Friday, April 30, 2010

Baseball and Figure Skating

Busy sports day in my family yesterday.

My homeschooler got some inexpensive ice time to practice the skills she's been learning.

And my son had a baseball game.

Here's my boy making contact with the ball at bat:

She tries some one-foot glides and a little slalom practice on her own:

And then I asked her (and asked and asked and asked) to practice the dreaded backwards skating. So, I made her. And you can see the anxiety rise inside her. She hasn't made the disovery that she's quite capable of skating backwards:

I needed a "no whine zone" sign for that!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Introducing Whole Foods Cooking, by Rich & Sue Gregg, a TOS Crew Review

I should know more about whole foods cooking. Between my homeschooler and me, we have a long list of food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances. Cooking with whole foods often means fewer ingredients, simpler recipes, which increases the likelihood that I can make one dish or meal for all of us.

Introducing Whole Foods Cooking for Health and Hospitality by Rich & Sue Gregg, from Sue Gregg Cookbooks, ($17.00) is much more than a cookbook. It is a teaching cookbook accompanied by a CD with PowerPoint photographs and illustrations of information and recipes. The book contains "Recipes & Nutrition Basics", which are an education into how to shift your cooking toward more nutritious, healthful foods.

How does a mom begin to do that for her family?

The Greggs' motto is
"One recipe at a time."

I'm hungry for new recipes that are gluten free, casein free, soy free, pineapple free, sunflower free, peanut and tree nut free, for starters. We rotate eggs in recipes and don't serve my child with allergies egg dishes, although she occasionally eats a baked good with egg as an ingredient. I have sensitivies to some of the foods on that list, plus tuna and the nightshade family.

I'm tired of making separate meals for those of us with allergies. Our home feels like a restaurant most nights, with all of us eating something different. I need more recipes that all of us can enjoy together.

I'm partial to recipes that have already been tested with a gazillion substitutions so that I don't have to experiment and make a flop that I have to throw in the trash. I've done that enough, and it's costly to my pocketbook and my confidence in trying to modify recipes.

In this particular cookbook, the Greggs use a lot of ingredients that we avoid, from sour cream and yogurt to parmesean cheese to pineapple. Mrs. Gregg knew that we have a lot of sensitivities when she sent me the book, and her hope was that she could add a handful of new-to-us recipes for my house.

This is not the "miracle cookbook" for GFCFers. It isn't meant to be that. If you are looking for a lot of GFCF recipes, this is not the cookbook for you, UNLESS you are looking for information about whole foods cooking. The cookbook is a nice resource to have because it contains as much (more, probably) information about whole foods cooking and making recipes healthier as it contains recipes.

"Introducing Whole Foods Cooking," is a teaching cookbook, one that will ease newbies into cooking healthier meals.

The entire family gave a thumbs up to the baked salmon with lemon. ;) It's simple to make and easier to clean up than my standard salmon recipe. We all enjoy a GFCF version of blender batter waffles, too.

A 38 page preview of this cookbook is available HERE.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of this and other Sue Gregg cookbooks, please click HERE.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given complimentary copy of "Introducing Whole Foods Cooking" by Sue Gregg. I received no financial compensation for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Watchin' some baseball!

I finally got to watch my son play some baseball last night! My son was the starting pitcher, and he did a fine job! He was not happy with his batting/hitting; he struck out twice, and managed a double on the next at-bat while I was watching. He's a good little hitter! I'm so proud of him!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Light Speed "history of the U.S. AP* Exam Prep" from cerebellum corporation, a TOS Crew Review

Advanced placement exam prep for under $15 is something that catches my attention, even though I don't have a child old enough to be prepping for AP exams.

Light Speed's history of the U.S. AP* Exam Prep is the product that caught my attention. Packaged as a DVD + digital workbook, this resource is designed to help students 9th grade and higher pass the AP U.S. History exam. "This video tutorial provides a speedy and thorough of pivotal events in U.S. History. The program covers the diverse motives of colonists through Vietnam, with emphasis on the period from 1790 to 1914."

Priced at $14.98 (as I type this the DVD is $3.74 off, on sale for $11.24), the DVD is approximately 73 minutes in length and is fast paced, packed with information, presented to viewers by young adults who are attractive and engaging. The digital workbook provides 23 pages that includes handouts, viewing worksheets, activities, worksheets, and a check your knowledge section of questions and answers. The DVD covers taking the test, writing the essay, and "30 in 30", which covers 30 topics in 30 minutes.

The DVD is so fast paced, I would have to view it several times if I were seriously prepping for the exam. "Rapid fire" is the style as the young people on the video share tips, facts, and information. If I were exam prepping for real, I'd use the pause button quite a bit on the video player.

