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Showing posts from 2012

Training Up Independent Learners: Autistic and Gifted Alike

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I have two very different children that always seem to surprise me with how similar they are!

Today I gave my 11 yr old daughter only one assignment for the entire day...Make an iMovie about the North Korean rocket launch.  This event has meaning to her because she has shown an interest in this region and conflict since she was a little girl.  I remember checking out DVDs from the library when she was in 2nd grade about the Korean War and she has followed the Kim regime ever since.  She has similar fascinations with other countries like Peru, Saudi Arabia and Cuba.  I might have the future Secretary of State on my hands...she does love her some Condi Rice too:)

I sent her away at 9:30 with no instructions besides, "Make a 2-4 minute iMovie on the rocket launch." She sprawled out on my bed with the laptop, snacks and the dog, and at 2:30 she emerged with this:





She layed out her process for me afterwards which included:

1.  Internet research from:  Business Insider, Fox New…

Mid-Term Progress Report

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After my first 6 weeks of homeschooling both Jackson (7th - Autism) and Caroline (5th - Gifted), I can honestly say that it was the best decision we have ever made for our family.  And while I clearly have no time to blog about it, there has been no shortage of monumental breakthroughs and good old-fashioned fun in our house...both of which we rarely experienced while they were in public schools.

As you scroll through the some of the photos I took on my phone, you get a great visual picture of the beginning our of school year - and by the looks of it, you might be concerned that we are having too much fun with too little learning!


















All of these were taken during our "school day" which goes from 8:30-3:00ish.  We go on a lot of outings and spend a lot of our time outside doing experiments, reading, hiking, and wrestling apparently:)  When we are working inside, we have a mixed bag of learning styles, Jackson likes to be at the table with minimal sensory distractions, while Ca…

Think Inclusive Guest Blog

I had a wonderful opportunity to write a guest blog for Think Inclusive this week!  I was asked to discuss the reasons why we decided to homeschool Jackson.  I loved the idea since I know most of the readers of this particular site are educators seeking information and support for special education inclusion.  Since I have already wrote about this topic on my blog, I decided to give the subject a twist and use an analogy to explain it!  For those of you who know me best, you'll appreciate my comparison of autism education to BigAgra business vs. local organic family farms.

Check out my post here: My Decision to Homeschool My Son With Autism


Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/hometeachautism
Like the Facebook Page: Homeschooling Autism

Schedules, Schedules, Schedules

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Many people have asked me how I plan to manage the needs of my two very differently-abled children this year.  Jackson needs a tremendous amount of structure and one-on-one teaching to maximize his learning potential, while Caroline needs more freedom and independence to spread her wings and push the boundaries of what she can accomplish.  That puts me in a tough spot...right in the middle!  My way to bridge the gap is to rely on a very unique scheduling system that allows for both the detail J needs, and the flexibility C craves.  Each form that I have shown has a link to a Goggle Document if you want to explore them in-depthly.

And it all starts with...


Jackson's clipboard always has 2 pieces of paper on it: a Daily Scheduleand aDaily Work sheet. The daily schedule is broken down in 15 min increments from 8am-8pm, with clear labels for each activity or subject.  The daily work sheet is a very detailed list of all the school activities for one day, down to the number of pages in…

Why We Decided to Also Homeschool Our Neuro-Typical Daughter

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There is one reason and one reason only: 
Because I can

Now, of course, that is a loaded answer, but it is the truth at the core of our whole debate in regards to Caroline's 5th grade year.  After we unexpectedly pulled Jackson out of the public middle school's autism program last fall, we scrambled to put together an academic program to meet all his needs.  Thankfully, it was a tremendously smooth transition considering the circumstances.  Over the course of the following few months, I spent a lot of time continuing my research into middle grade academics and discovered a huge body of work on educational reform for this age group.  What I came across time and time again, as the only solution to our nation's growing educational crisis, was the call for more individualized education.

The concept of individualized education is very familiar to me for obvious reasons - autism education is based around the IEP (Individualized Education Plan), so I have seen first hand the powe…

Sibling Respite - Even Caroline Needs a Break!

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Respite is a popular term in the special needs community. To quote Jill's House, the premiere respite center on the east coast, the term means the provision of "a safe haven to which parents can entrust their children, allowing the parents a time of rest."  I would add that siblings require respite just as much as parents do, and often times more, if they are a heavily relied upon resource or care giver to their special needs brother or sister.  


