Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick-or-Treating and Signs of Progress

Sometimes, an event gives me a glimpse into the progress our family is making. Halloween is one of those events. My princess who is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder has not always anticipated and enjoyed the candy holiday. Today, she was so excited that she set up trick-or-treating stations in the house and pretended. I love that! And she, like the sibs, didn't want to be late to begin when the trick-or-treating hour arrived.

Tonight, I marvelled at how she moved in tandem with her siblings now, co-regulating and coordinating with them without consciously thinking about it. Each house was a little different -- sometimes the homeowner talked to them, sometimes not. I saw flexibility and engagement with the night that a child does not get from rote memorization. She no longer thinks this candy holiday is about performing a memorized routine so that she can be "all done". She no longer bolts ahead of us (which required a helper to tag along and help us hold on to her in past nights). She is as enthralled about the fun night as any other kid.

She was the unofficial coordinator of the evening, counting to three at several houses so she and her siblings could yell "Trick-or-Treat!" together. She was engaged in the night and the people -- I enjoyed watching her as she looked with interest at what she was given as it went into her bag and told the candy-giver an enthusiastic, "thank you!" each time.

She referenced her dad and me and her sibs, too, as we navigated the houses, some of them dark, not participating in our neighborhood fun.

Her brother is coming down with something, and I tried to talk him into heading home after just one street. His sister offered some creative problem solving, telling him that he and I could return home and pass out candy while he rested and Dad could stay out with the girls. ;) She was nowhere NEAR ready to be "done" after just one street! And she came in and dumped her candy like her sibs do -- thank goodness she understands that she can't eat most of it, and she's happy with the candy that she can have on her special diet. (Our sweet next door neighbors gave the kids a halloween cup and a pack of pencils -- the non-food items are really special for a child with allergies!)
Hope your bunch got lots of candy tonight!
PS: I suppose we'll be hearing Christmas music next week -- one of our local radio stations usually begins playing holiday music full time after halloween.

When you stumble,

My friend, Karen, posted this as her facebook status. I don't know it's origin. She saw it on a bracelet for sale. It's good enough to share:

"When you stumble,

make it part of the dance."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Virginia Soaps and Scents / a TOS Crew Review

I have a confession. I tore into my package of soap from Virginia Soaps and Scents and used them up long before I remembered to take a picture of them for the review in my blog.

Virginia Soaps and Scents sent Crew members (free) a three-pack soap sampler, a shampoo bar sample, and a sample-sized laundry kit.

I became a Virginia Soaps and Scents customer in the spring, when I first learned about them, long before my opportunity to review their products for the Crew. I ordered two shampoo bars, one scented and one unscented, after asking VSS all the questions that I needed to ask about ingredients in regards to the allergies we have in our family.

I can tell you that as a customer, Virginia Soaps and Scents offers top notch customer service. Richelle from VSS answered my questions via e-mail quickly and thoroughly, giving me the information and confidence I needed in order to purchase.

Finding natural products to use on our skin is important to me. I look for natural scents and avoid chemicals when possible, especially in soaps and lotions.

I LOVE THE SOAP FROM VIRGINIA SOAPS AND SCENTS! There. I said it. :) The web site give shoppers a description of the difference between soap and bars of detergent here.

Three of the bars took me back to childhood with their scents. The ginger lime shampoo bar and orange soap smelled reminded me of hard candy (the round kind w/ a hole in the middle) that we often had when I was little. No one but me knew that I had to sniff it several times while I was bathing with it. It smells absolutely delicious! My favorite scent, though, is the oatmeal, milk and honey -- I can't describe it, exactly, but it was comforting and luxurious all at the same time.

As soon as the box of samples arrived, I e-mailed VSS to clarify information about ingredients. When you live with allergies, companies can change formulations and ingredients, and we spend a lot of time checking and double checking ingredients. Richelle was again speedy and thorough, and the only soap that I deliberately kept away from my gluten free girl was the soap that contains oatmeal. That same soap has "milk" in the name, but Richelle told me that contains a fragrance oil by that name and not cow's milk.

Perfumes, candles, diffusers and the like give me a headache. I've asked my daughter's autism tutors and other professionals to refrain from wearing scented products around us because it bothers me so. The samples and full size *scented* products I've used from Virginia Soaps and Scents did not provoke a headache or break out my skin. (!!!!!!)

The shampoo bar was created by VSS for a group of civil war re-enactors. The story behind it's development is here. The shampoo bar is different. I am accustomed to a liquid, and that was my husband's comment, too. Taking a square bar and rubbing it on wet hair is just, well, different. (I know. I already used "different".) My hair is extremely thick and dry. (I've been told many times by the wonderful women who have cut my hair over the years that I have enough hair for three people.) It's heavy. And it's graying. The shampoo bar makes a nice rich sudsy lather on my hair, and when I rinse it, it squeaks. And I can't get my fingers through it. My hair felt cleaner than with a traditional liquid shampoo, but I was not able to leave the shower without an application of a liquid conditioner.

