Special Needs Holiday Stress: 15 Tips For 2020

Special Needs Holiday Stress: 15 Tips For 2020

Special Needs Holiday Stress 

The holidays are coming!  Yay!  And that means it’s time to preemptively strike the Special Needs family holiday stress.  

After the past year, it’s about time for us to simply enjoy the holidays.  We need the joy that comes from tradition, visiting family, pumpkin pies, gift-giving, and turning our eyes back to what matters most. 

The Wonderful Can Be Stressful

However,  this season can also lead to extra stress for the exact same reasons that can make it wonderful.   

When you’re a mom raising kids with ADHD, Autism or other executive functioning issues, the holiday hustle and bustle take stress to a whole new level. 

We’re talkin special needs holiday stress.  

How Do I Stay Stress Free Through The Holidays?

You don’t. 

So while we special needs moms can’t avoid all of the holiday stressors, there are certainly ways that we can limit them. 

The holiday time is sacred for so many of us.  It’s supposed to be a time of respite and reflection.

This means that we each must set up guardrails around the holidays based on our specific family’s needs. 

Even if it disappoints Aunt Edna.  Who is this Aunt Edna that I always speak of, BTW?    

holiday stress relief, special needs moms holiday hacks

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How To Beat The Holiday Stress?  Ask A Tribe Of Special Needs Moms

And because we’re in this together, I’ve circled back to the mom experts from AHFAS private community for some help. 

Yes, Friend.  Today, we’re easing the pressure of the holidays with some stress management tips from some special needs moms.     

Why are the holidays so stressful?

So why are the holidays so stinkin stressful?  And why is it even more challenging when you’re a mom navigating a family full of ADHD brains, for example?   

Ok.  Doesn’t that last question speak for itself?  Seriously.

What Causes Stress During The Holidays?

Let’s talk about the chaos of the holidays.  For a special needs mom this means:


  • Loss of Routine,
  • Over-stimulation,
  • Big personalities who don’t know how (or care) to “read the room”,
  • Junk food,
  • Late nights,
  • Social misfires and traffic jams,
  • and on and on and on…
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Special Needs Moms Rallying Together To Beat Holiday Stress

Now we’ve stated the obvious. The holidays are coming and with them will be extra stress.  So now let’s take some proactive steps so we can savor the season.

Let’s start with Melanie, shall we?  I mean, she has a PhD in math!  And even better, she’s been a commited member of our mom tribe since the beginning.  She knows what it’s like to deal with the messy of motherhood.

Let’s see what she has to say.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #1- KISS & Tacos?  

KISS. Keep it simple sally!

Sometimes less is more.  Talk with your spouse and together decide what is really important.

I don’t stress about making a huge meal.  We actually have tacos on Thanksgiving and love it.

I encourage (as much as I possibly can) fewer gifts. In fact we don’t give any gifts to our children because we don’t want to add more on top of what family already gives.

More gifts = more mess = more frustration!!  

-Melanie, themathprofs.com

Erika Spence, adoptive mom, agrees with Melanie’s heartbeat for simplicity.

Keep it simple. One or two gifts, not a lot of events or parties. 

In our home, the rule is one gift and simple stocking stuffers.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #2: Do Your Own Thing Guilt-Free

I love what Erica had to say because it speaks to the freedom we all need to live in as moms.

We must prioritize our own family needs and let go of the guilt.

She told us this:

What I would say is think outside the box.  The holidays don’t have to be spent exactly like everyone else. 

We don’t all have to rearrange the house and put up trees and spend a fortune on things.  If you and your family absolutely love those things and it brings joy, do it.  Not your thing?  Then don’t!

No need to feel any kind of guilt either way.   My extended family thought I was a little nuts when I started thinking outside the box about holidays.

Our kiddos say they like it the way it is and wouldn’t go back.   Don’t be afraid to try out some new traditions that fit your family.  It could be the best thing ever.

 -Erica, Mom of two (one with dyslexia, anxiety & sensory processing issues)

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #3: Bring Your Own Food (Even If People Think You’re Weird)

I have my child on a strict no gluten, no dairy diet.  So I just bring plenty of approved treats.  I bring enough to share of course.  And I act like it’s no big thing. 

-Maggie (1 child with moderate non-verbal ASD)  Maggie’s Fresh Kitchen

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #4: Think like a Boy Scout

Be like a boy scout and be prepared! Think ahead and try to get in front of as many possible situations as you can. The more prepared you are, the more calm you are likely to remain when something inevitably goes wrong. 

-Amy, Mom of 4 (Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, Anxiety, SPD), Real Talk with Amy

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Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #5: Noise Cancelling Headphones

I learned the hard way to always ALWAYS double check the itineraries of town festivities.   As well as to always travel with noise cancelling headphones.

Apparently, Alicia learned this lesson the hard way twice.

Once was during a tree lighting ceremony in a new town we had just moved to.  The other time was when my boy was four and we took him to the beach. 

Both places, fireworks went off and we had ZERO clue it was part of the evening’s agenda. 

My oldest was a sensory avoider and a RUNNER.   We almost lost him both times as he ran into the crowd. What made it worse is that he was non-verbal!

He was only a few feet in front of us when, at the sound of fireworks, his fight-flight mode took over.  

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #6: Prepare For Fight-Or-Flight 

When we finally found him, he was banging on business doors to desperate to escape the noise.  

I held him inside my winter coat and ran as far as I could to get away.  It didn’t help the sound was bouncing off all the downtown buildings.  He and I both cried through it, but we made it.

He is 15 now and verbal.  He can handle and enjoys fireworks!  

However, we now always travel with noise cancelling headphones and double check the itinerary!  

 – Alicia, Mom of 3 boys (2 biological and 1 adopted through the foster care system);  ASD, SPD, RAD, Microcephaly, Mood Disorder, Shaken Baby Syndrome)

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #7: One Thing A Day, Predictability, & Pre-Teach

My holiday hacks is specific to my SPD kiddo.  It’s simple, but it works.

