Hello! This blog is about my daughter Hailey (currently 12 years old) and her experiences living with auditory processing disorder. Auditory Processing Disorder is Hailey's primary issue, however she has also been given the labels Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Visual Processing Disorder, Mixed Expressive Receptive Language Disorder and Phonology Disorder at various points in her life.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Curriculum in the Homeschool: What We Have Used for Our APD Daughter for Mathematics

So this post is a day later than I had planned, but I finally have time to sit down and write it.

Mathematics is one of those things that I have found people think about in very different ways.  It sometimes amazes me the way that people can solve a mathematics problem in a way that seems so bizarre to me, but it works.  The reason is because our brains don't all solve problems the same way.  Therefore, I find that mathematics must allow for each child to discover what way works best for his/her brain.

Also remember that  children with APD (auditory processing disorder) need to have visuals and/or kinesthetics to help due to the difficulties with auditory processing.

So keeping all this in mind, I have been very eclectic with mathematics.  All of my children think differently about it and solve problems in their own ways.  My sweet girl Hailey (who has APD)  is very visual and so conceptualizes as well as solves the problems really by picturing things in her mind. For this reason, we have done a lot of hands-on, real world learning with mathematics as well as used manipulatives and pictures.

The Early Years:
When Hailey was a little one, we played with math like we would play anything else.  We counted objects and we shared by dividing up our spoils.  We bought enough apples for each family member by counting.  We found out we are the second house on our block.  We subtracted how many cookies we ate from the total we had to find out how many we had left.  We would cook together and get 1 cup of milk or 1/2 cup of milk.  You get the point; we just incorporated mathematical thinking and language into everyday life and made it fun.

I also liked to read aloud mathematics stories like Measuring Penny and 12 Ways to Get to 11. There are a ton of great story books that introduce math concepts and really get kids interested in trying to "do math".  Hailey's twin brother absolutely adored books about money!

Introducing Numerals and Paper Problems:
At some point, we started writing the numbers down on paper and making written math problems. We used the objects we were adding and wrote them down so there was a one-to-one correspondence with the manipulative (what we were adding) with the numeral associated with it.

Sometimes I would write them as a problem like 2+3=5 and sometimes I would write them on a number line.  Othertimes we would draw them as pictures or stick figures.  This way, the kids would have seen a variety of ways to write it.

Having the Child Solve a Written Problem:
After having done the above for many times, then I would ask my sweetie to solve a problem by giving her the written problem.  She would have access to objects, which was her preferred method at first. Then later, I would not have the objects out and she would have to decide what way she could do it without the objects.  This generally led to using her fingers as objects.   Her fingers then didn't become an obstacle until she got to numbers higher than ten and she needed to implement other ideas.  As she would get stuck, I would show her options like the number line, counting up, counting down, drawing pictures, drawing stick figures, etc. I would only show one at a time to see if that made sense to her.  If it did, then great.  If not, then I'd try another one.  However, if I had to do more than two, then she was frustrated and it was time to stop and try again another day.

Introducing New Concepts:
As we were doing mathematics for everyday living all the time, new concepts were usually not completely new.  So when I wanted to add them to her written abilities - mathematics on paper - I would reintroduce it as "remember when we.......(ex. baked the cake and had to measure 1/2 a cup)". Then we would discuss what 1/2 meant or whatever the new concept was.

I would always be sure to have visuals and manipulatives as needed.  So for fractions, for example, we would have measuring cups and spoons; we would have something to cut into equal pieces; we used fraction blocks (a plastic manipulative you can buy); we drew pictures (half the people are wearing hats).

I always taught Hailey the concept and its practical use before how to solve any problems.  This is the way her brain best stores information: she needs the "why is this important and how does it all make sense" first.

Then she could start to solve problems both in real life and on paper.

Don't Make it Hard or Complicated:
Mathematics can be easy and it is best served in small chunks.  I never spent too much time working any mathematics problems or concepts. If it started to become frustrating and we couldn't fix the frustration quickly, then we stopped and did something else.  We could always go back to it another day.

