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Opinions-What to teach

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My DS just turned 9 he has had ST & OT since he was 2 he also had developmental therapy for 2 years till he aged out and PT for 4 years. Obviously we homeschool he has never gone to a school/preschool/program of any kind. I am hitting a wall on how to teach him, this will sound crazy but it seems like he cant learn, I mean I know he has obviously or he would not know anything. For example I could say the following sentence to him " The sun provides warmth and  light" then immediatly ask him what does the sun provide and he cannot answer the question. It seems impossible to teach much to someone who cannot retain one sentence for one second. He hates when we do school, understandably and honestly so do I at this point. It is like torture. I feel like saying forget school work and just letting him live his life and have fun on the other hand I dont want to be underestimating his potential. Is a child with an IQ of 40 ever going to get/use/need half of what I am trying to force him to understand?????????


His diagnosis is moderate MR, fine motor delays, apraxia, minor sensory.

He was IQ tested again 1 year ago and scores are as follows

Similarities 1, Vocab 2, Comprehensio 1, block deign 1, picture concepts 1, matrix reasoning 1, Digit Span 1, Letter-number sequence 1, coding 1, symbol search 1.   Full Scale IQ 40.


Currirulum we have tried: bearly reading, bear neccesities, developmental math, math for people with DS, Hooked on phonics, exploded the code, Math U See, Little hands to heaven, Rod & Staff


Academic skills he has right now:

He can rote count to 50

Recognize numbers1-11

Give the phonetic sound for all letters of alphabet

We started reading and he only got as far as soundng out 3 letter words and very inconsistentley

He has not been able to memorize any sight words

Just started to realize the clock gives time


He enjoys:

acting crazy (running, jumping, rolling on the floor)

jumping on the trampoline

listening to music & dancing

riding his toy 4 wheeler



he will stand outside and litteraly talk to the sky for hours

walking around stores


I would love any insight into opinions on what is best for him??????? What should I expect??? What has been your experience???

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I do not have personal experience, but the people I know with children in such situations seem to have put their primary focus into lifeskills training, including lifeskills that would be needed to have the child be able to be a helpful long term household member if living on own was not viable as an alternative.   Skills included helping with cooking and cleaning and gardening, and for one later on driving.  Also things that allowed jobs to be held, even if limited ones like setting up displays in a grocery store, became feasible for one child who had good sorting and physical balancing and artistic skills, for example.


Telling time, making change, and reading would all be useful...if possible for him.

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I was rather interested in the things that he enjoys, and thinking how they could be integrated into learning?

Such as him counting as he jumps on the trampoline?

With his bowling, he could write down each of his scores.  Also using sets.


As he likes listening to music, I wonder if they are songs?

Also if he likes to sing songs?

Where perhaps he could practice reading with the songs?


Also with his enjoyment of walking around stores?

Maybe this could be used to practice planning? Where he develops a plan for his walk around the stores?

Then carries out the plan, when he goes there?

Where time could also be introduced into the plan?


While he can't remember sight words.  Perhaps the store names and logos could be used, to practice remembering sight words?

Where maybe you could cut the names/ logos out of catalogues?

So that when he plans his journey around the stores, that he finds the name/ logo for each store.

Then lays them out on page, and works out the order of his visit to each one.

Things of interest to him in the stores, could also be used as words for him to learn how to spell and write.  


With his standing outside and talking to the sky for hours.  Does he have a topic, or is it disconnected?

Where perhaps a topic could possibly be introduced, for him to talk around?



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I, too, have seen life skills really emphasized, and read on a blog recently about a system that might work.  She has each child do an apprenticeship of sorts.  The child works with you on one chore skill for at least a couple of months.  She makes it fun bonding time as well as learning time, doing the same steps each time and adding to those steps as they get better at what they are doing.  At the end of 2 months, they "graduate" from the internship and it becomes part of their routine.  You then start the next apprenticeship with the next chore, again working with them for at least 2 months, with lots of positive support, NO negative comments, working on mastering the skill.  You can issue a certificate at the end of each apprenticeship, maybe frame it?


