Monday, October 22, 2007

Experiences Homeschooling a Speech Delayed Child, Part I

I'm not a doctor or a specialist, just a mom who is sharing her experience with the home education of a formally speech delayed child. Parents should always consult their pediatrician if they suspect a speech delay. That being said, here is my story.

My son had a two year expressive/receptive speech delay when he was tested at age four. He went through all the recommended tests via our pediatrician's referrals to various specialists, and it was determined that he had a speech delay without any other issues. We had him in speech therapy for a while, but it wasn't anything that I could not provide for him at home. We also pursued the free therapy via the public school system, but they classified my son as retarded. The school makes their classification independently of a diagnosis. So if the pediatrician finds no mental retardation, children can still be classified for these services if they test poorly, or the evaluation team feels that the child is a very slow learner. We didn't agree with this classification, but rather than fight this label, we decided to go it on our own.

The first thing we tried was floor play(concentrated play) which was what the therapists had been doing with him once a week for an hour. I spent every day down on the floor with him goofing around while making a pointed attempt at inserting words into our play, basically helping him develop his vocabulary. After he got a little older, we graduated to computer learning and used children's cd-roms like Kindergarten Rabbit, Reader Rabbit, and free online learning games like those offered at This was good because he was listening and following instructions - learning interactively with visual clues.

He was losing interest in the computer learning, and we needed to focus on seat work to develop his writing skills. He really disliked this at first, but we started working on writing, workbooks and scissor work for five minutes at a time, increasing seat work by increments of five minutes over a long period of time.

As he got older, he was able to sit for longer periods of time. We tried several kindergarten curricula until I found one that lit a fire under him. We tried Seton kindergarten, secular resources like the Big Book of Kindergarten Learning from wallyworld, and some other secular resources. I did a lot of research for a curriculum that might have more thorough coverage, old fashioned incremental learning.

I noticed that the other resources we used went too fast, and there was a big jump between kindergarten and first grade which would have left him behind, floundering and frustrated. So I took a chance and ordered some kindergarten workbooks from Rod & Staff. They don't have an official kindergarten, so they are called preschool materials. He loved them, and finally he was looking forward to school.

I suddenly felt a great weight lift off my shoulders! Finally, some interest on his part and progress. It was no longer a herculean effort to teach and to learn. I started to believe we could really do this homeschooling thing, and that my son would learn and catch up with his speech. We had a way now. Thank you Lord.

I found the Mennonite curriculum such as Rod & Staff, Christian Light Education and Pathway Readers to progress incrementally at an even pace, and to have thorough coverage with no leaps or gaps. It's extremely integrated, and the development of vocabulary is emphasized. The flow is brilliant, a lot of thought was put into these curricula. Without these Mennonite curricula, my son would not have progressed as well in overcoming his severe speech delays. He's developed a real love of reading now, and is an advanced reader.

We used the Rod & Staff Learning to Read curriculum and the Christian Light Learning to Read Curriculum at the same time, alternating days with them. The pairing was perfect, and the coverage doubled. We also used the Climbing to Good English later on, and Pathway Readers. We used Christian Light Education readers for first grade, and their second grade science and third grade social studies. We haven't used Christian Light Education since then because my son prefers the Rod & Staff, and so do I because there is little if any doctrine which contradict our Catholic faith.

We are currently using fourth and fifth grade Rod & Staff curriculum, Climbing to Good English 4(a good summer bridge or extra practice workbook) and Pathway Readers 4. We also use Catholic resources for reading, history and religion, but Rod & Staff is our core curriculum.

Links to these homeschool curriculum providers are on my sidebar.

Part II will cover what we did in the early years, ages three through six. I'll discuss the details of concentrated play and other ideas for speech help at home.


Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to part two!
Our 3 1/2 year old has almost no lanugage, and we are in the thick of tryinh to find out if it is only a sp. delay or ASD or ? ATM they are saying Golbal Dev. Delay.

We hs our older two and I'm starting to think about how we will go about homeschooling him.

Thanks for sharing your story.

(in Australia)

Alexandra said...

Thanks for your visit, and God bless you and your journey. I'm going through it again with my 2.5 year old daughter. She is a bit better than her brother, but still not many words.

Anonymous said...

I want to give you a big hug for standing up for your son. I am a mother. I also taught for two years. It is very frustrated to see how some teachers want to 'fix' children. In the end, they destroy the creative abilities of many children. My son is now 4 1/2 years old and I can't begin to tell you what I have gone through trying to also protect my boy. I've taught my son almost everything. He is far advanced academically, but is speech delayed. He is beginning to read, knows the phonics, is saying and writing most sight words.

I recently pulled him out of a school where he treated not only differently, but awfully. I have decided to Homeschool my son. We are our kids advocates. Thanks for standing up for your son.

Alexandra said...

Thanks so much. I needed a daughter is now going through this. She is three with really no words. wears on you. One thing I read is that it can affect your self esteem, so you need to be aware of mild depression. Give yourself room to talk about your feelings, and experience your emotions away from the children, of course.

God bless you on your homeschool journey. Hugs to you as well. :)

Michelle said...

