Discover why one autism mom loves this book! via jennyherman.com

The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide [Review]

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Be sure to read all the way to the end. I’ve got a GIVEAWAY of this award-winning book!

When Future Horzions asked if I wanted to review Cara Koscinski’s The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities & More!, at first I thought I didn’t need it because I’m a homeschooler. Then I realized many of my readers might like to know about it, so I said yes.

Boy, am I glad I did! This is one of those books that I wish I’d had seven years ago at the beginning of my autism journey. I’m also thankful I’ve got my hands on it now, because it’s still very useful to me. Chapters include information on IEPs, therapy, handwriting, fine motor skills, autism, sensory issues, behavior, attention/organizing, and learning disorders. This book is intended for parents who send their child to a school so they can ensure the student gets the help they need. However, I find it very useful as a homeschool parent because Cara tells me activities to do to help my child in different areas.

Let me tell you why I love this book. (more…)

One autism mom's thoughts after the 2016 presidential election

Kids with Autism & Politics: After the 2016 US Election

This is not a political rant. You can breathe now.

It’s the day after the 2016 US presidential election, and the emotions I’ve seen on social media make me think of a Jackson Pollock painting–many different colors and splattered around, bright and happy, dark and sad, all mixed in. In the middle of all of that, I saw a post that has got my brain percolating and I wanted to share a little autism awareness with you. (The post didn’t mention autism, it just got me thinking…)

Just because a child with autism blatantly blurts out a comment about a political candidate (or anyone for that matter) does not mean he is saying what his parents believe or how his parents would say it. Autism and other special needs are often invisible. Therefore I invite you, and myself, not to assume the worst of parents when a child says someone is a “murderer” or “jerk” or “idiot” or whatever else you may be hearing kids say about people involved in the campaigns.

Whatever my political beliefs, I am trying to teach my children to share their opinions in a kind way and remember that Jesus loves all sinners. That “but for the grace of God, there go I.” My son has pretty strong opinions on his own. He comes to his own black-and-white conclusions. Just this morning I told him there would be a lot of disappointed people and we need to be careful of what we say. Am I trying to change his beliefs? No. Am I trying to help him learn an appropriate way to speak to people? Yes.

So, there’s my two cents. And really, it goes beyond politics. I remember being the one to wonder, “Why can’t that parent control her child?”, long before the days of autism started for me. Before you think a child’s parents promote hating Hillary or trashing Trump, remember…they’re just a child. They are learning how to filter and how to interact. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes and there could very well be a parent coaching for kindness and timeliness but it just hasn’t stuck yet.

The end.

If you’re reading this as a special needs parent, I’ve created a FREE template to reduce holiday overwhelm for your child.  You can quickly fill this out and give to friends and family over the holiday season. It’s called “Holiday Fun with My Child” and will tell others about your child’s likes and dislikes so everyone can enjoy holiday activities. There is also a note at the end asking people to respect your child’s “no” when asked to do something.

I’ve made three versions for you, two with picture backgrounds and one plain for those of you who like to save ink. Why not reduce holiday stress and increase holiday fun? Get your freebie by clicking the image below!

enlarged-girl-thumbnail-holiday-freebie

 

Come on over to discover a simple therapy for special needs parents! via jennyherman.com

Easy Therapy for Special Needs Parents (And Everyone Else)

 

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It goes without saying that special needs parents have a lot of reasons for being stressed and overwhelmed. Appointments crowd the schedule, meltdowns confuse us, and daily life turns into survival mode pretty easily. And that’s just one area of our lives. That doesn’t include other life stressors. Sometimes the overwhelm makes us want to curl up into a ball. And the stress doesn’t really go away. You might get a break, but the stress comes back. I have recently discovered something that helps with this. Doodling in a bullet journal.

