Step 1: Hire Therapists
If you have not already, get your child the therapies they need. These can be speech, occupational, physical, behavioral, music, etc. I am lucky enough to have therapists who come to my house for my boys. If your child needs help with communication, I highly recommend getting started with speech therapy. Occupational therapy can help with so many things, such as sensory processing skills, fine motor, self-help, visual perception, and so much more. ABA therapy can help if problem behaviors arise, but they also help with things like increasing language and communication skills, as well as improving attention, focus, social skills, and memory. All of these therapies will be extremely helpful to you while you homeschool. You need to build your team, just like schools do because now your home is the school and you are the teacher. This is why I recommend The Autism Helper’s Professional Development Membership. I am in year two of this phenomenal program. There are many great resources, even if you aren’t in a traditional school setting. You will want tips for communicating with your child’s speech therapist, OT, BCBA, or even family members who may be helping you. There is also a wonderful community to help you if you have questions. Enrollment for the Professional Development Membership will open again in January 2023. You can join the waitlist here.
Step 2: Assessments
It is time to find out what your child can do, so you know where to start. The two assessments that I used this year were The Basic Skills Assessment and the assessments from The Roadmap to Reading Course. The Basic Skills Assessment is from the Professional Development Membership. This assessment covers math, science, and social studies. It is available on Boom Cards, but secretly, I hate tablets. Two of my boys have never held one and the other one would have been so distracted by it that I would not have received accurate results. So, I printed them and put them into a 3-inch binder. I took The Autism Helper, Roadmap to Reading Course over the summer. I did the assessments for each of my boys and from those, I created goals for phonemic awareness, word identification, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Step 3: Choose a Curriculum
Now that you know what your child can do, it is time to choose the curriculum. This is the easy part. The Autism Helper Leveled Daily Curriculum is perfect for your learner. There are guides to explain the various levels, so you know where to start. There is also a Skills Matrix that can help guide you. For my oldest son, Davyd, I started him on Level 1 for all of the subjects. I knew that he probably knew most of the material, but I wanted to ensure there were no gaps in his education. He was in fifth grade when we started homeschooling. He was able to move through the Level 1 of the curriculum very fast, usually about 2 pages a day, but it was a really good review for him. I did find areas that we needed to slow down and work on. Even if he did well on a unit’s pre-test, we still completed it, but I gave it to him as independent work. My younger 2 boys, Ben and George, started at level 0.5 for all available subjects and we worked on that the entire school year. This year they moved on to Level 1. For Level 0.5 and 1 learners, the file folders are a great addition. I highly recommend purchasing these as well. This year we are using last year’s Level 0.5 file folders for independent work because these are now mastered skills.
Depending on what your learning goals are for your kids, you may want to add supplemental curriculum and The Autism Helper offers many that go along with the curriculum. Some of my favorites are the math mega packs. When my son was struggling with time, the Time Mega Pack gave him extra practice. The Work Task Mega Packs are amazing and there are so many to choose from. I recently purchased The Communication Based Work Task Mega Pack for our speech therapist to work on with the boys. There are so many to choose from that include great skills. I also like to include some educational materials from Lakeshore Learning to give extra practice on what we are learning from the Leveled Daily Curriculum.
Step 4: Choose What Subjects to Teach
Next, you want to decide what subjects to teach. George and Ben (ages 8 and 10), started last year with Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science. This year we added Reading Comprehension. Davyd is learning all of the available subjects: Language Arts, Reading Comprehension, Functional Literacy, Math, Functional Math, Science, and Social Studies. Choosing the subjects you want to do is your personal decision and choose what is best for your child. I will be showing ideas on how to adapt this curriculum to whatever your child’s needs may be in future posts. I chose Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies because I wanted to cover the subjects they would have at school. Your state may have homeschool requirements as well, so you can check with your school district’s homeschool representative. Also, another perk of this curriculum is if you have to turn in a homeschool portfolio every year, you can just turn in the binder you put this curriculum in for each subject you did. How easy is that!?
Step 5: Build Your Daily Schedule
So, you hired your therapists, did your assessments, picked your curriculum, and the subjects you plan to teach, so finally let’s build that daily schedule. First, put in what you cannot change, those therapy schedules, meals, etc. I went through a few weeks of rough drafts. I wrote what I wanted to accomplish on a word document and then I added or deleted if it was too much or too little. Every boy has their schedule, and I just wrote notes on that. My boys all receive speech, occupational, and behavior therapy so each child is receiving about 13 hours to 17 hours of therapy. Once you decide on a schedule, make it visual! I love Lessonpix (https://lessonpix.com/) for making visuals. I started simple. I do not do a schedule that says math, reading, science, etc. Their schedules are pictures of adults they are working with and the order they are working with them. When they sit down with mom for academics, I see what I have planned for the day. Then I give them a choice. What do you want to do first? Math or reading? Science or language arts? This gives them some say in what we do and they enjoy that. I do not do every subject, every day. They are getting a lot of therapies and I remember they are kids. They are not ready for a 40-hour work week. We do however make the most out of our days. There are days the schedule will not go as expected. When my son was having an issue with behavior, we took a short break from academics and focused on communication and behavior. Communication improved, negative behavior decreased, and academics returned. Do the best you can and make the most of your time together.