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Phonics and Math for my Marco


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If you've read any past posts about The Marvelous Flying Marco... he is intelligent, loves numbers, loves letters and their sounds, can listen to lengthy read-alouds - he's also autistic (level 3 support needs; rigidity issues bouncing him into the "severe spectrum" range), a major sensory seeker, and doesn't sit still much (with exceptions; he will draw for hours, although he doesn't care for coloring, and he enjoys listening to read alouds with pictures). He writes well and can form most of his letters with reliability. 


So, The Marvelous Flying Marco will be 5 this summer. He craves structure and handing him a workbook hasn't worked for a while now. This fall I'd like to start at least a formal phonics and math program. I have Miquon on hand and use it with DS7, so I will likely use that with Marco, but I'm open to other suggestions, too. He can count, with reliability, beyond 20, counts objects, recognizes written numerals, and understands the concept of addition and subtraction.


I'm at a loss with phonics, though. I do NOT think he'd do well with the Dancing Bears I have, or the Phonics Pathways. He needs to DO phonics, if there's such a program. AAR, maybe? He knows all of his letters by sight and knows their sounds very well. He has mastered most, if not all, pre-reading skills. He does also have an expressive-receptive language delay, and to clarify, this presents far more in the way he receives language, so nothing with very convoluted explanations - or even very lengthy ones. 

Edited by AimeeM
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Have you looked at LOE? We only used it for a short time (mainly because we started on too easy a level for my DD so it wasn't necessary) but it's highly engaging, and includes simple games so it's fairly kinesthetic. AAR also seems engaging, although it seems exorbitantly expensive so would be a pricey mistake if it didn't work for him. (They do have decent samples that can be printed from their website, so you could try them out with him to see if he enjoys it.)


If you allow media, there are also lots of options that could be engaging for him. My DD liked Reading Ravens, which plays almost like a gentle video game.

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I have taught some similar kids and I really like Phonographic/Reading Reflex for them. It doesn't use a lot of language, but rather let's kids discover patterns, and there is a fair amount of manipulation.


One thing that I would think about with a kid who struggles with rigidity is that you may have to do more explicit teaching on using context and syntax, integrating multiple cues, and on flexibility (e.g. trying a few different value sounds or accenting the word differently until it sounds right). Some very rule based phonics programs, especially with highly controlled text can be a poor fit for some kids with ASD for that reason.

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My ds isn't level 3, so I won't comment to that. I'll just say that Daria's warning about the rigidity is pretty real from what I've read. Like if you teach very linearly that a letter "makes" a sound, he might buck it having more sounds later. Even though my ds has dyslexia, I went ahead and taught *all* the sounds upfront, just to combat this. Might be something to consider if you're going to go with a traditional phonics.


Beyond that, I really have no opinion. I guess use your gut. Anything sensible or typical. My ds is pretty off the charts, and he does surprisingly well with worksheets, assuming lots of motivators, clear expectations and structure (now we're doing this, then we'll do x), and a clearly defined space. My ds has an office with a door that shuts, and the workers go in there for academics. The room is divided into zones so he has a floor play area, a reading/read aloud nook, open space for movement games, and of course a corner with a table. And there are divider walls between the spaces to make for more nooks and coziness and environmental control.


For us, the behavioral control and getting him onboard with the plan is harder than the what to use. 


Really, AAR pre is the bees' knees for cuteness. You might kinda try it and see what happens. If he has no SLDs and the methodology clicks with him, it's sound and adorable. That woman is seriously organized, and it has components that would be easy to hand off to workers. I find with my team idiot-proof is good, things that I can hand between workers and have everyone know where to pick up. 


Fwiw, it's not easy to work on behavior AND academics at the same time.


ETC worksheets would be really good just for working on compliance. Yeah, the more I think about it, ETC would be a good type of thing with my ds and the way he works. Might not be for your ds, but for mine (kinda similar but a 1/2, not a 3), barring SLDs, ETC would have been a good fit. I use a LOT of worksheets and printables from Teacher Created Resource. LIke $300 a year worth, I kid you not. It's ridiculous. TPT also has good stuff.

Edited by OhElizabeth
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My son is 8 (and in public school) and we just made a decision earlier in the year for him to start over at the beginning of Saxon 1st grade math.  (He had been in the school math program through the beginning of 2nd grade.)


He had a lot of skills but was forgetting things, and then he had some gaps, too.


It has REALLY helped him with those "easy" things like the weather, the calendar, and seasons.


These are very hard for him, harder than just manipulating numbers. 


I have been really pleased, but his language level has only gotten to where he is comfortable with that this year I think.  I don't think I could have used it when he was 5 and had him able to do the calendar, weather, and seasons.  (I use it some, it is used at school more by other people than me.)