I first wanted to use bullet journaling for writing and business as well as homeschooling. Being the recovering perfectionist I am, I had to research how to bullet journal. People told me “just make it your own”, but how could I make it my own if I didn’t understand it? Enter frustrating hours of watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts. I began sinking internally, feeling like this was just too much for me. Then I found this post from The Lazy Genius, and she saved me. I may have given up before I started if I hadn’t read her post. She makes it so easy!

So I started two bullet journals (And have let both go by the wayside…). While looking around Instagram at other people’s bullet journal pictures, I saw a lot of doodling in the bullet journal community and thought I’d create a “happy book”. The happy book would be a combination of a gratitude journal and various doodles of scripture, songs, and whatever else I felt like.

Learn how scripture doodling can help special needs parents! via jennyherman.comI’ve heard people talk about activities that “ground” them or feeling “grounded”. I never really understood that. By personality I tend to be a little more easily stressed and worried. I’ve been working on it. So feeling grounded isn’t really my specialty and was foreign to me.

Until recently. One morning I decided to combat feelings of anxiety by listening to worship songs and doodling Scripture. After a little while, I realized I had calmed down significantly. An odd feeling I rarely experience had come over me. “This is what be what feeling grounded is,” I thought. I decided to make this a morning routine–getting myself ready to face the day by listening to music about God and drawing verses, lyrics, or other things. You can do this with inspirational quotes as well, or whatever you like! (For more on bullet journaling and mental health, read this.)

Sadly this routine didn’t last long. In fact, I’m trying to get back to it. Want to join me? Here’s what you need:

  • Some sort of notebook. You could use a more “official” bullet journal like the Leuchtturm (affiliate link). If you’re using markers, people like the paper weight of this journal. I am using a pretty composition book from the local dollar store. Really, you could even use plain old copy paper.
  • Writing utensils. Again, you could use some fancy markers or regular pens, pencils, crayons, whatever suits your fancy. I like using colored ball point pens and colored pencils.
  • Imagination and inspiration. I kind of lack imagination, so I scroll through Instagram to look for ideas of doodling and lettering. I like Surely Simple. You can go to her site and go to the top and follow her on Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram, whichever you like, or browse her blog. Lisa of Creativlei.com has a series on lettering that may help you as well. When I follow someone’s tutorial or tweak it to be my own, I often note their name so I can go back and look for more ideas from them. At the front or back of your notebook you could start a collection of quotes or verses you’d like to turn into doodles. When I’m reading the Bible on my phone and come across a verse I want to reread many times, I take a screen shot. I have used this collection of screen shots to find verses to doodle. If you’re not an artist, don’t stress! Play around with different letter shapes and sizes. Emphasize words by using color. Stuck? Just write some quotes down and change color for specific words. Don’t let yourself get hung up on having to be a good draw-er. (Is that a word? And, I’m speaking to myself here. I really had to get over that!)
  • Time. I recommend doodling in the morning to get yourself calm and focused or at the end of the day to relax before bed. However, you may want to try other times. Maybe you have your notebook handy while you dictate spelling sentences to your child. The afternoon slump would be another great time for some doodling. Whatever works for you!
  • Grace. Be kind to yourself. It takes time to develop a new habit. Remember this is for relaxation. Take it from me–it doesn’t help you relax to get stressed out over it!

Discover a simple therapy for special needs parents! via jennyherman.comIf you’d rather skip the doodling part and would simply like to color someone else’s design, check out these two options

Free inspirational adult coloring pages

Adult coloring book of Bible verses with bonuses for pre-order

Want to use bullet journaling for things other than doodling, the actual planning stuff? Boho Berry is a good resource. This video shows the original suggested set up from Ryder Carroll. Rebecca of Hip Homeschooling Blog also provides help and inspiration for bullet journaling.

Do you use any creative activity to help you de-stress? Is there a creative outlet that helps your child relax? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment below.

I’ve got a FREE ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just fill out the form below and tell me where to send it!

What does a mom do when her All About Spelling plan fails?

