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Hello all!

 

I'm a mother to four great kids (15, 13, and 6 year old twins) and I will be homeschooling them beginning this fall (except my 15 year old). I'm excited and scared, but I see that so many people are thriving and their kids are doing so well. That gives me hope and confidence.

 

My oldest daughter who is 13 has recently been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. From the beginning I knew she was very different from my son, but kids aren't the same so I just took it at face value. Then I had my twins (fraternal) and I saw some similarities between one of them and my oldest daughter. I looked into sensory disorders, non-verbal learning disorder, and Asperger Syndrome about a year ago, but I felt like I was "trying" to find something wrong with her instead of just accepting who she was. I tried to talk to her about seeing a specialist, and getting some medication for depression. She was sleeping all the time, hiding food, having rage outbursts, constantly defiant, and obsessivly lying. She finally agreed to go to a psychiatrist about 3 months ago. She put her on Prozac. It was then that the doctor mentioned AS. I felt verified and relieved. I mean, no one wants their children to struggle in life, but at least I wasn't going to rack my brain trying to figure out how to "speak her language". With my other three children, I learned how to deal with their quirks. I knew what to do when they were frustrated, sad, mad, or just feeling blah. That's what I mean when I say "speak their language". There was always a wall between myself and my oldest daughter. The Prozac helped with the depression so that we could start working on her issues with AS. And for the first time in 13 years I'm learning her "language".

 

I've been researching different types of ways to homeschool. I'm really clicking with the Classical method. I'm starting with a clean slate when it comes to my twins. They just finished Kindergarten in PS. However, my oldest just finished 7th grade. She's really behind and I don't know where to start.

 

In my attempt to understand AS, I've been reading that spelling is easier, but my daughter is horrible at it. It's like instead of being visually dyslexic she's mentally dyslexic. She doesn't see letters backwards, but she switches letters in words. For example, she'll spell calendar, calander (switching the e and the a). It's like that with a lot of words, and she doesn't know the meaning of a lot of words that should be on her level by now.

 

I agree with the Classical method emphasizing the spelling, grammar, writing, and reading. These subjects and math are very difficult for her.

 

I was looking into Easy Grammar and Daily Grams for her. I think I should start her below her level. Maybe at the 5th or 6th grade. I don't know what spelling program to use or what level to start her at. I feel comfortable looking for reading and writing curriculum. We are going to use Saxon for math.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions for the Grammar and Spelling portions?

Did anyone make it this far in this incredibly long post?

I appreciate all who did, and any suggestions that are provided.

 

Thanks!

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I, too, have a daughter with Asperger's -- she's fourteen -- so I sympathize with you greatly! I have heard other mothers talk about "the wall" they perceive between themselves and their Aspie children, and have experienced it myself. But you sound as though you're well on the way to understanding your daughter's particular areas of challenge.

 

I think having her at home to school will be one of the greatest gifts you can give you, despite how difficult it will be at times.

 

Spelling and writing are hands-down the most challenging subjects for almost every Aspie child I know or have read about (this may or may not comfort you to know!). Many homeschooling parents report a huge surge in ability somewhere around the age your daughter is now. They seem to experience a developmental leap of some kind during adolescence which, while it doesn't turn them into instantly able writers, at least mitigates some of the extreme problems they have when younger.

 

What you said about spelling is absolutely true for my daughter. She also flips letter order in words. I have figured out over time that this is a sign of an imperfect visual speller -- that is, they know the letters in the word rather than figuring them out by sounding them out -- but their visual memory is not perfect, so they get it mixed up. Actually my daughter does a little of both: sounding out syllables, and remembering visually. So one system or another will only work on half of the way her brain works. Usually spelling programs are one or the other: made for auditory or visual learners. Having a kid who does a bit of both can be a real brain-strainer.