I think the shampoo bar is great to send with kids to camp, or to take camping (if your family camps -- we do not). It would also be great for travel by air, because it's not a liquid.

I have not yet mixed my laundry soap kit -- I'll blog about that when I find the right container for mixing and storing the final product (a gel, I understand).

The soaps are beautiful to look at and wonderful to sniff. ;) VSS has holiday soaps available on the web site now. I have to take the time to sit down and decide what to order -- because I want more of them. The cookies and cream soap looks good enough to nibble (but Richelle while it is probably edible, she tells me I won't like the taste! *grin*)

To read what my Crewmates who have to say about these products, click HERE.

Virginia Soaps and Scents sent me samples in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Relating past events

One of the developmental delays that we see in a lot of children on the autism spectrum is an inability to describe an event that just happened the way that same-age peers are.

Here's an example: What was your Sunday School lesson about today? It's a question that is sometimes asked in the car as we are headed home from church on a Sunday morning.

Active participation and engaged learning are two keys that are needed for the child to be able to comprehend, make meaning and encode the events. The child must understand that there is something in his/her mind that is not yet in Mom's mind, and be able to bridge the gap between what is in the child's mind and what is in Mom's mind when Mom asks the question. And the child must have the language skills to put the thoughts into words into a sentence or two as well. It's a lot of work.

We tried (using ABA, years ago), to have our daughter memorize an answer at school so she could begin to tell me about something she did there. But that was about rote memorization, not engaged learning, meaning making, comprehension. It was about memorizing the right answer and providing it to Mom when prompted. It did nothing to help her be engaged at school or to grow joint attention. (I didn't know better at the time!)

On our ride home from church, I asked "the question". "What was your Sunday School lesson about?" Remember, she's going into a class for preschoolers because we (parents and teachers alike) believe she's able to comprehend more there in a simpler format. (She's not the only older child in there.) And my princess with ASD took a moment to pull it all together into a summary sentence: "We learned about prayer."

Yes, we did! :) That's what the adults in "big church" learned about, and it was the topic of the middle schoolers' lesson, too.

The Blue Umbrella; a MamaBuzz Review

The Blue Umbrella is a novel written for the 9-12 year old age group, a story about little Zac Sparks's journey through good and evil after he was orphaned when his mother was struck by lightening. The 400+ page story takes readers to the town of Five Corners, a town that is filled with mystery and bizarre characters.

My middle school princess and I read the book from cover to cover. She read it first. She enjoyed the twists and turns of the story and gives the book a thumbs up. She says it's like the "unfortunate events" series, but different. I'm more of a "Little House" (Laura Ingalls Wilder) series kind of reader, and this book is not "Little House, and the twists and turns left me more and more unsettled. My daughter kept encouraging me to keep going because she thought the ending would be something I'd like and she was right. The resolution at the end of the book, though, is worth reading the story (for me).

Author Mike Mason calls the story "a work of literature with an allegorical dimension," explaining that, "An allegory tends to feel wooden because there is clear one-to-one correcpondence between all the elements of the story and some other reality."

I am surprised to see the recommended age range is from 9-12. I'd suggest the book for tweens and teens.

Mason has me thinking about the good characters and evil ones and the words spoken and events and how they played out, and relating them to what I know. He's set my mind in motion, that's for sure, because I keep running parts of the book through my mind.

*This book was given as a complimentary copy to Mama Buzz Reviewers by David C. Cook and Mike Mason, for blog tour and promotion purposes.

The Blue Umbrella: retails for $14.99

Ages 9-12

Enjoy a free excerpt of this book at Mike Mason's website.

The Blue Umbrella, by Mike Mason from David C. Cook on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti, a MamaBuzz Review

Before an illness and job tranfer that sent us moving across the country interrupted graduate school, I was working toward a Master's Degree in marriage and family therapy. My area of interest was (still is) the communication differences between males and females.

I spent a lot of time studying brain differences and reading the widsom of folks like Deborah Tannen and John Gray. I remember at one point, asking my husband to read one of Dr Tannen's books, and having him ask me if she had met me, because she described me to a "t".

The differences between the way men and women use "talk" is absolutely fascinating to me. Males and females think differently, and Tannen goes into great detail about how the play of young boys and young girls differs in huge ways. The information I studied in grad school is presented to adults -- probably not very appealing to tweens and teens.

I never gave a thought to talking to my middle schooler about those differences. Nope. It never even crossed my mind.

And then, in the mail one recent day, we get a brand new book that does just that AND it's written in a way that appeals to pre-teen and teenage readers:

from Thomas Nelson

Almost as soon as it arrived, I handed the book to my middle schooler, who disappeared into her bedroom with it. I could hear her giggle and laugh out loud, and I asked her what was so funny. Yep, it was the waffles and spaghetti book!