My biggest concern was that Hailey would get frustrated with math and then decide she wasn't good at it and just shut down.  I did not want that to happen, so I made sure to make the steps small enough for her to always feel successful.  I really felt there was no rush to learn anything at any particular time and her perception of her skills was more important than any race to do things quickly.

The Workbooks We Used:
Mostly I made up my own mathematics curriculum and used the state mathematics as a guideline to make sure I covered everything she needed (but not at the time frame set by the state - at her pace).

I did use workbooks as ready made problems to solve as she got a little older.  We also did some Time 4 Learning, but she found she liked the workbooks better.  Here are some I liked:

School Zone Publishing Company Math Basics:  These are organized by grade level and you can see how the skills are repeated but with a little more added to each year.  I tended to use them without regard for the grade level.  So I might do a multiplying fractions unit and use the Grade 4 to introduce them and then do Grade 5 and Grade 6 the next few days.

Educators Publishing Service Attack Math:  These are books all about addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They are the basic skills only, but worked well for repetitive practice.

Educators Publishing Service It's Elementary! 275 Math Word Problems: This is workbook filled with word problems.

Singapore Math Practice:  These are something that I just found this year and she has been doing well in them.  She is technically a 7th grader and she is currently working in the 7th grade level workbook.  I decided to mix up the flow of this workbook as it makes more sense to me to do the geometry sections all together and since we haven't done as much geometry before, I am saving them for last.

Hailey has not taken algebra yet, but she did do an app on her iPad that really taught her a lot about solving algebraic equations.  The app is called DragonBox and the basis is that whatever you do to one side of the equation, you have to do to the other side as well.  The point is to solve for x.

After completing the app, I gave Hailey some paper algebra equations and she could do the problems easily.  So I guess it worked.

In her Singapore Math workbook this year, there is a small algebra section but it is even simpler in that they give you a value for x.  However, the writing algebraic expressions from word problems was tricky.

So Hailey and my plan is for her to take algebra next year. (Remember she wants to take community college courses as a high schooler, so she is wanting to get prepared for that.) We probably will use the homeschool classes that she is enjoying this year as they have an algebra class.  However, if they go about it in a way that makes it seem complicated (as sometimes classes and people make math more complicated than it needs to be), then I'll take her out and do it with her at home.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Curriculum in the Homeschool: What We Have Used for Our APD Daughter for Language Arts

Curriculum is one of those hard questions for many homeschoolers.  Some choose not to use a curriculum, some choose to use a boxed set by one company for all the subjects, some choose different ones for each subjects, some pick and choose different resources as needed/desired, and some make up their own.

There are paper products like hardback books and workbooks and teacher's guides.  There are online products such as websites that have all the subjects or just one of the subjects.  There are hands-on materials such math manipulatives and art and science projects.  There are board games and videos and computer games.  There are real world resources like the grocery store, the animal shelter, and the local farm.  There are museums and re-enactment places and events.  So, the resources are there and homeschoolers are free to be as creative with them as we desire.

So when most people ask about curriculum, what they are wanting is usually the paper and pencil type workbooks or computer programs/websites for the skills such as reading, writing, and mathematics.

When people ask me for advice, I can tell them what I have used and why.  However, it might not be the best fit for their child.  So my first and foremost best advice is to get to know your child and what types of activities and presentation styles work best for him or her.  Some kids need to actually touch things like math manipulatives.  Some kids need a visual of the big picture while others want it step-by-step and don't confuse them with too much at once.  All kids with APD are going to need it to not be only auditory.

So here are some of the Language Arts materials/resources I have used with my sweet girl Hailey along the way:

Phonics and Early Readers:
We went to a reading specialist and Hailey was taught using the Lindamood Bell LiPS program* with a combined Orton/Gillingham approach.  There we were introduced to the Educators Publishing Service Primary Phonics readers.  They are interesting for readers (most are horribly boring and some don't even make sense) and they build on the skills very sequentially and with lots of repetition.  I actually used them for all three of my kids.

If you need direct instruction in how to teach phonics, I would look into a book that teaches you the parent how to teach phonics.  Also, there are websites that do a good job with teaching phonics such as Time 4 Learning; we did some Time 4 Learning and it presents phonics in a very easy to understand and fun way for younger kids.  There are also other great websites and programs out there for phonics, but I haven't personally used them.

