Friday, November 06, 2020

Free Printable Answering WH Questions Cheat Sheet

Answering WH questions can be tricky for hyperlexic kids. This free printable cheat sheet gives examples of how to answer WH questions.

When it comes to teaching WH questions to hyperlexic kids, it's important to teach them directly. That includes teaching them both how to ask and how to answer WH questions. 

One of the ways to do that is to give them a visual support that shows examples or lists out how to answer each type of question. Having it all written out is so helpful for hyperlexic kids.

That's where this free printable answering WH questions cheat sheet comes in. 

It takes these WH question word cards one (very detailed) step further by giving clear examples of possible answers for a variety of WH questions. And I'm talking beyond who, what, where, when, why, and how here. Those types of questions are just a small sampling of possible WH questions your child will encounter.

Free printable list of WH questions and answers examples

About this Answering Wh Questions Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet breaks down 18 different types of WH questions and variants, including:

  • Who questions
  • Whose questions
  • What questions, including: What kind/type? What time? What for?
  • Why questions
  • When questions
  • Where questions
  • Which questions
  • How questions, including How much? How many? How old? How long? How often? How far? How come?
Then it gives concrete and specific ways to answer each. 

For instance, we know "who" questions are asking for information about a person, but that could be the name of a person (real or imaginary), an animal, an occupation, a role, a description, a title, or even a pronoun.

So your child can scan the list for the type of WH question they are being asked and then look at the possible ways to answer it and (hopefully!) feel more confident formulating a response. Or, alternatively, if they are wanting to ask a specific question, they could look at the answer column and use those examples as a clue for which WH question word to use when asking a question.

Download the Free Printable Answering WH Questions Cheat Sheet

This printable includes two pages of types of WH questions along with possible ways to answer each. To get your copy, enter your name and email in the form below.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2020

How to Teach WH Questions to Hyperlexic Kids

Is your hyperlexic child struggling with WH questions? Here are some strategies for teaching WH questions that incorporate their strengths in reading and decoding the written word.

Most hyperlexic kids "have difficulty understanding and/or answering questions with: who? why? when? where? and how?" (source: What is Hyperlexia? pamphlet). 

But you probably already know that if you're a parent of a hyperlexic kid. I mean there is a reason you are here reading this right now...right? 

WH questions are really hard - bordering on impossible some days - for hyperlexic kids. You've seen the blank look on their faces when you ask them one of these dreaded WH questions. It's almost as if you were speaking gibberish to them. 

So how do you go about teaching WH questions to these hyperlexic kids? 

Below you will find four simple ways to teach WH questions, but also lots of specific strategies and tips within these four categories. And, of course, some free printables along the way because that's how I roll around here.

Tips & strategies for teaching WH- questions to hyperlexic kids

4 Simple Ways to Confidently Teach WH Questions to Hyperlexic Kids (By Playing to Their Strengths)

Hyperlexic kids learn differently. That's why they need strategies that are tailored to them and their unique learning style. Using their ability to decode and to read is super important. Same goes for writing things down. 

Remember, with hyperlexia, if it isn't written down, it might not exist. 

The strategies and suggestions that you find below play to these strengths. 

1. Teach the Rules of WH Questions Through Direct Instruction

One of the best ways to teach hyperlexic kids about WH questions is through direct instruction. That includes teaching what information each question is asking for, what types of answers they require, and how questions are structured. This includes reading about WH questions and how they work, writing down lists of rules, using written supports, or similar.

Here are some specific strategies and suggestions you could try:

  • Be sure to provide lots of specific and concrete examples for answering the different types of questions (free cheat sheet here) because there are so many different ways to answer a question (e.g., a "who" question usually means we have to answer with a person or living thing, but that might mean saying a person's name such as Steve, a profession such as the math teacher, a type of person or relationship such as my friend or my neighbor, a pronoun such as him or her, or even something that isn't a person like my dog Frank)
  • Look for a video on YouTube or read a book that explains the rules of WH questions and/or provides examples of how to answer them

2. Use Scripts to Teach WH Questions

Take advantage of your hyperlexic child's ability to read/decode and provide them with functional ways to answer WH questions by using scripts and written patterns. Seriously, written scripts are an incredibly powerful tool for hyperlexic kids!