A few days later, we were talking about the fact that different states have different ages for teens to begin driving, and I said I'd prefer later than earlier, because the teen's brain isn't fully developed yet, and Miss Middle School Princess interrupted me and gave me a detailed explanation why and she told me she knew because of the waffles and spaghetti book.

I finally got the chance to look at it for myself. I got to see what my girl laughed out loud at -- Chad Eastham is so funny! Chad Eastham and Bill and Pam Farrel do a really nice job explaining the differences in the ways males and females think and interact. Check out the excerpts here. The waffle and spaghetti analogies are spot on.

I wonder why I hadn't thought about explaining some of this to my kidlet (but she probably wouldn't have listened to me, anyway!).

It's another one of those books I'd have liked to have had as I was in my preteen and teen years. The information and insight would have been helpful during those years where I never felt like I measured up. It answers so many of the questions about why are boys like that??? And it does so in a light, fun way, even though the subject matter is serious in some ways.

Book Synopsis from the back of the book

In this hilarious, yet amazingly insightful book, discover the secrets behind why guys and girls think and act so differently. Guys' brains have little compartments like a waffle, and there they keep most aspects of their lives separated. Girls brains are like spaghetti, because they tend to keep everything in their lives connected. Learn how to talk so a "waffle" will listen, and how to understand the "spaghetti-ish" conversations that you will encounter your entire life. Learning about waffles and spaghetti will make a difference in real-lilfe issues like dating, sex, friendships, body language, and communication skills of every kind. So dig in for the insights you've been craving.

*Disclosure: This book was provided to the Mama Buzz site and Mama Buzz reviewers, free of charge, in exchange for today's blog tour*



Monday, October 26, 2009

Amazing Bible Timeline from Bible Charts and Maps / A TOS Crew Review

I wish that I remembered more, knew more about world history. In many cases, I don't know how events that are described in the Bible fit with world history during the same timeframe. Learning how Bible events fit into world history is interesting to me. I remember touring the J Paul Getty Museum with my family many years ago and marveling at the timelines on sculptures and sepulchres and wondering if the artists knew my Jesus.

Bible Charts and Maps sent me, free, in order to review on this blog, the Amazing Bible Timeline with World History. I received no compensation in exchange for this review.

The Amazing Bible Timeline with World History is self-explanatory -- it's a gi-normous poster that holds a circular, color coded bunch of Bible timelines and world history. There are over a thousand references in a unique format.

When the Amazing Bible Timeline with World History arrived, I had two immediate concerns. Where would I put it and how would I read the tiny print? A third concern arose -- how would I uncurl it so that it would lie flat? I tried to stick it to the wall with generous amounts of sticky tac and the 37" x 45" map which is printed on extra heavy card stock is too big, too heavy. If I had a homeschool room, I would nail it to the wall.

My homeschooler is not reading and comprehending at a level that, in my opinion, this thorough tool would be an asset for her. So, we have not looked at it together yet. My middle schooler will begin a study of world religions at school later this year, and I suspect that the map will become a hot item at my house, then. I wish I'd had this resource as I was studying Daniel with Beth Moore -- it would have complemented and enhanced my study, and I look forward to having it as a reference with Bible studies in the future. It's really interesting to study -- and if you're like me, you'll need your reading glasses or a magnifying glass.

FYI: There are some Mormon references on the timeline.

Buyers of the Amazing Bible Timeline with World History ($29.97) also receive two free downloads, the Interactive Map of the Holy Land ($14.97 value) and a Digital Amazing Timeline ($14.97 value).

To read what my Crewmates wrote about Amazing Bible Timeline with World History, go HERE.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Accommodations and Scaffolding

I’m going to share some of the issues I’ve been working through as we implement workboxes at our house with a child who has an autism spectrum disorder. Here's one of the pieces I've been considering:

# # #

As I contemplate what is next in homeschooling for my daughter who has an ASD diagnosis, I am thinking about accommodations (compensations), and scaffolding.

I like the definition of scaffolding that I found here. Vygotsky identified what is called the “zone of proximal development.” According to Vygotsky, every learner’s developmental level has two parts: the “actual development level” and the “potential developmental level.” The zone of proximal development is the “distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978).

Here’s an excerpt from "How Can My Kid Succeed in School? What Parents and Teachers Can Do to Conquer Learning Problems," by Craig Pohlman, Ph.D., page 59: "5. Be aware of two kinds of learning strategies. The first kind is designed to build up a weakness or skill; these building strategies are sometimes called interventions. The second kind is a tactic for bypassing a weakness in some way; these strategies are often referred to as accommodations or modifications. Some strategies can both build and bypass at the same time; others swing between the categories depending on what the goal is. Most students need a combination of strategies -- building strategies so they can make improvements, bypassing strategies so they can experience success without being hindered by their weaknesses."

Think about an individual who is paralyzed from the waist down. That individual will never walk. An accommodation is a wheelchair or scooter. Another example is Little Person who will never grow to average height. If you've ever watched the reality TV show, "Little People Big World," Matt and Amy Roloff had their kitchen counters and appliances lowered. That’s an accommodation.

