How to help autistic children retain information


I received a question posted to my homeschool group about how to help your children retain information they are learning in school.  This is something I struggle with all the time, but with my autistic son.  He is getting better at understanding some words or concepts that you are teaching him, but the retention skill has not been mastered!  That led me to the question of how to help my son learn and RETAIN what we are teaching him.  One of the first rules of thumb that I have learned is diet and supplements are to be considered, (I will discuss that more in another post),  but if you have that accomplished what more can you do?  The author below brings in some important information about how children with autism process what they are being taught and what we can do to help them succeed to greater academic levels. 

Communication skills for autistic children differ from the norm, including their thinking process. Children with autism find words too busy, so it’s easier to retain information through pictures. Through remembrance of pictures, autistic children are able to understand others and express themselves.
Autistic children learn verbal language by converting text to pictures. While typical thinkers do tasks sequentially, those with autism have a visual style of thinking. Therefore, shapes of pictures and color of pictures play an important role in the way they think. They help autistic children learn a vocabulary that is easier to express.

According to research, individuals with autism think visually because the part of the brain associated with visual tasks is more active. In addition, the language and spatial centers in the cortical regions of the brain are not as synchronized as those without the disorder.

Visual thinking allows children with autism to compensate for spoken and written words. Because their brains function differently, they can better comprehend things by building visuals and memorizing them. They take concepts, which are sensory rather than word based, and compartmentalize them into little details to form a whole picture.

Autistic children can be taught abstract words and ideas through visual concepts, like pictures and objects. For example, if a particular stuffed animal makes a child happy, it would become their visual symbol for the word happy. Bright colors for pictures can stimulate brain activity in the thinking process of autistic children.

Autistic children find it easier to express themselves within a structured environment. Because people with autism think visually, it’s important that they are taught using visuals, such as pictures, objects, line drawings, or symbols. Through spatial memory to pictures or objects, people with autism are able to associate the appropriate words and develop communication skills that allow them to function in society.

For children with autism, a string of words or verbal instructions are learned through visual demonstration. For instance, the word “up” is easier to express in a picture of balloons in soft colors being lifted upward. Concrete visual methods, like flashcards and blocks in soft colors, are easier to retain among autistic children and help in teaching numbers and other concepts. Long verbal phrases need to be avoided or written down because autistic children have difficulty remembering a lot of steps or word sequences.

Research that compared the brain regions of people with autism to those without found that most people with autism excel in art and drawing. As such, autistic children do well with a color coded system that allows them to think through a remembrance of pictures. For example, an autistic child learns about what to do at an intersection by thinking of its concept. These thoughts are tiny color coded pictures of various types of intersections.
When the situation arises, the mind gathers this information and presents it visually so the autistic child remembers what to do at an intersection.

Autistic children think in pictures instead of words because it is easier for them to sort and retain information. By associating a noun to the color and shape of pictures or objects, the autistic child creates a spatial way of thinking that makes it easier for them to comprehend and communicate.

About the author:
“Bonita Darula is widely renown for her insights into the prevention of autism. Her celebrated materials have helped thousands of people from around the World find a new sense of hope. If you’d like to discover the secret truth about autism in its early stages, take a few moments to look here=>”

Second tip from the homeschool mom, this is something I think my son would benefit from in addition to the above suggestion:

Some of us implement a notebook system. My girls have a spiral notebook for each 
subject (color coded usually to match the subject). Each day they write the 
date, assignment title, goals, and vocabulary list. Then they take notes, write 
down the questions they didn’t answer correctly on the first try with the 
correct answer. This is what they study for quizzes and tests but it doesn’t 
require more computer time. The act of writing the information helps them retain 
it longer and they get penmanship practice as well.”

If you have some suggestions in this area, please feel free to comment!



School days and IEP’s


The new school year has started for some along with many decisions; do you homeschool, send your child to school or receive therapy via an outside source?  There are many choices out there to help your child or loved one to improve their disabilities.  I had the pleasure of sharing a valuable resource with a co-worker whose child was suffering from speech difficulties.  I’ve mentioned in a previous blog the book titled “The Late Talker”.  If your child suffers from speech delays then this book would prove to be  a wonderful addition to your library.