We only plan ONE THING A DAY. JUST ONE. 

However, we break our own rule on Christmas Eve but plan nothing the day before or after to cushion the overstimulation.   

My husband and I always explain the plan in advance.  We write out the overview of the week.  Then every morning we go through the schedule with our kids. 

Familiarity Breeds Calm

We pack familiar snacks. When we stay with family, we ask them to buy the same usual breakfast foods we eat at home. 

Practicing some family traditions at home is very important.   For example, we all sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.  So we pre-teach them a few songs so they feel prepared when we are with extended family. 

 -Stacy, (mom of 3- one with SPD) The Semi-Crunchy Mama

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #8: Be Willing To Disappoint Adults

Tricia is on board with Stacy’s suggestion as well.  

We had to tell our family that we were only going to one event a day.  So that means:

  • my side on Christmas Eve.
  • his side Christmas Day
  • or vice versa.

And we only do one Thanksgiving and one Easter.   We tried for years to make everyone happy and go to 2 or 3 different events every holiday.  It was a nightmare and exhausting.   

Now, Christmas day is opening presents in our PJs, eating cinnamon rolls, and taking naps.  There are no expectations on Christmas day beyond that.

Tricia Asbra, MAT, special needs mom of 4, (one through adoption)

holiday stress relief, special needs moms holiday hacks

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #9: Leave Early

Know your family’s limits.  And don’t be afraid to leave early. 

Doing what’s best for your family is more important. 

The others aren’t the ones to be around dealing with the consequences, so their opinions don’t get to rule the day.

It’s hard getting made fun of or belittled by the adults in your life, but it’s still the better choice.

-Aryn The Libraryan, mom of 2, (one highly-sensitive), www.arynthelibraryan.com, Helping Bookish Christian Women one page at a time.  

holiday stress relief, special needs moms holiday hacks

Kate agrees with Aryn.

Don’t be afraid to pick and choose what events or parties you attend.  Do what feels right for how you want to celebrate the holiday. 

And do what makes you most at peace with yourself and your family. 

Kate, Mom on one boy, 10 years old, adhd, highly sensitive & extremely smart

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How Do Special Needs Moms Avoid The Holiday Stress?

According to Kara, Hide.

She says she’s kidding, but she may be on to something. 

Here’s what this mom has to say about keeping the holiday stress to a minimum.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #10 : Build In Margin & Self-Regulation Strategies

We try to keep our routine as much as possible.  After we have an eventful day we build in down time.   I know my kids completely fall apart the day after a “big day”. 

We also make sure to walk through social skills and expectations ahead of time.  Not too far in advance.    

Discussing appropriate behavior and good choices to self manage is very important. For example,

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed you can…”,

Many adoptive families will understand Kara’s next comment.  She continues,

“And reminding them that there will be enough food, and more food later, to stave off panic.  It doesn’t always work, but we try.”

Sensory Regulation Tools In Their Toolbelt

One thing that Kara eluded to in her stress-free holiday tip, was the importance of equipping our kids with appropriate self-regulation tools.

In our home, this is a BIG one.  Instead of telling our kids what not to do, we best support them when we equip them.  One of the many sensory friendly self-regulation tools that we use in our home is our indoor trampoline.

These last tips are mine, Friend.

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #11: Trampoline

No joke.  This trampoline has been a God-send for my 12 year old daughter.  She is both a vestibular and proprioceptive seeker, and uses the trampoline daily to help with self-regulation.

We bought this after moving into a neighborhood that didn’t allow outdoor trampolines.  Whah, whah… party-poopers.

In the end though, this was an awesome purchase.   I highly recommend the investment if you have a child who has an affinity for jumping, crashing, deep pressure, etc.

For more information about self-regulation, sensory strategies, and more, sign up for the Barely Surviving to Outright Thriving course.

holiday stress relief, special needs moms holiday hacks

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #12: Shared Activities For Family

Every year I make sure to fill the table time with activities to engage the whole family.   I print out holiday printables like crazy.

  • Thanksgiving Word Searches,
  • Thankful-For Activities,
  • Christmas Make-a-Words,
  • And a variety of other activities

The main point is to engage the family in shared activities. And holiday printables are an easy way to bring family together.  We team up in pairs.  Grandparents, aunts, siblings, kids and friends.

This also helps conversation flow for our kids who struggle socially with conversation skills.. 

Follow me on Pinterest where I’ve pinned a ton of family holiday fun printables.  

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #13: Invest In You 

I don’t know where you are in this season with your child.  You may be where I was a few years ago.

I was stressed, confused, and isolated navigating my son’s uncontrollable behaviors.  Everything I knew to do as a good Christian mom failed.  Nothing that worked with my older children worked with my son.  I felt like a failure and spent way too many holidays broken and miserable.

By God’s mercy, my family is in a radically different place.  We are thriving. Not perfect, but thriving.

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Barely Surviving To Outright Thriving

Here’s the thing.   I’ve learned more about God’s design of the brain (neuroscience) than I ever did in graduate school.  And, wow!  The Gospel so clearly demonstrates the importance of parenting our uniquely-wired kids differently.

That’s why I’ve spent more than a year creating a parenting course for moms who know there must be a better way. 

Barely Surviving to Outright Thriving is everything I wished I knew then.  My heart is to equip you to equip your child to thrive as exactly the person God intentionally created them to be.

Maybe this is the time to invest in you so that you can move the needle forward for your child.  Check it out today and find freedom and joy in your family again.

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Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #14: We Can Only Do Our Best

Whether your child struggles with sensory issues, anxiety, or simply needs the predictability of routine to self-regulate well, we can only do our best.  Don’t be afraid to say no to holiday commitments ever.  Make sure to give your family plenty of wiggle room as you schedule the months to come.

