Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Skating Lesson #6 this morning


I wish I had taken my video camera and taped today's entire lesson, so that I could have edited the footage in order to show you the SMILES on my girl's face when she CONQUERED a new skill. The expression on her face was priceless. She beamed!!! And I noticed that she was watching Coach to see if Coach caught it, too.

Blogging is one way for us to review each lesson, and sometimes to preview a concept or skill for the future. Sometimes, my princess does not like to watch herself on video. (Sometimes I don't like to watch MYself on video, either!) Blogging allows us to share moments with family and friends who live far away, too.

I'm including lots of video clips from today's session-- they are all really SHORT clips.

Working on maintaining control and balance is tough work:



Putting a lot of skills together. Coach says, first, watch me, then you do it:


Skating backwards. This one is especially for our RDI(r) PROGRAM CERTIFIED CONSULTANT (this clip captures one of our current objectives):


Watch her make a discovery or two as she skates backwards today (you may need a Kleenex for this one):


Learning to make Snowplow Stops

Coach is demonstrating the next skill to work on:


Lesson One, HERE; Lesson Two, HERE; Lesson Three, HERE; Lesson FOUR, HERE; and Lesson FIVE, HERE.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thou shalt not...

This sign outside a church across town always cracks me up (I didn't have my still camera with me, so yes, this is a doofus VIDEO of a sign that is not moving *giggle*):


Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Power of Words

Please watch this video.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Skating lesson #5

Episodic Memory and Resilience
Skating backwards, foundations of stopping, swizzles

"Our" last lesson, three days ago, was the first time my princess was frustrated on the ice. In "our" last lesson (lesson #4) the tasks became more physically challenging, and they weren't as much fun as previous tasks. The lessons focused on foundations of much bigger skills, foundations that need to be experienced and mastered to a certain extent before moving forward.

Combine those challenges with knowing where your body parts are without looking at them (for example, the tushie shaking that has to happen for moving backwards right now) and listening for the right kind of noise when you are scraping your blade across the ice, holding your balance, etc etc etc, when you REALLY just want to do it all NOW...

and you get a frustrated little girl.

These lessons are a journey for her. She's got some discoveries to make about herself and about skating.

She's doing quite well. Learning to recognize that in herself is a lesson she's beginning to learn. She protests, sometimes very loudly, before she realizes a) she's doing exactly what she was asked to do and b) it wasn't that difficult for her. But, her episodic memory, her personal meaning memory has lots of negatives for her to shut off in order to SEE the POSITIVES of NOW and apply that success toward resilience in the face of a new challenge and rewriting positive episodic memories over the negative ones.

I saw a glimpse of resilence today! :)

And, just in case you're wondering, YES, I took pictures and video today:

Waiting to go on the ice this afternoon.
She has pretty pink guards on her blades. :)
There were other skaters there to watch.
This rink is performing "Little Mermaid on Ice" in April.
Some of the performers were rehearsing.
In the beginning, she was coached to "march"in order to move forward on the ice. Now, Coach says she is pushing on her own:


This particular part of the lesson is the part that left her frustrated and protesting, Tuesday. Look at her today:


She worked incredibly hard today!

Working on the foundations of stopping
while at the boards
the skates make a "SHHHH!" sound

And there are TWO stars past the snowmen. My princess skated backwards all the way to the second star TWICE, and practiced swizzles (V's and A's) on the snowmen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lemon Chicken (looks like fish, but it's not)

Lemon Chicken
I saw this recipe in the newspaper, and I thought it would be simple to convert to gluten free. (Printer friendly version here.) And a similar, but different version, here. This particular recipe was Adapted from "Classic Chinese Recipes" by Carol Bowen (Parragon, $14.99).

No gluten, no casein, no soy.

I think I might need a deep fryer.

Lesson 4, this morning, beginning to skate backwards

This morning's lesson seemed like more of a challenge to my princess, and she was frustrated with it. She was very capable of accomplishing everything that was asked of her during the lesson, but she seemed tired, frustrated. Of course, I'm trying to figure out the source of her frustration, and I can think of a few reasons.

Maybe lessons two days in a row is too much too soon?

Sometimes frustration is an early sign of a virus, and with the runny nose she has today, I suspect she may be coming down with something. Maybe she has an ear ache that she can't identify, or a sore throat. Sometimes, she doesn't recognize an ear ache or sore throat until the pain is really strong.

