The connections that parents make with others, either online or in their local community, are extremely important. It is especially so when it is Special Needs Families making those connections. It is my pleasure to introduce Sylvia Phillips, the author of Living and Learning With Our New Normal. Please welcome her, read and share her guest post with others in your circles, online and local communities!
When I decided to homeschool my daughter, Bethany who has autism and other disabilities, I already knew that the majority of children with autism are predominantly visual learners. I also knew through personal trial and error that processing language did not come naturally or easily for Bethany. She simply did not seem to be able to comprehend wordy, complicated sentences of spoken directions, explanations, or even the stories that I read to her. She also did not read, and still doesn’t… yet!
I knew that Bethany would never learn by reading textbooks or listening to lectures. Somehow I would have to adapt and modify traditional lessons plans and learning materials in order to present educational concepts to her in a more basic and visual way so that she could actually learn.
Below are some strategies and products that have worked for us and may make learning more, visual, hands on, accessible, and meaningful for other children with autism as well.
1) Translate what you want to teach into realistic pictures, photos, or better yet use real objects. For example, if you are teaching your child about the parts of a flower, you can take your child outside to pick flowers, then dissect the flower while naming all the parts and perhaps what each part does. You can reinforce the concepts taught by making flower part flash cards, labeling flower part diagrams, and even cutting and pasting paper made parts of a flower together.
2) Speaking of Cutting and pasting…Cut and Paste activities are perfect for hands on, visual learning assignments! My favorites are: Cut and Paste Mini-Books: Science by Scholastic, Cut and Paste: Science, Math, and Language Arts and My Body all by Teacher Created Resources.
3) When the verbal explanation of concepts cannot be combined with a visual aide, pairing what you say with sign language gives your child something visual, to associate with what you’re saying. If your child can hear, I recommend using SEE or the Signing Exact English method rather than ASL. We want our children to associate each sign with the word. It isn’t necessary to sign words like the, and, a, or other articles. Just sign the important words of the sentence. For example: if you are teaching the parts of the flower, you might say, “This flower has a stem, petals, and leaves.” I would sign only the signs for- flower, stem, petals, leaves. I have found that it’s nearly impossible (at least for me) to sign every single word of a sentence as fast as I can say it anyway!
4) File folder games and shoe box tasks are both fantastic visual, hands on aids for teaching any number of educational concepts to children with autism. There is a multitude of ideas and resources for constructing both file folder games and shoe box tasks online. Many are even available for free!
5) Two helpful books that offer instructions in creating many useful, visual teaching tools for children with autism are: Teaching By Design by Kimberly S. Voss and How Do I teach This Kid to Read?, by Kimberly A. Henry.
6) There are numerous companies online that offer educational products and games for children. One product that I love is Versatiles. Versatiles not only make learning more visual and hands on but they also make learning more fun! Versatiles engage students with the challenge of a puzzle. They reinforce important skills and concepts. The activities are organized by grade level and subject. The subjects available are math, reading/ language arts, and science. Versatiles are perfect for independent practice and give immediate feedback for self-checking which is great for kids who don’t like to wait to see how they did!
Whether you homeschool your child with autism or are looking for new ideas and activities to meaningfully connect with your child and keep him or her engaged and constructively occupied during non- school hours, I hope that this list of suggestions will serve you well.
*National Autism Resources
Eta: Hand 2 Mind-Hands on Learning Resource for purchasing Versatiles
Shoe Box Tasks
File Folder Heaven
Living and Learning With Our New Normal
*Please note that I am a National Autism Resources affiliate. If you purchase an item from this link I will receive a small commission. Thank you very much!
About Sylvia Phillips
I used to be home birthing, baby wearing Mom way back when in 1976. I’ve been home schooling my 9 awesome children since 1984 and will be until 2019! I am also grandma to the sweetest, most beautiful grandson in the world!
In 2002 my family's lives changed forever when my then 2 year old daughter was rushed to the hospital for life saving, emergency surgery to remove a very large brain tumor from her very small cerebellum. She has since been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, autism, a severe and complicated seizure disorder, developmental delays, and behavior issues.
Together we face the challenges of these disabilities one day at a time with faith, hope, and love.