This book discusses many “ABA” (Applied Behavior Analysis)  techniques and vitamin supplements that will help work your child or loved ones vocal chords and anatomy that assists in producing proper speech.  My co-worker was surprised that her child who struggled with vocal expression could benefit from taking Fish & Flaxseed oil supplements.  The Omega 3‘s I learned help with the formation of words and being able to control the muscles that help with swallowing and speech.

Since Nathan started eating he has had a problem with swallowing hard, chewy food.  His doctor did not give suggestions on how to improve this problem, nor did the therapists, most of what we have gleaned has been by others experience or books.

At the back of the book, the author gives valuable tips and suggestions on routes you can take to give your child the best therapy in regaining or rebuilding their speech delay.  The book also includes suggested IEP‘s (Individual Education Plans) and who to contact if you meet resistance in accomplishing your therapy goals.

If you do decide to homeschool and seek an outside source for your therapy needs, we recommend that you become well-versed in your rights for assistance.  On occasion I found out later that some “rights” our son was entitled to were denied due to not abiding by “their” standards.  If you find yourself being denied services contact your local division of family services who can possibly direct you to the caseworker who can help you fight for your child’s rights.

Should you decide to put your child in public school, we recommend that you stay involved in their educational program.  Your child will make more progress by repeating what is being taught in therapy at home.  The more you go over what is being learned the faster the results will be.

Below is an article on the benefits of fish and flaxseed oil being added to your child’s diet.  Remember to discuss with your doctor any vitamin and mineral supplements that your child is taking as some may conflict with dietary issues or medications.


Up to 6 percent of children suffer from dyspraxia, a disorder that affect patients‘ motor skills, LDOnline notes. Symptoms of dyspraxia start during childhood and persist into adulthood. Early signs of dyspraxia include problems with eye movements and walking. As patients age, they may have problems with language and coordination. Nutrition plays a role in dyspraxia, as the symptoms of the disorder may interfere with nutrition and a lack of certain nutrients may contribute to the disorder.

Physical Barriers

Early in a patient’s life, dyspraxia may affect diet and nutrition. For example, LDOnline explains that young children with dyspraxia may have problems holding items, which can affect using utensils or holding a beverage. Parents may need to help their children eat. The motor skill problems that arise may also affect patients’ ability to cook for themselves during adulthood.

Dietary Link

Dyspraxia may result from a lack of a specific nutrient in a patient’s diet. Bernard Gesch, author of “The Potential of Nutrition to Promote Physical and Behavioural Well-Being” published in the book “The Science of Well-Being,” explains that dyspraxia may have a link to either a lack of or irregularity in highly unsaturated fatty acids in the diet. One such type of fatty acid is omega-3 fatty acids, which people get through their diet only, as the body cannot make this type of fatty acid.


Several supplements that contain highly unsaturated fatty acids may help with the symptoms of dyspraxia. MedlinePlus points out that patients may benefit from fish oils, which contain omega-3 fatty acids; they may take the fish oil along with vitamin E, evening primrose oil and thyme oil. Evening primrose oil contains gamma-alpha linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, which are both omega-6 fatty acids. Patients take these supplements orally. RxList recommends fish oil that contains 480 mg of docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid; in addition to the fish oil, patients may take 80 mg of vitamin E, 24 mg of thyme oil, and 96 mg of gamma-alpha linoleic acid and 35 mg arachidonic acid from evening primrose oil. Before starting an alternative treatment for dyspraxia, parents or patients should talk to their doctors.


MedlinePlus notes that fish oil is possibly effective for dyspraxia. Alexandra J. Richardson, author of the article “The Potential Role of Fatty Acids in Developmental Dyspraxia — Can Dietary Supplementation Help?,” explains that no properly controlled scientific studies on the effects of highly unsaturated fatty acids of dyspraxia have been published.