My daughter is dyscalculic and besides having difficulties with basic math, she does not have a sense of the passage of time.  Clocks meant nothing to her, nor did calendars, etc.  I finally started having her look at the clock when we start an activity, read it with me, discuss the passage of time, do an activity, look at the clock again and discuss how much time passed.  I also have her look at the calendar every morning, write on her paper what the date is, etc. then mark off that day before going to bed at the end of the day.  We had to practice over and over, using a lot of visuals, but in very short daily segments, how to read a clock, when seasons start and end, how to read a calendar, etc.  She is finally grasping that although she cannot SENSE time passing, it actually does.  Clocks finally make sense to her (she is in 7th grade and it took time to get there so I just had to be patient and make it part of our routine), 


As for regular academics, is it possible to get a more detailed assessment through a professional on what might be recommended?  Have you read any of the latest brain research findings?  Unfortunately, a lot of our educational system is about 20 years behind current brain research on the most effective ways to learn.  I am certain that must apply in special situations like yours even more...


Have you been able to assess his learning style?  Does he seem to do better with manipulatives?  Auditory learning?  Visual?  My son functions far more effectively when he has something in color with an auditory component but my daughter does just fine with black and white as long as she also has exposure through manipulatives and 3D.  

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Thank you all for the input the life skills route seems the most likely right now, I just dont want to let him down KWIM.


Geodob great suggestions, thank you. I have to remember to work into his intrest as you suggested.


one step- the interenship is a great idea!! I have a good idea of his learning style though I have not pursued the brain research much and probably should.

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I wanted to add that one of the children--now an adult-- I know in this sort of situation got far enough along that on first meeting him it was not obvious that there was a problem.   He cannot read or deal with money at a level adequate to living on his own and so lives with his parents, but he can talk about things in an interesting manner (though once one knows him longer one realizes that he does so nearly non-stop as a part of his difference, and his mom needs breaks from it sometimes), enjoys a variety of hobbies (making bentwood furniture, for example, and also in his case music), and is a very delightful young man.  He also was one who could and did hold a job outside his family as well as helping at home with a mini-farm they had had.  Being good with people allowed him to do things like greet customers to a store, bag groceries and so on.   He went to a public school, but was mostly taught by his mom (who got a job in the special ed room at the school too), and then later did a job training program through Good Will (I believe).


So another thought too might be to look at your son's abilities ( that might be unusual, perhaps) and start looking for things he can do, whether for pay or just for life long term, that would bring a sense of contribution and satisfaction, not just as interests onto which to hang academics, but for their own sake for enrichment of his own life and the lives of those with whom he has contact.


Also, what would happen if you asked your son to go with you into the sunshine and notice what that is like and tell you about it, or compare it to the night when there is no sun shining, instead of asking him to parrot back a sentence?   Would he do better?

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Talk to Ottakee.  She has a dd who is a teenager with an official IQ actually slightly lower who is reading independently.  She did it through the I See Sam books.  She said it took friggin FOR. EV. ER. but she can now read easy chapter books for pleasure........


I agree life skills need to take a priority, but I would put basic reading and math on the list.

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Something that I wonder, is if learning some basic Sign Language could be helpful?

As a different way to think of words?

What I'm particularly thinking of, is the difference with 'blending' ?

For example, if you consider the phonemes:  'ba, be, bi, bu, bo' in speech, and learning to match the sounds with their written form?

Then if you consider 'signing' these different phonemes?

While they can sound similar,  they can't be signed similar?

As each phoneme is formed by a distinct movement.

Where words are concieved of a sequence of movements.


So that sign language could provide an additional way to process written words?

Where he would also 'feel' the letters and the words.


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Yes, one of my dd's scores was a 38. We did use the I See Sam books and If you look at the first link you can see some case studies which involve my daughter "Jane". It did take FOREVER to teach her to read. We worked for WEEKS to get her to understand that the word I was said I. She could tell you the name of the letter but not read it in a sentence...........seriously. We spend 1-2-3 weeks on each book but over time it got EASIER, honestly, the farther we got the easier it got. I would try those for 5-10, maybe 15 minutes a day but no more.


Try to integrate math and other things into daily life. With an IQ of 40 he is likely functioning at a 3.5-4 year old level.


Maybe use the music interest to good use and get a lot of educational things set to music along with just playing a wide variety of styles of music, etc.