 

My suggestion is not for one particular program over another, but for a bit of reading about the ways she may be learning. I found the chapter on spelling in Jeffrey Freed's Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World to be very useful. I've ended up incorporating some of his techniques, mixed with Spelling Power. Spelling Power is based on word patterns -- that is, different patterns that words use to make a particular sound. But I have to say I don't think there's anything magical about that particular program. It's more the consistency, plugging along on a daily basis for a short period of time, and remembering that because she mixes approaches, it takes longer to become untangled in her mind.

 

This is gradually chipping away at the problem. There has been no big miracle, but she's VASTLY better than she was two years ago.

 

Very recently I've found that when she repeatedly misspells certain words, the best remedy is to have her write them over and over and over: something like 15 times one day, 10 the next, 5 the next, and twice the rest of the week. She needs to physically have the new, correct pattern ingrained in her hand-mind memory. This works well when she's flipping letters, as when she began spelling "captain" reversing the order of the a and i in the last syllable, every single time. I had her write that word over and over and over, and finally it clicked in her memory patterns. I pick and choose words she tends to use a lot for this approach, because having to write out every word so many times would be the surest route to resistance and tuning out.

 

One other suggestion I can offer from my own experience, which may or may not be helpful for you. I, too, was attracted to the classical model of learning, but when my daughter was disconnected she did not learn, no matter what lovely material I put in front of her. I don't know whether your daughter has the narrow interests that are typical of a lot of kids on the spectrum. Mine did/does. I learned quickly that she soaked up so much when her obsessions of the moment were engaged. So we did one year full of Star Trek learning: she learned lots of spelling words from Star Trek, I actually rewrote her math word problems into Star Trek problems (which didn't take as long as you might think, and which was a huge success), she read Star Trek books, watched the original series, and read all the autobiographies from cast members and movie directors related to the series, I snuck in space science into our reading, etc. I let her interests determine a great deal of what we do, because when she is fully engaged, that Aspie intensity of focus means that she learns so much, so fully; and also, let me tell you, it makes our relationship and our day-to-day interactions so very much easier. Another mom on these boards tailored her son's high school literature curriculum to his obsession in technical theater: they did a course on the history of theater, analyzed plays and movies, and her son worked as a lighting technician for local theater groups. There are certain requirements that have to be fulfilled, but you have a lot of leeway in how you fulfill them. Your daughter might be willing to go conventional or classical studies in one or two areas in return for being allowed to go with her interests in one or two others.

 

One other thing to consider about following the classical curriculum with a child on the spectrum, of this age, is that the reading selections tend to emphasize things like motivation, complex character understanding, symbolism, and metaphorical thought -- ALL things that Aspies have the most tremendous difficulty even beginning to understand. They are simply not wired for this type of material and will have enormous trouble with standard types of literary analysis assignments. There have been a number of posts on the special needs boards about this problem.

 

Again, from experience, my advice to you is to use the freedom you have as a homeschooler to give your child an education suited to her abilities rather than to try to force her into the mold of a neurotypical child. Many Aspies have an infatuation with science fiction or fantasy literature; some prefer non-fiction. Follow her lead -- read the best of the genres she can understand and love, talk about its conventions and patterns of plot, talk about the text in concrete terms rather than try to get her to understand symbolism or very subtle issues of character. Sometimes visually-oriented kids on the spectrum can understand things like this if you compare a movie to a well-loved book that they know by heart (for my child, the Narnia books, Harry Potter, and Star Trek all work well for this purpose). You can begin to talk about things like how tension is created in the movie (music, framing of shots, colors, etc.) and then ask how it is created in the book. If a character's thoughts are part of the book (Harry Potter, for instance), talk about how the movie shows this -- shows it concretely, through THINGS, or has conversation that doesn't occur in the books. My daughter also likes books that explain the history and meaning behind weird metaphorical phrases like "raining cats and dogs." There are a number of such books at most bookstores and on amazon.com. Your daughter may or may not like them, but they're a good way to approach metaphorical language without making it part of a really, really difficult process of understanding socially realistic fiction.