Sometimes, the same item can be a long-term compensation or a short-term compensation. An example of a permanent or long-term accommodation is a wheelchair for an individual who is paralyzed and is never expected to stand or walk. An example of a short-term compensation is a wheelchair for a person who is recuperating from an accident and needs a short term help while recovering, healing, or during remediation.

Developmental interventions designed to remediate deficits like RDI(r) have parents looking closely at the difference between a long-term compensation, a short-term compensation, and a scaffold within a developmental ladder of learning and growth.

When my daughter was still in public school, I tried to convince the staff to develop some developmental goals that would grow my daughter's ability to sense non-verbal cues and clues that would allow her the ability to transition more easily. Instead, one of the staff members implied that my daughter would probably always need a visual schedule and that once she got into 4th grade, we could hide her visual schedule inside the planners that all the students get, and she wouldn't look so different. I got the impression from them that visual schedules are expected to be permanent accommodations for most students on the autism spectrum.

RDI(r) gave me a clear direction on what developmental steps we need to help my daughter take in order to begin to better manage herSELF and her day, steps that include non-verbal interaction and reciprocity, attention shifting, gaze shifting, attention sharing, emotion sharing, turn taking, joining, co-regulating.

But the school wanted to skip all of those (or work on them haphazardly, without real intention)-- I think they didn't think she was capable of growing in those functional areas and the visual schedule, to them, is an acceptable long-term or even permanent compensation.

Parents of typically developing children put in short term compensations for a LACK of a skill that we KNOW our kid will reach at some point. At the same time, we are scaffolding all the little steps in between where they are and that skill they lack.

In autism, a lot of professionals believe individuals w/ autism are like Little People who will never grow to average height. They believe that autistic kids will never develop perspective taking or joint attention or attention shifting or gaze shifting or self regulation and self control.

So, they introduce a long-term or permanent compensation, or a bunch of long-term compensations, much like a wheelchair, for a child who is not expected to walk.

Workboxes were introduced to my child in a public school autism program BECAUSE none of the children had enough reciprocity, attention shifting, attention sharing, joint attention etc to manage themselves in a "regular" classroom. Workb0xes became a way to work around all of those deficits by removing the need to shift attention, share attention, engage with peers and teachers, etc, and summarize all of that onto a visual schedule and Picture Exchange Communication.

Long term compensations are not all bad or negative in terms of students on the autism spectrum. We need them. My problem is using them without a developmental plan in place where you know why, when, and how you will approach learning so that eventually, you can remove the long-term compensations.

So, as I think about what things my daughter needs to be doing independently, I think about functions of reciprocity, turn taking, reciprocity, and perspective taking. I want her to manage herSELF as a co-regulator and self-regulator. I want her to gather her own cue and clues from her environment so that she better "rolls with the flow". I want her to grow into a "communicating partner", an "active participant", not a passive follower of a schedule or prompt. The goal isn’t to get work done, or “get” her to work “for me” – it’s to give her the experience of working *with* me, because that’s how we make discoveries about ourselves, and then, as she is ready for more responsibility for herSELF and her own learning, to gently hand that responsibility to her.

I am thinking through what parts of the workbox concept that we will use as short term accommodations, which parts will be scaffolds to a higher developmental level, and I'm asking myself, are there long term accommodations that will be beneficial, and do I have a plan for building foundations so that the long term accommodations aren't needed so much at some point.

Sue Patrick has given me so much food for thought.

# # #

So, as my thoughts return to Sue Patrick's Workbox System, I am pondering how we'll use them and why. Will they be an accommodation and if so, for what skill or function? Can I use them in ways that help me scaffold development? If so, how? That all depends on my assumptions about all things autism and on our goals for my child.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sue Patrick's Workbox System: A TOS Crew Review

Workboxes are a hot topic right now at homeschool conventions, on homeschool related blogs, and in internet chat groups for homeschoolers. I spent some time reading some blog posts about the workboxing craze and I know a few families who use them and love them.

But what are workboxes, exactly, and what is a workbox system?

Sue Patrick's Workbox System, A User's Guide, available by download for $19, is a very thorough description of the framework, the "why bother", "what for" and "how to" guide to setting up a system of workboxes to get a child through his or her school and chore time, complete with downloads for all of the visual pictures Patrick uses and some teacher planning and record-keeping pages.
As a TOS Crew member, Sue Patrick gave me, at no charge, the 122 page e-book, Sue Patrick's Workbox System, A User's Guide, so that I may review it here for you. I was given no further compensation, and I purchased my own materials for my workbox project.

If you purchase the book and plan to use the workbox system, you'll need paper for printing, a laminating machine, velcro, and something to hold your workboxes plus the boxes themselves. And you'll need your own curriculum, products or resources to fill the boxes.

Click on the picture at the left to take you to some sample pages in the User Guide.

