Communication Challenges for Struggling Learners

Communication Challenges for Struggling Learners

(The following post is written by True North Homeschool Academy Special Needs Instructor Amy Vickery.)
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For your children who struggle with academics, communication can be a challenge too.  From finding the right words to express feelings, needs and wants, to be able to express themselves on paper, communication challenges come in many different forms.  These challenges can change over time, showing up for a period of time and then disappearing, only to show up in a new way somewhere else. Here are some challenges your child may face, and some ways to help support their challenges.

Listening Comprehension Skills:

When dealing with communication, the first thing you have to consider is a child’s ability to understand what they hear.  If they cannot follow simple directions, they may be struggling with listening comprehension rather than just being “difficult” or “ignoring” you. A child who struggles with listening comprehension is not going to understand what is being said in a conversation (may have a hard time staying on topic, or responding appropriately), and will likely not pick up naturally the conversational skills other children do.
Here are some suggestions for working on listening comprehension:
  1. Give directions one step at a time.  Once this is mastered, go to 2 steps at a time, then 3.
  2. Keep directions short…use fewer words when possible.
  3. Allow time to process the direction before saying anything else.
  4. If you repeat the direction, don’t change how you said it.  Say it exactly the same way again. Don’t change what you are saying until you know for sure they have heard you.  When you change the words you are using, the brain takes it as new information, and begins processing it as a totally new direction.  By using the same words, the brain can continue to process the information that it took in the first time you said it.

Expressing emotions:

Our society has greatly changed over the past years. At one point, boys and men were not supposed to show or express emotions, to talk about feelings, or admit when they were hurt.  Now our society expects everyone to be able to express feelings, empathize and otherwise understand complex emotions from a very young age. As a child with Autism, my son found this very difficult and continues to struggle with it at times.
Some ways I help him are:
  1. Talking about my feelings and emotions
  2. Asking questions when he seems to be unable to express himself or unaware of his emotions
  3. Seeking outside help at times to help him work through his emotions and identify what may be going on.
  4. Using emotion boards to allow nonverbal communication of feelings. This can also be done through art, drawing, writing, play and other forms of expression).
  5. Be aware that emotional upset decreases a child’s ability to express emotions and thoughts, and will limit or stop learning completely.

Talking to strangers:

Some children can be overly shy while others can be overly friendly. Both are difficult situations to deal with at times.
Some ways to help with knowing how to talk to people:
  1. Give suggestions (almost like a script) of how to introduce oneself, ask questions, talk about subjects interesting to your child and the other child, give compliments, accept compliments, etc.  For some ideas, check out the Boystown Social Skills Posters.
  2. If you have a child who is learning a social skill and needs reminders, set up a small cue that only the two of you know about (like a wink or holding up 1 finger, etc.), that you can do “secretly” to remind him.
  3. Use a visual cue like “Social Circles” to help children who are overly friendly understand limits.

Making friends:

Our kids that are unique, different, and/or struggle sometimes have difficulty making or keeping friends.
Some ways to help:
  1. Talk to them about how others feel and think as you interact with people in public, watch tv, and talk to one another.
  2. Find something they are interested in, and find a class or a club involving that interest – or start one!  (having something in common can be a beginning point for friendship).
  3. Get involved with a church or family social organization that has a variety of kids of different ages and abilities.
Whatever stage of development your child is in, the ability to communicate is essential to navigating the social world.  With a little help and support, even our children who struggle can learn to make and keep friends, communicate with individuals of all ages, and be able to advocate for themselves as they become more independent with time.

 

Feel like you need MORE help with your struggling learner?  Check out our great struggling learner program at True North Homeschool Academy.  We also do tutoring for struggling learners, as well as academic advising.

 

Amy Vickery - Struggling Learners Teacher

Amy Vickrey, MSE  is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!

Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.

Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children.  Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.”

Are you facing communication challenges with your struggling learner?  Often special needs children have difficulty communicating with those around them.  See True North Homeschool Academy Instructor Amy Vickery's top tips for helping your struggling learner communicate.  #strugglinglearner #specialneeds #homeschool #homeschooling #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy

5 Communication Strategies for Struggling Learners

5 Communication Strategies for Struggling Learners

When homeschooling a struggling learner, communication can be difficult, to say the least. Without healthy communication, it will be impossible to help your child, let alone teach them effectively so that they make real progress.

As a parent to an Asperger son who struggles in several areas, I have been blessed with a child who communicates effectively. I have learned a lot from him and our journey these last 11 years as a homeschooling family that has been characterized by a close relationship.  I learned this from a great resource I frequently use, AspergerExperts.com. The founder, who is a young man with Aspergers, teaches about what he calls defense mode and how to get your child out of it.

So what makes the difference? Let me share these five key communication strategies to help you with YOUR struggling learner.

1) Intentionally enter their world.

I must have instinctively known this because it’s something I’ve always done. I take note of my son’s interests, and I come alongside him to learn and listen.

Whether that was building legos with him or playing cars when he was young or even attempting to play a video game, I make it a point to spend time doing what he loves. This builds trust.

Trust is a foundation of communication, which leads me to the second point:

2) Spend time with your struggling learner APART from school.

Years ago I learned that my son VALUES spending time with me. To him, going out to lunch or coffee together satisfies him the most. So I’ve made a point of going out once a week with him for coffee or lunch. Sometimes we take school with us and do school after our food comes. Other times, we just talk.

Regardless, taking this time together on a regular basis sends the message to him that I value his company and this has helped our schooling tremendously.

3) Actively listen.

It’s so easy as a parent to get defensive and feel like you’ve failed. I’ve been there many, many times. But when I take the time to LISTEN to my son and what he has to say, I can truly understand what’s going on with him.

Case in point: several months ago I had him evaluated at LearningRx, and we found out he struggles with visual processing. Several weeks after we were working on school he told me: he CANNOT visualize and that made him upset. I didn’t realize, and so for all those years, I was mistakenly approaching school. I had been using a lot of visual resources rather than audio ones. I had completely missed it!

But because I actively listened to what my son was saying, I finally understood, and now we’re using more audio resources.

4) Treat your child with respect.

Respect goes both ways. Of course as parents we deserve respect, but children need and deserve our respect. What does this mean practically?

It means little things like give your struggling learner advance warning. For instance, rather than demanding my son stop everything he is doing right now instantly, I give him at least a fifteen-minute warning.  Or I will give him choices. Like, “Hey, would you like to do school at 10 or 10:30?”

And always always have empathy. I learned this most from Love and Logic. LEAD with empathy and mean it, especially if your son or daughter has made a wrong decision or they are struggling in a minor way.  Because you never, never want to minimize their feelings or tell them they are not feeling a certain way. That will lead to them shutting down and not trusting you. Feelings are feelings and perceptions are reality.

So just saying a simple “I’m sad for you” when your child is struggling can go a long way!

5) Be consistent.

Now I confess I have a hard time with this, but it’s so important.  When your child is having a hard time or being defiant, making empty threats is only going to make your situation worse.  You’re training your child to ignore you until that moment when your tone gets serious, and they know they have to obey.

Communicating up front your expectations, and the consequences if these expectations are not met, is so important. And then follow through! And don’t threaten something that’s not realistic or will hurt you in the long run!

Communication is so important when teaching a struggling learner. In fact, communication is essential in EVERY aspect of life. These keys will not only help you with your child but will assist in all areas of your life!

Do you need more help with your struggling learner?  Check out our special need courses, tutoring, and advising at True North Homeschool Academy.

larping, RPG, dana Beasley

Dana Susan Beasley, a graphic artist, writer, and musician, is principal/publisher/program director of AngelArts. Dedicated to providing excellently-designed ebooks, books, homeschooling curriculum, cards, stationery, gifts, and art services to homeschooling families, inspirational artists, entrepreneurs, and art enthusiasts, Dana delights in sharing her gifts and talents and the talents of others with people who are passionate about spiritual, personal, educational, professional, ministrial, artistic, and relational growth.

Married to Travis Beasley, Dana is a homeschooling mother to her Asperger son, Sam. She helped her husband start his architectural business, Essential Pillar Architecture, and assists him with marketing and administration.

