Parenting

8 things I can’t live without for homeschooling my son with special needs

These products are the key to a smoother daily routine.

Little boy jumping on trampoline and a boy in an inflatable peapod Credit: Little Tikes / Abilitations

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There are 7 million children in special education in the U.S. who benefit from an extraordinary system of therapeutic services to assist them in learning. For many of their parents, the only situation scarier than a worldwide pandemic due to the COVID-19 virus, was the realization that they were about to become their child’s homeschooling teacher.

When I first learned that schools were closing and I would have to become the teacher for my 3rd-grade son who has autism, ADHD, and epilepsy, I panicked. But thankfully it wasn’t long before the special education community rallied together and began sharing tips, apps, and products that were helping them merge their children’s educational requirements with their unique needs. Now, just two months later, I feel confident in helping my son through his day, but I couldn’t have gotten to that point without these eight products.

1. An academic planner to keep you organized

Erin Condren
Credit: Erin Condren

Keep your days organized with a motivational planner.

The first step in any successful day is to start out with an organized plan. The Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner allows you to outline your child’s assignments, projects, and upcoming tests in a fully customizable way. There’s even space for you to take notes and write observations, which is an important detail when you’re trying to figure out how your child learns best—especially since you may want to communicate your observations back to the school later. The planner is made with premium spiral bound Mohawk paper, complete with laminated tabs, and includes a coiled-in sticker sheet with labels to note things of importance.

Get the Teacher Lesson Planner from Erin Condren for $55

2. A white noise machine that will drown out distractions

White noise machine
Credit: Yogasleep

A white noise machine can help little minds focus.

One of the more challenging aspects of teaching your child at home is dealing with the noise of everyday life; noise that can be especially difficult to ignore for children with disabilities such as ADHD and autism. The Dohm Classic White Noise Sound Machine is one of our top-rated sound machines, and offers the perfect solution, by providing a gentle and calming fan-based white noise that fades background noise away, without demanding any attention of its own. A favorite among therapists, the Dohm Classic offers two speeds with adjustable tone and volume.

Get the Dohm Classic white noise machine at Walmart for $44.95

3. A weighted lap pad to keep your child centered

Weighted lap pad
Credit: Target

A weighted lap pad can help kids sit still for longer periods of time.

It can be difficult for any child to sit still for an extended period of time, but for a child with sensory needs, it can be nearly impossible. That’s where Pillowfort’s Kid’s Weighted Lap Pad comes to the rescue, by providing a gentle “grounding” feeling—in the form of 4.4 pounds of calming pressure. Available in a navy or gray color and made with soft microfiber specifically designed for kids with sensory issues, the lap pad is a great tool to help kids sit longer, and in turn, provide them with the opportunity to learn better.

Get Pillowfort’s Kid’s Weighted Lap Pad at Target for $17.99

4. A fidget that leaves your child’s hands free for learning

Fidget Band
Credit: Solace

A fidget band for their feet keeps their hands free for writing or typing.

While learning can be fun, many kids would likely agree that's not necessarily always the case, which can pose a problem for kids with disabilities who display boredom by fidgeting. And although there are many fidgets on the market, what makes Solace’s Kick Bands so awesome is that you fidget, with your feet. Slipping easily around the front two legs of a chair, Kick Bands resembles a large, durable, rubber band, that allows your child to quietly fidget the band with their feet, while leaving their hands available for writing, typing, and anything else that their lesson might call for.

Get a two-pack of Solace’s Kick Bands on Amazon for $9.99

5. An easy-to-understand timer

Timer App
Credit: Dedicated Techie

A timer app designed just for those with special needs is a necessity.

Many children with disabilities benefit from a rigid schedule, created around specific sets of time parameters. When you roll that need into a school day, it becomes pretty obvious that you’re going to need a timer. “I’m On It: Focus Timer for ADHD & ASD” is an app that is designed specifically for individuals that need a little help staying focused. Offering several different visual cuing options, as well as customizable verbal prompts that remind your child to stay on task, the app does all the timing work for you, so that you can take a much-needed break.

Get I’m On It: Focus Timer For ADHD & ASD for free at Google Play

6. A pencil grip that provides occupational therapy

Pencil Grip
Credit: Autism-Products.com

A specialized pencil grip helps kids with writing.

A large part of special education is often the therapeutic services that children with disabilities are provided in school. With schools closed and homeschooling in full swing, much of the hands-on therapy work is left to parents. Enter the Grotto Grip, a pencil grip that is designed by occupational therapists to encourage proper finger positioning for children with fine motor skill delays and low muscle tone. It prevents little fingers from hyperextending while still maintaining the palm's natural arch. Non-toxic and latex free, The Grotto Grip comes in a variety of fun neon colors.

Get a three-pack of Grotto Grips at Autism-Products.com for $4.89

7. A trampoline that gets the wiggles out

Little Tikes Trampoline
Credit: Little Tikes

They can get their wiggles out with an easy-to-store trampoline.

Sensory breaks are a much-needed part of the day for many kids in special education, a fact that many schools recognized when they implemented sensory rooms into their design. But at home, kids don’t always have access to the same equipment they have at school, and parents might not have the space for it. The Little Tikes Easy Store 3-Foot Trampoline with Handrail is an awesome option for getting some serious movement in, without taking up too much space in your house. Foldable so that it can be tucked away, it offers a handrail for stability—an important feature for kiddos who may have balance issues, or just need a physical reminder to stay in place.

Get The Little Tikes Easy Store 3-Foot Trampoline With Handrail at Walmart for $69.99

8. An inflatable Peapod designed to soothe

Inflatable peapod
Credit: Abilitations

An inflatable Peapod comes in handy for helping kids calm down.

Homeschooling is stressful, and kids aren’t exempt from feeling the pressure. Like parents, sometimes they just need a calming break, but for many kids with special needs, relaxing doesn’t come easily. An Inflatable Peapod provides a deep, even, calming pressure that simulates the feeling of a hug. Inflatable to your child’s desired level of pressure, the Abilitations Inflatable Peapod is made of durable, washable, vinyl that is velvety to the touch. Why not have your kiddo grab a book and climb into the Peapod to get those required reading hours done?

Get the Abilitations Inflatable Peapod at Target for $123.83

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