BACKGROUND: When I looked at blogs and descriptions of workboxing, they looked very familiar to me. It is similar (if not exact) to a system that is being used in classrooms for autistic children all over the country (maybe all over the world). Giving you a peek at how my mind makes associations, I immediately thought, "TEACCH" and "North Carolina". And my next association was, "Ick."

When my daughter was four years old, she was in a contained classroom for pre-schoolers with an autism diagnosis, and each child (except mine) had one rolling plastic container with three big drawers. They were given four activities, one in each drawer and one on top of the rolling box. Each child had, on their visual schedule, a time to do their "work", which meant "independent work". My child could complete twice the work in the same amount of time and she had TWO plastic rolling boxes and completed EIGHT independent activities in the time the other children completed FOUR. The students had a schedule strip, they had to tackle the activities in the order laid out on that schedule strip, and that way, they always knew what was coming next. They didn't have to gather clues and cues from their environment to sense a transition coming because all of the informaton was summarized on those strips. In school, the students had "help" cards and "break" cards. There were picture cards for the teachers to use to remind them to quieten down if they were too loud because (I now understand) the children were unable to perspective take and reference and understand cues from others around them that they were too loud. The "work" space looked like an office cubicle with a long table instead of a desk.

It always looked to me like the public school classroom was trying to prepare the children to work on an assembly line or in a sheltered workshop.

To learn that Sue Patrick is the mom of a child diagnosed with autism and is from North Carolina (home of TEACCH) came as no surprise to me. Part of Sue's story is here.

So, the big question in my mind was, just how are Sue Patrick's workboxes different from the system I saw in the public school classroom for autistic children that I ultimately rejected in order to homeschool?

From my perspective, Sue Patrick is bringing home the system that my daughter used at school. I have no desire to duplicate an autism classroom at home. In my opinion, a lot of what Sue Patrick does in her workbox system was originally developed for a child who is not expected to EVER develop much else beyond the ability to follow a schedule. If the child cannot share attention with a teacher and interact, professionals remove the teacher interaction part and put all of the "work" in a system that is very visual into the classroom. It's a big 'ol compensation for the student's lack of joint attention.

Our goals for my homeschooler at this time are more focused on INTERDEPENDENCE than the INDEPENDENCE that workboxes are designed to grow in children. Independence will be a bigger focus later.

HOWEVER, reviewing Sue Patrick's Workbox System, A User's Guide forced me to take a really hard look at what I rejected and also look deeply at myself and my daughter and ask myself, "Have I created some learned helplessness in my child(ren)?" and "Are there things my daughter should be doing independently right now? And if so, what?" And Patrick forced me to look at the "what" very closely, too, paying attention to details like lesson length and time.

And, if, developmentally, she's processing and learning like a typical pre-schooler, can I use workbox ideas aimed at a developmental preK/K student?

And once I define the "what", Sue Patrick gives me the "how to" begin to set up a system for doing just that, and Sue Patrick provides the information, down to the teensiest detail. Seriously -- the teensiest detail.

The table of contents is available in the download of free sample pages:

1. The Benefits of Homeschooling
2. How We Teach and Train
3. What is the Workbox System?
4. Who is this System for?
5. How a Day Works
6. Curriculum and Materials
7. Breaking Down Curriculum for Success
8. Life Skill Foundations
9. Discipline and the Workbox System
10. Problem Solving and Specializing Your Child’s Education
11. Family Dynamics and Homeschooling
12. Tips, Tricks and Problem Solving

Because my child is developmentally at a preK/K level, I chose not to purchase the exact items that Mrs. Patrick recommends in her system. I chose a smaller system of boxes, similar to the one my daughter used at school when she was four. I spent some time reading what Sue Patrick has to say about preschoolers in Chapter 11. I also spent more time on the section in the same chapter about homeschooling children with special needs, including helpful actual examples of how she modified assignments for children of clients.

The e-book is very thorough and is written from Sue Patrick's own experience. I would not use the rigid system exactly as she created -- in my opinion, and for our situation, Sue Patrick takes too much of the relationship aspect out of the homeschool for a child with a developmental delay in areas of communication. I want my daughter referencing ME and not a schedule strip.

Today, I am still experimenting with my version of a workbox system. Most of our boxes involve working together. We have an RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant who guides us in our remediation intervention, and she and I continue to discuss what, exactly, my daughter should be working on independently, in terms of academics. I see the need for my daughter to begin to do some work on her own, and I have been experimenting with different ideas for some independent boxes. Sue Patrick's section on pre-schoolers is helpful for me in this respect. Additionally, "Book Look" is borrowed from our old public school days -- my princess understands that term. I can load one box with several books that she is able to read independently and she can choose which ones to look at. We've experimented with a few options, including some activities from unit studies and some copywork and simple math worksheets. We're adding and subtracting with manipulatives -- they're great in a box. Coloring pages paired with tiny pieces of crayon provide fine motor work. File folder games are good. I'm thinking about the right way to include working with coins in a workbox. I need to purchase a small physical set up for my daughter's bedroom and get some get-yourself-ready-in-the-morning boxes happening at my house.

