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Question regarding Special Needs Curriculum

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    Question regarding Special Needs Curriculum


    I have a 9 year old son with Down Syndrome. I used the assessment test with Ian, and he scored well enough to begin with Level C. I am curious though, as to what I would then proceed to do with him after he completed that level of curriculum? Are there plans for more levels of curriculum to be available for special-needs students?

    This looks like a wonderful program and would be very helpful for us. Ian is receptive to learning to read, but we are not having any success with two other programs that I had used with my other children. (He has 5 older siblings.) I guess I just don't want to start with something, complete it and then be floundering again. It would be great to find a plan and be able to work toward it for Ian.

    I was very encouraged to see this curriculum for special-needs kids being offered by Memoria Press. I have used quite a few of their products with my other children and been very happy with them.

    Thank you for your help,


    Originally posted by wylla7 View Post

    I have a 9 year old son with Down Syndrome. I used the assessment test with Ian, and he scored well enough to begin with Level C. I am curious though, as to what I would then proceed to do with him after he completed that level of curriculum? Are there plans for more levels of curriculum to be available for special-needs students?

    This looks like a wonderful program and would be very helpful for us. Ian is receptive to learning to read, but we are not having any success with two other programs that I had used with my other children. (He has 5 older siblings.) I guess I just don't want to start with something, complete it and then be floundering again. It would be great to find a plan and be able to work toward it for Ian.
    Dear Pauline,

    Yes, immediately following Level C, Ian could move beyond the readiness levels (A, B, C) to Level 1. We fully intend to have Level 1 ready by the time he would complete Level C.

    Several tips that might help, if you decide to work through Level C with your son:

    -Adjust readiness expectations
    Expect protracted periods needed for phonological awareness (the broad skill of ear training for reading readiness, including rhyming). This is built into Level C for you.

    -Plan for much repetition
    Prepare for more intensive and prolonged "over-teaching" of phonological awareness than your other children required. This, too, is included in Level C. We did not want this to become burdensome, so we paired this with enjoyable read-alouds and varied visual/tactile activities.

    To this end, complete all of the alphabet activities in Level C. If you want to explore a more complete understanding of the reading process, or if you find that he needs even more support and tips, consider obtaining a copy of Phonics A-Z as a supplement. With photos of a woman's mouth forming vowel and consonant sounds, this resource may even assist you in teaching speech sounds at home. Improved speech articulation and reading readiness can assist one another. See the recent post on my author website here.

    -Be direct
    Through the end of Level C, you will teach phonemic awareness directly. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that a word is made up of separate sounds, as in /b/ /a/ /t/. You will teach with the same "slow and steady" approach throughout. We will give you even more in Level 1, so do not give up on this.

    -Be very visual
    When possible, pair aural training with visual training, as this assists many children with Down Syndrome. You might even consider adding one more visual/tactile activity per lesson. This would not need to be too time consuming. Just include something simple, such as helping him form with playdough or Theraputty each emphasized letter sound into its symbol (alphabet letter) each day. This can also assist finger strength needed for writing.

    Later in Level C, when he learns to blend phonemes, you might even create a colorful whole-word flash card of any word he reads. He could collect these. Many teachers report success with visual, whole-word support of phonics instruction for children with Down Syndrome. (This is NOT to be confused with teaching only through "whole words" or "whole language.") You simply combine visual supports with explicit phonemic instruction. See this helpful compilation of research, if interested. See especially the encouraging paragraphs that begin, "Other work...." and the following that begins "Cologon."

    -Keep teaching, and allow the lessons to blend together over time.
    Think of all the instruction in Level C as simmering in his mind this year.

    -Give him physical support
    If Ian has significantly low muscle tone, provide all physical supports suggested by his physical or occupational therapists whenever teaching the printing and fine-motor portions of Level C.

    -Integrate, integrate, integrate
    Level C will integrate for you. Be encouraged! The results from research studies indicate that when we combine phonological awareness, language-rich literature, comprehension, explicit phonics instruction with visual aids, vocabulary, and memory work (e.g., recitations and specific strategies), just as we have attempted to bring you in the Simply Classical Curriculum levels, the benefits can increase simultaneously for the child in every area.

