Friday, February 27, 2009

Disney on Ice aka Girls Night Out

Our tickets

The opening set
Mickey & Minnie in the jalopy

Lightening McQueen

Lots of CARS

Under the sea


Seahorses under the sea

Sea horses under the sea

Ariel and her human

Baby Simba being introduced to the world

The wildebeests

Simba's father is dead. :(
Hakuna Matata
Can you feel the love tonight?

Simba is King

The queen of the fairies (in the air)

Tinkerbell flying

Spectacular finale

Confetti signals THE END

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wordless Books - Part 1

A lot of students with autism are behind in reading / comprehension, or what public schools sometimes refer to as ELA (English Language Arts). As I learn more about autism, what it is, and what it is NOT, autism is NOT a deficit in memorizing and recognizing sight words, but it *IS* a deficit in the dynamic information processing that adds up to "MEANING MAKING", not just reading / comprehension.

A developmental foundation of reading comprehension is COMPREHENSION (meaning-making) BETWEEN PEOPLE.

I read the Michigan Dept of Ed Vision Statement for English Language Arts, and I want what it says there for all of my asd child included...for them to be meaning makers, spoken, written, in all aspects of communication.

From the Michigan Department of Education ELA Vision Statement: "The essence of the English language arts is communication—exchanging and exploring information and insights. We are meaning-makers who strive to make sense of our world. We use the English language arts in every area of our lives, not just the classroom. They help us deal with other people in the world around us. Listening, speaking, viewing, reading and writing are naturally integrated in our attempts to communicate. We continually improve our understanding by using our past experiences, the circumstances in which we find ourselves, what we are hearing, reading or viewing. Only when we understand or when we are understood are we communicating—only then are we using the English language arts."

I am amused by the fact that the Dept of Ed seems to desire this vision for just the gen ed students.

Let me share with you something I learned that illustrated for ME the difference between calling words and actual comprehension:

I heard Dr. Ingersol, a developmental optometrist from Excel Institute speak a couple of years ago about vision therapy. He gave an example, similar to this one, that presented some of my asd child's issues in a way I had not considered before. He told the audience:

"Go to the bathroom at the top of the stairs, look in the white cabinet behind the green towels, and please bring me the box of alka seltzer."

He said that you and I created pictures in our mind, one of the bathroom at the top of the stairs, another snapshot of the green towels inside the white cabinet. We have no problems with this.
Then he gave us a memorization task. He rattled off a list of 20 or so unrelated words to see how many we could memorize. I got exactly FOUR. Some people got six or seven, but no one got more than that. The first four words he rattled off were "the, was, just, inasmuch". There' s no meaning in those words when they're bunched together--they're unrelated.

He said that some of our kids are not creating pictures (the stairs, the white cabinet), but instead they're trying to REMEMBER the WORDS. They can't remember the words in the alka seltzer sentence past "Go up the stairs". After "go up the stairs," they're lost.

When my child's (former) teacher told me that my daughter knows an incredible number of sight words, and can read a book at grade level but can't tell you what happened in the story, it tells me she's not comprehending meaning, that she is not MEANING MAKING.

At one point, when my daughter was still in public school, I was told by an excited staff member that my daughter could remember the last thing that happened in the story. I disagreed, saying, "She's not comprehending. She is remembering the last few words in the book. There's a difference."

(Autism is not a deficit in memorization of sight words. And TEXT can be a huge obstacle for a child who can memorize sight words but not comprehend meaning between self and others.)

Psychologist Barbara Luskin (mother of a child on the spectrum) reminds us: "As parents and teachers we need to think about what our goals are for those we are involved with. Not so much how we teach but what we want a person to know." I want my daughter to understand that comprehension is not about memorizing the words!

We know that babies can interact (early meaning making between people) before they understand words, that thought preceeds language, but for some odd reason, in autism, we sometimes assume with language (spoken) and reading (written words), that meaning making naturally comes along with it. (sort of like teaching a kid to point and assuming joint attention automatically comes with the point-and I'm back to "what is it we want them to know?")

I purchased a selection of wordless books so we could work on story telling together, without the distraction / obstacle of text, so we could focus on meaning making. I'd never heard of wordless books until one of my children (not asd) began to participate in a study at U of M a few years ago, and every time the university students come to the house as part of the research, they bring this same wordless book and ask me to "read" it to my son. It's interesting that every year, the story I'd tell from that same book grew bigger, broader, as I "read" it to my son, based on his level of understanding. I automatically tailor it to where he is. I'm learning with RDI(r) to tailor them to where my asd child is, developmentally, as we re-do the foundation work toward experience sharing (or meaning making) between people.