Try these ideas:

  • Use a fill-in-the-blank format to show possible answers (e.g., "Why...?" could be answered with "Because..." or "To..." or "So that..." )
  • Practice with frequently asked questions like "What is your name?" or "Where do you live?" as these questions follow a standard format for replies (that is, most people answer them in the same way), are common questions your child might get asked, and, since they are so common, can help build your child's confidence in answering WH questions (free printable here to help)
  • Start off by writing out questions and answers in full for them to read, then gradually fade to fill-in-the-blank answers and, eventually, move to using just verbal prompts
  • Teach them scripted answers that will help them ask for clarification (and also show them that it is okay not to know the answer to every question) such as: I don't know, I'm not sure, What does that mean?, Can you explain that again?, Give me a clue, I don't understand the question, Can you repeat the question?, etc.

3. Work On Developing Other Tricky Language Concepts

WH questions can be quite abstract and the possible ways to answer them are wide and varied. Sometimes other language concepts such as prepositions, pronouns, cause and effect, sequencing, attributes, inferencing, and vocabulary might be impacting the comprehension and understanding of WH questions. And, if you have a hyperlexic kid, you know that your child might also be struggling with some - or all - of these types of language concepts.

Here's a bit more insight on how these concepts might be impacting your child's ability to answer WH questions and how you can use the hyperlexic child's strengths to build these skills:

  • Pronoun reversals are common in hyperlexic kids, which means "who" questions can be difficult if your child is still struggling to understand which pronouns refer to which people. It's important to make sure your child is learning about and practicing pronouns. So write down pronoun rules for them.
  • Teaching about prepositions (in, on, behind, under, before, after, etc.) can help with "where" questions and even some "when" questions. Find some visual cards that show what these different prepositions mean or try a simple activity like this using a favorite toy.
  • Developing sequencing skills and helping your child better understand how things work (think, cause and effect here) can also help improve your child's WH question skills. If they have a better understanding of sequences, then answers to "when" questions might make more sense to them. Same goes for "why" questions if they have a better grasp on cause and effect relationships. Using a cause and effect graphic organizer or first, then, next charts can be helpful for building these skills. Visual schedules also help build these sequencing skills.
  • Working on vocabulary, attributes, features, and descriptors can all make a huge impact on your child's ability to answer WH questions too so be sure that you are also developing these skills. It's a lot easier to answer a WH question like "What animal has a long neck?" if you have a better understanding of the attributes and features of a giraffe. Write out lists of attributes and features of different words and practice pointing out different features of things you see around you. Do sensory bins together and narrate the play, highlighting different sensory features, textures, colors, shapes, etc. (e.g., "Oh this water is so cold and wet!").

4. Practice, Model, & Repeat!

Lots and lots of repetition and practice will lead to mastery, just like with any skill you want to work on. Thankfully, there are lots of opportunities to practice WH questions while reading, through play, by modeling everyday activities, using visual supports, and with printable WH question cards.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • While reading books, point to different images in the book and ask questions like "What is this?" or "Where is...?", etc. Wait for them to answer or answer your own question if they can't answer it, making sure to point to the answer. You can do the same with books without pictures by pointing directly to the answers in the text. To make this strategy even more effective, write down the questions on a sticky note or whiteboard.
  • After reading a book, encourage your child to go through the book and find all of the people in the book (the "whos") or all the places in the book (the "wheres"). Work together to write down a list of all the "whos" and "wheres" on a piece of paper or on a whiteboard.
  • Dictate your day by posing WH questions, giving your child a chance to respond, and modeling how to answer the questions if they find it difficult to answer (e.g., while fixing a bowl of cereal for breakfast, ask "What do I need to eat my cereal?" -> "I need a spoon!" or while playing a game, ask "Who's turn is it next?" -> "It's my turn!")
  • Take a recent event (vacation, birthday party, or similar) and make a small book about it with your child, targeting each WH question. Make a page dedicated to all the people who attended (the "who"), a page dedicated to the location of the event (the "where"), etc. Write down the names, places, objects, time, etc. and include any photos, if possible.
  • Download an app that targets WH questions, such as the WH Question Cards app from Super Duper Publications
Finally, remember to be patient. These skills take time to develop and master.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Do Autistic or Hyperlexic Kids Really Need Therapy?