    -Receive tailored help
    Consult his most recent standardized testing examiner, speech therapist, or other professionals for personalized suggestions to tailor strategies to his own individual needs.

    If you have not seen this article with photos, you might enjoy reading about a little girl who is embarking on blending slow-and-steady learning with beautiful books and memory work, posted from Sandbox to Socrates.

    As you work through Level C, we hope you and your son benefit from the lessons intended to benefit reading, language skills, number skills, and learning in many other areas along the way.

    If all goes well, Ian may begin reading simple words by the end of Level C. We hope and pray this will happen for him, and that we can then help you take him successfully through early reading and writing in Level 1.

    If you have any other questions, please let us know.

    This answer is longer than you might have needed, but I heard a little discouragement in your question. We're cheering you on from here!


    Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child

    NEW Simply Classical Curriculum for Special Needs - blending a therapeutic approach with beautiful books


      Dear Cheryl,

      I wanted to write and express my thanks for taking the time to reply so thoroughly to my question. Yes, you are right I was feeling quite discouraged.

      The research link you included gave me a lot of food for thought and the little girl's story in the other link was very helpful to me in realizing that I often assume that Ian is picking up on things in the same way as his siblings did. This and the tips that you have included are very eye opening to me. I can see where we can begin to make some changes in how we work with Ian.

      It was very encouraging to hear that the special-needs curriculum will continue to be expanded. I am excited to begin this new journey with my little guy.

      Thank you again for all of the information and support. I am very grateful!



        For Pauline and then Cheryl:

        Hi Pauline Welcome to Level C!

        My son (6) has been a Level C student for around a month now. We absolutely LOVE IT and are seeing so much excitement, improvement, willingness to learn, and comprehension open up for him. Not enough good things to say. It has been such a blessing to find this curriculum. Total answer to prayer.

        My son is six and a half, but did not begin speaking until a little after his fifth birthday. He has been examined by four specialists and a world-renowned speech pathologist. The "determination" is a bit of a mystery. He does not have autism, is physically healthy as a horse with no detectable genetic or physical anomalies. Yet his struggle with speech is similar to a child with classic developmental apraxia of speech but his comprehension is about the level of a two year old. He has a photographic memory; is very detail-oriented and quite bright; affectionate; funny; empathetic; great strength and gross motor skills, etc., etc..... But trying to piece together something for his "kindergarten" year has been a BEAR. Memoria seems to have thought of eveything -- SO, SO GRATEFUL. W's fine motor has improved greatly with daily, gentle, slow and steady, printing practice and he even likes to use scissors now -- something I could NOT get him to do before.

        The thing I have found that worked for W in the very beginning was to take the lesson plans for Level C and break them up into two days -- sometimes three -- depending on his mood, energy, strengths and weaknesses. That way we could cover all the material required, but at his pace. He (and I!) needed to get the feel and rhythm of how the curriculum flows (and, with his little brother and sister joining us, I needed to figure out how to teach him with "an audience"!) Now that we have been "doing school" for a bit, we are finally able to cover all the ground needed in one "school day" (about two to two-and-a-half hours). But it took us a bit to work up to this as we got the hang of everything.

        Cheryl is right (for a variety of reasons) but mainly that a visual component added to the lessons will be a great help. For example, I have found that as we look over the animal alphabet pictures to color, if I have my iPad with me it makes more sense to W and engenders a greater sense of wonder and curiousity in him if I Bing-search anteater images (for example) and we look at them side by side with the drawing of the anteater. Today, he was tired after the amount of tracing, writing and coloring we had done and did not want to color the anteater picture. So I suggested gently that the anteater might be colored brown (which I colored for him as he watched) and then I suggested the inside of the anteater's ears be colored pink. I asked him to color that portion and he did. Then we looked up images of anteaters to compare. After we viewed a few pics, he was suddenly interested in anteaters!

