Tag Archives: Special Needs

Swimming and Kids With Special Needs

Here’s a little ditty I learned from Noah’s (7 with Down syndrome)awesome former physical therapist (Oh how we miss Miss Lori).

Last year I mentioned to Miss Lori how fabulous Noah was in the swimming pool and she asked me if he could climb out on his own.  Ah hah, I thought, she’s wanting him to work on his upper body strength.


She was trying to clue me in on the most important thing we can teach our kids (special needs or not) in the swimming pool.

When it comes to swimming, being able to get out of a swimming pool is the number one most important thing our kids should know how to do.  And it’s not enough to teach them to go to the ladder and climb out.  If they wander into an unfamiliar swimming pool, they may not be able to find the steps or ladder, and they can only hold onto the side of the pool for so long.  Even if your child isn’t able to swim independently yet, you can teach him to pull himself out of the side of the pool.  He’ll need to grab the side rim with his hands, lift himself up, and then put his stomach on the ground and pull his knees out.  (If you can’t quite picture it, have an older child climb out of the pool at the side of the pool and watch how they maneuver.)

Every time you go to the pool this summer, practice this skill with your child.  Good upper body strength is required (I know this because  I can’t seem to pull myself out of the pool – I have to use the ladder).  Your child may need a little boost at first to pull himself all the way out, but try to withdraw your help little by little until he is doing it independently.  It could pay off it a big way.  And if nothing else, it really is a great upper-body strengthening activity.


Special Needs Gymnastics Class – South Austin/Dripping Springs, Texas

Special Needs GymnasticsYou know that fantastic special needs Mommy (or Daddy) and Me gymnastics class I’ve mentioned from time to time? Well, today I get to do more than just mention it to you. And actually, come to think of it, there are a LOT of daddies that attend this class. The dynamic Miss Suzi Ziegenbein, the gymnastics coach at the Dripping Springs YMCA, has given me the go ahead to invite your child with special needs to her class.

This session goes from Wednesday, September 4th through Wednesday, December 18th. Class space is limited, so get your form and payment if required in to the DSYMCA today! If you are already an Austin-area YMCA member, the class is absolutely free; otherwise you’ll pay a 15-dollar registration fee to enter the system.

Noah (6-Down syndrome) and I have done this class now for two or three semesters, and we have had such fun! Noah is swinging from rings, ropes and bars; jumping from obstacle to obstacle; log rolling; army crawling; jumping on the trampoline, and working on forward and backward rolls. Miss Suzi also has him skipping, galloping, stomping bubbles, and running. The classes move along so smoothly and are so much fun, the kiddos don’t even realize they are working. Each child is encouraged to progress through the weekly course at his own ability level and speed. We are also blessed to have Noah’s (and my) very favorite physical therapist for all times, the amazing Miss Laurie, attend these classes. She not only has a keen eye on how to maximize the workout for each specific kiddo, but she’s got a real knack for knowing just how to motivate these kids to keep them going. If your child has a special need (physical, social or cognitive) that would make attending a typical gymnastics class challenging, this might be just the class for you. Many thanks to Miss Suzi, her daughter Kaleigh, Miss Laurie, the Dripping Springs YMCA and Family Connections Center for making this opportunity available to our children.

A link to the registration and medical release form is below.
Special Needs Gymnastics Class Reg. form Fall 2013

Multiplication for Kids With Decreased Attention Span

So, we’ve taught Andres (9 – Chiari malformation post-decompression) his multiplication tables, he understands the process of long multiplication, he can even multiply a four-digit number by a three-digit number. So what’s the problem? Well, on most days, somewhere between multiplying the top digit by the bottom digit, Andres loses his train of thought and can’t find his place in the problem. Then all heck breaks loose on his paper as he scrambles to remember what to multiply, what to add and where to put it all. This is when your typical teacher pulls her hair out and screams, “But you knew how to do this yesterday, you even knew how to do this ten minutes ago.” (And then the inner silent question as we look at the kid sideways thinking “Are you doing this on purpose – are you TRYING to drive me crazy?”)

When you are dealing with children with cognitive difficulties (a.k.a. learning disabilities, special needs, intellectual disabilities, ADD, learning differences), one thing to remember is that when the child is having to work hard in one area on a task, decrease the level of difficulty on accompanying tasks. In other words, if your child is having to concentrate hard on learning the process of multiplication, don’t tax his ability to recall multiplication facts.


Remember these? This is a Magic Math Multiplication press and reveal board. You press on the button with the multiplication fact printed on it, and as it depresses, it reveals the answer. No plugs, no batteries. It sells for ridiculously big bucks on Amazon – Ebay is much more reasonable. I happened to pick up ours at the thrift store.

I admit, this Magic Math Multiplication press and reveal board had gotten pretty dusty sitting in the back of our homeschool cabinet. By itself, it does not offer much in the way of motivation to a child learning his multiplication tables. But after pulling out hair after hair working with Andres last week, I had a flash of inspiration. I handed this to him at the beginning of a session of working long multiplication problems and told him to use it when multiplying digits. All he had to do was stay focused on the sequence of steps, and he could let the board do the figuring. BINGO!!!! Freeing up all his mental energy and working memory by giving him a tool that just required him to push a button for multiplication facts was exactly what he needed.

Hmmm. “Aren’t you just giving him a crutch?” you ask. Well, sort of. Except I know kids. And I know that kids gravitate towards the quickest way to do a job. So I know just as soon as Andres gets to a point developmentally where he can handle recalling his multiplication facts while he is following the process of long multiplication, he will ditch the press and reveal board quicker than you can say “What’s 7 times 4?” In the meantime, Andres works on long multiplication in the morning with his board and works on drills and flash cards without his board in the afternoon.

This is just one of the many ways you can support a child with learning difficulties so that he can continue to progress rather than allowing him to stay stuck when a challenge presents itself. What are some more ways that have worked in your classroom or home school?