The University of Google can offer lots of lists of wordless books, and so can major booksellers. Check it out! We like Mercer Mayer's series about the boy, the dog, the frog, etc. Jan Ormerod has some lovely stories.

It's one of quite a few things we do at home to "do over" what was skipped in my child's development.

Monday, February 23, 2009

GFCFSF Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Pamela's mix)

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Packed full of rich, dark chocolate chunks, this Incredible Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix is so quick and easy to make that anyone can have fresh baked cookies anytime! Just two ingredients added to Pamela's Cookie Mix creates fabulous cookies and fun desserts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Heads Up! A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I love doing this particular review (I have loved them all, but this one is different because I relate to it so much.)! I "get" Melinda Boring, because I have a lot in common with her. Boring homeschooled three children, two with ADHD and sensory issues. Her family business, Heads Up! is the place to get many of the gadgets, doo-dads, fidgets, supports and resources for children with special learning challenges that I've seen teachers and therapists using over the past eight years.

If you are the parent of "NT" children (NT = "neurotypically developing", and it's a kind of "code" for "not autistic" among families with a child w/ autism), you may not know about a lot of these products, and yet, Heads Up! may have an item or two that could be a big help for you at home, for a wiggly child or a struggling reader or one who hates to write anything out in longhand, to name a few examples.

I first learned about Melinda Boring on the internet several years ago. She had been a featured speaker at a state homeschool convention that I'd missed because I did not know about the convention at that time. I was intrigued by what I read about her on the convention web site, and ordered her book: "Heads Up Helping!! Teaching Tips and Techniques for Working with ADD, ADHD, and Other Children with Challenges." [If you're the parent of a child with ADD, ADHD, or is on the autism spectrum, I think you'll like this book (although that is not what I am here to review today).]

I was delighted to learn that Heads Up! would be participating with the Homeschool Crew this year, and that they would include those of us on the alternates list of reviewers!

If you are the parent of a child with ADD, ADHD, an autism spectrum disorder or other learning challenge, you probably already know that there are many products and resources available to assist with the issues that we see frequently in children who fit those labels. You, like me, may have seen some wonderful products in school or therapy settings, and you've probably spent some time reading about how to support and assist students who have such challenges. Well, Melinda Boring of Heads Up! is one of US parents, and Heads Up! carries a nice selection of products and resources that support families like ours as we work with our children.

Heads Up! sent the crew a huge selection of frames
and readers

for us to try at home.

"Heads Up! Helping", Melinda Boring's book, contains a chapter called "Visual Distractibility" where Boring offers many helpful tips, including a section called "Using Color", where she discusses in depth the use of colored overlays and readers.

I have known about scotopic sensitivity for many years; I own "Reading by the Colors," a book by Helen Irlen, and happen to know individuals on the autism spectrum in real life who wear Irlen lenses. There is a color-keyed self test included in "Reading by the Colors," but the text is for advanced readers, and I had not introduced those colored pages to my daughter. We have not been able to get our daughter to wear glasses (she won't keep them on), so we have not pursued Irlen lenses for her. Additionally, I know that many individuals with autism cannot see words on the paper under certain lighting, and they relate how they are able to read more clearly when text is printed on colored paper. I knew about colored overlays, but did not know where to buy them, and so we'd never given them a try. I like the fact that I can choose appropriate text with the colored overlays so that we can experiment and find our best fit together.

Having a variety of frames and readers allows families to use them for different purposes. One shape is better for isolating a section or single problem on a page of math problems. Another shape is better for isolating one line of text. The full page overlay allows the reader to view (obviously) the entire page through the color of choice.

Heads Up! sent us information about the frames and how to use them, and I went about the task of experimenting with them to see which one or ones my daughter was drawn to. She likes the shades of blue and she rejects the others. And so, the blue frames and readers have become yet another piece of the puzzle for us at home. :)

If you have a reader who struggles some or all of the time, consider trying some of the colored overlays. They are priced at $1 each, inexpensive enough to order one of each color for some experimentation at home.

Heads Up! also sent us a product catalog -- I had NO IDEA that this little company is a one-stop web site for all sorts of unique products for students with attention and other learning challenges! A lot of the products are those that Melinda Boring, a speech therapist by education and training, used to support her children in their home school. Parent recommendations are in my top two of reliable resources as I continue to figure out what works with my daughter. (Individuals on the autism spectrum are the other part of my top two list.)