Learning how to skate backwards:


A part of today's lesson involved working on the fundamentals that are necessary to skate backwards. (My princess was frustated w/ more than just this particular part of today's lesson, though.) Moving backwards has always been frustrating for my princess. Occupational therapists have worked with her on walking backwards on the ground or walking backwards on a balance beam, and that particular task has always been frustrating. A friend of mine who is an occupational therapist told me that one step backwards for some children feels like they're backing into the Grand Canyon. That feels scary to them.

Here's something I learned from the late Judith Bluestone, founder of the HANDLE Program:

Children with a poor sense of where they are in space, a poor sense of propriception, often use their vision to compensate. They let their eyes tell them where they are in space. The majority of us use several systems in combination with one another to tell us where we are in space, but individuals with autism often over-rely on their EYES to give them information that should also becoming from propriception, vestibular and hearing. Thinking about that makes me understand why my daughter may be frustrated with learning to skate backwards, when she can't use her eyes to tell her where she's going.

I want her to recognize the super job she did today, despite the source of her frustration.

Another sign of spring

There are tiny leaf buds on the tree outside my bedroom window this morning.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Skating Lesson #3, "A's" and "V's" and more

Making "A"s with her toes kissing

Making "V's" with heels together
"A's", toes kissing

Snowmen help with practicing "A's" and "V's"

And some video, for your viewing pleasure *wink*

a lesson for beginning skating backwards


President Obama and Special Olympics

President Obama went on "Leno" last week, and compared his own poor bowling score to individuals who participate in Special Olympics. Media reports indicate that the president made a quick apology soon after the taping of the show to Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics. Shriver graciously accepted the apology, but added, "words do hurt". I would like to add, words like that provide evidence of attitudes that need adjusting.

The chitchat on the internet is interesting. One "camp" is outraged. Another says forgive him and move on. Folks spoke up as being offended are being told to get over it by Obama supporters. I've seen it referred to as "un-PC". I've seen fingers pointed across party lines, folks with liberal leanings pointing fingers at more conservative folks, implying that politics are getting in the way of the conservative folks' ability to be fair in this situation.

A lot of people are missing the point. There's an insidious and real message behind WHY he chose to compare himself with individuals who represent Special Olympics, and the time is NOW for every single one of us to examine our own beliefs and perceptions and make changes if we need to. This is an attitude that should not be excused, period.

Here's what's wrong with what President Obama said: He used a population that society silently yet obviously marginalizes in order to jokingly marginalize himself about his bowling score. He made himself the butt of a joke by comparing himself to a group of people that society considers less-than.

That's no secret just because it is not discussed aloud.

Check out Wikipedia's definition of self depreciating humor: "Self-deprecating humor is humor which relies on the observation of something negative about the person delivering it."

It's the unspoken assumption that that needs to be acknowledged and changed, the assumption that individuals who participate in an organization like Special Olympics are "less than", that something about them is a "negative".

The issue of marginalizing individuals with developmental delays, disabilities, mental challenges is not new. But it is wrong, as wrong as the way African Americans were marginalized in the United States in the past.

There's irony in the fact that the words came from the first African American president. There's irony in the perception that he's our most progressive president.

Letting slide President Obama's slip of the tongue gives us all a free pass to justify thinking of some individuals as "other" or "less than".

His slip of the tongue is an AWARENESS OPPORTUNITY! Now is the time for ADVOCACY!

My daughter, who happens to have autism, and has an opportunity to participate in Special Olympics in the fall, is NOT less than. She's not a negative, and neither is any other human being.

Thank you, Kathie Snow and Disability is Natural, for being the catalyst to begin to change my thinking. I still have some work to do on myself, and I see that there is a lot of work left to do on attitudes, in general.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More reflections on the "radar" of parent of children w/ developmental delays

"Out of rational fear, many of us tell the child (usually nonverbally) I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU NO MATTER WHAT. And it can be just that unnecessary 'taking care' that keeps the child in a learned helplessness, or as I prefer, a LAZY mode of operating."

"Think of your job now as catching yourself when you are about to do for your child when he needs to do for himself... "

--Dr. James D. MacDonald from Communicating Partners

We spent over three years working with our daughter from a strict behavioral perspective, demanding behavioral compliance from her, and teaching her many words and concepts. After all of that heavy-hitting early intervention, I still needed to use my radar for things that I shouldn't have. None of that early intervention translated to success in an age-appropriate kindergarten classroom or at Sunday School or birthday parties or grocery shopping.

