From Our House to Yours
Helpful tips for using “Little Hands to Heaven” with your child with autism!
Recently, I’ve had many homeschool moms beginning Heart of Dakota’s preschool with children with autism. I thought that it might be helpful to share about this topic, as we do have many families with autistic children who enjoy using HOD. Why, you ask? Well, the guides are predictable. Work takes relatively the same amount of time each day. Furthermore, the boxed format of the guide appeals to autistic students. So, the same organizational things many families enjoy about Heart of Dakota, children with autism enjoy as well! Below you will find my answers to questions from a fellow homeschool mom beginning preschool with her son with autism. She found it helpful, so I thought I’d share it here in case it may be an encouragement to other homeschool moms with children with autism!
Complete the guide in a predictable way with picture cues, so progress can be easily seen.
Completing the guide in a predictable, routine order is important for children with autism. You can make this clearer by having a picture for each part of the plans. Your son can then put a sticky note over the picture, or if you want to make photocopies of the pictures, he could put a sticker over each thing as he completes it.
This can be as simple as putting a picture of the Bible for the “Bible Story” box, a picture of hands for the “Fingerplay” box, a picture of a “Cross” for Bible Activity, and so on, all on one sheet of paper, preferably in black and white. This need not be beautiful, but if he can see visual images of the boxes he needs to complete and either cover them up with a sticky note or put a sticker on them as he completes them, he can see the progress he is making and when he will be done.
Do the boxes of plans in a routine order, in a routine place as free of distractions as possible.
Likewise, doing the boxes of plans in a routine order, in a routine place that is as free of distractions as possible is so helpful for children with autism. For example, you can first read the Bible for Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) in a quiet area together, like on a couch not right by any windows (to avoid bright light/over-stimulation), sitting next to one another side by side (so as to not require direct eye contact). Maybe next you would do the Fingerplay together, then the Bible Activity. These 3 things could all be done in the living room area, preferably not near doors, bright windows, or loud stimuli. They could all be done at 9 AM, in the same place, in the same order.
Put sticky notes or a stickers on the visual representation of each box of plans to celebrate completing the work.
You could then go to the kitchen table and have him put a sticky note or a sticker on the visual representation of it. Maybe then you could have a snack to celebrate his completing half the work. You can let him know he is half done! Hooray! You can try listening to the Music as you have your snack, not super loud, but to enjoy it. Then, he can put a sticky note/sticker on the ‘music’ image to show he’s done with that!
Then, after the snack/music, you can do the letter activity at the same place, the kitchen table. Give him time to process (6 second rule, give at least 6 seconds before repeating an instruction). This works so well with children with autism! Be direct/concrete in directions, and calmly give time to quietly process what you’ve said. Then, he can put a sticky note/sticker on the image of the ‘letter’ image. Finally, you can do the bottom rotating box of the plans. Then, you can celebrate being done by letting him choose a free time activity/award he likes.
You can always break the day into two 15 minute sessions as well.
These are just ideas, of course! However, seeing simple images of what needs to be done, covering them up/putting stickers on them as boxes of plans are completed, planning a routine way/place to do the boxes, choosing quiet/less bright/less noisy areas, giving extra processing time and then efficiently moving on to the next task, and giving a planned break/snack, are all ways to help your child with autism enjoy his 25-30 minutes of predictable time in LHTH each day. You can always try to break his day into two (15 minute) sessions as well. I hope this helps, but let me know if you have further questions!!! Just give it time, and you will see such progress!!!
Carrie and I both taught in the public school setting prior to us having our own children to homeschool (Carrie for 11 years, and me for 7 years). The school we taught at was designated as a school to integrate children with special needs, primarily in the classroom setting. Our last year we co-taught and had 11 out of 28 students with special needs. We had multiple students with autism over the years, and we loved them all dearly! However, I just want to encourage you that the home setting is much more suited to children with autism than the classroom environment.
How we wished we could work with children with autism alone! So much more could have been successfully and happily accomplished! ( I have found the same to be true with my own sons I homeschool as well.) I am so glad you have chosen to homeschool your son, and I know the two of you will have an amazing homeschool journey together with Heart of Dakota! God bless!