Heads Up!'s product catalog is filled with other gems, too, in the form of inspiration quotes that are scattered among the pages.

A few minutes on the web site shows me that the products in the catalog are all listed by category on the web site, and clicking through the different categories is pretty straightforward. The Borings have a nice selection of resources and products, from weighted stuffed animals to provide proprioceptive input to a wiggly student, to visual timers, to books, audio cds and videos by experts in the areas of ADD, ADHD, autism, and other challenges. Heads Up! has chewy products for kids who need that oral motor input of chewing on something; they sell cushions for sensory input while sitting; there are handwriting helps, too. Spend a few minutes on the web site! Shoppers can find Melinda Boring's blog and helpful articles via the web site, too.

I like new tools to help my learner at home, and the colored frames and readers have been a fun addition to our toolbox at home. I'm bookmarking the Heads Up! web site, and am eyeing one of the visual timers with some serious interest! ;) If you're looking for a new tool in your homeschooling toolbox, check out Heads Up!, because they probably have just the thing!

For reviews by my crew-mates about Heads Up! and other products, click here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Math Tutor DVD's: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I hated the parts of math and algebra that I struggled to understand in junior high school, high school and college. The classes that I took seemed to move faster than I could master the concepts, and I remember one college course where I learned to DO the work, but not as quickly as the professor expected me to, and my grades were low not because I could not do the work correctly, but because I could not complete his timed tests.

I have to wonder if I'd have done better during those years with a resource like Math Tutor DVDs. My children and I reviewed two videos, the eight-hour "Basic Math Word Problem Tutor" course and the six-hour "Algebra 2 Tutorrel=”nofollow”" course.

The videos are very straightforward, with Jason Gibson standing in front of a white board with a marker. He gives a brief introduction, he reads a problem, and he illustrates how to go about solving the problem using the marker and white board.

I see many uses for these videos! Parents might want to watch them to brush up or learn concepts as they are teaching their own children. Families, public and private schools might use them in place of expensive tutoring. I think that there are times when a parent needs to remove himself or herself from the equation of explaining math to a child. One of those times is when the child becomes so anxious or frustrated that the child shuts down to learning, moving from the thinking part of the brain and into fight-or-flight. Using a video like one of these removes the parent from the equation, and Gibson goes slowly through the concepts in a calm and confident voice, guiding the viewer through the concepts. Gibson's teaching is solid and thorough. (I do not like his counting on his fingers when he's adding in the word problems video.)

For now, I will not use these DVDs with my child who struggles with auditory processing. Gibson uses lots and lots of words, and his delivery, while excellent for those who have no processing delays, is too much for someone who has challenges in processing spoken language. Please check the Math DVD web site and view some of the samples if you're considering these for a child w/ language processing challenges so that you can make your own determination.

Video samples are available on the Math Tutor DVD web site. Topics available for purchase include basic math, word problems, algebra, geometry, trig and pre-cal, calculus, probability and physics, with more DVD's in the works.

All Math Tutor DVDs come with a money-back guarantee.

The Math Tutor DVD web site currently is advertising this LIMITED TIME FREE BONUS: Each new Math Tutor DVD customer receives 60 minutes of FREE live online tutoring available 24/7 through! A $35.00 Value! The company offers discounts for Facebook users, including a current promotion of a $10 off coupon; and they give away a set of videos a month in a drawing from a pool of folks who sign up here.

For reviews of these products from other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew, click here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bible Story Songs, A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I love music! I grew up in a church that gave priority to a Wednesday night music program for children, and I learned many Bible verses there, in song. Some of the fun, catchy tunes stick with me still today, and they pop up in my mind when I read the Bible verse that I first learned in song.

Bible Story Songs remind me of the music we sang on Wednesday nights at church when I was in elementary school. I want my children to love singing Bible songs like I did, and I like to find music that is contagious, like the songs we sang when I was a child.

I'm particular about music for my children, because I don't like to listen to stuff I don't like! (Makes perfect sense to me! *grin*) When my children went through a purple dinosaur phase, I thought I'd go nuts!

We reviewed "MOSES", and we have really enjoyed the fun, catchy tunes! The voices of the children singing in harmony is uplifting as the songs take the listeners through the story of Moses. The lyrics really do illustrate the Bible story in a fun way, and children don't realize they're learning as they begin to sing along!

