|Amy Dunaway||Reprinted with the permission of the author.|
VORT CorporationSample pages of their publications are available on their website. The developmental inventory will tell you where your child's skill level is within selected areas (fine motor skills, gross motor skills, self-help skills, academic, etc.) along the developmental scale. This will allow you to set individual long-term goals for your child. Have expectations that are reasonable. Work near your child's success range to prevent frustration while allowing success in learning. Create short-term objectives to meet these long-term goals. Seek measurable ways to display and keep track of short-term goals for record keeping. Children with Down syndrome do not learn as much incidentally as their typically developing peers. They will need more direct teaching which requires planning and structure to prevent gaps in learning. Most of what children with Down syndrome know someone has directly taught to him or her. In the development of an IEP you will break down skills into small steps that are easily taught sequentially. Develop evaluations or a task analysis for these skills to keep track of progress. A task analysis breaks down skills into steps that are easily taught. Each step should be mastered before teaching the next step. Sometimes progress seems slow when educating a child with special needs. They often grow in one area and in favor of another. As I update my skills evaluation forms each month, I am easily able to track the progress we are making. I have something tangible to show for my child's progress. This is how we demonstrate what my child has learned over the course of specified time. Decide what methods and materials you will use. Purchase curriculum with your goals and your child's strengths in mind. You will find no curriculum specifically targeting children with Down syndrome though Bob Jones University Press offers pilot programs for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten math and language. They have adapted their curriculum for children with Down syndrome and other challenged learners. Many curriculums can be modified to meet your child's needs. Included in this package is a sample of modifications made in the public school system for special education students. I think there is some valuable information present for modifying curriculum for our home educated students. Joyce Herzog, author of Choosing and Using Curriculum For Your Special Child, has a long list of curriculum modifications (and much more) in her book. You may find more information about modifications to curriculum in the archives (February 1999) of the Down-Syn Listserve at: http://listserv.nodak.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind9902d&L=down-syn&F=&S=&P=72050 The Down Syndrome Listserve Archives (for general online Down syndrome support) can be found at: http://listserv.nodak.edu/archives/down-syn.html. LD Online has a web page with examples of accommodations/modifications that can be utilized by the home educator: http://www.ldonline.org/indepth/special_education/peer_accommodations.html.
PO Box 60132
Palo Alto, CA 94306
The Down Syndrome Educational TrustAnother resource that I have found to greatly benefit our homeschool is a book called Effective Teaching Strategies for Successful Inclusion, A Focus on Down Syndrome. It is published by the PREP Program in Calgary, Canada. This book describes the obstacles to learning for children with Down syndrome and offers specific teaching tips to help overcome those obstacles. It is available from The PREP Program. See the resource guide for more specific information. It is generally felt that children with Down syndrome learn best using a hands on approach with activities that are meaningful to our children-especially in the early years. My daughter is visually oriented as are many children with Down syndrome. She is learning to read rapidly using the sight word method and phonics described in the book Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein. One method that has been extremely important for successful learning experiences in our home and used by many in the field of educating children with Down syndrome is errorless learning. It is defined as teaching new tasks by guiding the child through each step correctly, not allowing them to fail. As your child becomes more capable, the prompt or cue can be reduced until it is not needed. One of the keys to errorless learning is errorless teaching. Errorless teaching uses the same language with each lesson and repeating the process several times (as long as it takes) following the same steps, in the same order, using the same words. Hopefully, this method will develop a strong base for higher levels of learning such as problem solving with a trial and error approach. Most curriculums will have to be adapted to allow successful experiences. Using repetition with expansion and reinforcement of previously learned skills is recommended. Use as many channels of input as possible-visual and auditory, with hands-on materials while making the best of opportunities available throughout the day to put learned concepts into practical use...all keeping a positive attitude! Research has shown that because of short-term auditory memory deficits, language supported by visual (ie. pictures or words) and/or symbolic movements (ie. sign language) will help our children learn and remember. I use a wide variety of curriculum to vary presentation and keep motivation high. Memory training is important to our children with Down syndrome. As our children enter the formal school years the deficits become more pronounced. Start visual and auditory memory training early in the preschool years to enhance the learning process. The Down Syndrome Educational Trust has some excellent memory training exercises available in their Down Syndrome Issues and Information Series. They also have a book available online, Memory Training for Children with Down Syndrome, which discusses memory difficulties, strategies, and skills. Much has been written about learning styles. I believe they are most easily understood by breaking the learning styles into three groups: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. The visual learner needs to see something to best understand it. They often roll their eyes to the side as they are being talked because they are trying to picture it in their mind. They like to write things down and need quiet in order to concentrate. Visual learners often learn to read easily. Auditory learners need to hear something to learn it best and like a lot of auditory input. They like to tell you things sequentially in complete detail. They love to talk! Kinesthetic learners need to touch in order to learn. They learn best by doing and interacting with the item. They often need to reduce visual and auditory input and work alone with "hands on" items. Some homeschoolers choose to use educational consultants to help them design their home program. Members of NATHHAN and HSLDA may find some assistance in locating educational consultants by inquiring at those organizations. The neurodevelopmental approach is used by some homeschooling families with children with Down syndrome. The neurodevelopmental approach develops very specific home programs for infants, children, and adults. The program is designed to specifically address inefficiencies in neurological development, visual and auditory perception, tactile sensitivity and perception, mobility, manual function, speech and language, social development, behavior, and academics. Program activities are designed to influence dominance, increase processing, encourage development, and teach academics. I do not have a lot of knowledge regarding this approach. I have seen amazing results in the area of early literacy. I believe that record keeping is very important. I create an IEP yearly. I update my IEP evaluation forms monthly. I keep meticulous records on our word processor of daily activities. I print out all of these forms and place them in a three-ring binder so that they are readily accessible. Seek support. Contact your local homeschooling support group for others homeschooling children with special learning needs. NATHHAN (NATional cHallenged Homeschoolers Associated Network) is a Christian, non-profit organization dedicated to providing encouragement to families with children with special needs that are homeschooling. They publish an online or hard copy quarterly newsletter. They also publish a family directory, updated each year. They have a large lending library by operated by mail. NATHHAN'S mailing address is:
The Sarah Duffen Centre
England PO5 1NA
Phone: +44 (0)23 9285 5330
Fax: +44 (0)23 9285 5320
HSLDAThere are at least two other legal defense organizations available. They are The Pacific Justice Institute (www.pacificjustice.org) and the Rutherford Institute (www.rutherford.org). They primarily defend civil liberties. Your best defense against intrusion by state officials into your homeschool is to be aware of and follow the laws and to keep good records. As you research homeschooling your child with special needs you will discover many areas of controversy within any given subject. That is why I urge you educate yourselves as best you can so that you can make informed decisions about fulfilling the needs of your children. My way is not the only way. I only offer it to you in hopes that it might be of some use to you. There is much published material for you to research. I feel I must address an issue that may be of concern to you in making this decision and will likely be a concern of others. The first question I am asked by others after finding out our unconventional educational choice is "What about socialization?" First, let's define the term. Socialization is the process by which the norms and standards of our society are passed from one generation to the next. Socialization is probably best achieved in your own home where the standards are generally higher than those in the classroom. Socializing is the gathering for communal activities where friendships are formed. Socializing is generally the concern of the well-meaning folks and for some new homeschoolers. I must tell you that the opportunities for socializing are endless and not a problem. From the activities of the homeschool support groups to the usual Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, AWANAS, Sunday school, park district programs, church activities etc. you will never run out of social activities. I have found all of the above open and inclusive to children with special needs. The only problem is, more often than not, there are TOO many social activities for us to keep up with. Home educated children are well known for their ability to socialize with people of all ages. If you are new to the homeschooling world, this may all seem overwhelming and unattainable. This is absolutely not the case. Record keeping may seem formidable to some. I have seen records ranging from very detailed to boxes filled in with pencil listing the day's activities. It doesn't have to be complicated. It needs to be useful and pertinent to your homeschool. Homeschooling our children with Down syndrome successfully is a process dependent upon our educating ourselves to find the best ways to meet the needs of our children. As I move forward on this homeschooling adventure, I am always learning something new that improves what I do in my homeschool. My own "education" has resulted in tremendous personal growth and added great dimension to my children's education. It has been a wonderful journey benefiting everyone! Homeschooling a child with special needs is challenging at times but extremely rewarding. Teaching academics and life skills in the home will give your children a rich educational experience with individualized attention needed to meet their needs. Homeschooling is an exciting option available to parents of children with Down syndrome. Others have traveled this road before us and blazed an exciting trail that is ever widening as others join in on this wonderful journey. You will not be alone! IEP Adaptation Checklist
PO Box 3000
Purcellville, VA 20134
My child has some special needs,
but that is part of God's design.
I just need to remember
that God's will is best, not mine.
My child is not a burden,
he's a blessing from above.
Sometimes we face a struggle,
but our lives are filled with love.
Put Jesus at the center,
and forget your selfish ways.
The Lord will surely bless you,
and help you through your days.
I never told my son he couldn't dance.
I never thought he didn't have a chance. I never told my son he might not read.
I only sought to plant the seed. I never showed my son a star.
That, I felt, was way too far. I never taught my son to fly,
But I gave him wings with which to try. I never questioned God's intent.
I only hoped my time well spent. We never know what life will bring.
I only know that I must sing. I never told my son he couldn't dance.
That is why he had a chance. Kathie Harrington, M.A. C.C.C. SLP
(mom of autistic son)