My first impression of "Ick" was wrong. When I thought that there was nothing about Sue Patrick's Workbox System for us, I was "throwing out the baby with the bathwater". I was going to reject an entire system without looking at it closely enough. Reviewing the e-book made me sit down and look hard at what we are doing and why, and it made me realize one of the reasons that I disliked the school version so much is that the public school was not focused at all on the relationship development aspect. The workbox system has a built-in "same but different, different but same" philosophy that RDIers look for. It forced me to begin to identify some areas where my daughter is ready for more independence and to begin to scaffold the process of handing her more responsiblity for herself. When we are ready to begin to scaffold higher levels of independence, particularly in academics, we may use more of Patrick's techniques and strategies.

If you have a child on the autism spectrum and you like the method they use at school and are interested in duplicating it at home -- Sue's book is for you. You won't even have to buy expensive Boardmaker software, because she includes picture strips and cards in downloads that you may access after you register your book.

Me? I'm a proud tweaker, tweaking Sue's ideas to fit our specific, individual situation. I'm glad I read the user's guide because it forced me to clarify some aspects about what we do at home and it has encouraged me to think outside my own box. ;)

Stay tuned to the blog, because, from time to time, I'll write about the discoveries I make as we continue the trial and error approach to growing independent work with the workbox system within a developmentally appropriate framework.

There's an interview w/ Sue Patrick on facebook HERE. For reviews by my Crewmates of Sue Patrick's Workbox System, A User's Guide, go HERE.

Child's Play (continued): Balancing

If you don't know about Dr Jim from Communicating Partners, take the time to "meet" Dr Jim. I have had the privilege to see him present in person. He chats on a yahoo group called "communicating" and offers insight similar to the way Dr Gutstein of RDI(r) did a few years ago.

I like to know the "why bother", the reason I am asked to do something a particular way with my child, and Dr Gutstein has been the source of the "why bother" and the "what to do" for me for the last five years.

What I appreciate about Dr Jim is his way of explaining the "what to do" in a new way, one that rich in simplicity and word pictures that enhance what I already know. Check out Dr Jim's thoughts on "balancing". It reinforces for me the idea that finding peers who offer that "balance" for my daughter is important.

"Make balancing an habitual way of life............

Balancing simply means two persons having a give and take in play or communication where each person does about as much as the other and each waits enough for the partner to create and carry out a response.

The more you balance with your child, the more he or she will get to learn and practice communication.

Be sure you exchange actions as well as communications.

Two powerful things happen when you balance with your child. First you give you child time to figure out what he can do, he often needs more time than you do to get a response together.

Second, balancing allows you to do something that he can model and learn from.

Balance means 'give and take' communication , successful communication requires two people doing something together and giving each other waiting time to both initiate and respond.

We need to start defining 'communication' not as what you or your child does but as a two way exchange. We need to define successful communication in terms of what two persons do together. Communication is like a marriage, it cannot be defined by what one person does alone.

Of course there will be many times when you or your child will do most in an interaction.

But our over 30 years of clinical research shows strongly that it is rare to see a balance in adult child communication, that is exchanges where each person does about the same amount with each other. And it shows little waiting on the part of the child or adult.

Try to practice in your regular routines to balance and you will learn more of what your child can and wants to do and he or she will have more a chance to learn what to do from you.

Make balance a way of life, even with other people in your life and you will find a more effective and enjoyable communicative life.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Child's Play

The journey to remediate the core deficits of autism has been an interesting one. The cliche, "It's a marathon, not a sprint," is a good description of the past nine years for me.

Remediation has been slower than behavioral "programming", but far more rewarding.

Learning to change myself so that I give my child opportunities to be responsible for herSELF in interactions with others has been challenging for me. I've had to learn to slow down, wait, give her time to take her own response, shift her own attention and/or gaze.

I've been looking for opportunities for her to play with children at her developmental level, where the peer's pacing and attention sharing, attention shifting, response is about the same as my daughter's.

I found two opportunities through the church our family has been visiting for just a few weeks. The church wants all children to attend Sunday School in the place where they learn best. They blur the lines that divide children by age or grade, and bend the rules to allow children to go to Sunday School with much younger children if they need to. The other is a short-term Bible study which happens to meet at the home of a mom who runs a day care out of her basement.

There's a part of me that wonders if I'm doing the right thing -- maybe I should try harder to push her into a class her own age.

But all of that uncertainty melts away when I see her enter Sunday School and drop to the floor to join a child who is playing with Lego, and when we come to get her after the morning service, she's completed the crafts and I'm told she participated in the song time and even did the motions. She skipped to the car in the parking lot.

And the uncertainty melts away as we drive to Bible study and I hear her singing a song about going to Grandma's (that's what the children call the lady who plays with them there) and when I take her to the basement day care and she joins the other children in an activity-in-progress, and when I return to get her after Bible Study, she is playing in the play kitchen WITH another child, an activity they made up together (not something we taught her with prompts and rewards).