We completely MISSED non-verbal, pre-speech foundations of communication with this behavioral approach. We missed the things infants and babies experience, like reciprocity, emotion sharing, referencing faces for meaning. Interaction begins NON-verbally, and through all of our early intervention efforts, we missed that.

A switch to a developmental approach was quite a shift for us, for me.

Almost five years ago, we chose RDI(r). RDI(r) was the only developmental program out there for a child my age, I THOUGHT. (I was so wrong! Now, I know that there are others. Communicating Partners is one. Floortime is for younger children, and Son Rise, Gentle Teaching, and Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment all come from that developmental perspective.)

Overdeveloped "Mommy Radar" is necessary, but left unchecked, can create learned helplessness and passivity, a "lazy mode of operating" in a child. One of the things that Dr Gutstein from RDI(r) helped me recognize when we began is the fact that many children with delays in communication and interaction are very passive. He taught me that my daughter needs to physically feel herself taking an action, reaching, stretching, gathering her own information. NON-verbally. WITH me. Combining active participation and interdependence.

Here's an example: Before I began learning about a developmental approach, I would dress my daughter without her help. I could put a coat on a limp child in no time, sliding her coat sleeves up her arms, zipping the coat in a flash. I'd be working with her on some behavioral program while I was dressing her, asking her to show me an action or touch a body part. At meal time, I'd place her food in front of her while working on another verbal, stimulus/response-type q & a from our behavioral program.

I gave her the experience, "Getting ready means Mom dresses me. I don't have to do anything. It's all her job. I don't even need to pay attention to events happening around me. Mom will prompt me for anything I need to know, including when it's time to leave, time to eat. Instead, Mommy and other adults will ask me lots of questions and I have to give the right answer."

Dr. MacDonald from Communicating Partners and Play to Talk delivers a similar message using a different word picture. I love Dr. MacDonald's phrase about putting a child in a lazy mode of operating -- that's an accurate description of what we did, accidentally, while we were working on other skills in early intervention, with hearts of gold and good intentions. I've always thought of it as mindlessness (because RDI(r) reminds parents to be "mindful"). I do like that word picture: putting a child in a lazy mode of operating when we do not allow the child to do the things he can do for himself.

We also gave her the really bizarre experience that communication is about our asking her questions and her responding with the one correct answer. (Can you imagine the anxiety you'd have if the only communication you were only allowed is to answer questions with one right answer?)

So, not only was she not feeling herself taking an action, but she was also experiencing communication very differently from the rest of us.

I listened to Dr Gutstein's words (she needs to feel herself taking an action with me) and wondered how I'd begin to create opportunities for active participation with a child who was not interested? The only way I could interact with her was to engage in one of the stimulus/reward situations that we'd both memorized and practiced over and over. If I didn't prompt her verbally in some way, she simply ignored me, shut me out.

After I made the switch away from a behavioral approach, I began using myself differently. Silently, I'd hold her coat open, wait for her to take her own action and notice, and then I'd wait for her to insert her own arm into a sleeve, and wait for her to insert her other arm. I might start the zipper, get it on track, and wait for her to notice that it wasn't zipped all the way, and allow her time to notice and zip it. Slowing down and being quiet were required of me to make these opportunities happen.

And at snack time, I learned to hold a gfcf cookie or banana toward her and wait for her to notice, and reach her own arm out and accept it, and to avoid the temptation to use it as a reward in order to get her to touch her nose or name the fruit or some other verbal, behavioral task. Accepting a treat as a reward for responding to a stimulus had not given her the sense of being an active participant. I had to learn and recognize that non-verbal reciprocity, these silent interactions, were necessary foundations of communication that we had missed and needed to go back and get. (I changed my focus to non-verbal precursors and foundations to communication, giving her experience as --to borrow from Dr MacDonald-- a "communicating partner", and shift from a focus on "verbal behavior".) I needed to recognize ways in which I had been doing both parts of the interaction, hers and mine, and begin to give her responsibility for her part and the time she needed to accomplish it.

I began to learn, as Dr MacDonald says "to catch myself when I am about to do for my child when she needs to do for herself." And that involves allowing her to reach for herself, shift her own head, eyes, attention (without my prompting), which means I must slow down in order to give her the processing time and space she needs to become active with me, not passive or "lazy".