        I also (for now) allow him to have a manipulative set of math blocks (the blue "ten unit" strips from Math U See) to play with while we have school (not during recitation, writing or coloring, just the listening portions of school). He pays better attention when he has something else enjoyable to manipulate as he is very, very visual and likes to make structures out of the blocks or stand them up like dominoes and watch them fall in a line. (They came in handy today as we used them to make the uppercase A shape). I have been reassured that this will not always be necessary. And truly, if we are doing something he enjoys, he is happy to put the manipulatives away. So, I guess this is my long way of saying -- DON'T STRESS ABOUT GETTING THIS PERFECT. Modify as you need to. Break it down into smaller bites (as small as Ian needs) in order to progress. Just keep going. A bucket is filled one drop at a time.

        My question for Cheryl echoes Pauline's -- when will Level 1 be available? I looked over Memoria's non-specialized curriculum for a "next phase" in case the Struggling Learner Level 1 curriculum was not ready by the time we finish Level C. Jr K is almost a repetition of Level C (but with a few bonuses) and the "typical" kindergarten curriculum seems appropriate... But a bit complex. And there is still a bit of repetition from Level C (although that might not be a bad thing for review, I do not want W to get bored). So I had considered the idea of hybridizing the K curriculum to work for us, just in case. Relieved to hear that Level 1, Struggling Learners, will be coming by the time Level C is completed for those of us who started using it this Fall. (Would like to add that as I looked over the K curriculum I was excited to see art appreciation and music study -- will be very excited to see if that is part of the Level 1 Struggling Learner package.)

        My SLP said today that with W's photographic memory it will be much more beneficial to teach him whole word recognition reading as opposed to phonics. She said by the time he knows 50-100 sight words that he will reverse-engineer how phonics work on his own.

        So far he has learned (and retained) the sight recognition and spelling of about ten words (and not "cat", "rat" or "dog", but words like "butterfly" and "snowman".) He knows what they stand for as well. Not an academic knowledge only, but an applicable knowledge. We keep all the words he knows in a "word book", a little spiral notebook with his name on it. Every time he learns a new word, we record it in the "word book". And every time the word book comes out, we review the words he already knows to make sure he can still recognize them. I also give him a pile of magnetic letters and ask him to spell the words he knows -- he can do it almost as quickly as I can!

        Your thoughts on sight word reading versus learning phonics would be most welcome. Our SLP said it would actually slow him down to try and teach him phonics, but my husband and I are of the mind that teaching phonics is necessary for learning unfamiliar words as well as foriegn language and good mental practice/awareness for trying to decode sounds paired with symbols. It seems like good "programming" for his brain.... But we are not educators -- just devoted parents! What is your input?

        Thanks so much!

        “If I should fall even a thousand times a day, a thousand times, with peaceful repentance, I will say immediately, Nunc Coepi, ‘Now, I begin.’.”

        ~Venerable Bruno Lanteri
        Boy Wonder 13 ...SC7/8 + MP4 + Rod & Staff 4/5 + Seton 5
        Joy Bubble 11 ...SC7/8 + MP4 + Rod & Staff 4/5 + Seton 5
        Cuddly Cowboy 9 ...SC7/8 + MP4 + Rod & Staff 3/4/5 + Seton 4
        Sassafras 5 ...MPK + Seton K



          Thank you for this!

          A few answers for you:

          We hope to offer Level 1 and possibly Level 2 by summer.

          We do intend to include art and music to encourage a love of beauty. Thank you for this request!

          Your "word book" and magnetic letters sound like perfect ways to stimulate your son's understanding of words through his strong visual memory. If you and your husband want to boost this solidly visual approach with explicit phonics instruction, the lessons and materials in Level C and Level 1 will help you do this. Your son may even receive some speech benefits and improved working memory, along with the many advantages you mentioned, all while learning specific decoding skills and improving his knowledge of language.

          If your speech and language therapist is concerned, you can assure her that if such instruction proved a hindrance to your son's learning, you would certainly adapt as needed. After all, you are your son's teachers, just as you are his devoted parents!

          Many blessings to you -


          Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child