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3/14/2013 4:48:02 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Struggling Learners--Secrets from a Preschool Teacher

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter March 2013--
Secrets from a Preschool Teacher
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http://www.hslda.org/alink.asp?id=598

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Secrets from a Preschool Teacher

Very often, I talk to families who have children about to transition
from an early intervention program involving home visits by
therapists, to a preschool program. Usually, this happens at age
three. They call because they suddenly feel uncomfortable with the
choices presented to them by the public school. I've spoken to
families whose closest facility is nearly an hour from their home.
Definitely not ideal for a little one, especially one who has special
needs. For other families, the program is conveniently located, but
feels a little 'too close for comfort' in many other ways. These
families want the best for their child, but they feel the draw to keep
them at home. They're weighing this desire with the information that
they've been given about the importance of early intervention. "Is it
possible for us to provide the early intervention program that our
child needs," they ask, "can we do it?" Parents can provide a
wonderful early intervention program at home and in this newsletter I
will offer suggestions for doing so.

To say that the first five years of a child's life are critically
important is a huge understatement. Pathways in the brain,
foundational to all later learning, are being formed. Growth in every
area of life is rapidly occurring. I like what Jan Bedell of Little
Giant Steps (www.littlegiantsteps.com) has to say, "When the brain is
stimulated, dendrite connections are made. Stimulation=
connection=function." Having been an Early Intervention Preschool
teacher myself, I thought I'd share some 'secrets' that can help you
make the most of those critical development years if you decide to
home school your toddler with special needs.

First of all, if your child was receiving speech therapy, occupational
therapy, physical therapy, etc. we encourage you to make plans for
those services to continue. See our Struggling Learner website for
more on this subject http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=17579 .

Next, in the following paragraphs, I'll be offering many suggestions
for activities to offer your child. Please don't think that all of
these opportunities need to happen everyday. That would be fabulous,
but it's quite unrealistic. Really, the 'name of the game' is
intentionality. You've been homeschooling since your child's first
breath. Now, you just need to be a little more intentional about how
you interact with your little one. Notice that there's no real
suggestion to make sure the alphabet and sounds are mastered. That is
not the goal, although it may occur. Instead focus on building a
foundation, making connections, and having fun! You can provide a
wonderful early intervention program at home! Here's how:

Provide Opportunities for Social and Pretend Play
Use dolls, role play materials, play scenes (doctor's office,
restaurant, beauty shop, etc.) puppets, stuffed toys, play animals,
transportation toys, etc.

Provide Opportunities for Exploration
Sand and water play, peg boards, wooden blocks, legos, puzzles,
pattern making materials (these can be store bought or items found
around the house such as buttons, cereal etc.), games, books,
dressing, lacing, and stringing materials are all great 'tools' for
exploring the world.

Provide Opportunities for Child Initiated/Creative Art
Allow access to fingerpaints, water colors, chalks, sequins, glue,
play dough, clay, craft sticks, pom poms, and a variety of papers so
that your child can 'create away'.

Provide Opportunities for Music and Movement
Expose your child to musical instruments--drums, xylophones, shakers,
wood blocks etc. Sing a variety of songs: call and response songs
(such as "Are You Sleeping?"), singing games (e.g. "If You're Happy
and You Know It"), and traveling songs (think, "Ring Around the
Rosie").

Provide Opportunities for Gross Motor Play
Spend time playing with push and pull toys, balls and other sports
equipment, swings, hanging bars, and slides. Adaptive outdoor
equipment is available from companies such as: www.abilitations.com or
www.specialneedstoys.com Crawling, running, spinning, and hopping are
just a few of the gross motor movements to incorporate throughout your
child's day.

Provide Opportunities to Move
Promote movement over sitting throughout the day, with activities
being more concrete than representative. For example, instead of just
reading about butterflies or gluing and pasting a picture of a
butterfly--go outside and watch for butterflies or get a 'butterfly
farm' and watch caterpillars change into butterflies.

Provide Opportunities to Explore Nature
Exploring trees, bugs, flowers, birds, plants, and other aspects of
nature that are readily available is a part of the wonder of
childhood. Even if your child is more drawn to technology, taking time
to touch, smell, and observe the great outdoors is very important.

Provide Opportunities to Enjoy and Engage in Rich Vocabulary
Spend time each day reading quality children's literature. If you're
playing 'house' or 'doctor' consider using props that lend themselves
to print and vocabulary. (i.e.--cookbooks added to the housekeeping
area, OR clip boards, magazines, 'prescription pads' added to the
doctor's office play area). Make several 'blank books' for children to
fill with their own illustrations and dictated stories. Utilize the
technique "Envelope of Language". In her book, "Homeschooling Children
with Special Needs", Sharon Hensley points out, "Although we don't
mean to, it is a fact that if we have children with language and/or
communication difficulties we naturally talk to them less. This method
of teaching...basically involves talking to them, but in a very
structured way. ...we literally surround the child with language.
Sometimes this is also called 'Verbal Labeling' because we describe
everything that is being done."

Provide Access to Books
Expose your child to picture books, reference books, fiction and
non-fiction selections, as well.

Provide Opportunities for Field Trips
A field trip can be as simple as a trip to the grocery store. However,
sometimes even the most common trip can bring on 'sensory overload' in
some children, and can be quite difficult to deal with in public.
Having another 'grown up' in tow can help make trips to the theatre,
to the fire station, to the post office, etc. a little more 'do-able.'

Provide Opportunities for Lots of Picture Taking (by You)
You can use these pictures to document various experiences,
activities, trips, etc. Then, you can use the pictures to review
places you've been and things you've seen together. These pictures can
also be used as the illustrations for books that you and your child
write together.

I hope that, after reading through these suggestions, you feel
equipped and encouraged to home school your special needs child
through the early years. Be intentional, but don't make it too
complicated. Learning opportunities are everywhere!
Resources:

Homeschooling Children with Special Needs--Sharon Hensley

"Neurodevelopment" webinar by Jan Bedell www.littlegiantsteps.com

The Right Stuff for Children Birth to 8-Selecting Play Materials to
Support Development--Martha B. Bronson

The New Language of Toys, available www.woodbinehouse.com

More early childhood resources are available at the HSLDA Bookstore
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=17586 .
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