Always prioritize the best interest of your specific family and don’t worry about what anyone thinks.  Love YOUR family well in freedom.

RELATED POST: Growth Mindset For Moms Changes Everything

Special Needs Holiday Stress Tip #15: Trust God’s Decision

God chose YOU to parent your child on purpose.   He’s your audience of One.  Trust in His decision to choose you to parent your children.  Praying for you to be flooded with His peace and joy in even the chaos, Friend.

-Lindsay, (mom of three, 2 biological & 1 through adoption: ADHD, ASD, Anxiety & FASD), Founder, A Heart For All Students

What about you?  Do you have any hacks that may be useful to another momma?   Comment below.

Recommended Reading For Moms Raising Kids With ADHD, SPD, ASD (or No Acronym At All)

Effectively Calm a Child During a Meltdown

Effectively Calm a Child During a Meltdown

How to Calm Your Child During a Meltdown

Do you know how to calm your child during a meltdown?  BTW… I am referring to your kid’s meltdown… not yours.  That’s another blog post.

If you have an adopted child, a child with cognitive differences, or if you’re just in a tougher season with your kiddo, the relevance of this question is even more profound.

Calming Our Kids’ Meltdowns Requires Calming Our Own 

Raising a higher-needs child can be exhausting.  

And the reality is that the way that our child’s cognitive differences show up on any given day can definitely impact the severity of our momma fatigue.  Right?

Our kids’ tantrums and meltdowns are exponentially magnified as we battle our own internal dialogue and unmet expectations.  For the mom in the trenches, finding a way to calm her child during a meltdown can feel impossible.

Help Calm A Child During Meltdown

My Own Hot Mess

Girl, I know this because I’ve lived it.  While in the thick of my son’s daily tantrums and meltdowns, I was a hot mess.  And while I would like to say that by using the word hot I’m refering to my physical appearance, let’s just say,

“Yeah, right.”

At that time, I considered the day a win if I was able to get a shower in and brush my teeth.  Please tell me you can relate.  Sadly, that was my reality.

Make It Stop, Please.

And while I often said this in jest as a way to try to make light of my desperation, deep down I just wanted to get away and hide.  Anywhere.


All of the parenting strategies I knew to use were absolutely useless.  I felt helpless, overwhelmed, and as if I was going crazy.  I had no idea how to calm my child during his meltdowns and rages.  Let alone calm my own.  Ouch.

Shifting Perspective On Discipline

Before adopting our son, I would never have believed my family would end up where we had in that brutal season.  In my “perfect parenting days,” I would have looked at me and my kid and thought,

‘That mom has zero control over her child.  She needs to get it together.’

At least that is what I would likely have believed deep down inside.  Once my son’s volatile behaviors began to display themselves at 18 months old, our family was completely rocked.

Me in particular?   Shattered.  To hear more, listen in to the interview with my friend, Wren Robbins.

A Mom Living In Constant Anxiety

All that I thought I knew about being a good Christian mom failed. 

In fact, each technique and strategy that once worked with my girls was useless and completely ineffective with my son. Everything I depended on to anchor my identity as a good Christian mom dissipated.  

As a result, confusion and anxiety became the driving force of my life.

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The Christian Parenting Books

In my earlier parenting years, I read every Christian parenting book I could get my hands on.  If one of my girls dared to have their version of a meltdown, I brought order quickly.  A firm voice or swift consequence and those perceived infractions were done (most of the time).

“Absolutely not.  Not appropriate.”

Those scathing words did the trick.  The girls acquieced and it was over.   And I was proud of this accomplishment.  Good Christian momma, right?  (Insert sarcasm.)

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Unhealthy Expectations

In hindsight, I can see that my perspective on parenting was pretty skewed from the beginning.  I was determined to parent my children the EXACT OPPOSITE way my parents had raised me.  (Sorry, Mom and Dad.  It took me too long to figure it out.)

In my home, there would be love, stability, consistency and discipline. Dang it!

God clearly had greater plans for our family than to be a behavior modification lab.  And so He delivered our baby boy into our home.  

Unregulated Child Led to Meltdowns

Once mobile, our son screamed and steamrolled his way through our home every second of the day.

  1. scaling walls,
  2. escaping the house,
  3. hitting,
  4. scratching,
  5. biting and
  6. throwing and smashing glasses, frames, dishes, etc…

Did I mention screaming?  Oh… not sleeping ever?!!    There wasn’t a single parenting strategy that helped calm him during his raging meltdowns.  Nothing I could do to gain any control.

RELATED Podcast Episode: Why We’ve Got To Parent Differently

Desperate To Stop The Meltdowns

Every I knew to do as a good Christian mom, as an educator, failed miserably.  Not one peaceful way to prevent him from getting into whatever it was he wanted to ingest or play with.

“No, Buddy.  You can’t eat batteries.”

Then it followed.  The sound that prededed that sudden burning sensation travelling across my face.


His frustration tolerance was non-existent.  The slightest resistance to his efforts resulted in aggression and rage.  Most often, it was towards me.

Suffering Leads to Good Even If It Sucks

We were living in a war zone, navigating grenades at every turn.  Despite being surrounded by a loving Christian community, I felt so alone.  Drowning in shame and isolation,  I believed that I was a failure as a parent.

I was devastated for my husband, my two daughters and for my boy.  His hourly meltdowns were too much for me, for the girls, and for him.

He was suffering just as much, but to most people, he looked like a “normal” little boy who was being a brat.  This couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Shame, Marginalization of Way Too Many Kids & Families

Ultimately, my family lived in what felt like hell for years.  The term emotional anguish doesn’t do it justice.  And here is the thing:  My family wasn’t alone.

