Use Special Interests to Make Learning Relevant

I’m sure we can all remember times when we have had to study information that just did not fit in with any of our interests. Can you imagine if almost all of your studies were that way?

During this last year, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. We are learning so much about how he thinks and his unique way of looking at the world. One of the key traits that has really stood out to me the most is the idea of special interests.

Aspie kids seem to have a very narrow set of interests that they are extremely focused on. As in they really aren’t interested in anything else. I’m sure you can imagine that this hyper-focus can make it difficult to get him excited about topics outside of this range.

In my son’s case, his special interests are animals, dinosaurs (I know it seems redundant after animals, but it really isn’t), and weaponry (which sometimes morphs into different sub-interests – right now, it’s Vikings).

Photo Credit: Homeschooling Unscripted

As we were coming back from his last doctor’s appointment, I had an epiphany! What if I could filter all subjects through the lens of his interests in order to get him fully engaged in the subject matter? I was so excited – I couldn’t wait to get home to start investigating what was available out there. I couldn’t believe how many resources I was able to dig up with just a little bit of Google time.

The first subject I started with was Math because my son is very easily frustrated by word problems. They are just too abstract and the topics rarely interest him. I was so thrilled to find two resources that would be a perfect start.

  • Super Teacher Worksheets has a Math Story using a safari as the backdrop. They have other topics available as well – although you must be a member to access some of them.
  • iLiveMath: African Animals is an app that uses African animals as the stars in every word problem (along with some fabulous pictures). They also have different topics available such as transportation, agriculture, and several other animal versions.

Then I moved on to Language Arts because I don’t think you could find a more abstract subject if you tried. Fortunately, there are many ideas out there.

My last subject to look into was History. What if I could use animals to frame events in history? Once again, Google offered a wealth of ideas.

I think that every child, Aspie or not, would enjoy learning through the prism of their interests. What do you think? Are there resources out there to go along with your children’s interests? I’d love to hear more about your experiences. Won’t you share them with me in the comments?

Homeschooling Unscripted

Gidget (22 Posts)

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  1. says

    Good for you, Gidget, that you’re looking to make learning relevant. If you need any math word problems for a particular focus area, let me know. Writing word problems takes a special patience, and having done it for almost 20 years, I’d love to get some more practice in writing fun ones. (Writing word problems about finding the probability of pulling two red balls from an urn gets old.)

    • Gidget says

      Thanks, Bon! What do you think about word problems using the medieval world – with knights, armor, and weapons? :-)

      • says

        Sir Rex is about to embark on a quest. He usually uses a single sword that is made of 3 pounds of metal. This quest is special, though. He will probably need two swords. What’s a good question he might ask? (and what’s the answer, too?)

        (but it might be better to give it to him in the first person…)
        The blacksmith in your village, Sir Rex, normally charges you 8 gold coins per pound of metal. Since you’re asking for so much metal, he’s agreed to negotiate a discount. How much of a discount will you ask for, Sir Rex?

        You, Sir Rex, head out on your quest and almost immediately find a special blacksmith that can make a single sword that is only 4 pounds but made of super awesome material. How many gold pieces are you willing to pay him for it and why? (or why not?)

        Gidget – let me know how these go and I’ll continue or change directions based on your feedback.

  2. says

    I love this! You found a way to incorporate his interests into his studies. Bravo! I am all about interest led learning. These links are awesome too which shows a lot of time researching to find just the right thing. Thank you!

    • Gidget says

      Jackie, you and I are on the same path – interest led learning makes our job so much easier, doesn’t it? :-) I’m so glad you appreciate the links – it was my pleasure sharing them!


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