She needs more opportunities with people, including PEERS, who are "possible" for her. ("Possible" is a term that Dr Jim uses.)

I have to get over my "stuff" that wants her to catchupnow and allow her to be who she is, right now, and be ready to grow with her.

Five Star Publications, Inc: Designer Copper Bookmarks

It's beautiful jewelry for a book!

Made in the United States (in Arizona), of beautiful copper, Linda Radke, president of Five Star Publications, Inc, offers a choice of three designer bookmarks for readers and gift givers.

Priced at $11.95, the bookmarks are "custom-designed using quality copper and Swarovski crystals and pearls."

Five Star Publications, Inc., sent me, at no charge (in order to review here on my blog), the angel design. Readers, I gushed when I opened it -- the bookmark is beautiful! As I anticipated receiving it, I was afraid the copper would be flimsy, and it is not. How can it be thick enough to hold the page, while not marring the page, but not be flimsy. Well, somehow, it works! :) The little angel is adorable.

I've never used a fancy bookmark -- I'm the one who uses bookmarks made from card stock and loses them and winds up using simply a scrap of paper. This is one we'll keep up with at our house, and for the time being, my middle schooler and I will fight over share it. I don't recommend it for small children because of the little pieces and parts. And my daughter who is on the autism spectrum might lose it.

The bookmarks are available in three designs; in addition to the angel made with a divine crystal and opulent pearl, FSPI offers a paw print with a blue crystal and a crystal-packing star motif as well.

The company press release suggests using them to decorate your holiday trees, too.

I like them because they are made in the USA, they're beautiful, and they are easy to ship or take to family for folks who are many hours away. Shipping gifts or traveling with gifts can be challenging, and finding small-in-physical-size gifts that are substantial in quality is important.

You may order them via the Five Star Publications catalog.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

TOS Freebie: AUTUMN TREASURES (A freebie, an article, a coupon and a sale)

The Old Schoolhouse is offering an 80+ page unit study from Amanda Bennett FREE. I got mine a week or so ago and my daughter and I have been doing some of the activities together. Click HERE to get yours.

The magazine also has a free enouragement article that includes a coupon code for a $7.95 subscription to the magazine.

PS: Amanda Bennett has a few items on sale today (Friday) for $5.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Skating lesson updates

I snapped a few pictures and shot a little video last week and just never took the time to upload any of it. I continue to watch in amazement as my princess struggles with a new skill as it is introduced, and soon masters it. Pumping has suddenly become much easier for her. I always see some new gross motor experience and motor planning experience when she's on the ice -- concepts that do not feel like "work" there.

Today, I put the camera down and watched a lot. I've never seen my princess smile so much--she worked very hard today and she knew it -- and she enjoyed it, too!

Thanks for sharing the fun with us!

The first three clips are from a week ago:

Coach spotted a challenge--something to ask the OT about. Going backwards, the skating princess is moving one leg more than the other one, which interferes with skating in a straight line:

I managed to capture a bit of video from today's session, but mostly I just enjoyed the "show". She worked her tushie off and smiled all the way through it. I LOVE THAT! :)

(check out the new, better fitting helmet!)

Here's the one-leg-working-harder-than-the-other thing again --
is it a bilateral something issue?
She hangs in there with the backward pumps, even though they feel challenging.

Communicating in ways that the child can do

Some churches set up their Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs to mimic the grade levels of our public school system. Rigidly (legalistically?) adhering to these invisible dividing lines can create a negative situation for an older child with developmental delays.

I had what I thought was a brilliant creative idea after I saw how negative attending Vacation Bible School with peers more developmentally mature was for my princess over the summer. I had an a-ha moment! Let's move her to the class where she can better interact with peers and at the same time, process the lessons. Developmentally, she's interacting and reciprocating and processing information somewhere between pre-school and kindergarten age, although by grade she's a 5th grader. She could even be a helper (active participant!) in one of the preK/K classes!

For some reason that I do not understand, some churches have a problem with this idea. Some church folk think I've lost my mind for suggesting it and can't imagine that it was a well-thought-through idea with some solid reasoning behind it.

Wednesday, on the yahoo group devoted to discussing Dr James D MacDonald's Communicating Partners program, "Dr Jim" typed these words that supports and illustrates my perspective:

"We are trained to think that more of anything is better, when the truth for our children is that the only more that is important is MORE OF YOU AND ANY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AND COMMUNICATE IN WAYS THE CHILD CAN DO."

He continued:

"One more response to what you said about restrictive environments and inclusion. Certainly we want boundaries or restrictions for a child's developmental stages... you want restriction on his curriculum so he isn't fruitlessly taught things he is not ready for. Similarly you do not want an inclusive program if it means the child is overwhelmed by faster, louder and more advanced students or with courses they are not ready for."