That is why, even though it broke our hearts, we sent our 10 yr old daughter, Caroline to an 8 day sleep over camp called Summer's Best 2 Weeks. She is an integral part of our family and not having her here has been hard.  We find ourselves a little lonely and bored.  Even Jackson has been out of sorts all week, and while not able to communicate exactly what he is feeling, his behavior is speaking loud and clear that something is amiss.  


Caroline puts a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to be a good sister.  She still …

Quiet Voice Victory!

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It has taken us 10 years to figure out how to help Jackson manage his volume and tone of voice.  We were just joking the other day that an autism diagnosis is not an accurate representation of him (for many reasons I'll go into on a later date), so we made up a more humorous, but fitting term: LASS...Loud, Angry, Silly Syndrome. 

But in all seriousness, this spring, we have made a few breakthroughs in regards to helping him understand how and when to use a quiet and calm voice.  Sadly, it is a fairly simple formula that has proven extremely challenging, on our part, to implement. But, as they say, knowing is half the battle, so now that we know, we can continue the battle! The 3 key parts to this formula are:

1.  Creating an anxiety free environment
2.  Leveraging his newly developed interest in a social life
3.  Consistency!!!!!

Step 1 is by far the most important part of this grand plan, and the reason he was so unsuccessful in a public middle-school environment - which I now under…

6 Month Anniversary!!

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Today marks the 6 month anniversary of Jackson's homeschooling adventure!  We began on Friday, October 27th, 2011.  It didn't hit me until I was reviewing his math work from this morning, saw the date, and then realized how advanced his work has become in such a short period of time.  When we first began homeschooling, he could not add or subtract double digits, did not know all his multiplication facts and forget about division or fractions.  He was just telling time, counting money and doing basic computation. But this morning, he was doing all kinds of complicated math, with zero help.  I wasn't even in the room!  Not only has his skill level increased, but his independence and confidence has skyrocketed as well.



Here are some other updates on how far he has come in just 6 months:

Getting Ready

Then:  I would have to help him shower, get dressed, brush his teeth, put on his deodorant.  We had a list and followed it faithfully so he understood good personal grooming habi…

Video: Introducing New Math Concepts

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The following is a 11 minute video of a math lesson from Wednesday, April 18th.  I decided to record our lesson, so I cold go back and learn how Jackson responded to the way I introduced a new and challenging math concept to him - double digit multiplication. This is unedited, and comprises our entire lesson for this material.  If you scroll below the video, you will see I've made a few notes that correspond with the time stamp on the screen, as well as my big take-away from teaching him this lesson.


0:10   When introducing new concepts, I try to make the lesson short.  Here I clearly state that he only has to do 3 pages.  That helps him to not be anxious if the work is too hard at first.

0:24   After fumbling over how to explain step #1, he sees how I am writing the problem and offers his own term, "multiply down"...I quickly jump on that phrase because he came up with it and that seems to help him absorb new information better - ownership is important.

1:50   After he …

Wordless Wednesday

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My Biggest Fear

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Every Friday, Jackson asks to drive through a quiet little neighborhood near our house. So on the way home from our daily errands, I indulge this inexplicable whim of his, and turn into Sleepy Hollow Woods and slowly drive around the hilly streets that make a nice loop back to the main road.  It takes all of 5 minutes, but it gives him so much pleasure, that I never mind our weekly detour.

This morning, however, my heart was heavy with worry.  I have not been feeling well lately and have become consumed with fear that it is more than just a seasonal bug or a passing inconvenience.  As the mother of an autistic child, my biggest fear is dying young and leaving him alone in this often cruel and harsh world that does not seem to be getting any better in terms of special needs care and acceptance.  Paul and I both struggle with this issue, as all parents of autism do.  It is rarely talked about, since the day to day issues can be so overwhelming...so we push this fear deep, deep down, wh…

Impact of Nutrition and Healthy Living

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Three months after Jackson was diagnosed with autism in October of 2001, I took him to a pediatric developmental specialist who recommended a biomedical treatment program that included dietary changes and nutritional supplementation.  It has been exactly 10 years since we started these treatments, and they have had a profound effect on his health and development.  I strongly recommend biomedical interventions for any and all health issues and have personally seen dramatic improvements in people of all ages.  Each member of my family has their own personalized dietary and nutritional programs based on our unique health needs and it has been transformational in all areas of our life. 


I have asked a longtime friend of mine to write this weeks blog on her personal experiences with the impact of these programs in her life.  As a disclaimer, I do not use any of the products she is discussing nor am I endorsing any particular program.  But I do love and admire her passion and ability to comm…