Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Give Me A Break!

Playing soccer with Mom, Dad, and Izaiah
No matter how or where you educate your children, if they have ASD, SPD, CAS, CAPD, ADHD, or any other concoction of the alphabet, extra measures are needed to facilitate learning.  As a homeschooler I get the privilege of researching, developing, and testing our own ideas. Here are some that are tried and (mostly) true:

Breaks are a top priority at our house. In fact, they are just as important as each class. Both breaks and classes are strategically scheduled by Mom. We follow a routine, not a clock which helps me pay attention to my kids' needs instead of punching a time clock. Here are some different types of breaks we take and the types of tools we use.

Action photo of crashing!
A crashing break is when Ashi crashes into our large, leather, (durable) sectional sofa. She runs across the room to 'crash', then runs back across the room, up a small set of stairs to the landing, back down the stairs and across the room to crash again. She follows my arm as I motion to where she should be - either crashing on the couch or the opposite direction, running up the stairs. She hurries to coordinate with my arm motions and squeals with delight! The extra running reduces the crashing (save the sofa!) and helps fill up Ashi's "crashing tank" enough to last until after school. Belly laughs included, this break takes about 10 minutes.Very easy, very fun.

Weighted balls
We take hand breaks. With profound fine motor issues Ashi can handle most of her assignments, but Handwriting with copy work or English with creative writing require a different perspective. What we use are weighted balls. We play catch or roll one to each other several times or Ashi balances on a peanut ball and tosses one in the air, catches it and repeats several times. For Ashi, four written sentences are enough to require a hand break.

Self-stimming at Discovery Center

Self-stimming is a great way to break. Ashi uses little foamie cards that she raps on the table during class. She puts a lecture to music and can really retain information this way!  The picture to the right is Ashi self-stimming at our local Discovery Center.  She loves running things like beads, gravel, buttons, marbles, etc., through her fingers. You may have a youngster who enjoys sensory bins. Ashi is 9 and instead of growing out of it, she's just made the 'bins' bigger!

Park Break

Sometimes we 'go places' for a break. These aren't the same as scheduled field trips. This is when we've just got to get out of the house. We don't have to go anywhere in particular, the backyard, a walk or scooter ride down the street, maybe an errand needs to be run, or maybe a trip to the park, zoo, or museum.

Oops, we waited to long for a Mental Break for Mommy!

We stay at home and have a 'mental' break. We play together with toys, games, or we pop in a movie like the Liberties Kids Series or Little House on the Prairie or even watching Wild Kratts or Electric Company is a great break too. Sometimes we cook a meal, bake a snack, or do some art. Anything we can do together for an hour or longer if needed. It's refreshing and our work will be there later or even tomorrow if need be.

Study Tub

A change in environment, is a great way to take a break. Ashi's turned the tub into a soft, quiet, cozy, fun, study area. If she seems to be unfocused during class, we clip her work to a clipboard and send her to the tub!

Weighted Vest

Here are some other tools we use at home. Ashi likes to wear her weighted vest when she feels like it's hard to focus.  She will also eat something crunchy or use a chew noodle too.  We also have a weighted lap blanket that she puts over her legs as well.

The Claw

Here are some tools we've used as aids for writing.  This is a Writing Claw from Beyond Play.  This does help to make the tripod grip if your child has enough coordination to use it.  It is rather flimsy, so if your child has a poor grip, she'll  just make the same poor grip with the claw. If your child lacks strength but is coordinated, this might be the grip for you!

Writing Rascal
This is a Writing Rascal from Fun and Function.  I thought this was the answer to our prayers for a tripod grip. Nope. Unlike the claw, you don't have to be as coordinated to use it, but since it is more rigid, you have to have the strength to squeeze it hard enough to write properly with it. If your child has strength, but lacks coordination, this might be just the thing for you!

collection of fidgets

We also use fidgets. They are little toys usually made out of cloth. Ashi holds them, twists them, turns them, grabs them, shakes them during class. We always have these at her disposal. Sometimes we even pick a fidget of the day! Keeps those hands busy and works off sensory stress.

Stable place to bounce

It's uses are endless!
I bought this peanut ball at Wal-Mart, $25. This is a real gem and worth every penny.  It's not round like a regular medicine ball so it's easier to balance on it. It's also long, so for a change in pace, Ashi can sit on the ball and do her work with a clip-board. She even sits on it and bounces during lecture style classes too.

Thanks for visiting our homeschool and I hope you feel welcome to come by anytime!

Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autistic children.  She has two fabulous autists to whom she provides therapy for and homeschools.  She has 3 published children's books about autism that can be found at various links around this blog or at Ashi's Gift Website.


  1. Great post! Absolutely LOVE the help you offer, even in showing the tool that didn't work for you, but might work for others.

  2. Great suggestions! We've established where you CAN crash, and where you can't. Love all the pictures!

    1. VERY good point, Jenny!! We're pretty lax about it around here, we use the sofa like in the picture and beds. But, one thing I am very particular about is NO crashing into people. Ashi mindlessly will crash into me sometimes -and hey! She's 9 now! That doesn't feel too hot and I showed her why one day when crashed into her! She understands it now. These kids will also try to crash into others in public too, so it was a good rule for us to establish at home. Fun days!!!! :)

  3. Hi, I was referred to your blog by a person on a forum. My son has autism and my daughter is so-called NT :-). When he was younger I wanted to hs him but when we had our dd he started hitting me all the time and trying to hit her. She wanted to nurse so much so I felt like I had no time to dedicate to his extra needs. So I sent him to school. Now his sister is 3, she only wants to play with him as opposed to other children. He does not have nearly as much of an issue hitting at home as he does at school. So I am thinking to pull him out, but I am sad because I know his teachers have done the best they can for him and they want him to stay. I cannot ask him what he wants because he is not really very verbal. But I never wanted either of my kids in public school to begin with. My son is 7 going on 8. They were working on name recognition, cutting with scissors, tracing, etc. I think that is all great but I thought that he would be taught at least scripted pretend play. Plus as I am now doing two languages with my dd and he is starting to talk, I want him to learn Spanish as well. My husband speaks Spanish fluently and I am pretty close to it. We were afraid of bilingualism before but realized we were given bad advice by a biased therapist. My dd has an attitude all the time at play groups and will probably continue to until he starts coming with us. I want to get started with him but need some help. I probably need to focus on our relationship first which became quite rocky when he used to try to hit my dd when she was younger.

    1. Charlotte, I am so sorry for getting to this so late. Please, ask to join the Christian Special Needs Homeschoolers group on facebook where hundreds of other moms in your shoes can help you get started. Your thinking is spot on and YES! you can do it and you should!!

      If you would rather, there is another group, Special Needs Homeschooling on facebook that you could join as well - there are literally thousands of moms there who can help you too. Annie E.

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