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Home > Support > Curricula > I have a special needs son who is 12 years old and has the following disabilities...

I have a special needs son who is 12 years old and has the following disabilities: visual & auditory processing problems, memory retrieval problems, severe dyslexia, ADD, a slow learner and a lower than normal IQ. It takes him an extraordinarily long time to absorb new information and he will not always be able to retrieve the information on a reliable basis once he has learned it. He has had a really hard time learning to read (about early 2nd grade), spelling is a disaster & math is not much better. I have been using secular materials for the past six years but am dismayed that he is not understanding that our Catholic faith should permeate our entire lives. During his schooling career, I have also been dealing with my parents (we had 3 of them move in 2004) who were living with us (we are down to one here at home. One passed away in a nursing home after a massive heart attack so I am also dealing with his estate and managing the Trust for my mother who has dementia and is currently living in a facility. She was becoming mean and abusive to both me and my 12 year old son. I had to remove her from the home for my son's sake and mine.) My son was very close to his grandfather who died in 2007, then his sister left for college (I only have 2 children) 3 months later, 3 months after that I had to commit my mom to a facility (very traumatic for the whole family) 3 months later my brother who is in the Army was sent to Iraq (he is back safe & sound thank God!) things quieted down for a while until his sister left for a semester in Austria and his dog died. Right now he thinks God does not love him at all because he took away his best friends - his granddad and his dog. We live in a semi rural area and there are no children for him to play with so he has very few friends and honestly people still are very uncomfortable around special needs kids especially at this age. He has trouble with some fine motor skills but you wouldn't notice that unless you saw him writing or eating. I have read through your FAQs and checked out your materials on-line and I really like the fact your programs appear to be realistic and are written by real moms like me who want their children surrounded by authentically catholic educational materials while having to live in the real world with many demands on them. My son does not meet the minimum requirements for services in our local public school system so he would be ineligible to receive the help he needs. Can you help me choose materials from your program for us? The lovely lady I spoke to on the phone suggested that I e-mail you and ask for advice before ordering. Thank you for reading this saga and may our Lord continue to bless you! Please remember us in your prayers.


Dear Parent,

Thank you for your openness about your son's special needs, and the events that are taking place in your family.  You wrote that your son is not gaining an understanding of his Faith, but I believe that he does understand his Faith.  Every day he sees a lovely Christian example of his mom taking care of the people she loves, and that is our Faith in action.

Your son is at a second-grade reading level and struggles with math and spelling.  Start with our second-grade materials.  Don't panic about the material being too immature for your twelve year old.  It's not.

For Language Arts, begin with Devotional Stories for Little Folks and continue with Devotional Stories for Little Folks, Too.  Explain to your twelve year old that there are characters in the book that are his age.  My eleven year old still loves reading these books with my nine year old.  Character development and Catholic values shine through in these choices.  I will borrow your word, "permeate" and promise that godly living and devotions toward Jesus will permeate your son's life as he reads the selections from these materials.  He will be able to read them with your help, and feel good about his abilities.

Be sure to have your son answer the comprehension questions (orally and written) after each story.  His spelling and grammar do not have to be perfect, but writing a few sentences a day will continue to improve both skills.

I suggest that you order the My Catholic Speller, Level A, under "Second-Grade Materials."  You didn't mention what words he has mastered in Spelling, but you wrote that it was a "disaster".  Here is honey for your heart: If you have more than one child (regardless of their learning abilities), one is bound to be a poor speller.  Poor spelling in childhood can be genetic.  My husband and I were both terrible spellers in grade school and my fifth-grade daughter still struggles with the easiest of words. Let your son take his time.  If he plows through Level A, move on to the third grade Level B.  If he struggles with Level A, work on half of his list, so he feels success.  Level A, Language of God (Grammar) is a good place to help him start with writing skills.  However, if he is feeling overwhelmed, I'd suggest waiting on the grammar until the summer or next year.

If your son is at a third-grade math level or lower, then Modern Curriculum Press (MCP) math might be a good fit. MCP teacher's manuals are terrific at providing ideas for presenting concepts in alternative ways when children are struggling with concepts. Take time to research other math programs and find what works best for you.

Faith and Life 5 would be a good place to begin in Catechism.  This level is geared for ten and eleven year olds (fifth-grade level), and will be easier for him to read than the sixth-grade level.  It presents our Catholic teachings very nicely and contains beautiful art. 

Since you are so busy with grandparents and your son has some special needs, consider waiting to teach non-core subjects until another year.  When we welcome another baby into our home, we teach CHC core materials, read a lot of chapter books for fun, and skip the non-core subjects. If you order the second-grade lesson plans they will pace you in Reading, Math and Faith Formation. You'll be able to pick and choose what you have time for.

My prayers go out to you. When you wrote that your son doesn't feel God's love, I remembered something I heard from a priest, recently. This wise Father reminded us that we must "walk through the fires of life" to grow closer to God.  I believe that your son is walking through his own fires, as he struggles academically and misses his wonderful grandpa, some necessary friends, and a faithful dog. He is going to come out stronger in the end and have a deep, rich relationship with Christ.

You have given so much of yourself to your son's grandparents.  You had to say goodbye to your brother, while he was in Iraq.  I have no doubt that you will also come out of your family struggles stronger and closer to God, too.   I will pray for you this school year.     

Blessings to you and yours,

Julia Johnson

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