For children with delays in communication, those "catch yourself" times include times when the child needs to shift his own gaze and his own attention, insert his own arm into his own coat, or his foot into his sock and shoe, accept his own plate, fork, spoon, cup as you are setting the table, carry his side of a bag of groceries with us, and more.

And, the more I think about it, the more I look at how I am with all of my children. It's not just about kids w/ developmental delays! I think I need to cross stitch Dr. MacDonald's words or print them onto a poster for my wall, because I still recognize that I "do" for all of my children when they need to be "doing" for themselves. And they hate it when I make a new discovery and begin to hand over to them the responsibility that should be theirs. I realized in the last few weeks that I have one child who ASKS me for reminders. That child's experience is, "I don't have to remember because Mom will remember for me."

We are all works in progress, some of us (me) have more work than others. The more I learn about myself, the more work I seem to have to do. :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mommy Radar and Learned Helplessness

We parents of children with developmental delays like autism (not limited to autism, though) realize intuitively, very early, that our kids aren't able to share attention with us, and, as an unintentional result, we parents over-develop a kind of "radar" that has us thinking one step, five steps, ten steps ahead of our children. *grin* You know what I'm talkin' about -- the way we can scan a strange room on a first visit, or a park or playground, the way we look for exits, objects that could be mouthed, articles that could be broken, it's like the stuff we do with typical toddlers, except it's on overdrive (maybe even on steroids!) and it lasts waaaaaaaaaaay past toddlerhood!

Those parents don't get to relax, because anywhere they go with that child, that radar must always be working due to the child's underdeveloped joint attention.

That radar becomes a necessity, because if we're not a few steps ahead of them, POOF, they can be gone out a hole in the fence at the playground in a flash! Or they can pick up a glass "pretty" at someone's house and demolish it faster than we can blink! Or eat something they shouldn't.

So, this radar overdevelops, and we don't turn it off at home -- we quit being aware of it and it becomes our way of being with our kid. We get so good at it, that a GREAT DEAL OF THE TIME, we can intuitively read that child's communication SO WELL, that we reinforce learned helplessness in them.

Sound familiar? The child's experience is this one: I don't have to communicate my needs, because Mom watches me with her radar and does that for me, even when we're at home and in familiar territory.

And then all h-e-double-hockey-sticks breaks loose on the rare occasions when Mom's radar FAILS and the result is that we set off an incredible tantrum or meltdown, (the HANDLE approach calls 'em "flare ups").

The "radar" works because we, the parent, assume responsibility for the child, too. I can remember hanging on to my daughter's wrist to keep her near me, or she would bolt while we were running errands. But, I'd wind up overcompensating in places where I could have chosen differently, like at home. You know what I'm talking about: We do OUR part of the interaction, and the CHILD's part, too.

Holding BOTH sides of the responsibility ALL THE TIME is a heavy weight.

Here's something I learned, and I am still learning: If you want to shift the responsibility to your child of communicating her own needs, you need to change yourself, change what you are reinforcing with your "radar".

Are any of these your child? (they were mine, ironically after more than 3 years of early intervention and ABA)

"I don't have to shift my own attention because someone always does that for me by calling my name or using some other prompt"


"I don't have to show Mom what I want because she always knows what's in my mind. I don't have to know what's in hers."


"I don't have to watch for clues around me that a transition is about to happen, because someone will do that for me with prompts and reminders and compensations."

I posted my realization on a Yahoo group where Dr. James MacDonald of Communicating Partners joins parents as we learn how to use ourselves differently with our children, and his response to my post was helpful to me as I continue to think about how to use my "radar". He generously gave me permission to use his words, here. Here are some brilliant highlights from Dr. MacDonald.:

"The dilemma we all have is that we need to predict and protect our children but at the same time give them time and expect more of them.

It is difficult but critical to know the difference.

Let's try to develop in our selves some kind of wisdom or intuition that tells us DANGER or NO DANGER so we can stop and protect when we need to, but also, so we can let the child be himself and respond when we can.

So let's get in the habit of asking ourselves--DANGER OR NO DANGER?

When it is NO DANGER, let your child be free and then respond and make it interactive.

