When my daughter started kindergarten last fall, I was at a complete loss at how to teach her. My first three kids were neurotypical, so I had not homeschooled a child with FASD or with learning difficulties before. She was not the same as my first 3 kids. Learning was more difficult for her, she could not remember what she learned from one day to the next. She got instructions mixed up and couldn’t sit more than 10 minutes at a time. How was I supposed to teach her?!?!
So, I did what I do best…research! I researched and researched and researched some more. I talked to special education teachers, I talked to speech therapists, I talked to occupational therapists, I talked to behavioral therapists, and I read anything I could find on teaching a child with FASD…and I have to say there wasn’t a lot out there.
Was Public School the Answer?
People just kept telling me to put her in public school, they would know what to do with her, but I just couldn’t do that to her. Would a teacher give her a hug when she was frustrated that she couldn’t remember what she knew yesterday? Would a teacher let her have a break when she got tired? Would a teacher know you couldn’t just tell her something, you had to show her too if you wanted her to understand? Would she be labelled as unteachable?
No one is more committed to helping her learn than I am!
All these questions were running through my mind constantly, but I knew that no teacher could ever love her like I do and no teacher would ever be as invested as I am to help her succeed. No one is more dedicated to helping her learn than I am, because I am her mom!
So, I got back to more research. She had some assessments done which helped me understand what she was going through. We learned that she had auditory processing disorder, she only hears 2-3 words of every sentence. We learned that she had sensory processing issues. I watched more training webinars and read more books on FASD, so I could understand what was the best way to teach her.
We made some changes!
I learned that she needed less distractions, so we moved her to a room with less windows. Our school room has blank white walls and bookshelves, that’s it, no distractions. Bright lights hurt her eyes so our new schoolroom has muted lighting. The other kids aren’t allowed to talk, make any amount noise or cause any distractions, while she is doing her school work. I learned that she needs information in small packets and she needs a lot of repetition to get the information to stick. I figured out that while she has no memory for abstract information she can remember a lot of information that has been told in story form.
We are both happy with the changes we have made and my curriculum choices for this year.
What Curriculum Do We Use?
For math, we are using Math for a Living Education, Level 1, by Masterbooks. We started using the curriculum in the spring and she learned more in a month than she had since the beginning of the year! This math text follows twins Charlie and Charlotte, as they learn about math on their grandparents’ farm. My daughter loves the stories and she can see where she will use the concepts in real life. I love that there is a lot of repetition and review, which is what she needs.
We are using a couple different programs this year as the alphabet is very abstract and that is hard for her. Explode the Code-Before the Code is one curriculum that we use. It has so much repetition and so many different activities for each letter. I like that it focuses on the sound the letter makes rather than the name of the letter and that it teaches the letters in order of most used and not alphabetical. While it is not a flashy curriculum, it is inexpensive and it really deserves more attention than it gets.
The other curriculum that we use is fairly new to the market and so far, we are really liking it. It is The Good & The Beautiful from Jenny Phillips. We are using Pre-K to make sure she really understands her letters and then we will start the Kindergarten level. I love that the curriculum includes hands on activities and games and quite a bit of review.
Here my all time favorite curriculum is Five in a Row. It is such a gentle way to learn. It is a series of unit studies based on wonderfully rich stories. Since, it all starts with a story, my daughter finds it easier to remember the information. We don’t just study a book for one week though, we always take at least two or three. There are so many fun and interesting activities you can do for each book. It’s also a good change of pace from many other curricula.
Let me tell you, I am not a planner type person (I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming post), but I do use a planning page for Five in a Row. I do not want to miss any of the wonderful activities. I looked for one that I really liked and couldn’t find one, so I created my own. I am so happy to share it with you!
I hear from people everyday, that the public school system is failing their kids with special needs, especially their kids with FASD. FASD is growing in exposure, but many people are still misinformed about what it means to have FASD. They do not get our kids, they do not understand what our kids go through. You know your child best and I want you to know you have another option, I want you to know that you CAN homeschool your child with FASD. And very likely they will be better off for it!
Join my growing community of parents who are homeschooling their kids with FASD and other special needs! We can all learn together 🙂