When Your All About Spelling Plan Fails

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Homeschool moms are busy, right? So if we can find something to save us time, we rejoice. Last school year I thought I had found the perfect way to use All About Spelling to save me time.

My younger son, 8, is a pretty good speller. I don’t know if he remembers what he reads or he’s a natural, but he seemed to be ahead of where he was in All About Spelling (affiliate link). One day I had a brilliant thought. What if I could teach both my boys the same spelling lesson? That would save me some time during the day. One of my boys had even mentioned doing school in their bedroom. This was the perfect opportunity. (more…)

Click to discover one special needs homeschool mom's path to success! via jennyherman.com

Special Needs Homeschooling & Grief: A Path to Success

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Homeschool veteran and special needs mom Kristen Pratt is our guest today. I love her practical approach to homeschooling and I asked if she would share some thoughts on special needs homeschooling with my readers. Her article took a different twist than I expected, but it is definitely a good read. In fact, all special needs parents will appreciate it, whether or not they homeschool.

Do you have a favorite hiking trail? Our family had our very own in our back yard. It wandered through about three acres of mostly wooded land. It became very natural to walk the trail, avoiding hazards such as the gaping woodchuck hole in the middle of a hill that led to an open field. We all knew to step to the side of the path in that one deceivingly grassy section to avoid mud-caked shoes. We even discovered hidden secrets like the wild blueberry bush at the back end of the property. At what seemed like the end of the trail, we knew to veer right for a hidden way back to the original path. We didn’t have to look up to know where the deer stands are located. We could have navigated that trail blindfolded.

Parenting for us has become like that well-worn path. We have 9 children: 3 married, 1 just graduated & 5 more still homeschooling. We have grown accustomed to some of the pitfalls and easily avoid them. We have learned from tripping over logs in the path. We know to look for the hidden treasures. While each child is unique and we continue to learn new things, the path is comfortable and our stride is sure. At least it used to be.

We adopted a little guy from the Caribbean about 11 years ago. By a year-and-a-half old he was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Parenting our son is like walking that well-worn path in the darkness of night. We knew it would be a little bit of a challenge but we know the path well. It would all be ok. After all, the doctor thought he was only mildly affected. (Boy was he wrong!) We were not prepared to slam into a tree that mysteriously appeared in the middle of the trail. That big root we fell on really hurt the shins! We are certain the path doesn’t go in this new direction! And what about that river that nearly drowned us?  This is what it can feel like raising a child with special needs. Everything you know about raising a child is changed, moved, and sometimes makes no sense. The well-worn path is sometimes unrecognizable.

How do we parent and homeschool a child who struggles with the simplest of tasks? It isn’t easy. We cry. We get frustrated. We grieve. Do not pass by that last sentence quickly. We grieve. We grieve a lot. My banner for raising our son is to shoot for the stars and hope we get a couple of inches off from the ground. Sometimes we do not get off the ground at all. Sometimes it feels like we end up in hole. That is when I grieve. This does not mean I give up. It means I accept the limits of today and feel a natural sadness. It stings. Our son has lost so much and we have to cope with that loss. Until I grieve, I cannot accept reality and plan for the future.

Our son is supposed to start 6th grade. As I began to plan the new school year I found 6th grade takes a big leap into the abstract. Our son cannot understand abstract. He has hit a wall (or tree) and there is no way around it. That hurts. My son has no ability to understand this loss so I grieve for us both. Until I grieve it, I cannot accept it. I need to accept it in order to help him where he is at, rather than where I want him to be. The homeschool teacher side of me wants to fight. My post-grieving side knows I will do more harm than good if I do. Instead I developed a plan that will engage him where he is. However, his books will not say 6th grade. I admit that still stings a little.