Out of rational fear, many of us tell the child (usually nonverbally) I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU NO MATTER WHAT. And it can be just that unnecessary 'taking care' that keeps the child in a learned helplessness,or as I prefer, a LAZY mode of operating. So let's get into a habit of knowing quickly when to PROTECT--and when to MOVE ON. Think of your job now as catching yourself when you are about to do for your child when he needs to do for himself...

Remember our job is to prepare our children for relationships with people who will not CARE as much as we do.

Carolyn was right=== put on a stranger hat and act like a stranger would by not doing for the children what he can do for himself. You will find that most of the time you and your child can move on and only rarely do you really need him to protect."

The highlighted text are the parts that stuck out for me as I continue to figure out how best to use my "radar" to help my child to interact and communicate.

Charlotte Mason wrote extensively about habit formation -- Dr. MacDonald's words about a "lazy mode of operating," remind me of Mason's words about the importance that children develop a "habit of attention", which prompt me to dig up some Charlotte Mason materials in order to study her words more closely. Here's one link, if you are interested, too.

Thanks, Dr. MacDonald, for allowing me to share your words.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ice Skating Lesson #2, this afternoon (help, I'm blogging, and I can't stop!)

When Tuesday's lesson ended, my princess was taking four marching steps in a row. Today, when she and Coach got on the ice, Coach asked her to try TEN marching steps in a row:


Coach is teaching my princess to dip.


And this new move scared me a LOT, but my princess is BRAVE!

Watch her jump a tiny jump:


Communicating Partners

I spotted a book review HERE by a mom of a child with challenges in the area of communication, not unlike what families experience when a child has autism.

Sounds like an incredibly helpful book. I may have to order a copy.

I can hear the french horn!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another update...a PS on another review

Homeschool in the Woods
Original post is available

PS: Yesterday, my daughter picked up the New Testament Activity I'd printed and assembled at least three weeks ago, called, "The Parables of Jesus" today and showed interest in it for the first time! :) Assembled, it's a book that is sized for the hands of children, with a parable on one side of the page, and a blank page on the other, where we are to illustrate the parable on the blank page. We'll take our time, work through it as my daughter continues to show interest.

My hint for the day for parents of children who are resistant because they've been through too much forced WORK disguised as arts and crafts in early intervention is to print activities and, where applicable, complete the assembly, and just leave them in places that are accessible to your children. Allowing your children to SEE the activity and know you're not going to force them to "work" gives them some space to develop comfort with it, space to develop curiosity and interest. When the child's curiosity is driving the activity, the task is no longer "work", and there's room for learning to happen!

UPDATE: How To Improve Reading Skills With A Non-Verbal Autistic Student

Last week, I reviewed two products from Bonnie Terry. One of them is "Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills". Because I know so many families who have a child on the autism spectrum who is non-speaking (the term often used is "non-verbal"), I wondered how this particular product could be modified for a child who is not able to speak.

Here's the link to my original review.

And Bonnie Terry's quick reply to my question is HERE in a blog entry of her own called "How to Improve Reading Skills with a Non-verbal Autistic Student".

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SAUSAGE: Gluten free, Casein Free, Soy Free, Egg Free

Here's a recipe that I made yesterday that fits a lot of different diets, thought I'd snap a photo and share the recipe, so here goes:

Home Style Country Sausage
Collector's Issue, "Light and Tasty" magazine, page 7

1 medium tart apple, peeled and shredded
½ cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pound lean ground turkey

In a bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients; mix well. Crumble turkey over mixture and mix well. Shape into eight ½ inch thick patties. In a large nonstick skillet coated w/ nonstick cooking spray, cook patties for 4-6 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

One patty equals 111 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 45 mg cholesterol, 348 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 10 g protein.


A similar recipe (but different) is located here

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First Ice Skating Lesson

Coach S helped A get into her skates.

Standing for the first time

They are NOT praying.
Learning to stand up is the first lesson.
She learned in the dressing room, not on the ice.

First, put one knee up...

Coach S sat A on the edge of the ice to begin.

And they practiced how to stand up, first.

Standing for the first time on the ice!!!

Learning to MARCH on ice in skates.

Holding on while MARCHING.
A marched on the ice by herself!

More marching

My favorite picture--this one captures the lesson! :) SHE ASKED IF SHE COULD LEARN A FIGURE 8 TODAY!