Do you have a struggling learner in your homeschool? Do you feel like you are failing at communication? Then it's time to check out these tips for communication with struggling learners from True North Homeschool Academy. What would you add? #strugglinglearners #communication #Specialneedshomeschool #homeschooling #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy

 

 

Spotting a Struggling Learner in Your Homeschool

Spotting a Struggling Learner in Your Homeschool

(The following is a post from Amy Vickrey, special needs/struggling learner teacher at True North Homeschool Academy.)

We all struggle.  Sometimes our families struggle financially due to unexpected expenses or situations.  Sometimes we struggle with finding enough time in the day because we work and homeschool, or we have therapy and doctors appointments that eat into our precious little time.  Sometimes we struggle as a family because of personality conflicts and differences in needs. But what do we do when our kids struggle with doing the work we have given them to do?

When our children struggle with reading, writing, and math, it is sometimes hard to know what exactly is going on.  Is it just this concept they are struggling with? Does math (or reading) come easy to them, whereas other things are harder?  Especially if it is your first child, and if you have never taught children before, it is hard to know how much help you may need, or if you should just “wait it out.”

When our struggling learners are younger, it can be difficult to decide whether to seek help or not.  

Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP suggests to take the following things into consideration:

  • At least 7 ½ to 8 years of age?
  • Is the child a boy or girl?  Boys sometimes take longer to mature and be ready to learn.
  • Can your child say (not sing) the ABC’s in order, differentiating L, M, N, O, and P?
  • Can your child hold a pencil?
  • When your child writes, does he reverse letters?
  • Does your child have a desire, an eagerness to learn?
  • Is a younger sibling catching on to concepts faster, or catching up?
  • Does your child like to be read to?

By the age of around 10, children should be moving from learning to read to reading to learn.  This means they should be able to read the words without much difficulty on age-appropriate levels and should be beginning to build an understanding of what they are reading and learn from it.  

So what about older kids who need some help?  At what point should you be concerned?

Can your child:

  • Look at a set of objects (or fingers) and tell you how many are there (without counting, up to 10)?
  • Know math addition and subtraction facts or a quick strategy to solve them (not counting fingers).
  • Know multiplication and division facts or a quick strategy to solve them (not skip counting from the 1x place).
  • Understand about multiples and factors
  • Understand about decimals and fractions
  • Tell time on an analog clock (not digital)

All children learn differently, and it is true that some children simply need time and repetition to be ready to learn certain concepts.  

So when is it important to seek testing and/or services for struggling learners?

  • When it will benefit your child to get them needed therapies
  • When your child is preparing for a trade school or college/university that requires a current “diagnosis” for support
  • When you choose to utilize services available from the local school district (this varies by state and district)
  • When there are state services that are available to you with a diagnosis (such as audiobook programs available to those who have vision impairments or dyslexia diagnosis)
  • To seek recommendations to better understand how to help your child learn (at these times, seeking out someone who understands homeschooling would be beneficial).
  • Your child becomes overly frustrated by their limitations and struggles

Other things you can do to ease the struggles and frustrations as a parent:

(More great articles to check out – Developmental Red Flags for Children Ages 3-5, Do IQ Tests Tell the Whole Story?, Finding Peace Amid Struggles)

Feel like you need MORE help with your struggling learner?  Check out our great struggling learner program at True North Homeschool Academy.  We also do tutoring for struggling learners, as well as academic advising.

Amy Vickery - Struggling Learners Teacher

Amy Vickrey, MSE  is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!

Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.

Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children.  Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.”

Are you wondering if you have a struggling learner in your homeschool? Check out these tips from True North Homeschool Academy to find out! #homeschool #specialneedshomeschool #strugglinglearner #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #helpforhomeschoolers

Executive Functioning & Why it Matters in Your Homeschool

Executive Functioning & Why it Matters in Your Homeschool

Executive Functioning a big “buzzword” in education right now.  If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Autism, Aspergers or a Learning Disability, you have probably come across the term Executive Functioning.  