 

Hope some of this helps! You'll probably find your daughter teaching you how to teach her, just as mine did with me. Sending you very best wishes.

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...In my attempt to understand AS, I've been reading that spelling is easier, but my daughter is horrible at it. It's like instead of being visually dyslexic she's mentally dyslexic. She doesn't see letters backwards, but she switches letters in words. For example, she'll spell calendar, calander (switching the e and the a). It's like that with a lot of words, and she doesn't know the meaning of a lot of words that should be on her level by now. ...

Does anyone have any suggestions for the Grammar and Spelling portions?

Did anyone make it this far in this incredibly long post?

I appreciate all who did, and any suggestions that are provided.

 

Thanks!

Mom of a child with dyslexia here.

 

Question to clarify your example of letter switching. In the example you gave, your daughter is spelling the word closer to the way it sounds. (At least how I pronounce the word. I don't say the /ar/ as in car at the end of calendar, but rather the /er/ sound. And I prounouce the word with more of a short e sound "en" in the middle rather than an "an" sound also.) So...is she spelling phonetically correct for how she pronouces the word, or is she switching sounds within words? Some simple examples of switching sounds, spelling "spot" when intending to spell "stop" or "spilt" instead of "split".

 

If she's spelling irregular words phonetically correct, that's different situation than missing or switching sounds within words.

Edited by merry gardens
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Hello!

 

Thank you so much for posting that wonderful information. Your suggestions are invaluable to me. I'm so in love with the Classical method of teaching, but I've been wondering if she's able to "get" it. KWIM?

 

I think I'm going to rethink her education at home. I completely agree with you. You really went out of your way to talk to me about your real life situation and I greatly appreciate it.

 

Do you still incorporate all of the major areas of education? I don't care what kind of job she wants when she's an adult. I just want her to be able to achieve it if she wants to. Right now, she wants to be a vet. There's so much science, vocab, spelling, math, and other aspects that she will be required to do. I'm loving the idea of creating a method of learning that she will be attracted to, but I want to make sure that she can continue to a higher level of learning if that's what she decides. She's been on the vet kick for awhile now, but I know how I was as a teen. Things change and I don't want her to feel plugged into a hole like she's going to disappoint me if she doesn't want to be a vet later on down the road. But then again, I want to support her decision to be a vet. (something I didn't have. why be a nurse when you can be a doctor, but you can't be a doctor because you aren't smart enough)

 

*sigh* (literally)

 

What is your opinion on the matter?

 

Again, thank you so much. It means more than you know.

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Mom of a child with dyslexia here.

 

Question to clarify your example of letter switching. In the example you gave, your daughter is spelling the word closer to the way it sounds. (At least how I pronounce the word. I don't say the /ar/ as in car at the end of calendar, but rather the /er/ sound. And I prounouce the word with more of a short e sound "en" in the middle rather than an "an" sound also.) So...is she spelling phonetically correct for how she pronouces the word, or is she switching sounds within words? Some simple examples of switching sounds, spelling "spot" when intending to spell "stop" or "spilt" instead of "split".

 

If she's spelling irregular words phonetically correct, that's different situation than missing or switching sounds within words.

 

I'm so glad you asked! It makes more sense to me when you say it. My husband (her step-father) is dyslexic and it was the only way I could verbalize it. I have a worksheet that she did the other day. I didn't help her on it except to check it and discuss her mistakes.

 

dilema (dilemma)

calander (calendar)

critisice (criticize)

arithmatic (arithmetic)

collage (college - the hint was "after high school")

nesecetiys (necessity)

laughter - spelled correctly

diffrent (different)

anonnoums (anonymous)

vegtables (vegetables)

Agust (August)

cafateria (cafeteria)

extra - spelled correctly

recagnosie (recognize)

through - spelled correctly

 

Ok, so what do you think about her answers? I'm confused at this point. I see your point in phonetic spelling, but I also see your point in missing or switching sounds within words.

