Monday, November 18, 2019

How to Support Kids with Hypernumeracy Using Their Interest in Numbers

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Tips and resources to helps autism families navigate the holiday season

Looking to better understand hypernumeracy? These tips are designed to help support kids with hyperlexia and hypernumeracy who have an interest in numbers and math.

Over the years, I've heard other parents wish/ask/beg for more information and resources specific to hypernumeracy. I know I wish there had been something - anything - all those years ago when I first started googling about hyperlexia and hypernumeracy.

But there just wasn't.

And I knew that I would eventually have to help fill the gap.

But, if I'm being honest, I didn't know what to say or share. After all, I'm learning on the go like you are...

However, I've always been really good at using my son's intense passion for numbers and math to connect with him and help him. It probably helps that I love math almost as much as he does. And I finally get to impress someone with my math tricks that I learned as a child from the Human Calculator videos I used to watch with my family.

So here are some ways to incorporate math and numbers into everyday conversations, tasks, and skills to help kids with hypernumeracy.

What is hypernumeracy? And how to support and teach kids who are obsessed with numbers

Tips to Help Kids with Hypernumeracy

The list of ideas and strategies found below are by no means exhaustive. Instead, the idea is to inspire you to get creative and use your child's interest in numbers and math to build skills in other areas (even if you aren't that into math and numbers yourself).

Conversational Skills

Instead of asking an abstract open-ended question like "How was your day at school today?", try reframing it by including some numbers. For instance, you could try:

  • "Tell me 3 things you did at school today."
  • "How much percent awesome was your day?"
  • "Was today a 10 for great? Or was it more like a 5 for just okay?"
  • "On a scale of 1 to 10, how was your day?"

Self-Regulation Skills

Teaching emotional self-regulation is an important skill and there's lots of different ways you can include numbers when teaching this skill. Ideas include:

  • Use a numbered rating scale to show how happy, sad, etc. they are on a scale of 1 to 10
  • Use the analogy of a phone or iPad battery to show how they are feeling (e.g., "I'm at 2% and I need to recharge!")
  • Create a number or math themed calm down sensory bottle
  • Invest in some number related fidgets (calculators are perfect for this!)
  • Teach numbers in sign language and then use that as a fidget or calming strategy when overwhelmed

Executive Functioning & Organization

As your hyperlexic child gets older, you might start to face struggles with staying organized, executive functioning, and homework.

  • Use visual timers or set number based goals to show how long your child should work on their homework (e.g., read for 20 minutes, write out your spelling words three times, etc.)
  • Write numbered checklists to help your child stay organized, break down tasks, etc.
  • Use a points system to motivate your child to complete tasks (harder or more important tasks are worth more points)

Social Skills

Here are a few different ways to use numbers to work on social skills.

  • Use numbered lists to show steps involved for specific social situations
  • Use board or card games that involve lots of math or numbers (e.g., NMBR 9, Uno, Sumoku, Sleeping Queens) to practice things like turn taking, following directions, etc.
  • Create a time based visual schedule and use specific times (but just a bit of caution, they might hold you to specific times so it could backfire on you if you aren't able to stick to the specific time schedule)
  • Ask a math question before trying to ask your child a question and to make sure they are listening or paying attention
  • Teach about voice volume using an app that shows decibel levels or by telling them that they are using a volume level of 6 and you need their voice to be closer to a 3
  • Use a timer to indicate when it's someone else's turn

Personal Hygiene & Other Life Skills

It's easy to include numbers into everyday life tasks and personal hygiene routines. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Count backwards from 10 as you clip your child's fingernails ("one done, nine to go!")
  • Use foam numbers or other waterproof math related toys in the bath (you can even make huge foam numbers yourself)
  • Use a ruler to measure the depth of the water in the bathtub (this strategy was the only way we could get my son into the bathtub during his bath anxiety phase)
  • Set numeric goals for certain activities (e.g., brush your hair 10 times, brush your teeth for two minutes, read 3 short books before bedtime, count to 30 while washing hands, etc.)
  • Buy number or math related utensils, dishes, or placemats to make mealtime more appealing and fun
  • Make number shaped food or cut food into numbers to encourage your child to try new foods
  • Use visual timers to show how long to brush teeth, etc.
  • Let them help with shopping by handing over the money to the cashier, scanning items at self-checkout (watching those digital cash registers is so entertaining to them!), and/or giving them the receipts to check over (my youngest still loves collecting the receipts)
  • Label clothing drawers with numbers so your child knows the order for how to get dressed
  • Look for number or math related clothing for your child to wear (psst...number themed underwear might be a good motivator for potty training purposes!)

Reading & Comprehension Skills

Comprehension issues are common with hyperlexic kids so it's important to continually work on building these skills. Here are some ways to work on these skills by incorporating numbers and math.

  • Ask your child to name a set number of things about the book they are reading (e.g., "Tell me two things that happened on this page.")
  • Set number based reading goals, especially if your child seems unmotivated to read (e.g., reading for twenty minutes, reading 10 pages, or similar)
  • Keep a reading log and use number or math related prizes as a reward for reading X amount of books or pages

Other Ideas

Ah, the catch-all category. The spot where all the miscellaneous tips and strategies hang out together...

  • Provide a pedometer, fitness tracker, or stop watch to encourage your child to get some extra exercise
  • Show your child cool math tricks and strategies (look up the Human Calculator - it's something my brothers and I used to love watching as a kid!)
  • Make sure you have plenty of number or math themed manipulatives or toys available to play with

I hope you find these ideas helpful and/or inspiring!

Other Hypernumeracy Resources You'll Love

What is Hypernumeracy?

Free Printable Math Times Tables I Spy Games

Hyperlexia & Hypernumeracy Resources

Hypernumeracy tips for parents - ideas on how to use your child's interest in numbers to help them learn new skills

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