There are millions special needs families in our country living this life of chaos, fear and shame.  Whether through biology or through adoption, when kids don’t behave the world wants them to, entire families suffer.  Often alone.

Trauma.  It’s real and it’s pervasive.  FASD is real.   

And it needs to be ripped out of the shadows and exposed for what it is in the foster and adoption world.  (Again, another post.)

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The Need For True Self-Care

“Parents take way too much credit when their children are doing well. They take way too much credit when their children are doing poorly.”

Rather than checking myself into a mental institution for what promised to be a mini-vacation, I decided to make a different plan.  In order to prevent myself from setting the house on fire because I was about to lose it, I made an appointment for counseling.

Side note:  No one panic… I was never going to set my house on fire.  Hyperbole is a powerful literary technique.  That’s the way I roll.

Making the Call

One winter morning after a few hours of desperately trying to maintain some level of calm in the house, I hit a wall.  I was so overwhelmed,

  • with his screeching.
  • knowing my daughters were struggling in the chaos,
  • and with my own distress

I sent out a mass S.O.S. text to my tribe of girlfriends and asked for a Christian counselor referral.   Within an hour I had an appointment scheduled.  

Seeking help in the form of counseling was a game changer in my story as it is for so many women.

christian moms, strong willed children, trauma-informed parenting

Hell to Humble

God used that time of absolute hell to humble me.  It broke me in a million tiny pieces.  My prideful butt was so black and blue from the beating that my son’s behavior inflicted upon me.

In true form, God took those million pieces, gathered them up and delivered me into Christian counseling.  The late Dr. Karyn Purvis wrote in her book, The Connected Child,

When an adult is avoiding her own history, entangled in her past, or disorganized about her losses, she can’t accurately assess and respond to a harmed child’s reality. 


Meltdowns- Moms Have To Deal With The Root Of Their Own

Unquestionably, I had a lot of my own emotional garbage to weed through.

Apparently, I needed a major kick in the pants to make that initial call.  Needless to say, my astute counselor and I have done some serious work these past few years.  One of the many nuggets of truth she has offered to me has been this.

We as parents take way too much responsibility for the successes and failures of our children.

It took me awhile to chew and digest this, but it finally clicked.

Inability Saves My Family

My inability to control my son saved my entire family.  Ultimately, could I prevent my 3 year old from running into the street every single time he tried?   Nope.

We couldn’t prevent him from using a broom handle to unhook the chain locks to escape the house.  Try?  Yes.  Guarantee success?  No way.

Force him to sleep and to “obey right away?”   Yeah right.  

Moms, Kid Meltdowns & The Lie Of Control

I had zero control over him then and have zero control now.  In order to effectively parent my son, I had to completely shift my perspective on parenting and discipline.   

I had to wake up to the notion that my boy’s cognitive differences made his ability to self-regulate well a very difficult task.

A Secure Mom And Kid Meltdowns

A Complete Shift Led to Big Changes

Historically, I viewed childhood behaviors as do most in our culture: through the lens of all behavior is willful.  Once I recognized my son’s cognitive needs and differences, I was able to see his need to be taught how to behave in a way that he could process and recieve.

This allowed me to respond to his meltdowns not from a place of offense, but from a place of support.  Instead of freaking out and coming down hard on him, I could meet him where he was with grace.

Kid Behavior Doesn’t Define A Good Mom

So many women believe a huge lie.  It says that something is wrong with us if our kid doesn’t behave the way the world wants them to.  

We literally become offended by or surprised by our kids’ meltdowns and tantrums (especially when in public).

In the face of “bad” behavior, we become trapped by the urge to stop the behavior.  

Fear is a Liar

This is not good, Momma.  By parenting from this place of fear, we end up missing the real issue and the cycle often continues.

Dr. Purvis put it in her book, The Connected Child,

Only a secure mother can say, “Tell me what hurts, sweetheart,” and listen attentively and respectfully to the answer…. Only a secure mother can find the heart of the highest-risk child.

Scripture tells us that God seeks after the heart, right?

Dr. Purvis’s words may be hard to process, but I know from experience how true they are.  My own insecurities and fear made navigating my son’s meltdowns exponentially more difficult.

Perspective Shift Game Changer

We have seen HUGE changes in my son’s behavior since my shift in perspective.  From willful disobedience to not yet equipped.

Game changer.  Miraculous changes.  He is not perfect by any means.   No one is.  But we’ve seen huge gains in my son’s ability to calm himself when he feels out of control.  Even in the year since this blog post was first written, my boy has come so far and I am so grateful.

christian special needs moms positive parenting course

Stop The Narrative of  “Inherently Bad”

My heart hurts for all of the kids who grow up believing that they are “inherently bad” because they can’t seem to get it together.

  • I’m never enough.
  • I’m always a disappointment.
  • What’s wrong with me?

Just think about how many adults we know that live in the dire wake of growing up believing themselves a disappointment.  

We all know someone.  And the truth is that that someone may just be us.

The Cycle of Meltdowns & Mental Health

That someone may be in the grocery store right now standing by in horror.  She is watching her child kick and scream because he wants candy.

She may be dripping with sweat and covered in shame as she navigates all the lies that tell her she is not enough.  I’ve been there.

Have you?  Are you there now?  Isn’t it enough already?

Special Needs Moms- Together

It’s ok to parent our kids differently, Sweet Momma.   We can do this together.   Let’s change the narrative for our…

  • higher-needs
  • highly-sensitive
  • neurodiverse
  • trauma-impacted
  • ADHD
  • Autistic
  • sensory sensitive kids.

Friend, I am convinced that all moms need a parenting growth mindset.  For the sake of our kids and our sanity, let’s be willing to at least examine it.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Best Homeschool Math For Struggling Students

Best Homeschool Math For Struggling Students

Best homeschool math curriculum for struggling students

This is part two of a two part series answering the question,

“How to choose the best homeschool math curriculum for struggling students?”

