyone had their child tested for this? I am not sure if
I should have my daughter tested. Thanks so much in advance
for any input you may have regarding this situation." -- Melissa

Our Readers' Responses

"I will preface this by saying I am not very familiar with the chal-
lenges of dyslexia, as none of my children are dyslexic. Also, your
children are young and what you are observing is likely develop-
mental and will resolve on its own. However, several years ago I
ran across the book 'Reading Reflex' by Carmen and Geoffrey
McGuinness. (I got mine at Amazon.com for about $13).

I would definitely recommend reading this book before teaching any
child to read, especially a dyslexic child. It is a complete learn-to-
read program in a book; but even more importantly the first few
chapters explain exactly how a person learns to read and the
problems they may have. Their research showed the method to be
very effective, even with dyslexic children. I found I had to read
through the first chapters a couple times to really grasp it, but once
we started it was fun for my children and they learned quickly and
easily. If I remember correctly, the method was written up in
'Orton's Annals of Dyslexia', it was so successful." -- Karen


"I had a similar problem with my 9 year old daughter. Reading for
her was difficult and spelling was even worse. She missed easy
words and she spelled mostly phonetically. I heard that this is
alright, and pretty common. We had her sight checked, and her
hearing also -- everything was fine. To test for Dyslexia is a lot
of money, so I asked around.

I found Sequential Spelling! She has been doing this since Sep-
tember, and her spelling has improved a lot. The program is
geared toward children with dyslexia, or letter jumblers, etc. It
teaches 'like word' families. (ex: food, good, cool, stool) and
then puts the suffixes on them. You do a 'test' each day of 25
words. They correct the wrong word immediately after finding the
mistake, and then you move on to the next word. You can repeat
the list or move on to the next. She doesn't mind at all doing her
spelling and there is no fight to write it 5 times, repeat, repeat,
repeat... and whatever else. It really works for her and I would
recommend it.

When she reads she uses a piece of paper or something to block
out the other words below the line. This helps her concentrate on
the words and keep them from making her eyes hurt. We also used
different colored files seperated to go over the pages. You can try
different colors -- they will tell you which ones work and which ones
don't. This helped a little. She said that the words stopped moving
around, but it bothered her eyes after awhile, so it isn't an all day
usage thing.

Finding things that work takes asking around, trying new things,
and listening to your child. Find out exactly what the letters and
words are doing and go from there." -- Becky in Utah


"My daughter was recently diagnosed with dyslexia. We had her
first diagnosed with a trusted psychologist that specialized in this
type of testing. When my daughter was five, we suspected the
dyslexia. Even the psychologist said to wait until she was eight,
as it's normal to reverse until that age. We waited, and sure enough,
she's dyslexic. The way the psychologist tested my daughter was
to do testing for her ability, and her performance or achievement.
The discrepancy is what pointed to dyslexia. I feel it's a great dis-
service to advise waiting. I could have been finished with all the
research, and my daughter could've started intervention years ago.

If you don't want to pay for testing, and if they refuse to test until
later, why not just use the curriculum that is advised for dyslexia
anyway? It certainly cannot hurt! In fact, it's less painful than the
usual curricula. We love Sequential Spelling by AVKO. Also we
are finding the Barton reading system ingenious.
( www.dys-add.com/#freenews ) We have found these sites to be
the best in helping with our research: www.schwablearning.org/

I tried getting my daughter tested by an optometrist that special-
ized in vision therapy. He felt she would benefit with it. We started,
and she did seem to really benefit. But it was very expensive.
When the vision therapist said that there was no difference between
AD/HD and vision problems requiring therapy, we pulled her out.
http://www.add-adhd.org/ The doctors and psychologists say vision
therapy doesn't work. On that note, CHADD is an organization that
specializes in the latest information related to AD/HD. www.chadd.org
I picked up a tape on ADD and it's relationship to writing and reading
and found that kids with AD/HD are often misdiagnosed with dyslexia.
The ADHD keeps them from controlling their eye focus. Mild ADHD
was something I always suspected with my daughter, too. I was
prepared to fight to the bitter end on that accusation if a public
school teacher suggested it. I had my daughter tested, and wow, she was
severely ADHD. We tried all the alternative treatments for three years
and finally tried the medication. Medication was the only thing to work.
Would you believe that on medication my daughter can read five grade
levels higher? Her writing improved by as many grades, too.

Dyslexia can affect handwriting, called dysgraphia, as the vision is
perceived skewed by the brain. Teachers had told me that my daugh-
ter had poor fine motor skills, when I knew she didn't. It just appeared
that way due to the dysgraphia. Dyslexia, surprisingly can also affect
MATH computations. It has to do with lining up the numbers into
their proper place value columns, or even transposing the number 12
for 21. It also hinders memorization of facts and formula orders.
These mathematical affects are called dyscalculia

I lost so many years that could have been used constructively for
educating instead of fighting for attention, if only I hadn't been so
adamantly against medication and the label. Here is one objective
test you can have your children take for free over the internet:
http://www.hometova.com/hometova/index.cfm It is vision related,
which again suggests the link between ADHD and vision. Our psy-
chologist let me fill out the Connor's rating scale as her teacher and
my husband as her parent, so I trusted the diagnosis much more."