So many parents are told that their kids need to be in certain therapies simply for being autistic or hyperlexic and that's the wrong approach. Here's what needs to be done instead.

When your child receives their autism or hyperlexia diagnosis, people start recommending a bunch of therapies. Some good, some bad, lots without any scientific evidence, and a whole bunch of woo. Try this, try that…blah, blah, blah.

It's so easy to become overwhelmed by all the “should do's” that people recommend. And before you know it, you're confused about the path you should be following.

So many parents are told that their kids need to be in certain therapies simply for being autistic or hyperlexic and that's the wrong approach. Here's what needs to be done instead.

But here's the thing, a diagnosis of autism or hyperlexia itself doesn't necessarily mean your child needs therapy.

And there's certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy because, guess what, each child is different and has their own set of unique needs that might need addressing.

So anyone who tells you that you need to put your child in x type of therapy simply because they are autistic or hyperlexic is missing the point for the two reasons I mention above.

Instead, it's important to sit down and figure out what kind of supports and accommodations your child needs and what issues your child might be facing. Then pick therapies accordingly. For instance:

  • Are you concerned about their speech and language skills? Then speech therapy might be what you need.
  • Does your child need help with self-regulation or a sensory diet? Then it might be time to consult with an occupational therapist.
  • Dealing with anxiety? Maybe it's time to connect with a psychologist.
  • Struggling to get your kid to eat anything that isn't beige? Perhaps it's time to reach out to a feeding therapist.
  • Dealing with reading comprehension issues? Research your options and talk to your child's resource or special education teacher at school to see what programs might be available or look for a speech path trained in a program such as Visualizing & Verbalizing.
Do you see the pattern here? Your child's therapy program should be tailored to them and their unique needs. Therapy should be sought out based on whatever challenges you are facing instead of just signing up for some therapy simply because someone told you to because of their autism diagnosis.

And this might mean that your child might need blocks of therapy here or there as new challenges or issues arise instead of being assigned x amount of hours simply for being autistic or hyperlexic. Or there might be times where your child might not need any therapy at all.

I'm not trying to dismiss the importance of therapy here. Goodness, no.

Instead, I want you to think about and consider what the reasons are behind pursuing certain therapy options. 

  • Are you pursuing it because it can genuinely help your child and it supports their needs?
  • Do the goals of that therapy align with the goals you have for your child?
  • Does the therapy respect your child and their interests?
  • What is the scientific evidence supporting said therapy?
Be critical and diligent here because not all therapies are created equal. Nor do many have your child's best interests in mind.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Free Printable Mario Themed Graphic Organizer for Writing

Here's a fun graphic organizer for writing that's inspired by Mario! Free printable and digital Google Slides versions available.

Graphic organizers have been an invaluable tool to help my son with both his reading comprehension and his writing. 

I recently made this hamburger graphic organizer and I wondered if it was possible to take that format and structure and create other themed organizers for my son. Ones that might be even more interesting to him than a hamburger. 

I always try to include his interests in some way, if possible. It increases buy-in. And Mario is a current interest/passion of his.

So, after making the hamburger graphic organizer, it dawned on me that I could adapt the structure of a paragraph to the layout of a Mario level. After all, a Mario level needs supporting details too. Otherwise, it's just a boring piece of land to walk across. 

So if your kids love Mario like mine do, they're going to love this Mario themed graphic organizer for writing paragraphs.

Free Mario writing graphic organizer for kids

About this Graphic Organizer for Writing

A level in Mario would be pretty boring without details like warp pipes, question blocks, and the flag at the end of the level. The same goes for writing paragraphs. A paragraph without details, isn't much of a paragraph. 

This graphic organizer is designed to help kids plan out and organize their thoughts into sentences and ideas before writing a paragraph by building a level for Mario. 

First, you fill in the topic sentence for the question block by asking yourself, "What is this paragraph about?" Then you add three supporting details, one for each of the different pipes. Then you need to finish the paragraph off by sliding down the flag at the end of the level.

Download the Free Mario Themed Writing Graphic Organizer

This printable includes two Mario themed graphic organizers for writing, one with lines and one without, that your child can fill in to plan out their paragraphs. A digital Google Slides version is included as well. To get your copy, enter your name and email in the form below.

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Free Printable Hamburger Graphic Organizer for Paragraph Writing

Use this free hamburger graphic organizer to help kids with paragraph writing.