If you have not read part one, definitely check it out.

In it we discuss the 5 Tips every mom needs to know before purchasing homeschool math curriculum.  Save yourself money, stress and time and read that here.

What Is The Best Special Needs Homeschool Math Curriculum?

In today’s post, some veteran homeschool moms share their opinions on the best homeschool math curriculum for struggling students.  For all intents and purposes, we are using the term “struggling students” to describe:

  1. ADHD
  2. Autism
  3. Dyscalculia
  4. Dyslexia
  5. Any other learning difference
  6. Kids who just hate math

If your child tends to struggle with math, regardless of the reason, this post is for you.

Homeschool Math curriculum struggling students

Mastery Vs Spiral Based Homeschool Math

There are two different approaches to math curricula out there: spiral-based and mastery-based.    I discuss these in more detail in Part One.  

  • Mastery-based 
  • Spiral-based 

Here is a brief explanation of the two and important factors to consider when deciding which will be best for your student.

Mastery-based curriculum focuses on one concept at a time.  The goal is for the student to master the concept before moving on to the next math skill.

Spiral-based homeschool math curriculum reviews previously learned material while learning new concepts.  Both mastery and spiral approaches have their pros and cons.  Again, check out this post for more info.  

Mastery-Based Homeschool Math Curricula

1. Learn Math Fast

Beckye Barnes, of Beckye Barnes Consulting, recommends Learn Math Fast.  

We have enjoyed Learn Math Fast. It works for all ages and it starts with the basics.  You only move forward once you master the concepts. It is mastery-based and teachers the concepts without busy work.  An excellent choice for those who need a refresher course.

Beckye points to the importance of solidifying foundational math skills.

They also focus on foundational skills in a real world way. Basic addition and subtraction is taught using pennies. I think fractions is explained using a dollar then four quarters. It also focuses on learning the concept without endless worksheets.

Beckye Barnes, homeschool mom, Autism, PTSD, ADHD, dyslexia & dysgraphia.  She just graduated a student with a 4.868 GPA who is entering college as a freshman with 30 college credits.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheets

Dyslexia & Homeschool Math Curriculum

Learn Math Fast was a game changer for my daughter with dysgraphia.  LMF breaks the lessons down to make it easier to understand, and they keep it simple.

Colleen Webster, homeschool mom of 4, also loves Learn Math Fast.  Her daughter has dyscalculia, and has tried several math curriculum options. LMF was the first that explained certain concepts in a way she understands.

My daughter felt like she could follow along better with the shorter explanations they gave. She benefited from the break down of each equation into bite size pieces.

Colleen Webster, homeschool mom of 4, dyslexia and ADHD, dyscalcula and dysgraphia

2. Life of Fred

Life of Fred is a mastery-based math curriculum that is completely unconventional, but is extremely effective for our right-brained kids.

The Life of Fred series is a literature-based math curriculum that follows the narrative of the main character, Fred.  Fred is a child genius living life as a 5 year-old child on a college campus.  Told you it was unconventional.  Ha!

Each book focuses on one math concept.   Through story, it teaches math concepts in a way that is highly engaging and clever. 

Foundational Math Skills Through Story- For All Ages

Like Learn Math Fast and other mastery-based programs, this series is meant to be read in order regardless of your child’s age.  The storyline and concepts build upon one another to provide the student with a solid understanding of math.

This series is an excellent series to supplement your child’s math skills.  Some homeschool families use it as the basis of their entire math program.

I highly recommend it if you have a child who HATES math but loves story.  This program goes all the way up through college-level math including Calculus.

Multiplication Tables The Fun & Effective Way!

One thing you’ll know about me, is that I’m all about equipping kids with what they need to best learn and thrive.  When it comes to our right-brained thinkers, there is nothing like using mnemonics and imagery to support learning.

Times Tales is an excellent company that supports homeschool families with multisensory tools to support math learning.

It is a brain-based program that supports long-term memory of foundational math facts.   Using mnemonic-based DVD and streaming videos, they creatively support children in memorizing multiplication facts for good. 

I cannot more highly stress the importance of laying a solid foundation in basic multiplication facts.  Use your child’s unique wiring to their advantage with Times Tales.

2. Math U See

What math does a math professor use in her homeschool?  Melanie Fulton of, The Math Profs, 

For math we do Math-U-See, but we add a lot of supplemental math with it. When you have two math parents in the house EVERYTHING can become a math problem.

Melanie, received her PhD in math from Virginia Tech University, she explains more about the benefits of Math U See.

MUS works for us.  The lessons aren’t too long–and sometimes we don’t even do a whole lesson in 1 day.  

She also points out the clutter-free layout of the pages which is helpful for kids who struggle with visual discrimination.

The books and worksheets are plain–not tons of pictures or stories to distract.  There is a video included so that my children don’t have to have mom or dad teach it.  And there are manipulatives to see what is going on. 

Melanie Fulton, Math-loving mama who homeschools her 4 children and often employs the aid of chicken, dairy goat, cat, and dog math tutors.  (www.themathprofs.com)    

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheets

The Love Just Keeps Pouring Out: Math U See for Struggling Students 

Katherine, homeschool mom of 4 different learners, tells us that despite a whole host of learning differences,

Math U See works for us because it is very sequential.  This is essential for struggling learners.  The program helps with retaining math skills by focusing on one math concept at a time.

We have always used MUS, because my bookends definitely need the mastery-based curriculum.

My middle 2 could probably handle spiral, but they are doing great, so there hasn’t been a need to change.

Katherine Fain, homeschooling for 7 years, Autism, Auditory processing disorder, Dysgraphia and probably more

homeschool math curriculum for struggling students, special needs, adhd, autism, dyscalculia

Spiral-based Homeschool Math Curricula

1. The Good and The Beautiful

Melanie loves The Good and the Beautiful for math.