Hi. A few days ago I was told that my 18 month old has a speech delay ( 16 months in terms of what he understands, and 14 months in terms of what he says), yet not delayed enough to be labeled 'speeh delayed'; so no services were recommended. Instead, I was given a handout on things I could do with him at home, and encouraged to put him in daycare or a Mother's Day Out program a few times per week (he's not in daycare, he's an only child, and he's not around any other children, he was also born 2 months early). My mind is racing trying to figure out what i did or didn't do. My son has been watching Your Baby Can Read DVD's since about 3 months. We read atleast 1-3 books per day. We participate in story-time at the library whenever possible, and we visit out of town friends/family with children atleast twice per month etc..but maybe it's still not enough interaction/exposure. What concerns me most is that around 12 months adjusted age, my husband and I remember him saying "stop it" loud and clear! He said it 3 times. We assumed it was the beginning of audible speech. However, that was 6 months ago. We haven't heard him say anything that clear other than the occasional 'Hi', 'Hey' or the consistent 'cap, cap' for clap. He use to wave bye - bye, or hi, hold his arms up if asked (around 6-9 months) etc., but he doesn't do these things anymore. i'm wondering if his speech/understanding is delayed due to lack of exposure, or is there a more serious issue. You said your children don't say much. Do they say a few words clearly? Or are their words hard to understand? Have you noticed any declines with your children? Do you vaccinate? I apologize in advance for the long post and all the questions...but as i said earlier, my mind is racing trying to figure this out. I appreciate any information you are willing to share. Thank you and God bless!:-)

Alexandra said...

One of my children has outgrown his speech delay - he's 12 now, and my four year old has the same issues that he had.

With the older one we did the special ed. preschool, but it didn't help him. The younger is staying home. In our case, it's a matter of just growing out of it, and it appears to be genetic thing(runs in the family).

Did you see my other posts for links to support and home speech therapy?

This might help. As far as what you should do - go with your gut. You know your child best. Do lots of research, and then do what you feel will help your child most. A lot of it is trial and error, and a waiting game. Some children take longer to mature than others. Make it fun and keep working with him. The link above has information in reference to floor play - the best kind of speech help because it's naturalistic. It's stressful, I know. Pray A LOT, and put your trust in the lord.

Blessings to you, and prayers for your family.

Paula said...

In the Lord everything is possible, of course, but I am asking Him for answers and I think He brought me here.

My son of 3 year old has speech delays and we are concerned about his school readiness.

At Public system he was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism, which I know in my heart is not it. He has speech delays and I have trouble motivating him.

I am unfortunatelly divorced and work full time. Can I still help him? I want to work form home or work less, and I am working towards that goal but it will take time and my son needs help now

Any word of wisdom and inspiration is appreciated

Alexandra said...

I'll never forget this life changing advice that I got from a fellow Christian homeschooler - focus on character development, which means turning toward Christ in all things. That was my answer! What a weight lifted off me. We began from that loving place - not academics, but Christ. From this everything flowed. Look to Christian resources like Veggietales, Bible stories for children, Christian coloring and preschool books, etc. I noticed a huge change in my son and myself when we choose Christian homeschool curriculum - they are gentle and wholesome, and speak to the heart of a child. This is a great motivator. There are many Christian resources, but the one that worked for my son was the simple straight forward Rod & Staff preschool books and Pathway products(see my sidebar). These are for older children though. At three, you'll probably be playing on the floor more than doing anything academic.

Another thing that helped was to meet my son where he was - come down to his level and begin there.

Floor play is excellent - words naturally flow during play. For example have the toys go "under", "over" and "through". Teach words while playing, but not too much, and not forced. Met the child at his level of attention and tolerance. Take advantage of his natural interests and dig into play with him. You can teach colors and number this way - counting toys, pointing out colors, etc. Mine did well with a lot of humor and comedy play - we had a great time just laughing and being silly while learning.

Does he like visual learning? The Disney channel and PBS kids has excellent teaching shows in the mornings. My speech delayed daughter has learned so much watching these shows! Computer learning is good as well - Reader Rabbit toddler and preschool, and Starfall(free online for K). Try to read to him a lot. Sometimes they won't sit still for this, so try picture books with lots of pictures. Both mine tolerated toddler books at age three. My speech delayed daughter is five now, and finally will let me read her longer books, but she still picks out some toddler books from the library as well.

My advice is to study your child, identify their interests and take opportunities to add learning there. There is not right or wrong way, and you don't need a teaching degree to play and teach your young child. Spending time in play with them on the floor, and loving on them will go a long way!

"Melissa and Doug" have excellent learning toys. Check out Amazon for good deals. It's all hands-on wood toys - Montessori based learning. If you need a guideline, check out some preschool curriculum online to get an idea of what preschoolers are learning. You can copy this approach in your own home.

There are tons of free preschool learning sites online too - just Google it. We liked Enchanted Learning and DLTK learning.

Brightly Beaming has resources for younger preschool children - toddler resources:

I'm not sure where your son is so I've mentioned younger and older resources here. Sometimes skills are uneven, so you have to draw from both. My son was good at puzzles for older children, but needed baby - toddler learning resources(for language) at age three. He needed a lot of interaction and motivation from me to develop speech. On the other hand, my daughter is more of a self teacher; I provide the resources, she takes of learning. Her speech is still delayed, but coming along. Both are homeschooled.

Let me know if I can answer any other questions, and I'll see if I can help. There is so much to say on this topic!

God bless!

Alexandra said...

Update 6/6/12:

New visual learning resource: Bob Books! My six year old speech delayed daughter is loving these and now makes up her own stories using the words. Make flashcards from the words and/or use the ones which come with the third books set(?), might be second. Bob Books combine silly wholesome humor, and sight and sound out words. Use this with Christian Light Education's first grade learning to read program. The reading program could be used by anyone - no mention of Christ nor God, just family values, rural farm living, and conservative Mennonite dress featured throughout. It's tops as far as coverage and ease of use. Simple vocabulary and word use is emphasized throughout. Great price, good value.