The "walker" came out to help A march for more steps in a row

Now, without the walker and the lesson is almost over

27 seconds of video from the first lesson

A first

Ever since Disney on Ice a few weeks ago, my homeschooled daughter has been begging for ice skating lessons. First ice skating lesson is later this morning! A friend gave us (GAVE us!) skates. We had the blades sharpened, bought new blade covers and new shoe strings, we found her bicycle helmet, and we're good to go! :)


Monday, March 16, 2009

Homeschool In The Woods New Testament Activity Pak: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Okay, I'll just say it: I did not know what a "lapbook" is. I quickly learned that a lapbook is a way to display a collection of related and creative activities (a unit study, perhaps) in one place, on a poster board or folder. There's a scrapbook feeling about them, although they're not really scrapbooks. And I learned that lapbooks can be dreamed up as you go along, a kind of "winging it", or you can find them already designed and developed for you. Homeschool in the Woods products "ready made" activity-paks for families to use at home. We reviewed the brand new New Testament Activity Pak, as a download ($18.95) from the "Hands on History" selection of unit studies. This product is also available for purchase on CD ($19.95).

Homeschool In The Woods explains in the introduction of the downloadable lapbooking project, the New Testament Activity Pak that, "We believe that the best way for a child to cement the lessons he or she has learned is through hands-on activities and projects! The more that a child has contact with the subject, whether visually, orally, audibly, or kinesthetically, the more of a chance the material has of staying put where it belongs... in the child’s mind!"

THERE'S SO MUCH GREAT STUFF IN HERE!!!!! I was so excited as I began going through the activities!

The New Testament Activity Pak includes projects that illustrate

1. The Lineage from David to Jesus
2. Triptych of the Birth of Jesus Christ
3. Miracles of Jesus
4. The Beatitudes Pie Book
5. Fruit of the Spirit
6. The Parables of Jesus
7. The Last Supper
8. The Crucifixion
9. The Ascension
10. Pentecost
11. The Resurrection
12. Prophesies Fulfilled
13. The Twelve Disciples
14. Paul’s Missionary Journeys
15. Postcards from Paul
16. “The New Testament News”
17. The Armor of God

There is a supply list provided at the beginning of each activity, so Mom or Dad knows what to gather before you begin. You'll need items you probably already have around the house: plain paper, colored paper (if you choose), card stock (optional, but preferred, in my opinion, for some activities), markers, crayons, glue sticks, pens or pencils, tape, ribbon, scissors (an adult needs to cut out some of the activities) and some you may have to buy, for example, the wooden dowels for the scroll in "The New Testament News" activity. I like the fact that Homeschool in the Woods includes a file that shows you what the finished product looks like.

The content is fabulous--there's a lot of "meat" that children (and parents) can bite into here! The attention to detail is impressive! This activity-pak is really beautiful!

Every time I print a section for us to try at home, my daughter balks. :( The balking has nothing to do with the activity-pak. Let me explain: My daughter began early intervention at the age of 19 months, and quite honestly, she's done more arts and crafts than most children her age, because occupational therapists and speech therapists and teachers and tutors have used arts and crafts to give her work on fine motor skills like holding a pencil and cutting. From a very early age, she didn't get to ENJOY arts and crafts -- they were her "work".

As we work to undo some of that perspective for her, I don't *make* her do an activity like this one if she reacts with great resistance. I want her to see the activity and imagine the fun she'll have with it, and join me enthusiastically, not, in her mind as a "chore" or "have to". I have to admit, I want her to want to be interested in a big project like this one, but for *now*, she's not. She sees too many words. She sees "work" in the pages to be colored, and in the drawings she must do, and the words she must write. She has some new discoveries to make about herself and about learning before we tackle together a project as thorough as this one. I soooooooo look forward to the day when I bring out the materials and she jumps into it with anticipation and excitement! One of these days, she WILL, and when that day comes, I will rejoice! :) (In the meantime, I am still trying to let go of the regret of a lot of the "therapy" we did in the name of "early intervention".)

In the meantime, I have the files containing the New Testament Activity Pak on a memory stick, not taking up any space on my bookshelves, waiting for the time when we WILL use it.

Be sure to check out the Homeschool in the Woods web site to see all the wonderful products (including some FREE UNIT STUDIES) that they offer, and be sure to sign up for the monthly newsletter that contains free teaching tips.

Please check out the reviews of my Crewmates, here.