We did end up putting our daughter in public school in 7th grade and it has been a great thing for her. They have a lot of resources for her as well as a "peer group" because honestly, as nice as everyone in our homeschool and church group were to her, they were not her peer group and real friends. She is doing some pre vocational training now in the highschool and next year will do some out in the community.


Your school may offer different things and be a great fit or not a great fit but we are blessed to have a great special education program in our area.


Another thing to check into would be Special Olympics. They start at age 9 and provide a lot of social opportunities in addition to the sports.

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I just took a really good special needs course, and it was suggested to have learning look like this: 25% academics which includes art and music first, then language and numeracy. 25% life skills which includes getting dressed, laundry, shopping, asking for directions, etc. 25% job skills taught as early as junior high, using of course, their interests as a guide (get creative, if he likes something, where can he use that?) and 25% volunteering and service in a community setting which allows for interaction and a sense of purpose and accomplishment. 


I really appreciated the breakdown of the above in a pie chart with space for me to write examples and brainstorm. As far as math goes, look into Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome and Other Hands on Learners. There are 2 books total, but you only need the first one for now. We also use Menu Math and Market Math to help with basic money skills.


I also appreciated the presenter saying to teach inter-dependance. We all depend on each other and we've wasted so many years reaching for "independence" when it doesn't really exist in today's culture. An adult with exceptional needs can survive with a debit card instead of cheques, a phone with pictures of mom and social worker on them, a system of support built up around them. So teach them to ask for help and let go of the independent illusion. *insert release of held-in breath, it is ok to be dependent* 


I'm sure you are aware of PECS and visual schedules and all kinds of hands-on learning, but wanted to mention it again. Visual learning and hands on learning is often easier on this crowd. 


For communication and language, Laureate Learning Systems has been a God-send. It is computer based, self-adjusting according to the child's ability, and most importantly, my son is learning, retaining and transferring what he has learned into other environments. 


I have found it helpful to focus on his happiness first, then, because like you said, I don't want to limit my son, I do imagine what he could be like as an adult. I open my eyes more to opportunities to teach him things he will need to know. Some examples: safety signs on roads, how to cross the street, how to ask the owner to pet the dog, how to take turns at the park, how to make a sandwich, how to dial the phone, how to get a drink, how to turn off the tap, how to ask for help, etc. One of the most helpful things I have heard is to teach manners, because if your child can use a tissue and say excuse me, please, thank you, and hold open doors for people, everyone will take note and want to be with them when they're adults. That came as a golden nugget while overhearing two women talk about the special person who joined their weight loss group. They were simply delighted just because the person was so polite, and they both carried on about what a great job her mother did to teach her such manners. 


I have also found it helpful to make use of executive function material, namely the book Learning the R.O.P.E.S for Improved Executive Function. My son has blown me away with what he can accomplish using those methods and printouts that come with the accompanying CD. In just a few months he has mastered many self-help skills, such as getting dressed in the morning, recalling the day's activities, and completing the bedtime routine. For a 12 year old, to finally be able to do these things independently (with mom or dad fading out as much as possible but still present) is pretty noteworthy! 


As for the job skills and volunteering, take inventory of what you have at your disposal. Get creative. My son loves languages that have different fonts (arabic, chinese, hebrew, greek, etc.) and he loves playing with little kids and their toys. I have a preschool across my street in my church, so I've been toying with the idea of once a week going in to let my son write a word on their board in a different language. If they are studying colours he can write the word blue in a different language for them. So he would be using his love of languages to serve others, then he gets rewarded by playing with their toys for a few minutes. I'm still brainstorming, and perhaps us moms always will have to, but I do find it so rewarding to come up with neat ideas using their strengths.


Continue to expose him to outside sources of "undiscovered interest". Along the same lines as "strangers are friends you don't yet know", well, you never know what he will strike a fancy with. Take him everywhere (zoo, space centre where he can look at clouds through telescopes, science centre to handle all kinds of things, all field trips, all kinds of exposures, etc.) let him explore and take note of what holds his interests. There could be many more potential leads just around the corner!


Lastly, take care of you. Enjoy your relationship with him. Life is a sweet, sweet thing, and we are blessed mamas to get to enjoy such precious innocence for a longer time than most.   :wub:

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