How about you? Do you have areas you haven’t yet grieved? Is it setting you and your child up for frustration and failure? I fight it, too, sometimes, but I am getting a little better at recognizing my need to grieve. It isn’t giving up; it is letting go. It is letting go of something that doesn’t exist anywhere but in our hopes, dreams, and expectations. Yet, it is real loss worthy of our sorrow. It is essential that we grieve for our own well-being and also for the success of our child. Pray and ask God to help you identify the areas you need to grieve. Study up on the steps of grief in order to understand the process. (affiliate link) At the other end, you may still feel some sadness but you will be able to accept reality and make better decisions with the goal of helping your child grow as much as possible.

What do you think of Kristen’s thoughts on grieving and progress? I’d love to hear in the comments!

I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just click the button below and I’ll send it to you for FREE!

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Kristen Pratt is a homeschool curriculum editor for www.Master Books.com.  She loves helping put together “curriculum with purpose” in a way that is easy to use and engaging for students.  She is married to Randy, who also works for Master Books (NLPG).   As an owner of Pennywise Learning (now owned by CBD) she has helped thousands of homeschool moms navigate curriculum choices. Kristen has 20 years of experience homeschooling her nine children and has had the pleasure of seeing four of them graduate.  She continues to homeschool the remaining five children, including one with special needs.

Get a great scheduling tip from one of jennyherman.com's readers!

Save Your Scheduling Sanity with This Reader Tip!

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The other day my newsletter shared some posts for helping you avoid overwhelm this new season. I also invited my readers to tell me their biggest challenge as special needs parents. I love it when my readers reply!

One fantastic reader, Karen, not only replied, but also took time to share her own scheduling trick. I imagine this will save many of you, whether or not you have a special needs child. Here’s what Karen said,

One idea about appointments that I am so glad I had last year, I’d like to share: schedule a week or two periodically for NO appointments. It is as if we have a vacation coming up, even though we don’t. I mark on the calendar, “schedule no appointments,” so when a medical office is telling me my child can be seen by a certain doctor only on Tuesday mornings, for example, and we are looking at that “sacred” week, I have to say, “OK, then we’ll have to go with the following Tuesday,” rather than acquiescing to the day they are suggesting. And if we are trying to fit in a dental appointment, and the receptionist asks about a date during that particular week, I simply let her know that week is unavailable. 
It seems like a simple thing to do, but it hadn’t occurred to me before this past year, and I found that every single week had one to three different appointments. I tried doing the “cluster several appointments together, especially if they are all in the same distant town” idea, and also the “make all your medical appointments to be the same day of the week, and also use that day to do your other errands as well” idea. However, too often, the medical offices do not operate under that plan–for example, some are not open every day or the physician uses certain days strictly for surgeries. And by the time we’re done with two appointments in a town an hour away, we don’t have time for other errands unless we want to arrive home to make supper at 9 p.m.! So that didn’t work either.
When we found ourselves in one of those “no appointment weeks,” I can’t tell you how free I felt! As it happened, we still had unexpected things come up that were inconvenient, such as an unscheduled injury or a car breakdown, but having a few days in a row where we didn’t have to go anywhere but the occasional grocery store pickup or driving a teen to work, or going to co-op were quite refreshing! 
That is indeed, genius! Thank you, Karen, for sharing your sanity-saving tip with us! Do YOU have a tip that saves your sanity? I’d love to hear!
Speaking of sanity savers, my Kindle book The Power of One: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life is on sale for Labor Day weekend! It’s just 99 cents until 4pm on September 3rd, then it goes to $1.99 for the rest of the holiday weekend. It’s a great time to grab some hope and inspiration for the fall! (affiliate link)
 I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just click the button below and I’ll send it to you for FREE!

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Learn more about the new book Special Education at Home! via jennyherman.com

Special Education at Home Q & A [Plus GIVEAWAY!]

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UPDATE: Congratulations to comment #3, Kayleen! You are the winner of an autographed copy of Special Education at Home by Shawna Wingert!