A March 18, 2009 PS: My daughter picked up the New Testament Activity I'd assembled called, "The Parables of Jesus" today and showed interest in it for the first time! :) Assembled, it's a book that is sized for the hands of children, with a parable on one side of the page, and a blank page on the other, where we are to illustrate the parable on the blank page. We'll take our time, work through it as my daughter continues to show interest. My hint for the day for parents of children who are resistant because they've been through too much early intervention is to print activities and, where applicable, complete the assembly, and just leave them in places that are accessible to your children. Allowing your children to SEE the activity and know you're not going to force them to "work" gives them some space to develop comfort with it, space to develop curiosity and interest. When the child's curiosity is driving the activity, the task is no longer "work".

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kirsten's Journey

Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008
with my eldest
I got a reminder today that there are challenges in the world that are not related to autism.

When we returned to this state in the midwest from southern California almost thirteen years ago, we found a new church home. Little did we know that we were watching a future Miss America grow up. We don't really know her family well (we tend to know better the families who have children close in age to ours), but we watched Kirsten and her equally talented brother Lars, and their parents, lead us in worship at many services, either in choir, at the piano, with the guitar, in a solo, and I remember Kirsten, once, dancing. They're all amazingly talented and they all love the Lord!

To say our congregation was thrilled when Kirsten was crowned Miss America in January of 2008 would be putting it mildly. She is the youngest Miss America in history.

She chose an intensely personal platform: eating disorders. I have a sweet friend who lost a daughter to an eating disorder in 2008. I know that they can be deadly. The subject is serious. It is real. It needs to be talked about.

Many of us followed her journey via regular e-mails from the Miss America organization, and many of us committed to pray her through her reign. She traveled 20,000 miles a month, and she worked hard! Her face and smile beamed today when she talked about being able to serve so many people during that year, meeting folks around the country, offering encouragement and reaching out, touching people in ways she'd have not been able to do had she not been Miss America.

Now, Kirsten has crowned a new Miss America, and she's resuming her life. She's getting prepared to use some of that scholarship money she won in the only three pageants she ever entered (obviously, she won every one of them), she's pursuing her dream near Hollywood, and she's kicked off the The Kirsten Haglund Foundation, with a message to young girls: "Love Your Body, Rock the World".

This weekend, Kirsten shared her journey with folks in our community, with two events open to the public and one, today, for our church family. She is real and authentic, and her message needs to be heard. Giving our girls the message that they don't have to be thin, or fit someone else's definition of "beauty" is an incredibly important one. And her journey to making that discovery for herself is one she's happy to share as she encourages young women though her story.

One fact that was brought up during the Q &A is the fact that Michigan is one of only EIGHT states that does NOT have mental health parity provisions that require insurance coverage services and treatments for individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder. (An aside: individuals diagnosed with autism are treated similarly) Haglund mentioned that a bill requiring mental health parity dropped this past week and she encouraged us to call our state legistlators to encourage them to support it.

She recommended a book that helped as she was developing a new self image: "Captivating, Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul" by John and Staci Eldridge.

The story of Kirsten's journey is fascinating, and her servant's heart is humbling. We'll be watching and anticipating more exciting events to unfold for her as she seeks God's will for her life and His direction for her next steps.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Incredible Edible Cell

This blog entry comes from a GUEST from my famiy! :) My cousin posted this on our family blog, and the idea is SO fabulous, I asked for her permission to share it here with you, and she graciously said "yes".

We may try a GFCFSF++ version of the "incredible edible cell". I thought you might want to try it, too--it's a GREAT project:

Two nights ago, H. and I spent the evening completing a project for his science class called "The Incredible Edible Cell". He had to bring in a baked good created to look like a cell (in his case, an animal cell) complete with little "flag" labels made out of toothpicks. We decided to make a big sugar cookie, and add icing, candy pieces, and sprinkles. He had to include things like mitochondria, the nucleus, ribosomes, endoplasmic recticulum, and lysosomes. Here is a photo of the finished project! (They ate their projects at lunch that day after being graded.)

Here's H. with the cell cookie before putting in the toothpick signs

H. decorating the cookie

Bonnie Terry Learning: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

After attending a workshop last year on the topic of guided reading for lower elementary school levels, I am aware that there are approaches to work on reading, comprehension, fluency. The workshop I attended was aimed at public school teachers. I am a homeschooling parent, and did not have access to the resources the schools have. What was I going to use at home? I had nooooooooooooooooooo idea.

