Multisensory Homeschooling for Children with Special Needs: Day 1 – Reference Cards

Multisensory Homeschooling for Children with Special Needs -

Multisensory Homeschooling for Children with Special Needs

Welcome to the five-day series about homeschooling children with special needs using multisensory activities and teaching methods. Multisensory teaching methods are beneficial for teaching all children, but especially those with special needs, whose bodies and brains often interpret the world around them differently because of processing issues.

This week I’m sharing some of how multisensory homeschooling looks at my house. Some of these things I have discovered on my own (through lots of trial and error), and some were shared with me by members of our specialist and therapy teams and other parents whose children struggle with issues similar to what my younger daughter experiences.

I hope that this series provides you with some new ideas for your homeschool! If you don’t already, be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a post!

Day 1 – Reference Cards

I never gave much thought to using reference cards until my younger daughter started kindergarten. When we started our school year, I had no concerns. After all, I had been interacting with her for over five years, and it was obvious to me (with no bias, of course) that she is intelligent. Kindergarten was going to be a breeze, just like it was for her older sister.

Except it wasn’t. I was convinced that she wasn’t learning anything I was teaching. She couldn’t answer simple questions, couldn’t read simple words, and couldn’t count in sequence.

After months of frustration, I met someone online who specializes in learning disabilities. Her first piece of advice to me was to use reference cards. I’ve been using them since.

Reference cards have saved our homeschool. They allow me to be hands-on in helping my daughter, and they allow her the opportunity to communicate what she knows.

Why You Should Use Reference Cards

  • You can make them for any issue your child is struggling with.
  • They’re inexpensive to make.
  • They allow children with expressive language issues to point to answers so you understand what they know and what they don’t know.
  • They allow children to show what they know even if they have memory issues that don’t allow them to remember all the information needed to work a problem.
  • They also allow children with processing issues easy access to information to reduce the frustration of having to “locate” it in their brains.
  • Children with sequencing issues can use them to orient them and to have something to tap as they work through the sequence.
  • Your child can make the cards with you, allowing them to have tactile input in the process as well as visual and auditory.
  • You can make up games to play with the cards, which makes learning fun and provides additional reinforcement of the concepts you’re working on.

How Reference Cards Have Helped Us

Reference cards include any type of index card, flash card, poster, or other similar reference you create to give your child something to refer to during the learning process. These allow the child to quickly find needed information to complete a task, and they also allow children with expressive language issues a way to show you what they know.

If you have a struggling learner, regardless of the reason, use reference cards! Here are some ways they help us. Hopefully, seeing how we use them will spark ideas that will help your child.

calendar, money, numbers 1-100

Since my daughter struggles with sequencing, we use the calendar and numbers poster above to work on days of the week, months of the year, and counting. She can manipulate the magnetic calendar as we work, and she points to each number on the poster as she counts. On days when she struggles, I have actually held her hand in mine and helped her point to the correct number or day of the week as we say them aloud. Touch seems to help her focus and orients her to what we’re doing.

I made the money flash cards because my daughter struggles to remember which coin is which—and the amount assigned to each one. I used rubber cement to attach actual coins to index cards. (They can be removed easily.) She uses these when she’s working on math, especially when there are story problems that involve coins.

Reference cards for homeschooling children with special needs -

We created the reference cards on the left to go with the Wilson Reading System. (F = fun, by the way. She chose and colored the pictures.) I put the number line on the pocket folder so that she can count back and forth on the number line as she works addition and subtraction problems. Having it on the folder means that I can put assignments in the folder and take the entire thing with us when we leave the house for therapy and doctor appointments. The cards on the right were created to help with sight words from Dick and Jane books. I made some with uppercase and some with lowercase letters because she has trouble realizing they’re the same word if the case is changed. This way she can match the words and practice seeing the word both ways.

Reference cards for homeschooling children with special needs

On the left are cards I made to help my daughter distinguish between numbers she had difficulty identifying in isolation. She began to identify them with the border. “That’s the one with junk food.” Or “That’s the one with flowers.” The cards in the middle are more sight words. The reference cards on the right were created to help her remember letters she was having trouble with. There are two “g” cards because they look different depending on the font used in print materials.