 

Thank you for your earlier response. :D

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KarenAnne,

 

I've just looked at the Spelling Power website. Did you purchase any of the spelling magnets, phonics kit, etc.? I read some reviews on homeschoolreviews.com and it seemed like a lot of the parents were confused as to how to teach it. Something about the book being hard to understand?

 

Either way, I will get it since you've given it a great review. I just wanted your opinion on the matter.

 

I'm also adding the Jeffery Freed book to my wishlist. TY

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Most of those errors are phonetic. That is actually very good! I would congratulate her on her ability to hear and transcribe possible English spellings for each sound and commiserate with her on the effects of the island of England being conquered multiple times with the resultant conglomeration of rules (Anglo Saxon rules, Latin rules, etc.) Oh to be spelling in Spanish! She would have almost no problems! (In fact, I wonder if they even teach spelling in Spanish beyond about 3rd grade!)

 

Recagnosie and anonnymous are switching the sounds around, but at the end of a multisyllabic word. Here's a way to help with that that comes from REWARDS: first say the whole word and hold up a fist. Next say each "chunk" of the word and hold up a finger for each (a chunk is something like a syllable, but is more based on morphemes): re-cog- nize (that's tricky because the re- is a prefix and the -ize is a suffix, but you can't get the gn together when you say it.) You can teach prefixes and suffixes and that can clear up a lot of spelling at this level. Anonymous: first say the word and hold up a fist. Next, say the chunks: a no nym ous a- is a prefix , nym is a common root, -ous is a suffix. Does that make sense? If she can break it down into parts, it's more likely that she can focus on the order of the letters in each part. Her spelling is good enough for spellcheck to catch; that's one major goal right there. She is a functional speller if she is using a keyboard with an autocorrect or spellcheck program.

 

If she switches individual sounds around, there is a method for that, too, but it would take a while to type it out and it looks like she'll be fine if she can break multisyllabic words into chunks and spell one chunk at a time.

 

I would use a program that teaches spelling by prefixes and suffixes and that groups like-patterns of words together. In the list you gave, the words appear random, so it is down to visual-sequential memory. You can learn many more spelling words by patterns of like words than by rote memorization one at a time.

Edited by Laurie4b
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Hope some of this helps! You'll probably find your daughter teaching you how to teach her, just as mine did with me. Sending you very best wishes.

 

What a great post! You've summed it all up so beautifully!

 

Gerontologee - you might also find some useful books at Educator's Publishing Service. They specialize in products addressing some of those weak areas you mentioned. I have been using How to Teach Spelling/How to Spell along with the Spell of Words.

 

http://eps.schoolspecialty.com/products/?subject=71S

 

I also have a 13 yo daughter with Aspergers. Like Karen Anne, I've found that the classical approach was not the best fit for her. She also learns best through "themes". She's reading through the Ann of Green Gables series at the moment, and next I think we'll give Pride and Prejudice a try, since she is already familiar with the movie. When I plan her curriculum, I try to make it somewhat interconnected, as that holds her interest. I would describe it as sort of a structured Charlotte Mason approach, although she does use textbooks for math and writing.

 

Best of luck! :)

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Laurie4b and HeidiD,

 

Thank you both so much!!

 

And thank you all who have suggested that I try to incorporate some of her interests into her schoolwork.

 

I just talked with her about what we've been discussing here. She said that she doesn't have an "obession" per say, however, as mentioned before she does love animals. She's given me a list of animals she'd like to learn more about that I can incorporate into reading/literature and science.

 

I did tell her that she will have to learn her "core" subjects, but I will try to incorporate her interests whenever I can.

 

Thank you so much for encouraging me to make this change. I guess I felt like I had to teach in a box. Meaning, pick a type of method and work it around the child. I just want her to be well rounded.

 

HeidiD, I'm adding the suggestion to my curriculum look-up list.

 

:D

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KarenAnne,

 

I've just looked at the Spelling Power website. Did you purchase any of the spelling magnets, phonics kit, etc.? I read some reviews on homeschoolreviews.com and it seemed like a lot of the parents were confused as to how to teach it. Something about the book being hard to understand?