Enter Bonnie Terry, M.Ed., a special education teacher and a Board Certified Educational Therapist in private practice. To use and review at home, our family received products that address reading skills and study skills.

"Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills, A Fast, Fun Approach to Improve Writing and Study Skills," ($37.00) is packed with information and tools for students working in the 3rd-12th grades. It reminds me of the journalism stylebook I learned to use in college. We are not working at a 3rd grade level in some areas, so we have not been able to use the entire book, and I am looking forward to utilizing it. Terry "gets" the fact that adding the visual component between teachers and students is important, and she's created an incredibly useful tool in adding the visual component to studying and writing.

Terry includes a "read this first" information sheet to help the teacher begin, spotlighting which pages to photocopy, offering some tips that I'd define as "quick-start". The book is divided into four parts. In Part I, Terry dedicates a few pages to helping a student get started by discussing how to choose a place, what supplies to have on hand for 3rd-6th graders and for 7th-12th graders, and by providing calendar templates for scheduling your study times. Purchasers have a limited reproduction permission, up to 50 copies per year of any part of the book for use with his or her students only.

In Part II, Terry provides visual "organizational forms that can be used from third grade through high school level. The forms start with basic story organizers and end with essay organizers and business letter writing."

Part III gives readers study and writing tips and Part IV is an easy reference section that students will reach for again and again. The easy reference section includes common spelling patterns in the English language, rules for capitalization and punctuation, parts of speech, helping verbs, how to sections on bibliographies and works cited.

In "Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, A Fast, Fun, Phonic Approach to Improve Reading Skills," Terry provides a student book ($32.00) and a teachers manual ($37.00) that can be purchased individually or together as a package for $60.00. She also included a write and wipe plastic sheet protector and a marking pen to go with the teacher's book. The drills are intended for students 1st grade and up. And again, Terry provides "READ THIS FIRST" set of "quick start" tips that were very useful to me.

I know that shorter lessons are better for my daughter, and still, I have trouble knowing how much is enough, how much is too much, how much is too little. I LOVE resources that are already divided into SHORT lessons that have "enough" defined for me. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE! :)

Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills contains 45 drills. Terry recommends a minimum of two lessons a week, although you may use them daily.

The teacher's book contains all of the "how-to" information, the progress charts, and the drills are numbered here. The student book contains just the drills, and the drills have no numbers along the sides of the pages, and Terry explains in the teacher's book that the "numbering tends to stress" students out.

The program is simple: start at the beginning with the first drill, work for mastery, and move on to the next lesson. The book is arranged so that there is one drill per page, one page per day, and the student reads aloud the words in rows from left to right, with an oral pre-read followed by an oral timed read. (I am not sure how to modify this for non-speaking children.)
3/18/09 UPDATE: I know many families who have non-speaking children on the autism spectrum, and some read my blog, so I contacted Bonnie Terry via e-mail and asked her how to use this product w/ a non-speaking child. She devoted a blog entry to the answer: http://www.bonnieterry.com/blog/?p=284

As I use this with my daughter (she has an autism diagnosis), I realize what issues challenge her. The drills have been good practice for us as I look for ways to give her experience and practice watching ending consonants. I like the developmental progression that Terry utilizes, working on a single middle vowel sound (same), but changing the consonants around them (different); then she introduces a new middle vowel sound; and the next lesson, she reviews both of those vowel sounds. The student must pay attention to work through the rows of words with accuracy and increasing speed.

We use a piece of paper or a plastic "reader" to block out all but the one line of words that we are reading.

When we get to the end of the page, we are done for the day! "Enough" is very clear for both of us! :)

Extra expenses are minimal, including the legal photocopies you make from either book (calendars, charts, forms) and the cost of a timer if you don't have a stopwatch or timer.

If you're looking for a study tool and reference guide all-in-one, I recommend this one. And for those of you working with struggling readers, consider Terry's products.

A great resource is the Bonnie Terry blog.

My Crewmates' reviews of these and other Bonnie Terry products (including the areas of math, spelling, and a sentence game) are located here.

UPDATE: VIDEO OF A FIVE MINUTE TO BETTER READING SESSION HERE: http://www.bonnieterry.com/blog/?p=461

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