Writing paragraphs is challenging for lots of kids, my son included. So we've been making use of graphic organizers to help him with his writing. Basically, I want it to be less stressful and anxiety-inducing for him. 

I really like using this hamburger graphic organizer for writing because it helps my son plan out his paragraphs before actually writing them. It helps break down the writing process into smaller, bite-sized pieces and helps him visualize what his paragraph should look like.

The idea is to make a nice juicy hamburger, loaded with toppings, instead of a boring bunwich with no "meat." As delicious as buns are, they're a bit boring on their own...

Free hamburger graphic organizer printable for writing

About the Hamburger Graphic Organizer

This graphic organizer is designed to help kids plan out and organize their thoughts before writing a paragraph. 

Hamburger paragraph writing follows the format of writing a paragraph with an opening sentence about the topic, supporting it with three details, and wrapping it up or closing the paragraph with a concluding sentence. 

Basically, they're building a hamburger where the buns are the opening and concluding sentence and the meat and toppings are the supporting details. 

The hamburger would be pretty boring with just the buns, right? Same idea goes for paragraphs. A well-written paragraph needs details to support the topic or argument. Essentially, it needs a bit of "meat."

So encourage kids to think about the "meat" of their paragraph ahead of time by writing it down on this blank hamburger graphic organizer and they'll be that much closer to writing a better paragraph.

Download the Free Hamburger Graphic Organizer Printable

This printable includes two hamburger graphic organizers, one with lines and one without, that your child can fill in. A digital Google Slides version is included as well. To get your copy, enter your name and email in the form below.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Free Printable Mario Question Block Deep Breathing Exercise for Kids

Inspired by square breathing, this free printable Mario question block deep breathing exercise is perfect for kids!

I'm a huge advocate of using your child's interests as a hook to engage your child in learning other things. 

This Mario question block deep breathing exercise for kids is a perfect example. It takes my kids' interest in Mario to teach self-regulation and coping skills. That means, teaching something like deep breathing is instantly more appealing to my kids because they recognize that it's Mario themed.

Also, fun fact: I made my oldest son a question block cake this year for his birthday. One day I'll post it on the blog...

Square breathing exercise for kids inspired by Mario question block

About this Mario Themed Deep Breathing Technique

It's probably pretty obvious at this point that this deep breathing exercise for kids is inspired by the famous question mark block from the Mario franchise...

You can also quickly tell it's based on the popular square breathing technique, where you follow the outline of a square, breathing in and out. In this exercise, you start by breathing in for 4 counts. Then you hold. Then you breathe out for 4 counts. And finally, you rest.

But don't worry, everything is outlined on the printable poster, which you can find below.

Free printable Mario themed deep breathing exercise for kids that's based on the square breathing technique

Download the Free Printable Mario Inspired Deep Breathing Exercise for Kids 

This one page printable outlines how to use this deep breathing technique. I highly recommend laminating the poster for durability. To get your copy, enter your name and email in the form below.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Free Printable 5 Senses Graphic Organizers

Free printable 5 senses graphic organizers for kids to work on describing and writing. Digital Google Slides versions are included too!

Graphic organizers are incredibly helpful, especially for hyperlexic kids. I think, at this point, they're becoming the best tools for helping my son with writing and reading comprehension while we're home educating this year. So expect more and more of these types of printables on the blog in the coming months...

One area that graphic organizers are helping with is writing. We've been using graphic organizers to help stretch a sentence with great success. And now we're working on adding more details using our senses to describe the topic, which is where these 5 senses graphic organizers come in.

5 senses graphic organizer pdf

About the 5 Senses Graphic Organizer

This describing graphic organizer has a space to write the topic your child is writing about and 5 boxes to make a list of ways to describe that topic using the 5 senses: sight, taste, sound, touch, and smell.

How it works is your child writes down all the sensory related things that they can think of before writing a paragraph about the topic as a way to plan out all of their ideas. Then, as they write, they try to incorporate these sensory details into their sentences. It will help give their sentences more depth and interest.

Download the Free 5 Senses Graphic Organizers

This printable includes four describing graphic organizers (with two types of clipart), two with lines and two without, that your child can fill in. It also includes two digital Google Slides versions. To get your copy, enter your name and email in the form below.

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