We have used reference cards in all the ways used above—and more. I have even made reference cards to help my daughter distinguish between Jane and Sally from the Dick and Jane books. Having the cards helped her to see critical attributes and begin to identify them correctly as we read.

What are other ways you can use reference cards as a multisensory teaching tool in your homeschool?

Links to other posts in the series:

Related posts:

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This series is just one of many taking place this week with iHomeschool Network’s Hopscotch. Click the graphic below to see a complete list. There’s a wealth of information there!



Linking up this series with The Homeschool Village:

The Homeschool Village
 Photo credit: Jennifer A. Janes

This entry was posted in Homeschool, iHN, Special Needs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Multisensory Homeschooling for Children with Special Needs: Day 1 – Reference Cards

  1. Thank you for this wonderful tip, I will most certainly be implementing it in our homeschool. ~Alexis on behalf of everyone at A Moment with M.O.M

  2. This is excellent Jennifer. I think a few of my kids would love this! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Cyndi N says:

    This is exactly what I do for my learning delayed daughter only we make mini offices for every subject using file folders. Definitely a fun & inexpensive way to keep basic information readily available :)

    • I love the idea of keeping the different subjects in file folders, Cyndi! Mine definitely lacks organization. I’ll have to try that for easier access and less time spent digging through all my cards!

  4. Adrienne says:

    Love the cards! Especially love how you use real money. I never got the whole plastic coin thing. Excellent tips, thanks!

  5. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for these wonderful ideas. I have a son who is dyslexic and dysgraphic and I have had to be very creative in teaching him. For example, he is quite good at making power points, so he does them in lieu of written reports of any kind. He can even record a narration on it (how my kids learned all of this is beyond me! lol). He is so proud of his work and the best part is that he doesn’t have to be reminded of what he *can’t* do (spell or write very well) but has a real sense of achievement. I am going to try your card system, as well, for things that he has difficulty remembering or processing. I look forward to the rest of the series!

    • I hope the cards work as well for your son as they do for my daughter, Lisa! Doing the Power Point presentations is a great idea. We haven’t tried that yet, but I will definitely add it to my toolbox. Thanks for the great tip!

  6. Sara says:

    Thank you so much for this post! As I was reading, all of these simple ideas came to my mind to implement that seem so obvious but I just didn’t think of before. Several of the reference cards above will be especially helpful for my daughter as well, who is a much more neurotypical learner than my older son. Thank you again for the ideas and inspiration!

    • I’m glad you found them helpful, Sara! You’re right about these tips being good for ALL kids! I hope your homeschooling goes even more smoothly when you start using reference cards. I would love it if you would give me an update after you’ve had time to use them!

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  8. Thanks for posting this to the “What’s Working Wednesday” link-up at NextGen Homeschool! This is great information and I plan to share it with homeschooling friends who could also benefit from your tips. Hope to see more of your posts on our link-up in the future.
    Renée at NextGen Homeschool

  9. Nora Linehan says:

    I found your blog contained some helpful tips that I hope to use someday in my classroom. I particulary like your reference cards for currency. I like that you actually used real coins to attach to the cards. This is much better than just using pictures. Currently, I am researching apps that can be used in classrooms (and at home) that will address the needs of diverse students. Since you had mentioned the multisensory aproach to learning, I wanted to let you know about two apps for an iPad that may interest you. One is an educational multisensory app called “Finger Numbers” which can be purchased for $0.99. It requires an iPad iOS4.0 or later (14.2 MB). When I saw the preview for the app it reminded me of your reference cards. The app displays the child’s fingers near a numbered card. The other is “Spelling Trekking” ($1.99) which is compatible with the iPad iOS 5.1 or later. Thanks for sharing your tips.

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  24. jacquie says:

    These are a great idea! I may have to do some of them with my oldest! We are making a lot of changes this year for curriculum. She has speech delays and has a hard time expressing answers. I will definitely have to try the money cards!

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