From a mom who thought the purple dinosaur would drive her batty, this CD is easy on Mom's ears, a pleasure to hear! They're great in the car, at home, and they'd super in a church nursery, too! They would make a great gift for a friend or niece or nephew, as well!

Each CD is priced at $9.99. There are a variety of Old Testament and New Testament selections from which to choose. Check out the website for song books, sheet music, puzzle books, a song-a-day are available now, plus Bible Story Songs has blog coming soon!

For reviews from other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew, click here.

Banana Bread

This is Dad's aunt's recipe from a church cookbook, modified using gluten free, casein free, soy free ingredients. I made it this morning. It is still warm. It's quite good! My gfcfsf daughter has not tried it yet. She hates bananas now, for some reason, and I hoped I could get her to try some of this bread. I used palm shortening and this flour mix. I used two eggs instead of three, and next time, I will try it with egg replacer (we rotate eggs in the diet). I omitted the nuts. I might add some GFCFSF chocolate chips next time or a half cup of GF oats.

PS: She DID try some of the bread!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

# # #

12/05/09 update: Amy's version of this recipe is here:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another resource to share

Another Crew member shared yet another resource for parents of children with issues with processing information, and TA-DA, I'm passing it along to you:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Update - revisiting behaviors of the past and new resources to review

We've had a bumpy three weeks. My daughter was prescribed an antibiotic (for an abscessed tooth) that quickly caused diarrhea, and so she was given a second antibiotic within 24 hours. Her ability to self regulate deteriorated quickly, she broke out in a rash and hives, and she and I have been recovering from it for almost three weeks. I suspect we have a yeast problem at this point.

The stuff I observe from the outside, which I have always considered the "autism" has increased dramatically, and I've seen behaviors that I have not seen in a very long while. The longer I teach her at home, the more I am able to link allergic reactions to behaviors or illness to behaviors. The "autism", I believe, may not be "autism" at all.

Interestingly, I heard from a support-group friend whose son was given the same antibiotic as my daughter was given first, and my friend reports similar "regression", and the same set back in areas of self control and self regulation. She said that she had begun to wonder at times if her boy could be hallucinating. (Regression: I don't know what else to call it. I don't think it's a true regression, like we saw after a chicken pox vaccine when she was 12 months old, but it feels like more than one step backwards.) Watching your child go through this is extremely difficult.

Changing gears

In the meantime, the TOS Homeschool Crew is moving along, and in the past couple of weeks, I have received or been promised quite a few new products to use and review at home:

Heads Up! sent a variety of colored overlays, and those of you familiar w/ Irlen Lenses will know what these are. I read Melinda Boring's book about homeschooling several years ago. I had no idea she had so many items in her catalog.

Bonnie Terry's web site offers some products for students with special learning needs sent several items, including "Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills"; and both the student book and teacher's book to "Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills". Last year, I took a guided reading workshop for teachers (I'm a parent) and wished then I had more materials to support me as I home school, and as I look at these materials, I think I got my wish.

Artistic Pursuits sent Book One for Grades K-3, "An Introduction to the Visual Arts". (If you don't have an art curriculum, consider one. There are some incredible resources available!)

Spell Quizzer sent their cool software via e-mail. I have not figured out how to get my microphone to work with it yet, but we can type in the answers in the meantime.

We are beginning to use the DE (digital edition) of Year One, Unit One from Tapestry of Grace, a study of Moses. This curriculum is HUGE! I chose Y1U1 because my daughter enjoys learning about Egypt. I have a few books waiting for me at the library to go with this comprehensive and versatile study. I'm going to get some practice modifying curriculum for my child with autism on this one!

Amy Pak from Home School in the Woods sent us a couple of days ago, the newest download in their Hands-On History Activity-Pak series, "The New Testament." We have not used an activity pak yet--this will be new to us!

Maria Miller from Math Mammoth sent me downloads of first grade and multiplication workbooks. I've been looking over them--I LIKE THESE! I see pages that are going to be really helpful with my visual learner. (I have to put a new toner cartridge in my printer ASAP!)

We are listening to the lively "Moses" CD from Bible Story Songs!

We're playing with Noah's Ark from One2Believe!

I am expecting something from Apologia, watching not so patiently for the mail each day. ;) If you want to take a peek for why I'm crossing my fingers, some families have gotten this one.

I was told to expect something from Five in a Row, but I have either been overlooked on this one or my package is lost in the mail.

I have a very busy few weeks ahead of me!
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