I have loved The Good and the Beautiful Math for my ADHD-kiddo.  Each math lesson is a different activity.  I thought I didn’t like it at first because it’s a spiral approach, but now I LOVE it because it’s a spiral approach! Ha!  

Like me, Melanie understands the importance of shorter lessons to allow her kids push through an entire lesson.  She also raves about the shorter lessons.  

Lessons take 15-20 min max.  We are still learning our basic facts, but we are also learning time and money while playing games. My kids really LOVE it!  

special needs homeschool math

Spiral-Based Homeschool Math For Struggling Learners

2. Teaching Textbooks

We love Teaching Textbooks.  We’ve been homeschooling for about 8 years. One kid who just doesn’t like math, one with special needs, and one who finds math easy. Teaching Textbooks has worked well for all of them.

Krista, 10 years homeschooling, 3 kids, Girl 17, ADHD, Boy, 15 ASD, G 12 Diva

Magda Miller has been homeschooling her two kids for going on 8 years.

I second Teaching Textbooks. I have a very self-motivated, math-minded older child who started TT when he was 5.  It just clicked.  I thought his less math inclined younger sister might not do as well with the system, but I was pleasantly proved wrong. 

Like so many homeschool moms, she points out how nicely Teaching Textbooks supports moms.

Teaching Textbooks does the teaching and the grading.  I am more involved with my younger child’s movement through the program, but it still allows for her to be very independent in her learning and it sticks.  She is learning and retaining.

 Ma Miller, homeschool mom of 2 rockstar kids, suspected ADHD, ASD 

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheets

Spiral Based Homeschool Math Curriculum 

3. Christian Light

Within my own homeschool, we have used a variety of math materials for our ADHD and math-minded family.  One of our favorite spiral-based math curricula is Christian Light Math.   I like Christian Light for several reasons.  

1. Christian Light is broken up into ten worktexts for each grade level.  

This, in and of itself, is highly motivating to our kids who like to check things off their lists.  Every finished worktext feels like an accomplishment. 

2. It thorough and on the advanced side.  This is great for your math-minded kids.  

3. The program is student-led.   All of Christian Light materials are designed to be student-led.  As such are visually appealing and broken up into smaller chunks.  Each workbook is easy to follow without being overwhelming. 

4. The price!  Christian Light materials are very affordable.  

homeschool math for struggling students

Pivoting Between Mastery & Spiral When Needed

Despite loving this math curriculum, eventually we hit a wall with it.  We moved away from Christian Light as math concepts increased in complexity.  

As we neared Algebra, my oldest needed to focus on one concept at a time in order to best process, retain and develop mastery.  We shifted to a mastery, topic based curriculum, Developmental Math, in order to solidify very specific math concepts to prep her for Algebra.  

Being willing to temporarily pivot when we hit that wall, made all the difference in the world for her as she entered Algebra.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheets

Another Homeschool Math Resource I Love

When the traditional approach doesn’t work, whether it be for an entire subject or a particular math concept, I am always open to pivot.  

Having a number of homeschool math tools in your tool box is always a good idea.  I’ve found this math program to be super helpful.

Math Minutes

Math Minutes is a simple math workbook designed to hit the most important math concepts.  The workbook series is very concise and is extremely manageable for our kids who dislike math.  There are only 10 math problems each day which is a huge plus for kids with ADHD.  However, the math problems are intentionally chosen to support foundational math skills.

Each workbook is focused on a general grade level.  I believe these were originally created as a supplement for traditional grade-level math.  However, when used as math spine, this can be an excellent tool.  A math spine refers to a framework of sorts to guide your teaching.

Guide When Teaching Homeschool Math To Struggling Students

Please note that there is no teaching in this workbook.  However, this is a great tool that can help you easily assess where your child may need additional support.

When my daughter used Math Minutes, any problems she struggled with were the concepts that we could go over together.  This preserved her limited capacity for math to be used on the concepts that she needed to focus on.

Math Minutes is a great tool to support math in a non-threatening way.  Don’t buy into the hype that your child has to do endless amounts of math problems in order to learn.  This is simply not the case.  When teaching the struggling student, work with the grain and think “less is more.”

Homeschool Math Curriculum For Your Struggling Student

Ultimately, what homeschool math curriculum is best for your child will be based on a number of factors.  Understanding who your child is, how your child is wired and your own capacity, will guide you to make the best decision. 

As you make curriculum buying decisions, grab a copy of the homeschool 101 planning guide that I’ve created for you.  It includes prompts to help you identify the most important information that’ll help you choose the best math curriculum.  The best choice for your uniquely-wired student in this specific season. 

Ready For Homeschool Language Arts?

If you are looking for help choosing the right homeschool language arts curriculum, you’re in luck.

Before ever looking at curriculum options with my homeschool clients, I walk them through a series of questions.  I’m always looking to identify their child’s wiring and learning style in order to best support learning.  Continue reading to find out the best language arts curriculum for your child.

Our Journey Westward

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Parenting Neurodiverse Kids to Thrive

Parenting Neurodiverse Kids to Thrive

Parenting Neurodiverse Kids Well

To my momma friends who are fiercely in love with and are parenting neurodiverse kids, let’s be brave. 

You know the ones I am talking about.

  • The children who are constantly hearing that they are not enough.
  • The ones who will never live up the expectations of the adults around them.
  • Like the kid back in school who was considered a troublemaker (yep, he ended up exactly as expected by the adults around him)
  • The “loser” with a life that went nowhere.

So many of these neurodiverse kids simply grew up shrouded in a culture that believes that outward behavior is always willful.  

Sadly when it comes to parenting neurodiverse kids and children in general, this mindset is often quite dangerous.  When we have black and white thinking to what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, outside-the-box children end up suffering.

The Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Parenting Neurodiverse Kids to Thrive

by Lindsay Leiviska | A Heart For All Students

What is neurodiversity?

 The concept of neurodiversity is basically a viewpoint that says that all people are wired differently.  

For kids with ADHD, Autism, or any other cognitive difference, this shift can be life changing.   This means that instead of viewing them as disordered people who need to be “fixed”, we embrace their differences as part of their wiring.  

When we remove the “willful disobedience” mindset, we begin to see the whole child through the eyes of grace and of strength.

Our responses to perceived infractions on expected behaviors lose their rough and often aggressive edge.  We are able to then see the strengths that need to be harnessed for good. 

Our kids lose the shame and instead are able to see us as in their corner.  We can then parent our neurodiverse children with what they need to thrive.

Diversity in who we are and how we are all designed.  Doesn’t that sound like something to be celebrated?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you which allows me to continue offering as much free content as possible. I appreciate your support.

neurodiversity, christian special needs moms, adhd, autism acceptance

Parenting Neurodiverse Kids Well: Difference vs disordered  

As moms begin parenting neurodiverse kids from this mindset, anxiety and fear is lessened.  By recognizing our child’s ADHD or Autism as an inherent part of what makes them unique, we experience freedom. 

Parenting our neurodiverse kids in this way allows us to focus on their strengths instead of trying to constantly fix these traits out of them.  

For more about neurodiversity, check out this article from Understood.org.  

Neurodiversity brings freedom 

Culturally, when adults cannot “control” the “challenging” behavior of a child with ADHD, the perception is that there is something wrong with the child.

The idea that perhaps we are using the wrong approach with these kids rarely comes to mind.  Adults blame the child and continue with the same ineffective, life-sucking discipline strategies… and the behaviors increase as the child’s sense of self-worth decreases.

Albert Einstein is often credited as saying, 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  

So… as we parent our own neurodiverse kids, what is our goal? 

To force these fish to climb a tree, never allowing them to swim in the pond for which they were designed?  Do we want them to believe there is something inherently wrong with them when they can NEVER meet our expectations?

neurodiverse children, special needs mom, adhd, asd, sensory processing

Kids set up for failure

So many of our kids are placed in no-win situations.  They continuously fail to live up to the accepted expectations of the world around them.

These expectations are often based upon an environment that they were never meant to thrive in. 

Sadly, our outside-the-box kids are consistently living from a marginalized position.  They are repeatedly corrected, punished, and shamed.  

These kids spend their formative years hearing about their faults.  Oftentimes these “faults” are simply differences in the way they receive and process the world around them.  

What about the real world?

Some may argue that modifying how we educate and parent neurodiverse kids is not realistic because “they have to learn sometime”.


There are millions and millions of people in this country who are suffering and have suffered their entire lives because of this belief that its the kid who is broken.  

We live in the United States of America.  It’s 2020.  We say we celebrate diversity.  So let’s do it.

It is time we offer an alternative system.  

autism, adhd, neurodiversity, christian parenting

Momma Friend, I hear it every day.

  • The school called. My kid flipped out and hit a little boy in class. Now he is suspended.
  • My daughter clings to me at church because it is so loud and crazy in there. She started melting down in the middle of the foyer last Sunday.
  • The teacher said that my child is off in lala land and that’s why she can’t learn to read.
  • My son comes home from school every day and screams and has meltdowns. No one believes me because he is quiet at school.
  • My child begs me not to send him to (church, sports, school, etc).
  • Getting my child to do her homework always ends up in tears and stress. She just screams that it’s too much to do.
  • My child hates going to birthday parties, he just cries and avoids the other kids.

These children struggle to please adults and even other kids around them by trying to suppress their responses to an environment they were never intended to live in.

They receive the message loud and clear that they are inherently defective.  

Our neurodiverse kids are suffering.  Their anxiety is through the roof.  Wouldn’t yours be as well?  

my kid hates writing, homeschool help

Mental Illness Hamster Wheel

These misunderstood children frequently end up trapped in a cycle of mental health issues that plague them for life. 

Rates of childhood anxiety, depression, cutting, and suicide are growing.

Moms parenting neurodiverse kids… we need to join together to advocate for our children.  We need to be brave enough to parent the children God has given us and not the one Aunt Edna wants.

We are raising children to one day be adults. These formative years are crucial.

Moms parenting neurodiverse kids differently

It’s time to be BRAVE for our uniquely-designed children.  

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Sensory Processing Differences
  • Learning Differences
  • Anxiety

These are not personality defects.  These are inherent differences in wiring just as are introversion and extroversion.

  • That struggle to take direction is not her being willfully stubborn but is her independence
  • His hyperfocus on his latest “obsession” is not a disorder.  It is a gift that has allowed some of the greatest inventors of our time to change the world.
  • The boy who cannot sit still was made to move… he receives and processes information through movement.  
  • Is your daughter the day dreamer? The one who can’t focus? That is her incredible imagination taking her places that others will only experience when she becomes a published author.

We must begin to shift our perspective so that we can set these kids up for success.

Let’s stop shaming those who don’t fit the mold.  We need to stop clinging to this belief that our kids are WILLFULLY making a choice to disobey.

It is time for us to be our child’s cheerleader and coach.  

Let us coach them well while we equip them to thrive as who they have been designed to be.

christianchristian moms raising adhd and autism moms raising adhd and autism

God Intentionally Chose You

Moms, you know in your gut there must be another way for your neurodiverse kids.

Deep down, you know that God has created your child uniquely and that He must have a plan for your child. 

Yet, fear takes over.  

  • The world tells you that a child who is screaming in public deserves a good spanking.
  • Aunt Edna tells you that you had better nip that bad behavior in the bud now.
  • Your mother-in-law glares at your child when he begins jumping on the couch.
  • That perfect mom stares in shock when your child begins shrieking uncontrollably at the fireworks display.
  • The teacher at your child’s school told you that your child needs to learn to sit still now.