So, how does Executive Functioning affect your child? Have you seen any of the following?
  • Easily frustrated – fights or quits tasks easily, melts down easily.
  • Anxious – worries about things out of their control, or about making mistakes excessively.
  • Worried or bothered by seemingly “little” things –  could by physical things or academic things.
  • Frustrated by sitting still – constantly on the move, needs to have hands/body moving
  • Following directions is arduous labor – can follow one direction at a time (well, maybe sometimes?), may have difficulty with more than one direction at a time.
  • Difficulty completing tasks – may start things and not finish, or gets frustrated and stops rather than ask for help.
  • Struggles with getting started in tasks – even seemingly simple assignments (or larger ones) are difficult to get started because they don’t know where to begin
  • Strains to keep track of the processes of math and reading – forgets to go back to the passage to help find answers or reread, loses their place in a multi-step math problem or with long division/multiplication type processes.
  • Easily bothered or distracted by light levels (high or low) or noise (too loud or too quiet) – textures, sounds, lights, cold, heat, blue skies, gray skies, dogs barking, someone says something unexpected – these and more distract and bother our kids at times.
  • Flexibility is an issue; may struggle greatly with being able to “switch gears” when life demands it.
  • Planning and prioritizing are difficult or impossible to the chagrin and frustration of the person.
  • Working memory can be faulty and frustrating.
  • Response inhibition (ability to control one’s own emotions) is a struggle or lost battle.

What is Executive Functioning?

The official definition from LDONLINE (LD Online) is: “The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.” This means that a lot of the above behaviors that are sometimes considered “careless” and “willful” can be traced back to issues with Executive Functioning.

In the course description for True North Homeschool Academy’s Creating Priorities Class for Executive Functioning, I describe it as it looks at my house… Perhaps your child struggles with executive functioning skills, as mine does. When it is time to do his schoolwork, my son loses his pencil, loses his worksheet, will solve the problem with blocks but forget to write the answer, disappears, jumps up and runs around the house, find a million other things to do, and then will finally sit down, solve two questions, and then he’s off again…. My son, like many others, struggles with executive functioning skills.  He doesn’t MEAN to be unorganized and distracted, but his brain just can’t help it. Like many people with a diagnosis, he also struggles with time management, self-control, memory and other cognitive issues; common for those whose brains are developing differently. As a family, we are working on many things to help him learn how to better manage his time and his work.

What can be done to enhance and teach Executive Functioning Skills?

You can focus on specific skills that may be lacking.  For example –

  • How to study – how to make outlines, study key terms, pay special attention to charts, summaries and footnotes, go over review questions
  • Using a checklist – provide younger children with a checklist of tasks (you might have to begin with 1 at a time and slowly increase), have them check off tasks as they complete them.  You can even work in breaks or “rewards” as tasks are completed.
  • Using a planner – older students can utilize a planner with assignments for the day or week to be completed.  To gain independence, allow students to complete the assignments in their own order. If needed, specify which tasks can be done on any day, and which must be done on specific days (if your child needs repetition in math, set the expectation that one math assignment must be completed each day instead of doing them all on a single day).
  • Using graphic organizers for writing, or reading – graphic organizers are great tools for analyzing fiction and nonfiction literature, and for brainstorming and organizing writing assignments.
  • Using anchor charts or a math notebook to show the steps needed to solve math problems – Math notebooks (classrooms usually also use anchor charts) are great tools to help students remember how to solve specific types of questions, and to follow step-by-step directions on more complicated math (like long division or multiplication)
  • Create vocabulary or sight word flashcards – index cards create great flashcards to review sight words, vocabulary for any subject or to create your own math fact flashcards.
  • Give choices (make sure all choices presented are acceptable to you) – A child who is easily frustrated or tends to “battle” you about schoolwork is sometimes feeling out of control of the situation.  So they work to regain control by fighting against what they see is the source of the problem (you). When you provide choices, it helps them feel back in control. The catch is, you only present choices that are acceptable to you. If it is not acceptable, it is not a choice.  If there is still an argument, write the choices down or draw pictures. You can’t argue with something that is written. If they continue to try to argue with you, you just point. Eventually, they will make a decision from the choices provided. (It might take a little while the first time, but it gets easier as you continue).

Where can you go for help?

There are a lot of resources out there to get help.  Here are a few suggestions of things to consider: