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18 Summer Strategies for the Special-Needs Student

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    18 Summer Strategies for the Special-Needs Student

    To help as summer days grow longer and warmer ... "18 Strategies" shared at the recent Memoria Press conference:

    For the Special-Needs Student at Home

    Improved organization at home will assist attention, organization, behavior, and academic success at school or in the academic portions of the homeschool.

    1. Consider daily half-days of school review or enrichment to begin in the mornings, with playtime, swimming, and outings in the afternoons.

    2. Provide Daily Overviews
    For younger children, overview only two or three activities at a time. They will begin to see and expect order in their days. Use flannel boards, photo schedules, or calendars for older children.

    Overviews can be informal or formal, lengthy or brief, and can be helpful for any age:

    Babies and Toddlers: After your bottle, you will go see Bunny in your crib. I'm going to change your diaper, and then we’ll go for a walk.

    Preschoolers: This morning we will do three things: Work on naming cards. Work on puzzles. Read stories together. Then you will have time to play.

    Pre-K: This morning, you will work on your alphabet, writing letters, and learning sounds. Then you will play outside. Then you will have a snack. After your snack, we will work on counting, writing numbers, and matching patterns.*

    3. Limit or Eliminate Screen Time
    Use video games, television, movies, computers, and phones primarily as incentives. Attach them to completed work or chores.

    4. Use Books and a Timer for Leisure Time
    A basket of inviting, beautiful books with a sofa or bean bag and a timer will give the adult the same quiet time that a half-hour or hour screen program would give, but the child will benefit so much more.

    5. Minimize Distractions
    Children with attention problems see and hear “more” than we do. Some days, they notice extraneous sights and noises more than on other days. If helpful, close blinds and doors before working. Turn off radios and televisions in other rooms. Send dogs and siblings out to play. Instruct the family that 1-2 hours each day will be spent in concentrated work time.

    6. Establish a Gentle Routine
    Have a schedule that includes a predictable end to the work period. A set routine will help him understand that if he finishes attending to this task, he will enjoy a break.

    7. Extend the Attention Span with a Timer
    Impulsive children hurry through their work. “I’m finished!” Give the direction and set a timer: You will spend 15 minutes on this page. I will tell you when 15 minutes has passed. If you finish early, use the time to check your answers. Stay in your seat until the timer rings. Reward his truly completed and accurate papers, so he can learn to see the value of spending extra time attending to his work.

    8. Emphasize Purpose and Serving Others
    Routine chores assist diligence and consistency. Habits of daily work and service to others can be encouraged through folding laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, emptying the dishwasher, and setting the table. In the classroom, rotated tasks such as line leader and pencil sharpener assist the group.

    9. Set a No-Talking Timer
    The impulsive student distracts himself and others. In 15-minute (eventually 30-minute) intervals during independent work periods, establish “no talking” times. The student may note difficult problems and save them for talking breaks. (In a group of talkative moms, we used this strategy during scrapbooking “crops!” We boosted our own attention to our work, because we talked less! In between our no-talking times, we chatted away.)*

    10. Use Rotating Bins for Toys or Books
    Place toys or books in bins and secure all but one at a time in a closet or storage area. Pull only one bin every day or half-day. When playtime ends, the child puts all of the toys back in the bin, and there are not so many as to be unmanageable. (This worked much better for us than a massive all-toys-dumped-out “playroom.” (Tip: use removable index cards to avoid having good, leftover bins still labeled “Wednesday” when your children are teenagers!)*

    11. Review a Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Calendar (with Pictures for Younger Children)

    Help instill internal order and teach the soothing, repetitive pattern of the days of the week. *

    12. Keep the Child’s Possessions to a Minimum.The child with organizational problems needs to manage only a small amount at a time.**

    13. Secure the Child’s Closet. Set Out Only One Outfit at a Time.
    A hanging organizer allows the parent to arrange by day matching shirts, pants, socks, shoes and accessories every weekend, and then pull the outfits nightly. *

    14. For Greater Independence, Purchase Mix-and-Match Clothing.A nice alternative to the above is easy mix-and-match clothing, with pants in one drawer and shirts in another. The child’s socks can be all navy or all white. He chooses one item from each and can then dress himself.*

    15. Label Bins or Baskets with Pictures of His Toys or Materials.
    Label his side-by-side bins, so he can put away his own toys in an orderly way.

    16. Task Analyze.
    Break down organizational tasks into its component parts, so he can move methodically through the steps. For example, help him make a step-by-step process for cleaning his room. Over these years, the process will become more automated. Post the process on his bulletin board and post a photo of his cleaned room alongside his list. He can check his cleaned room against the picture, before he asks for an inspection.*

    17. Maintain a daily routine.
    As the child learns to read, post the schedule by time and activity. Until then, hand-drawn pictures or photos will do. Example for homeschooled children:
    7:30 a.m. Awaken.
    7:45 a.m. Get dressed, make bed, put away pajamas.
    8:00 a.m. Breakfast
    8:15 a.m. Brush teeth and hair.
    8:25 a.m. Be seated for the morning overview. (Reminder: anyone who is late will be assumed to need more sleep and will go to bed 30 minutes earlier tonight.)*

    18. Teach the older student to make lists.
    Help him make a laminated checklist for packing. One list can be for overnights to Grandma’s, another for overnight camping trips. Create a list for his activities. Help him create a list for self-checking his schoolwork. Help him make a weekly chore list. The lists could be stored in a three-ring binder with tabs, or he could store the list at the point of usage. Example below (add photos if needed and post in room).
    1. Put on tights first.
    2. Put on leotard next.
    3. Add skirt or tutu. Put on shirt or jacket over dance outfit.
    4. Place two matching dance shoes in dance bag.
    5. Fill water bottle. Ask adult to check lid.

    For many more examples, tips, and strategies not listed here:

    Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child
    Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., with Foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith