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.
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.
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.
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:
- Day 2 – Educational Apps and Software
- Day 3 – Board and Card Games
- Day 4 – Therapy Apps
- Day 5 – Books and Programs
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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!
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