Though I have not met autism mom Shawna Wingert in person, I think we’d have no problem sitting in a coffee shop should we get to meet in real life some day. I am a fangirl of her writing. She writes with such heart and her beautiful words seep into the souls of special needs parents. I’m excited to have her here today for a Q&A session about her new book, Special Education at Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-Box Learners. Be sure to read all the way through, because Shawna has a surprise. Let’s get started!

Me: Tell me a little about your special needs homeschool story.

Shawna: Well, the honest answer is, I NEVER in a million years thought I would homeschool. I was solidly a public school girl growing up, and assumed my children would do the same. When my oldest son was in the second grade, however, it became clear that school was not working for him – at all. So we made the leap. (You can read the full story here.)

Me: Why did you decide to write Special Education at Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-Box Learners?

Learn about the new book Special Education at Home! via jennyherman.comShawna: When we received my sons’ various diagnoses, we were already homeschoolers. What surprised me were how many people just assumed we would put them back into a school environment to let the “experts” teach them. The truth is, a mom homeschooling a child with special needs is subject to constant scrutiny for her decision to homeschool. My child see two therapists and a developmental pediatrician regularly. All three of them are constantly asking questions about my sons’ educations. Sometimes, I feel supported in our decision to homeschool. (It’s the BEST to have a doctor say,”I can see now that homeschooling really is the best decision for him. You are doing a great job.”) Sometimes, I am asked a lot of questions about how my child is performing in school and how I am teaching him – more than a parent of a special needs child in a school program would ever have to answer for. That can be tough. I wrote the book to essentially encourage other parents that they are more than qualified to teach their child with special needs at home.

Me: I know people can look at the table of contents, but what would you say is the essence of your book? Is it inspiring? Practical?

Shawna: I hope it is both! My favorite quote ever about the book is from Jamie Martin (author of Give Your Child the World and editor at Simple Homeschool). She graciously said, “Her voice (Shawna’s) is caring, guilt free, and full of both practical advice and inspiration.” I cried when I read her words because that is exactly what I was hoping for. The reality is that we need both. We need the practical, how do I deal with being at doctors appointments twice a week and still fitting in math, or what do I do on days when my child was up until 3 AM. But we also need the encouragement, the you can do this, the you are not alone. I hope the book does both!

Me: Have special needs homeschoolers responded to your book, telling you what speaks to them the most?

Shawna: I am so blessed to have a very loyal, loving audience. Yes, I have been lucky enough to hear from many readers who were touched by the book. Some of my favorites are from moms who are thinking about homeschooling, or are just getting started. A sweet momma who is beginning her special needs homeschooling journey this month sent me this message:

“I will be embarking on this homeschool journey for the first time. I will be letting go of all the services and accommodations I have fought so hard for. However, it is liberating knowing I am no longer chained to a system that does not know how to teach to my children’s style of learning. I was so relieved to hear  your ‘out of the box’ approach . A lot of the pressure I was feeling truly subsided. Thank you for getting out there and sharing your experiences.”

Me: What a great testimonial! Here’s my final book question: What’s your favorite part of the book?

Shawna: This is a difficult question to answer. I guess my favorite parts of the book are the ones that tackle everyday issues that most authors seem to avoid. The chapter about sleep and how much it impacts education (and thus makes homeschooling a child with chronic sleep issues a great choice) is one of them. So is the reality of how much we use screen time to aid our homeschooling days. My favorite message in the book is ‘Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong.’ I fall into this trap all the time. Somehow, if things are tough, I am convinced that it is my fault – that somehow I am messing it all up. What I am learning is that sometimes, some things are just hard and must be lived through. And that’s OK. No one is the blame. Not even me.

Me: Thank you for answering all these questions! I can’t wait to see how many special needs homeschooling families will be blessed by your book. Is there a way people can connect with you and get further help from you?