"I am a homeschool mom who spent almost 20 years in the public
schools teaching special education. The second letter did not
mention the age of the child, however it is important to keep in mind
that letter reversals are very common until the end of a child's eighth
year. If a learning disability is suspected, parents can choose private
testing (which can be very expensive), testing in the public schools
(as a taxpayer, you can, by law, request and receive testing free of
charge,however, many homeschooling parents do not want a per-
manent record started in their public school), or no testing at all.
Each of these is a personal choice. All that testing will reveal is
whether the child meets the clinical definition for having a learning
disability, it will not tell how to teach. My suggestion would be to
find out your child's learning style. There are several resources
available to help you if you do an internet search. In general, you
want to teach to your child's learning strength. If your child is a
visual learner, make sure there are pictures, videos, etc. of the
concepts you are teaching. Kinesthetic learners require movement
and body involvement. In the area of reading, homeschooling pro-
vides an excellent learning environment because it can be completely
individualized, which is the first thing that would happen in an LD
classroom in the public schools. Two things are required for reme-
diating reading difficulties: intense phonics instruction and memor-
ization of those high-frequency words that do not conform to phonics
patterns. For phonics instruction, read up on Orton-Gillingham
methods. The Fry High Frequency Word list is a list of words organ-
ized by how often they are used in children's literature. It is public
domain and can be found on the internet. Dr. Fry has several sug-
gestions for activities to help with memorizing this list. You should
work toward memorizing the first1000 words.

The next issue is that of reading appropriately leveled books. Child-
ren need to read things that are easy for them (98-100% accuracy
rate) and things that are at their INSTRUCTIONAL LEVEL (not grade
level). Something is at the instructional level when it can be read
with at least 90% accuracy. Leveled books can be found in most
libraries and library specialists can help you access those.

The final issue to remember when you are trying to remediate read-
ing difficulties is that reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Reading
and writing one or two sentences about a story every day will help.
Have your child write what he hears. Teach how to say the word
sound-by-sound and write what is heard. Afterward rewrite the sen-
tence correctly on a sentence strip, cut between all of the words, mix
them up and see if your child can put it back together and read it."
-- Andrea Batchelder


"My 8 year old son was tested this year for dyslexia, and the psy-
chologist confirmed that he is dyslexic (also called 'disorder of
written expression.') There are several things that we have done.

When we started teaching reading, my son's phonemic awareness
was practically non-existent. There was no way for us to teach using
phonics, even though he did know all of the letters and sounds. So
at that point, we started by using 'Picture Me Reading', a package
that teaches the Dolch words using pictograms. It was so helpful to
give him a basis, somewhere to start. You can see samples on the
website http://www.picturemereading.com

From then we used a lot of word prediction based on context, pic-
tures, etc. One book I found some very helpful tips in was 'Reading
Rescue 1-2-3'. See if your library carries a copy.

If, like with my son, phonemic awareness is low, you can work on
that. Playing rhyming games, getting a poster with word families and
looking at them together, learning how to take apart and put together
the sounds of words (without using letters, just sounds.) For example:
'Say cat. Now say it without the /k/ sound.' (Start with compound
words, if that is too hard. 'Say firetruck. Now say it without the
truck.') Or show the child three differently coloured bricks or marbles,
and say 'This is mip. I can change mip to fip' (take out the first
coloured brick, and replace it with a different colour). 'Can you change
fip to kip?' Using made-up words and coloured manipulatives instead of
real words and letters helps the child focus on pure phonemics
instead of reading.

Our psychologist also recommended this website:

Put up a phonics sound poster from a local teacher's store up in the
room you usually do your reading in, so he/she has somewhere to
double-check those difficult sounds like /th/ and /sh/. Or make your

Play bingo/lotto with letters or numbers that your child reverses,
such as b/d/p/q.

Once your child has enough phonemic awareness to do rhyming
and some of the word manipulation described above, go back to
really basic phonics teaching. Even if it means dropping back
several grade levels and using early primers for a while. We are
using 'Stairway to Reading' which is free here:
There is a placement test to figure out where to start, and the
games and stories are fun. Another possibility would be 'Scaredy
Cat Phonics', but that does get into short/long vowels right away,
which can be confusing for our kiddos to remember. At this point
strongly discourage guessing, and praise generously for sounding
out words instead of guessing/predicting, hard or easy.

Of course keep encouraging reading. Read to them and have
them read out loud. Let them get out reference books, graphix,
whatever they like, even if you don't think they are doing much
more than browsing." -- Pam


Note: Some of our readers recommended "Sequential Spelling".
Here's the link again to Cindy's full review and purchasing info:

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a question about homeschooling boys and was wondering if
anyone has experience with teenage boys. Mine isn’t a case of
rebellion or laziness, but I do think that my son’s brain fell out.
You would be glad to know that we have since found it. I hadn’t really
thought about it, since we have moved past that stage, but today I
was talking to a lady whose son seems to have similar symptoms.
Around the 7th - 8th grade year, our otherwise bright sons were un-
able to complete simple tasks that only a year before were doable.
For example, during math problems they would switch from addition
to subtraction during the middle of a calculation. Just a total lack
of focus. Week after week, problem after problem. When the prob-
lem was presented to them they could see what they did wrong
but had no clue as to why they had made such a major error. Has
anyone else experienced this in the prepubescent years? Could
you point me to an article that specifically addresses this topic?
Any help would be appreciated." -- Denise W.


I know some of you have experience and practical advice for Denise
to share with her friend!

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!


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