 

Either way, I will get it since you've given it a great review. I just wanted your opinion on the matter.

 

I'm also adding the Jeffery Freed book to my wishlist. TY

 

We started Spelling Power in around fourth grade. The only extra thing I got was a box of activity cards. They range from simple -- having a race to order the alphabet letters using Scrabble tiles -- to more complex, including having your child write a story or paragraph using the spelling words from a current list you're working on. After a while I dropped this because I felt I could improvise easily enough. But they were helpful in getting started.

 

I did begin her on the very first list! It took about three years, but we're now working at grade level. Sometimes it goes well... at others we hit a plateau. When this happens I typically switch to making home-made lists based on her current reading or passion.

 

I will write again later this evening. Have to go pick up my daughter at riding camp.

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Hello again. I've been wondering what else to send your way and don't want to overwhelm you with things that may or may not be useful. But I guess one of the most important is: don't panic. Although it's natural to feel anxious when your child is "behind" what typical kids are doing, try to wipe that slate clean. It can lead to putting overwhelming pressure on both you and her to work, work, work, catch up... and then burn out. The Aspie kids I know are quick to feel pressure or stress and respond by tensing up, getting hysterically perfectionistic, and in my daughter's case, becoming teary and so anxious we just end up closing shop for the day.

 

It's also natural to feel panicky that here you are at junior high, with only two years before high school, and you want to get all set for that, and then you know college is looming, with all the pressure that puts on you for credits, etc. As you say, you want to keep all the doors open.

 

However, I urge you again to relax. We were still pretty loose and easy-going in seventh grade, and it's only been in 8th that my daughter has emerged from the worst trials of early adolescence and kind of smoothed out, settled in, and been ready for more formal, focused work. When your daughter becomes absorbed, she will relax and be able to learn much more quickly and remember better than when she is stressed, tired, and working at things that are neurologically extremely difficult for her. That's why so much of what passes for school at our house is interest-based.

 

I've used science fiction to talk about psychology (the Spock/Kirk/McCoy trio is fabulous for this), the history of computers, astrophysics, forms of government -- science fiction stories are often centered around problems of government, empire, control, and war. In one Star Trek movie the villain quotes Shakespeare; we went to see the plays he quotes from, or watched DVD versions of those that were not being staged in our city. We read biographies of the actors and directors and how movies are made. My daughter made a comic strip version of one of the novels she read. As I said earlier, I turned math word problems into Star Trek problems. We also practiced dictation with a book of Star Trek quotes. This summer, we're going to Comic Con for the first time.

 

Is this preparing my daughter for a specific career? No, of course not. But through it, we've worked on on grade level math, writing (both dictation and creative writing), spelling, grammar (we had a long discussion of the phrase "to boldy go" and split infinitives, and the history of the "rule" about using infinitives), history, politics, physics, robotics, film studies, Shakespeare and the arts. With the stories of how many revised scripts the actors were given, I finally managed to introduce her to the idea of revising writing in a non-threatening way. I'm working on getting her to read earlier science fiction classics to compare Star Trek with.

 

And some of this program remains linked to the ideal of classical education, although much of what we do also departs from it. I still use dictation, we emphasize history and historical development, we aim to link classics to what we do, and we discuss everything she reads (I read much but not all of it as well).

 

As she moves through high school I can see us becoming more closely aligned with the classical model, but never entirely. As I said in my first response, socially realistic fiction and symbolic language are never going to be easy for my child, and there are a lot of other things I think are more important for her to do than finish a list of great books: real life skills primarily, that are going to take explicit teaching and much repetition for her to become comfortable with and capable of doing independently.

 

So think of your daughter's interest in animals as a jumping-off point. If you are still interested in approaching a plan of study this way after all my gabbling, PM me and I'll write more. Otherwise my posts tend to be really, really long and I feel like a board hog.

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