You don’t know what to do, but you know your child will never thrive knowing that he is a constant disappointment.

Parent the child we have been given

We must be willing to parent our children who have been created differently. As a Christ follower, I believe with every bit of my being that God creates every child with gifts, passions and purpose. 

We must be willing to think outside-the-box with our outside-the-box kids.

Let’s partner with our children so that through safe relationships, we can influence them.  We want to equip our kids with tools and strategies so that they can live a life of confidence and purpose.

Or we can continue to listen to the world and it’s rewards and punishment mentality.  

How is that working for your child?

Every child needs an adult who believes in them… let’s be that for our kids.

Wisdom of Moms Raising Neurodiverse Kids

Mom Friends, it’s time to be BRAVE for our children.

It’s time to be willing to allow other adults to disapprove of us in order to save the future lives of our children.  Let’s allow our kids to dare to be exactly who they are.

If you are looking for the support of other moms who are parenting uniquely-wired kids to thrive, join the private AHFAS community.  

We are in this together!

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Encouragement for the Young Girl with Aspergers

Encouragement for the Young Girl with Aspergers

To the Young Girl with Aspergers Syndrome

Just yesterday morning, a dear friend of mine reached out to me.  Her oldest daughter is an 18 year-old college student.  She is also an amazing young lady on Autism Spectrum .  Having grown so much in these past 4 years as a girl with Aspergers Syndrome she wrote a letter to her 14 year-old self.

She has allowed me to share it here for any young girl who feels different and needs this encouragement.  What an honor and my privilege.

For the mom raising a neurodiverse young girl… please share this with your precious creative.  Let’s celebrate the uniqueness of all of our children and allow our girls to thrive as the people God intends them to be.

This post contains Amazon affliliate links.  If you purchase any resources that I recommend using my links, I may receive a small commission from Amazon at no cost to you.  I will not ever recommend any product that I do not stand behind fully.  Thank you for your support so I can continue to offer as much free content as possible to mommas like you and me.  🙂

Dear 14-year-old me,

Well. Four years can certainly make a difference, now can’t it? Seeing your face again brings back a lot of memories, y’know. Makes me realize just how much both the world and I have changed. Time is more of a kiln than a river, in all honesty. Life can and will hurt, yes, but as I look back, I know that I wouldn’t change anything.
Hmm? Advice, you say? Well…let me see. What advice could I give you?
Y’know, in all honesty, I’d say that the best advice I could give you is that you’re not alone.
You’re not broken, or defective, or glitched.
A Young Girl With Aspergers

Popping Balloons

You’re not the only one who’s scared by the sound of balloons popping and gets extremely uncomfortable at parties.
Fortunately, plenty of other girls out there have that same wild fuel for the imagination.  They too navigate those same issues with feeling as if you need to perform in order to be accepted.
In fact, there is a shockingly high amount of people who will completely understand when you try to scurry off to another room to escape the hubbub. There are so many other girls and boys who get this pacifying and focusing effect that music has on you.
There are countless other Aspies who know what it’s like to be drifting off to sleep and suddenly be murmuring out dialogues, solidifying plots and characters before slumber overtakes you.
They too understand what it is like to be trying to do school and suddenly it’s half an hour later, and you have a doodled battle scene and no progress on school whatsoever.
You’re not a weird outcast.
A Young Girl With Aspergers Offers Encouragement

One-of-a-kind Rare

You are one-of-a-kind rare, but not in your troubles. There will always be someone out there who’s gone through the exact same issues with anxiety and feeling as uncontrolled as you, and they understand what it’s like.
  • Keep going.
  • Imagining.
  • Writing.
  • And keep drawing, even though you think you’re no good.
You’ll get to a point one day where you step back, take a good look at your rough draft for a novel and the art you’ve done so far, and you say, 
“This is something that could change someone’s life. There are people out there who need this message, and I have the God-given ability to give it to them. To have a character say something that will stick with a complete stranger and motivate them to make the world a better place.”

God has a Vital Purpose for You

You are FAR from unimportant, younger me. God has put you here for a vital, vital purpose.
There will be perfect strangers who will decide to give life another chance because you spoke the Gospel to them, people you have never seen in person and probably never will who will know you as a beacon of light and hope…if only you keep pushing on.
Fight past your own fears and hatred, and fight past the bullies you’ll run into. Neither of them have any right to have any power over you.

Healing & Inspiration for the Young Girl With Aspergers

You are a juggernaut of healing and inspiration: you can’t and won’t be stopped after you get unleashed on this broken world.
You have God with you for every step of the way no matter what.  His opinion – not any bully’s, not any critic’s, not even your own – is what matters.
You have so, so much power for good in you because God is your king. Use it. Ignore the voices and fears saying you can’t.

Break Down the Walls of Despair

You have been given a gift like no other: so by golly, go be a juggernaut, and break down those walls of despair and darkness threatening people’s souls.
You are a healer and a warrior so powerful that this broken world tried to weaken you  a young girl with Aspergers…but it messed up and just made you even stronger.

Find Your Aspie Army

So find your army to remind you that you’re not alone, and then draw your bow in a world that only knows how to fire slingshots.
You are unique, even when you don’t think so. You are talented, even when you don’t think so. You are never walking your path by yourself, even when you think you are. You are strong, even when you don’t think so.
You are a young girl with Aspergers Syndrome, and you are amazing.
Fight on, young warrior.

Your Older & More Confident Self,


Leigh is an 18 year-old Aspie warrior who’s also learning how ADHD, SPD, and anxiety can all be gifts.  As a college freshman, she is preparing to accomplish her dream of publishing her first self-illustrated novel.  She loves nothing more than helping others see how God celebrates their uniqueness.  

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.