So I could not be more pleased.


He has some skills that are higher, because he also does some "2nd grade math" so he does know the concept of grouping for multiplication and he can do some here and there.


But the main reason we went with this was seeing that he forgot things without review, and then also hoping that the calendar part would help him.


He had been exposed to calendar since pre-school and while I am sure the exposure was good and helped him, he was not catching on to it before this year with Saxon. 


Where I am many kids do continue in the usual math program, my son is one where we decided it wasn't working and then Saxon is one they like to use.  So I don't think there is any reason not to try Miquon.  It sounds like he could do very well with it.  He is ahead of where my son was when he was 5. 

Edited by Lecka
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I'm at a loss with phonics, though. I do NOT think he'd do well with the Dancing Bears I have, or the Phonics Pathways. He needs to DO phonics, if there's such a program. AAR, maybe? He knows all of his letters by sight and knows their sounds very well. He has mastered most, if not all, pre-reading skills. He does also have an expressive-receptive language delay, and to clarify, this presents far more in the way he receives language, so nothing with very convoluted explanations - or even very lengthy ones. 

My favorite phonics program is The Reading Lesson, for a child who needs to "do" then I would add Lowercase Letter Magnets and use them on a cookie tray. I might also make or invest in a mini dry erase surface that they can write on. Get a few cans of shaving cream and let him trace letters with his finger or use dry rice/salt, etc.


Additionally you can put different phonograms on index cards and let him use the cards to "spell" words. As you go through each lesson, you can pull out the letters needed to do the practice words and warm ups and "do" them with cards instead of from the book.


The Reading Lesson gradually introduces letters as you need them. The first five chapters cover the short vowel sounds, introducing a few letters at a time and focusing on the lower case letters first and foremost.


You can see a sample of TRL on their website and try it out for yourself.


There are instructions for you, but no lengthy instructions for the students. You mostly teach via demonstrating. The only real problem I have had is that each lesson introduces the new sounds and uses illustrations of words that begin with that sounds. Sometimes kids think that the Rabbit is a bunny (it's a very cute little rabbit) so I just tell them, 'this is a rrrrabbit". We don't have trouble with the other pictures, just that super cute rabbit making some kids think Bunny!!! (You can see the rrrrabbit on page 35 of the sample). Your son already knowing his letter sounds will mean that this isn't likely to be a problem for him.


As you progress through TRL, your child will be able to gradually learn to blend and read words and by the time that you get to the end your son will be reading around a 2nd grade level. As you finish the first 5 lessons, you can make word cards of the short-vowel sight words to use as a warm up. Your son knowing all of his sounds will mean that he's not limited to just certain words, but will be able to decode many/all of the short vowel words within a short time.


I have found that phonetically drilling the sight words as a warm up each day greatly increases beginning readers fluency and familiarity. After I finish the first 5 lessons (short vowels), I like to begin my students in a school reading book such as the first volume from


Harcourt Story Town

Story Town Grade 1 (5 vol)

Scott Foreman Reading Street

Grade 1 vol 1Grade 1 vol 2, Grade 1 vol 3, Grade 1 vol 4, and Grade 1 vol 5

McGraw Hill Reading

1st Grade Reading (5 vol)


All of these are older edition so you can get each book for around $4

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I think that my 2e son with ASD would've needed Miquon plus something a little more traditional. Not so much as more work in order to grasp something, but as more than one way of looking at the same concept. Miquon would've suited his ability to use his number sense and intuit stuff, but once he had that intuition, doing a few cut and dry things to firm that up would've been necessary. Basically, he would make really interesting conceptual leaps, but then feel like he was on a rock in the middle of a river. He needed to see that there were other rocks in between that he could step on to find his way back. So, if he intuited a concept, then he would want to take that concept and go back through and make a 1:1 correspondence with things to see if that concept held true all the time (but he didn't really know that's what he wanted). That said, my son absolutely requires more than one way of looking at things, so it's not a Miquon-specific problem.


Anyway, I am kind of reading between the lines that Marco might be pretty cognitively able, and I've read this need for the big picture first and then filling in details (vs. being either/or) is kind of typical for 2e ASD kiddos.


If you are comfortable with winging things, I would say find a curriculum that has some flexibility and then add in your own ways of making it hands-on (as others have said--letters you can hold and move, etc.). 


It's hard because each kid with ASD has a different level of challenges in each area. 