Shawna: I blog at NotTheFormerThings.com about this beautiful, messy life I have been given. I also coach other parents on creating and implementing homeschool plans for their children, no matter what their needs. Coaching information is available here.

Here’s the exciting news! Shawna has a giveaway for my readers. One entrant will win an autographed copy of Special Education at Home: Out-of-Box Learning for Out-of-Box Learners!

I’m keeping this giveaway super simple.

If you already subscribe to my weekly newsletter, leave a comment saying so. If you need to subscribe, just click the red button below. You can unsubscribe at any time. If you stay subscribed, you’ll receive my survival guide for special needs parents when it’s done, for FREE. Remember to leave a comment here that you subscribed–it’s your entry.

For a bonus entry, subscribe to Shawna’s personal notes by entering your email address in the bar at the top of her site. Then leave another comment.

If you love giveaways and you want more entries, you can share this on your social media and leave a comment for each place you shared it. Just click the share buttons below.

The giveaway closes Sunday night at 11:59 EST and a random winner will be contacted Monday. The contest is for US folks 18 years and older. No affiliation with any social media. No purchase necessary. Thanks for entering!

 

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Click on over to find a list of apps to use in special needs homeschooling! via jennyherman.com

Big List of Apps for Special Needs Homeschooling

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Let’s face it. Technology is here to stay. Additionally, many of our kids with special needs gravitate towards technology. Why not put that to good use? I asked some other special needs homeschooling moms to tell me their favorite apps, both for education and coping with challenges. Here’s what they came up with. Many of the ladies who gave suggestions also have blogs, so have fun clicking over to their blogs via the links at their names. (more…)

Click for encouragement for autism parents! via jennyherman.com

Breaking News: God is Bigger Than Autism

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Do me a favor. Get a piece of paper and write down a challenge you’re facing. Then write down another. It’s ok–I’ll wait. Done?

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’m task-oriented. I’m a fixer. It’s just my nature. But in that task orientation and fixing, I can get off track.

I focus on the problems, the trials, the challenges. I “just keep swimming”, pushing ever harder against the waves, forgetting there’s a boat next to me.

I get overwhelmed by the challenges I can’t fix. I cry because my son with autism can speak, but he can’t communicate. I ask him too many questions in an effort to understand, and I make him melt away more into himself. I wish I could fix the sensory issues that bother him so he and his brother could enjoy each other more despite their differences. I wish I could help my youngest understand a little better.

I wish, I wish, I wish. I push on, hanging on to the knowledge that God is in control.

But I forget.

I forget that God is bigger. God is bigger than autism. God is bigger than Sensory Processing Disorder. God is bigger than sibling squabbles and daily stress. God is bigger than my fear. God is bigger than my anxiety. God is bigger than my lack of faith.

God. Is. Bigger.

I was struck by the end of Psalm 46 the other day. “The God of Jacob is our fortress.” Now, David was writing that many years after Jacob, but the same is true for us. The God of Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Paul, Rahab, Esther, Ruth, Moses…he’s still the same, and he’s a fortress!

He holds me in his hand. He holds my child in his hand. And there’s room to spare. He knows what my child cannot say. And he loves us.

Take that paper out. Write God is bigger than in front of each challenge you wrote down. Tape it to your mirror. Say it out loud. Write it on your hand. Make that your one thing for the next week. He is bigger and he is a fortress. Remember that. Rehearse it.

God is bigger than autism and in that knowledge I am humbled and ever so grateful.

If you’re a special needs parent hanging on, I recommend the book The Life We Never Expected (affiliate link). I read it while waiting for jury duty. It’s full of deep truths but put in extremely easy to read language. An autism mom and dad share their struggles, and even if your child doesn’t have autism, you’ll relate to a lot of the general struggle of life. If you’re not familiar with God’s sacrificial love for you, learn more here.

Where will you put your “God is bigger” note? Tell me!

I’ve got  75 survival tips for special needs parents! Get it…FOR FREE! Just click the picture below.

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