Tag Archives: Special Needs

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?

Educating Children with Special Needs – To Push or Not to Push, That is the Question

Before Noah (6-with Down syndrome), I was kind of cocky when it came to home education and my children. I’d gone to all the conventions, heard all the speakers, seen all the programs and curricula and owned most of it (the curricula, that is). I knew exactly what each child needed to accomplish for the year to keep them on grade level with their peers.

Did I mention that was before Noah?

Educating a child with Down syndrome cured me of that particular cockiness. He was 5 at the beginning of last school year, so that meant that we technically started Kindergarten. Taking one look at the skill lists for typical kindergarteners pretty much nixed our Kindergarten idea, especially since I was hearing several stories about kindergarteners with Down syndrome staying back for a second year of kindergarten in the public schools – sounded pretty standard.

Then again, I’ll never forget the young man with Down syndrome I saw sitting in the middle of an aisle at Hobby Lobby. He looked to be about 18 or so, and he was sitting there playing with and talking to two plastic dinosaurs in a way I would have expected from a 3 year old.

Stop right there. I have NO, absolutely NO issues with a person with a cognitive delay playing in any way that makes them happy. It’s just when I think of Noah’s future, I think he will have more options and opportunities to participate in the community around him if at some level he can be age-appropriate. I think some people with Down syndrome are capable of that, and perhaps some are not. I don’t know where Noah will fall. I can tell you that I have visited with both high-functioning and low-functioning adults with Down syndrome, and regardless of their functioning level, most of them have indeed exhibited reasonably age-appropriate behavior.

Here is where that desperation that comes with being a parent of a child with special needs comes in. I don’t know what Noah’s future holds, but I want to know that I have done everything “right” in equipping him to do the very most he can do. I don’t want to look back and wish I did more. I suppose that’s not really a special needs parent thing – that’s a desperation most parents feel whether their child has special needs or not. I just don’t freak out about it as much with my other kids as I do with Noah.

So, although one part of me says to just let Noah go through curricula and skills at his own pace and not worry about age-appropriateness, the other part of me is concerned about social skills and says he simply cannot stay in kindergarten curricula throughout his entire grade school years, whether that’s where he is cognitively or not. (And I don’t know where he will be cognitively.)

So I did something very counterintuitive to most homeschoolers. I emailed a public school educator/administrator and said “HELP!!!!” I wound up talking to a man high up in the Texas public schools who has had much experience, personal and professional, with special needs education. I threw my concerns at his feet, and this is what (among other things) he told me that has given me so much direction:

The best way to socially integrate and educate our children with special needs like the ones presented by Down syndrome is keep them on age level content wise, but skill level ability wise.

What does that look like?

In Texas, plants and animals are covered in first grade. Typical children learn about life cycles of animals like frogs and butterflies and demonstrate understanding by describing or drawing the life cycle of frogs and butterflies. Your child with an intellectual disability should also learn about the life cycle of frogs and butterflies, but he may demonstrate understanding by doing something like matching a picture of a caterpillar to a picture of a butterfly and a picture of a tadpole to a picture of a frog.

Love it.

That means I won’t be keeping Noah in certain subject matter for an indefinite period of time until he masters the depth of the content that his peers will, but he will be exposed to the same subject matter tailored to his understanding.

And, just for the record, I am still planning on giving Noah a second year of kindergarten in order to lay the foundation for the rest of his education. Seeing how Bella (5) starts kindergarten work this year, he’ll have good company.

A comment on enlisting the help of public educators – even if we take on the huge task of homeschooling, we really don’t have to re-invent the wheel. The public schools have so much experience and research behind what they do, and most public educators have huge hearts, especially for children with special needs. If you happen across one who is antagonistic about home education, don’t hesitate to smile and thank them for their input and then go your own way; but in my experience they are much more likely to have some really good experience-based ideas that can help you over whatever hurdle you are encountering, whether they are home-school supporters or not.