Also, language is so foundational--it seems like all ASD kiddos have some novel or unconventional use of language (or an outright receptive or expressive delay). Make sure you are not assuming things when Marco sounds like he knows what he's talking about. DS and I can use the same words and context for things and be totally missing each other. It's better than it was, but when he was little, he really couldn't tell if he misunderstood--he'd just make it work in his head if there was dissonance. (Well, she said this, and he said that, so I'm gonna go with this third thing that sounds like it could be right...) I had to discover and correct those things. Now, he can see it more easily when there is a disconnect and realize he might be thinking too literally or something (and at this point, it usually becomes a moment of humor vs. frustration). At his age, there are programs available that can help you work through and make sure you are checking those language hang-ups (I didn't know my son had autism at that age, so I can't recommend much; I just know others talk about them). 


POV is just a really, really big thing with my son.


I would also say that behavior is a big thing, and for all the trouble that some of these kiddos have to learn something that goes against the way their brains work, they can often pick up on something you don't want them to think, say, do, etc. quite quickly, and then you have to undo it. BTDT a few too many times. We use a behaviorist (BCBA) to help support our son with executive function issues, social skills, taking feedback, etc., and if we'd had the opportunity when he was 5, we would've been able to use one all that much more. ABA has helped us meet goals we weren't sure were within reach. 

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Phonics Games and Fun Blending ideas page and video:




You might also get some good ideas from the LOE lady's Phonemic awareness video:





White board, magnetic letters, letter tiles (can just use banannagrams or scrabble letters or my free to print cards, linked from the blending page above.)


There is a phonics program based entirely on games...happy phonics maybe, ask on the K-8 board.  Also, some games are in Mona McNee's free to print CAT phonics, if you click on each lesson, most have games.  She is British, so a few sounds may be slightly off.



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Also, the Pollard books have a lot of fun song ideas and how to do blackboard work (now white board work).  Scroll down about halfway down the page of my reading and spelling book page.  




With my son, I focused more on games and spelling than his sister, oral spelling or writing on the white board with your choice of marker--make it a privilege, I'm always surprised at how well this works. "If you concentrate well on reading these next few words (that I write in black on the white board), you can choose your color of marker to spell words."  I also let him choose, for example, "To finish up do you want to spell 2 words or read 10?"  (I have found that spelling cements things in the mind better than reading, so spelling 2 words is about equal to reading 10.)


I also found for both, but especially my son, that two 5 minute sessions were better than one 10 minute session (what he was capable of at the start of K) and then later, two 10 minute sessions were superior for learning and retention to one 20 minute session.


My son also did really well with Webster's Speller.  He needed a lot of repetition to get phonics, but we kept going back to Webster in between phonics review and this allowed him to progress to upper level things while still learning and reviewing the basics.  



Edited by ElizabethB
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The behavior/rigidity is being addressed in OT (he just started with an OT who has extensive experience with autism). We chose not to use ABA for personal reasons. OT is only once weekly right now, but they anticipate much more eventually. They would like him to start ILS soon, too, and will be working on that at his next session. 


While I understand that behavior and academics are tough to address at the same time, it will eventually be necessary. Rigidity and his other ASD-related behavior issues may be life-long and we aren't expecting miracles with the therapies. At the moment, everyone's sole focus with therapy is just to get him to the point where his rigidity and sensory seeking isn't dangerous to him.


I love the idea of using incentives, but his receptive language skills are still at "caveman-speak." I can tell him, "First letters, then white board," but any more detailed than that and he will lose words and not understand (typically resulting in a meltdown). 


I will look at all of the programs mentioned. I keep looking back at AAR and LOE especially :P 

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Could you use a "first then board" to teach "first then"?


This helped with my son but took time for him to understand it, but does not require receptive language.


It is something you can google (and can be considered a type of visual schedule which might be better to google).


Or your OT might have some resource. My son has used this for OT activities, some OTs do it for sure.


It helped a LOT for him to understand first/then for transitions and also sometimes for just needing him to know "not this second but soon!"

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Re-reading -- I see he has got first/then receptively.


Maybe you could expand to three things with a visual schedule.


Or, use a token board if you aren't opposed to them.


For an easy one you can have a picture of the item to earn and then fill in 5 circles (by doing something) and then he has earned the thing in the picture.


You can make it fun and easy if you want.


My son has done token boards with OT, too, but more because it is a known good strategy for him than bc they are bringing it in (just ime).


But my son has had some OT things he didn't really want to do but that were still appropriate goals for him, so then they have agreed to bring it in.


But we have had speech therapists who use token boards.


(It is something associated with ABA so maybe not something you would want, but not exclusive to ABA.)

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Do you have the five original Leap Frog DVDs?


Are you OK with your boy using the computer? I think Star Fall's original reading portion of their website is still free, but haven't checked for several years.


We also used the Scholastic Clifford software (all five disks) starting at the age of 3.

He loved Letter Factory and, because of it, has known his letter sounds since 1.5 years old, lol. He doesn't have the same enthusiasm for the rest of the Leap Frogs. He likes them "okay" but not as much :P

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