Homeschooling and FASD

homeschooling curriculum for FASD and special needs

Among other things (like the launch of the new unCorked podcast), September is apparently the month to increase awareness about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other related diagnoses. It’s also the month that we start back to a more intentional homeschooling schedule. While these things may seem unrelated, they have significant overlap in our lives since a practitioner recently confirmed what I had started to suspect…all signs point to the likely reality that Ty is fetal alcohol affected.

I probably don’t need to tell you, but just in case…No amount of alcohol use is known to be safe for a developing baby before birth. Not even a sip…especially if you’re Asian. Apparently Asians are likely to have the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme genetic variant, leading to a doubling of the blood alcohol concentration compared with a Caucasian or other ethnicity consuming the same amount. [1]

While it was sobering to see all of his challenges lined up in black and white in yet another diagnostic report, it’s been freeing as well. I have concrete evidence via countless evaluations and an MRI that Ty has a legitimate disability. It means that I should stop banging my head against a wall over math concepts, and we don’t have to keep up with the homeschooling Joneses (or even our state’s basic academic requirements). #somuchlesspressure

Even though the most current (and I think most complete) diagnoses is fresh off the press, we’ve been dealing with the reality of it since we met Ty. We’ve also homeschooled him since the beginning (minus a trial year at a 3-afternoon preschool). Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed too much except some of my expectations.

Side note: I would go with these curriculum recommendations for students with other special needs besides FASD. Technically we’re also dealing with what looks like ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

On expectations

When we started off, I had the same expectations of Ty that I had of the other kids. That he could learn, and we would work until he conquered. Except that sometimes he just can’t. His brain electrical activity is abnormal, and there is global atrophy of his brain. So now, I present an assignment with a wonder-if-he-can-do-this-today attitude rather than a we-have-to-get-through-this. It’s game changing. We looked at fractions on number lines today. About 30 seconds in, I thought, “Nope, so not here yet.” Instead of pushing through and getting us both frustrated like in years past, I just skipped it and moved on…or in this case back (more on our math curriculum below).

This is what we’re using for curriculum this year.


We’ve been using memory work as the backbone for all our grade-school-aged kiddos since the beginning. At first it was Classical Conversations, but now we use Claritas Publishing. I like Claritas’ 4-year cycles better, and they’re a perfect complement to the Story of the World materials. Each week, there’s a history song to memorized. One of Ty’s strengths is memorization through song, but even if he couldn’t memorize, we would just go with over-exposure of the song 😉 Besides using an MP3 player to listen to the memory work ad nauseum, he also copies the history sentence each week, reads the corresponding chapter from Story of the World, and participates in an enrichment activity at Bridges. If you don’t have an independent reader yet, use audiobooks liberally. Again, the expectation is for exposure…mastery or comprehension is icing on the cake.


Claritas also provides a memory sentence and corresponding song each week for science. This subject looks just like history with the addition of a science experiment that is provided by our community (Bridges) every other week.


This is also provided by Claritas…see a pattern yet? I make games from our blank maps on Purpose Games to play as review. Again…go for exposure. Any amount of mastery or comprehension–for however long it lasts–is bonus.


Besides the memory work provided by Claritas, Ty is part of the Advanced Readers Language Arts class in our community. It uses a systematic approach to grammar and another one for writing that beautifully dovetails with classical education and memory work. The repetition and introduction of new concepts in small chunks is really FAS-friendly. Additionally, it’s a one-room schoolhouse model where I teach multiple levels at once and the class is meant to be taken multiple years in a row. This is a perfect set up for kids with special needs because they come in knowing that there will be a range of skillsets and that they don’t have to get it all on their first time through. It allows for a lot of flexibility and accommodating on home assignments as well. The grammar curriculum is also from Claritas, and we use the theme-based writing books from IEW.


This is the subject where the struggle is the most apparent and intense. It’s also the place where I’ve floundered the most to find a curriculum that works. Of course, my definition of “working” has also evolved over the past couple years. Right now, we’re using Khan Academy. It’s free and there’s a great iPAD app. I like that you can hop to various concepts but it still gives you a measure to see where mastery stands overall for a certain grade. I also like that it checks the problems for you and provides video tutorials. Also, did I mention the smart technology that knows if you’re struggling on a concept based on whether you get problem correct on the first try or fifth and whether or not you used a tutorial video or step-by-step hint? I could go on and on…the on-board scratchpad, etc. I also acquiesced and allow Ty to have a calculator for any problem he wants. Honestly, having quick recall on math facts is not going to make or break a person’s ability to survive in the world. I expect it of my neurotypical kids, but the bar is different when a kid already has so many challenges to overcome.

Art and Music

Bridges provides lessons on these in community. #totalwin

When in doubt? Just do a lot of reading. Reading—out loud, silently, audiobooks, whatever—covers a multitude of homeschooling sins 😉 I think the only school we did for the entire last quarter of last year was silent reading. But God’s mercies are new every morning…and certainly every school year. #onwardandupward!

When in doubt? Just do a lot of reading. #homeschoollife #specialneedskids Click To Tweet

If you’re homeschooling a child who has neurodevelopmental delays, what’s working for you? Stay tuned. I feel a tips and tricks post coming in the near future!

**UPDATE** Here’s that tips post.

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