October-Learning Disability Awareness Month

October is Learning Disability Awareness Month. Many people begin homeschooling due to learning disabilities. We definitely did. We began homeschooling to make learning a better experience for Sims, who at the time was diagnosed with dyslexia. School focused on teaching him to read and write. At home, we were able to focus on learning. Learning can come from multiple methods-doing, hearing, seeing, etc. Writing and reading were lessons and a part of school, but not the focus. As time went on, we learned the Sims was not alone on the learning challenged journey. Sawyer was diagnosed with dyscalculia, and Parks was diagnosed with dysgraphia. Sims also found out that he also has dysgraphia. All three kiddos were also diagnosed with ADHD. The diagnoses of course were not a surprise at all and did not change our plan. They just put a label on how they think. (In fact, I explain how we no longer see ourselves as having disabilities in this post. It is one of my favorites.)

So what are all of these crazy diagnoses and what do they look like in our home?

Dyslexia

Reading is complex. It requires our brains to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the right order, and pull the words together into sentences and paragraphs we can read and comprehend.

People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when they have trouble with that step, all the other steps are harder.

Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.

Dyslexia is also very common, affecting 20 percent of the population and representing 80– 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities. Scientific research shows differences in brain connectivity between dyslexic and typical reading children, providing a neurological basis for why reading fluently is a struggle for those with dyslexia.

Dyslexia can’t be “cured” – it is lifelong. But with the right supports, dyslexic individuals can become highly successful students and adults.” This is from The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

In our house at this point in life, dyslexia is characterized painful read alouds mainly. That is the negative aspect of it. The positive aspect of it includes big-picture thinking.

Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. Specifically, the disorder causes a person’s writing to be distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write wrong or misspelled words, despite thorough instruction. Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities; however, they usually have no social or other academic problems. Cases of dysgraphia in adults generally occur after some trauma. In addition to poor handwriting, dysgraphia is characterized by wrong or odd spelling, and production of words that are not correct (i.e., using “boy” for “child”). The cause of the disorder is unknown, but in adults, it is usually associated with damage to the parietal lobe of the brain.” This is according to the National Insitiute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

In our house at this point in life, dysgraphia is mainly handwriting that uses different sized letters, oddly spaced letters, lots of misspellings, missing words/letters/numbers, and trouble word-finding.

Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia is understood as “math dyslexia,” but is actually a syndrome or collection of characteristics that are marked by underachievement in math in spite of good ability in speaking, reading, and writing. Sometimes dyscalculia occurs with other learning difficulties.

The student is quickly overwhelmed by the volume of facts and procedures and is distressed by the daunting visual-spatial-directional-sequential demands of arithmetic. They typically have a shallow and insufficient understanding of the base ten system, place value, decimals, and fractions. They typically have trouble reading numbers with more than three digits. They wrestle to visualize and to detect subtle details in visual information and when feeling objects. They struggle to do mental calculations and to consider quantitative information about time, speed, distance, magnitude, size, weight, and area. They grapple with visual-spatial relationships, navigation, maps, directions, steps, scheduling, and organization.They often make unconscious number mistakes when reading, thinking, talking, copying, listening, and writing.” This according to Dyscalculia.org.

In our house at this point in life, dyscalculia shows up in trying to do quick mental math and in driving.

ADHD

According to CHADD, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting 11 percent of school-age children. Symptoms continue into adulthood in more than three-quarters of cases. ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.” ADHD has several presentations including inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined.

In our house at this point in life, ADHD is probably the biggest monster. ADHD has some amazing super powers, and we use them all. We are a creative bunch. We are active and love to learn. We are also tough to get started on a project or tough to complete a project. We fidget. We speak impulsively and over think most situations. We take breaks as we need them, and we apologize a lot. We get distracted. We have ALOT of systems in place in order to keep things in their homes, to make tasks more manageable, and to manage time.

We were lucky to have the opportunity to home educate and with few state requirements. Thus, the kids learned throughout their elementary and middle school years primarily through alternative methods. We used Montessori methods (the method the Orton-Gillingham was based off of), Waldorf methods, and traditional schooling methods in addition to unschooling. Throughout high school, we still haven’t focused on traditional learning. Although, all of the kids have requested to take more classes outside of the home. So what do we do now?

Most classes require reading. At this point, all three kids read and comprehend without much difficulty. With that, we still utilize audiobooks, read aloud, and text to speech apps. Most classes require writing. Lucky for us, we are in the digital age! Almost everything can be done on a computer or an iPad. Speech to text apps, iPads with the notability app, a pen, and paper-like screen protector, and typing make communication a breeze. For math, the main accommodation used is the calculator, which is used in most high school level maths any way. Throughout our homeschool, we have been active. Activities have not slowed down in high-school. The activities have gotten more “grown-up.” With all of the above “disabilities” it is important to include activities that require heavy work, crossing the midline, using math in real scenarios, multi sensory learning and interest-led learning. If you pop through any of our old posts, you will see these activities are integrated into every class, every day.

When we started homeschooling, oh so many years ago, many people told us that we wouldn’t be able to continue through high school and be successful with everyone having so many learning difficulties. Personally, I think we not only are homeschooling successfully, but also keeping it fun and interesting.

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