My princess has spent many years in situations that are developmentally over her head. What is wrong with my wanting, finally, now that we know better, to intentionally put her in situations where interaction and comprehension is not so much anxiety-producing work for her?

She's making discoveries about herself and others that prek/k-ers are making. She's making self-to-text and text-to-self connections at that level. I'm so encouraged by her progress! Let's give her more practice by finding more developmentally appropriate opportunities for her to make more discoveries and connections! Apparently, my opinion is in the minority.

I do like the idea of a one-room schoolhouse, too, with all ages and stages represented. One-room schoolhouses or childrens ministries are hard to come by these days.

Interestingly, we learned through another family about an area church that is already allowing older children who have developmental delays to attend classes for much younger children, because the younger class is a better fit for the child. They have flexible dividing lines that separate classes for children. What a brilliant idea!

PS: Why is it acceptable to move the church choir rehearsals from the basement to the main level when one choir member becomes handicapped and can no longer use the stairs, moving a physical dividing line for her, but moving the grade level lines of division between classes for children is not? The stairs are a barrier to active participation for an individual unable to navigate them, just like invisible grade level dividing lines are a barrier to active participation for a child who is unable to navigate the communication at grade level.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sarah's Wish: A TOS Crew Review

I love to lose myself in a story. I have loved to read for as long as I have been able to read. (I came home from school the first day of first grade upset because the teacher didn't teach me how to read!)

I don't lose myself in many stories these days. Instead, when I read, I spend my reading time on all things autism.

I forget how much I enjoy letting a story take me to another time, another place, far away from the here and now. "Sarah's Wish" reminded me just how much I enjoy a good book.

"Sarah's Wish," ($9.99 w/ free shipping from by Jim Baumgardner, is a book written by a grandfather for his grandchildren, historical fiction that is lively and captivating. Baumgardner told the Crew, "The Sarah Books are authored by me for my grandchildren. I say that so that you will know these books do not have any sex, profanity, or anything that would be offensive to young readers. I would never subject my grandchildren to such writing."

He continues, "The books have been referred to as Christian fiction. I prefer to describe them as Young Adult fiction written by a Christian author. Sarah’s faith is important to her and she lives by it, but the books do not try to convert the reader to anything. The stories do teach Christian principals of living a good life and treating others as you would have them treat you. I do not ignore the evil in the world and Sarah must confront it at times just as we all do. "

The main character, Sarah, is a 12-year-old girl and the setting is the 19th century, and Sarah lives on the route that slaves took from the south to the north, to freedom, on the Underground Railroad. Sarah's parents assist slaves to freedom, and when Sarah is orphaned, she is left to continue the mission with the help of neighbors that include some colorful characters.

I lost myself in the story. I could not put the book down. I'd set it down to make the kids something to eat or go to the restroom, and as soon as I was able to, I'd pick it back up again. I stopped almost everything one lazy weekend afternoon-into-evening and read "Sarah's Wish" from cover to cover. What a treat! :)

I could not stand the suspense -- I *had* to learn what happened next to Sarah, so I bought the next two books in the series. Excerpts from the books are located HERE. (Baumgardner is writing a fourth book.)

Author Jim Baumgardner took me into Ohio and Kentucky, through cities I pass several times a year as I travel from where I live now to where I grew up (and back). I could picture the journey in the story in my mind, because I've traveled that route so many times.

He introduces and defines terms from the day in the glossary before the first chapter, and I learned some terms I didn't know. Samples from the glossary are located HERE.

There's a surprise from the publisher located in the back of the book. It's a code for a free audio book download of Sarah’s Wish.

My public schooled children have learned about the Underground Railroad at school several years ago. One of their teachers created a mock UGRR at school and the students were able to take on different roles as "slaves" traveled to freedom. My children learned a lot and they enjoyed the experience. They talked about it often at the time, and still mention it occasionally. It's an interesting and important time in United States history, a time I want my children to know about.

I suspected that my middle schooler would love this book -- and once she read the information on the back cover, she took the book from me, disappeared with it one evening and read it almost non-stop until she finished it after school the next night. She said that sometimes a really big book is intimidating because it takes forever to read, but a thin book is often too easy with not a good story. She told me that "Sarah's Wish" is the perfect balance -- a great story that makes you want to keep reading without being too easy or too long. She was happy to learn that I'd ordered the next two books in the series, because she wants to know what happens next, too!

My homeschooled princess is not ready for this level of text. We're getting there and I'll share this with her when the time is right. I like having the audio book to use in combination with the text -- listening to an audio book while following text in the book may be a strategy we use in the future. It gives us another option.

Mr. Baumgardner offers a newsletter by e-mail. Check the web site for the directions you need to subscribe.

We are enjoying the Sarah series at our house -- I highly recommend the books.

Full Disclosure: Author Jim Baumgardner sent me an autographed copy of his book, Sarah's Wish, at no charge to me, to read and review for you as part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew of reviewers.

To read what my Crewmates have to say about this product, go HERE.
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