Addition with Apple Jacks and NO Worksheets

Generalization is a hard concept for children on the spectrum, and it became very apparent to my husband and myself as we tried to help Brian with his homework from school.  He would be able to perform certain math problems at school but when it came time to review at home, Bri would just look up at us for the answer.  It was very rare that we were able to get him to do homework without significant tears, refusal, and us eventually giving him all the answers and completing sheets by doing hand-over-hand.

From the very beginning of Bri’s ABA therapy in New York, the importance of generalization was explained to us.  A child can learn a new skill with one person in a certain location, but not be able to perform that skill with another person or at another location.  You also have to take into account whether the individual can perform a specific task with stimuli around them.  For example, you are able to teach a child to set the table at home and then take them into a setting with multiple tables and ask them to do the same thing.  Will they be able to set a table and not be distracted by stimuli in this new environment such as the other tables, the pictures hanging on the wall, the food buffet, or people talking in the room?  Most likely not until you are able to teach them to master this skill in different settings, with different stimuli, and with different people giving them instructions.  In addition to all of this, you have to keep up maintenance of skills to make sure the individual can still perform the same tasks after a length of time.  A child hasn’t really mastered a skill if they can’t replicate the skill over a period of time.

As I begin homeschooling Brian, I’m keeping all of these things in mind.  I know I have to keep him engaged and interested in learning and that isn’t going to happen if I do the same thing with him every single day.  I have to present math, science, spelling and every other subjects in different ways to keep him excited about wanting to learn.  I’m definitely going to have the rule of NO WORKSHEETS for a long time because of his adverse reaction to them over the past 3 years.  His worksheets would often come home taped up because he would rip them while being asked to complete them.  Then worksheets were put in a protective cover and he could use a dry erase marker to complete them.  This is an awesome idea and it worked sometimes, but I’m going to try and avoid this as well until I can gain a positive rapport with Bri as his teacher.  I want to eliminate all of the aggression that was manifesting itself in every task demand.

Bri is OBSESSED  LOVES trains. :)  He asks me all day long to draw trains for him, make them out of play foam, playdoh, and any other material he finds.  I decided to use this love of trains to help us do some addition this morning.  Single digit addition is something he mastered at school, but something he’s never been able to do at home.  We will be starting at the beginning and work on different ways of learning math.  He was doing TouchMath at school and we may eventually start doing this at home, but I want to explore different options at first.

This morning I decided to use Apple Jacks to do addition and I had him use Apple Jacks to show me the answer, as well as write the answer on a dry erase board.  Bri HATES writing at home (he did much better with writing at school), so I wasn’t sure how he would react to me asking him to write the answer on a dry erase board, but I was pleasantly surprised!  Positive reinforcement is such a vital piece of learning to children on the spectrum.  Bri usually has to be motivated in order to complete a task.  When I showed him that I was going to make train cars out of the Apple Jacks cereal, he was grinning from ear to ear!  Homerun!! :)

Bri kept writing the number 1 for all the answers.  He needed lots and lots of prompts in order to complete each problem and I had to give him the answer to all the problems and show him how I was counting each piece of cereal.  He was able to put the correct amount of cereal for the actual problems after I showed him a few and gave him lots of prompts.  He was so excited every time I made a new train car for him.  We would start each problem by me asking him which train car he wanted me to make.  I would start the train cars to keep him interested in completing the problem.  I want to keep learning a positive experience and I’m allowing him to do whatever he needs to do during the time I’m teaching him.  This morning he had to walk around and kept going back and forth from the living room to the table.  I’m ok with that if that is what he needs to do right now.  We’ll eventually get to the point of sitting at the table during lessons, but I’m not going to put that demand on him now.  He sat in his chair for the majority of the time and once he knew the answers to the problems, he would write the number on the dry erase board like a pro! :)

Here are a bunch of pictures from our morning.

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Bonus – You get to eat your problems!

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