Supplements may cause problems for dyspraxia patients with other conditions. MedlinePlus notes that larger doses of fish oil may affect the immune system, which can become problematic for patients with HIV or AIDS. Fish oil may interfere with blood sugar control and may increase the risk for bleeding. Evening primrose oil may also increase bleeding and may increase the likelihood of seizures. An alternative to fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids are foods that contain the fatty acids naturally. The George Mateljan Foundation lists salmon and sardines as excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and walnuts, flaxseeds, cabbage and broccoli as vegetarian options with excellent or very good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Read more:


Alpha & Omega Publications Anniversary Sale


Announcing AOP’s 35th Anniversary Sale!
Celebrate AOP’s 35th anniversary with 35 days of savings! Enjoy 10% off everything and free shipping* now through 9/24/12 with code 35YEARS.
Share in the celebratory savings on all of your homeschooling items for this fall during Alpha Omega Publications’ 35th Anniversary Sale! Through 9/24/12, get 10% off everything and free shipping any time you spend over $35 and use code 35YEARS. To order, simply call 800-622-3070 or shop online!

Release the wonder of learning with this online homeschool curriculum for grades 3-12! Compatible with Windows® and Macintosh®, Monarch has five core subjects and over 35 electives that are accessible 24/7. Filled with hands-on elements, Monarch includes fun educational games, as well as teacher-friendly tools like automatic grading and lesson planning.

Switched-On Schoolhouse
Stimulate your child’s education like never before with an interactive, CD-ROM curriculum that makes learning fun. Packed with cutting-edge multimedia, SOS offers students in grades 3-12 five core subjects and over 35 electives filled with video clips and exciting review games, as well as time-saving administrative features like a lesson planning calendar and automatic grading.

LIFEPAC is a proven learning format that offers five core subjects in math, history and geography, science, language arts, and Bible. Each subject includes ten worktext units filled with self-paced, mastery-based lessons and fun activities independent learners love. Promoting critical thinking skills, LIFEPAC provides a Christ-centered education at a price you can afford.

Offering colorful, fun, and solid academics, Horizons presents lessons that use a spiral learning approach to keep children engaged and excited to learn about math, phonics and reading, penmanship, spelling and vocabulary, health, and physical education. Plus, with step-by-step lesson plans in each teacher’s guide, you’ll quickly discover why parents love Horizons, too.

The Weaver Curriculum
Designed to teach multiple grade levels at the same time, Weaver focuses on Scripture and weaves other subjects through the Bible concept of the day. Language arts, history, geography, and science come to life through each unit study, using hands-on activities like experiments, cooking, drama, writing, and other lessons to explore God’s world.


Important notice about registering your homeschool


This note was passed on to me by the director of FHE (Families for Home Education):

Greetings to Homeschool Families in the mid-MO area,
It has come to my attention that the city of Ashland has once again paid to have a notice printed in the paper which comes across as amandatory request that home educators register with the school district.
Please spread the word among those families who may not receive this message through email. (Can someone send me the address for the JC secular homeschool support group? Can’t locate it at this moment. Or fwd this on to them?).
The same notice was printed in Ashland a couple of years ago, and included some tricky wording to imply that if you did not register then you might be considered truant.  This is blatently wrong.  You are within your rights to choose home education without formally registering with the district.  The wording of the compulsory education statute pertaining to home schools specifically says you “may” register.  This wording was a huge legislative victory back in 1983, because volunteer homeschool lobbyists wanted it to be made clear that most homeschoolers do not want to be under the oversight of public education officials.
Two years ago, Scott Woodruff, legal counsel for HSLDA, sent a letter that explains why a requirement for homeschool families to register with the local school district is legally out-of-bounds   I have copies of that letter if you would like to see it / share it.
The reason that the schools would like you to register has to do with numbers and dollars.  It undoubtedly does not have to do with them caring about the education of your children.
I will be scanning in the notice printed in the paper and sending it in to FHE and HSLDA leaders to make them aware of this issue.