There are also all sorts of phonemic awareness games you can play with your children.  Look for a book of suggestions geared toward the parent/teacher and you will soon realize how easy it is to incorporate these into everyday life.  An example would be going to the grocery store and looking for produce that start with /b/ sound or cutting out pictures from a magazine of /b/ sounds or rhyming words for the fun of it as a car game, etc.

Oh yes, one last thing I do not want to forget.  With having APD (auditory processing disorder), it really helped Hailey early on to use a lot of tactile, movement, and visuals for learning.  So she had a baking sheet with sand in it to draw letters in and she would tap the letters to sight words on her arms and write in big letters in the air and walk out words by each step being a new letter.  She would write letters and draw them into pictures as ways to remember them like an M can become a mountain. These multi-sensory additions really made the learning stick in her memory much better. I've seen some books online that teach multi-sensory approaches to phonics and reading, so those would probably have a lot of good suggestions.  When I have time in the future, I will try to read some and see if I can make a suggestion of one in particular I like.

(Rhyming was always an impossibility for Hailey with her APD and she still struggles with it to some extent even though she reads very well now.  So don't worry if they can't do some particular skill; they may not need to.)

Just Past Early Readers: 
I gave Hailey a combination of the bookstore early readers like Step Into Reading and DK Readers. She loved being able to pick out her own books and there were a variety of levels and subjects.  As a foresight, the DK Readers are a little harder than the Step Into Reading, so your child may be at a level 4 Step Into Reading and only a level 3 in DK Readers.  Don't worry about the level written on the books and what grade they are supposed to be for; just look for ones that your child can read without too much difficulty.

If comprehension is proving to be difficult, check out my post about comprehension strategies here: http://apdhailey.blogspot.com/2013/06/some-reading-comprehension-strategies-i.html

More Reading and Comprehension:
Then Hailey moved into some comprehension workbooks called Early Reading Comprehension in Varied Subject Matter by Jane Ervin; these have passages to read and then questions about the passage such as main idea, details, vocabulary, and writing about it.  She loved these workbooks and felt a real sense of accomplishment from doing them.

From there, she moved to the Reading Comprehension in Varied Subject Matter by Jane Ervin which are a higher level of the same thing but with more in-depth questions like going beyond the facts, true/false, writer's style and techniques, etc.

Novels have not been something Hailey has been able to accomplish on her own yet.  The length is just too long for her as she starts to feel overwhelmed and gets frustrated.  She has read entire series of graphic novels and we have read novels together - her and I - in which we take turns reading a chapter (or if she is feeling too overwhelmed to read, then I just read) and we stop and discuss them along the way.

I have also used a lot of movies as an introduction to great works of literature.  They don't build her reading skills, but they do build her literary base to some extent.  At least she knows the basic storylines and I think that will be helpful in her future.  Besides, she loves watching them.

Obviously a child's vocabulary is developing all the time and the influence comes in many, many ways: language used in the house, language on movies and television, language in the reading, language of friends, etc.  So I have always tried to just push the limits of Hailey's vocabulary by using a little more complicated vocabulary at home as fit the circumstances and she was able to understand.  With her APD (auditory processing disorder), I have to be careful to integrate the new vocabulary slowly and appropriately, or she would be overwhelmed.

Just recently, at Hailey's request, she started in a series called Wordly Wise 3000 by Educators Publishing Service to build her vocabulary and it also has reading comprehension passages as well as word study with the vocabulary and things like synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, Latin roots, etc.  This work is to help prepare her for college and specifically the college placement exam, as she wants to attend community college as a high schooler.

Punctuation and Grammar:
With punctuation, I opted to teach it along with the reading and writing.  So when we came to a period in reading, I explained the use of it. Then when we came to an exclamation point or quotation marks, etc. we read the piece appropriately using those punctuation marks as our cues.  In her writing, when I edit it, I point out the need for or appropriate use of punctuation.

I've done grammar pretty much the same way for the basics: nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives.  I have not taught her beyond those yet.  However, with her desire to attend college so soon, we have started to review the basics and learn the more advanced like prepositional phrases, etc.  I actually bought her Schoolhouse Rock  to watch and she is enjoying those.  I also have a workbook called Premium Education Series Language Arts which focuses on grammar and punctuation.

For writing, I've always let Hailey write what she wants to write.  She also writes at the end of those reading comprehension books she likes to do.

When she was little, she mostly drew pictures as her way of "writing".  She made stories out of a series of pictures.  Then sometimes she would add words or sentences here and there and I would help her as needed.

Now when she writes, she asks me for help in spelling as needed and then to look it over and edit it for her; so we do that together and I am careful to not be too picky. I just basically  look for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. If she has none, then I might suggest ways to enhance it such as adding more descriptive words, etc. Just recently, she has started asking me to write things for her to correct; so I write things with incorrect spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc and she finds my mistakes.  She loves doing this! It has become like a game for her.


With all that said, I do not make Hailey do work in her workbooks every day.  She is very self-motivated and wants to do them, but if she is having a tough day or we are having a lot to do that day, then I tell her that we should take a break.  She will get overwhelmed easily and she pushes herself way too hard sometimes. I am the one who keeps reminding her that there is no hurry and she needs to monitor her energy and stress levels, etc., because she will overdue it and wear herself out.  So you know your child with APD (auditory processing disorder) and you will have to figure out what he/she needs as far as motivation/limit setting.  Please do remember, though, that people with APD can get mentally fatigued very easily due to the auditory processing demands and so if your child needs a break, give it to her/him.  Keep the work down to a timeframe that is manageable for your child to not get stressed out and if you see her/him getting stressed out, then move to something comforting and destressing; there really is no hurry to learn any particular thing at any particular time.

As this is so long already, I will write what materials we have used for mathematics in another post. My plan is to accomplish the mathematics post tomorrow.

*  The Lindamood Bell LiPS program is a program that incorporates the look and feel of the lips, tongue, and mouth when producing sounds.  This was the only way Hailey was able to differentiate between sounds such as /b/ and /p/ that sounds alike to her.  Here is a link to the post I wrote about her difficulties in phonemic awareness and how we found the LiPS program to be the only thing that helped her: http://apdhailey.blogspot.com/2013/01/phonemic-awareness-for-my-child-with.html

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My APD Homeschooler's First Day of Classes Went Well

So Hailey (almost 13) had her first day of classes at the new homeschooling site we signed up for. She is taking tennis, theater, and 3-D art.  To her advantage, she already knows many of the students in her classes as they are friends we have known through homeschooling for years.

She wanted to have the experience of taking classes to see how she could handle it and for the social aspect.  I am curious to see if she needs any accommodations for the classes and if she notices any difficulties that we will need to be aware of for her future college career - which she insists will start in two years when she can take college classes as a high school student.

Concerned she might be overwhelmed with it being a new experience, I requested that she start with only the three classes and to make them "fun" classes.  Well, she is already talking me into letting her take a fourth class - creative writing.  So we are checking to see if there is still a way she can add on one more.  Hailey is definitely a reach-for-the-stars kind of person and sees no limits to doing what she wants in life. (This is definitely an asset in her life.)

So as you have guessed by now, she loved the classes!  She also adored the experience of eating a rushed lunch with all the other kids and even the idea of having a packed lunch!   Seriously, she was excited about the packed lunch; I guess if you aren't a kid who has spent so many years going to school, the novelty of it is pretty exciting.

I'll definitely keep everyone who follows this blog updated on her progress.  So look for the amazing adventures of my perseverant, optimistic APD teenager to come.  (I'll take time to go back and write past experiences and helpful advice as I can too - especially about the younger years when her future seemed more questionable.)

* UPDATE * :  Hailey woke up this morning and decided to do her homework for her theater class. She had to read two articles on public speaking and pick a poem to memorize that she will perform in seven weeks.  My sweet, go-get-em girl not only read the articles, but wanted to write them down in entirety; so I told her about this wonderful thing called taking notes and she paraphrased the main ideas and wrote them down instead.  Then she picked her poem and started to memorize the first stanza.  I couldn't be prouder.