The DVD is NOT closed captioned. (I called the company to confirm that information. The rep was friendly and helpful and she told me that captioning the videos is being considered. I told her I vote to caption them. *smile* She offered to send me more info on the videos and made sure I had no other questions before we ended our phone conversation. The staff seems to be very thorough with callers.)

I don't have a child old enough to take the AP tests. I absolutely would try this video with my children as a method to prepare for an exam. The price is reasonable, and the information is consistent with what I heard on an audio CD from a homeschool convention about successful standardized test taking. The video component combined with the workbook is an attractive combination to me. When I was preparing to take grad school entrance exams (back in the dark ages), the prep materials were thick, boring books. Video prep is engaging and fun compared to the prep books of old, and I am able to remember facts from the video (when I struggled to remember anything from those old grad prep books). If your student likes a multi-media presentation, video learning may be the way to prep for the AP exams.

I wanted to know who provided the information for the videos (there is a large selection available, and are not limited to AP exam prep). Do they know what they are talking about? I located the information on the web site: "Each Cerebellum title is written by an academic team comprised of professors from leading universities, including Yale, University of Virginia, George Washington University and Georgetown University, to name a few."

The Crew reviewed a variety of products from cerebellum CORPORATION. (I happened to receive the history of the U.S. product). To read my Crewmates' reviews of cerebellum CORPORATION, please stand by for a link.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary copy of Light Speed's Home Video Learning "history of the U.S. AP* Exam Prep". I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"...When the message is social in nature..."

In my experience, Dr Rosenberger's words (boldface emphasis mine) apply to the entire autism spectrum, not only Asperger Syndrome:

"One of the most helpful insights for a family can be understanding how a child with Asperger syndrome is limited in his or her comprehension of language. While atypical responses from Asperger kids can be frustrating, they are easier for a parent to tolerate when he or she understands that Asperger kids really don't interpret language in the same way. Though many parents insist that their child understands every word they say, with children on the autism spectrum this is frequently not the case, especially when the message is social in nature. This can be hard for some parents to accept, but once they do, the end result is less frustration all around."

Peter B. Rosenberger, M.D.
p xiii
from the Foreward
The Best Kind of Different
Our Family's Journey with Asperger's Syndrome
Sondra Schilling
Introduction by
Curt Schilling

A List Of Tears

Yesterday's Joni and Friends Daily Devotional is about tears.

my tears

I shed a few tears this week.

Thanks, Joni,

for reminding me

that my tears will not be wasted.

Go HERE to read the devotional.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

BIG EARS - An opportunity

The arena where my skating princess skates presents Snow White this weekend. My daughter and I went to today's afternoon show, which lasted 2.5 hours. There were many talented skaters on the ice today, and we enjoyed the show (although my hind end is sore from sitting that long).
At intermission, my skating princess noticed an elderly man who'd been sitting near us. She told me, "He has big ears, just like a dwarf." And he did. His ears were similar to the oversized ears on the Dopey costume in the show today. I got a moment to chat with her about how we might notice big ears, but we don't say it because it might hurt the man's feelings. She told me, "Okay, I won't say it loud."

Having her right beside me provides great opportunities to learn about social niceties in context with her.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Super Star Speech, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

One of the most popular searches that brings folks to my blog is a post I wrote about a DIY weighted vest. Therapies and equipment for a family member with special needs or developmental delays is expensive, and often not covered by insurance.

For those of us who are in that situation, wanting more therapy that is affordable, there is a speech therapy resource available for your consideration.

Speech language pathologist Deborah Lott created Superstar Speech to help parents recognize and address articulation issues at home.

She sent me an e-book pdf download version of Super Star Speech, Speech Therapy Made Simple, available for $12.95 here, or a hard copy for $18.95 or $22.95, depending upon whether prefer ring bound or spiral bound.

Our focus at home is interaction - I don't want to critique my daughter's arcticulation errors to the point where she becomes self-conscious or reluctant to interact. Yet, I'd like to work on one particular artic issue - the "th" sound. The "th" sound is the one error that I notice my homeschooler makes, and she is beginning to self correct.

If you are the parent of a child on the autism spectrum who happens to make articulation errors, I believe you should ignore the artic errors until non-verbal foundations of interaction are solidly in place.

Lott's expertise is in articulation. She and I chatted (via e-mail) about autism and articulation, and she agrees with me - interaction comes first. Self-correcting is a good sign, she told me. (yes! *smile*) She offered me the Super Star Speech product to help me assess and address this one issue with the pesky "th" sound.

Lott's book walks me, the parent, through exactly what to do - evaluating not only the "th" sound, but every sound, and how to work on developing that sound when I hear an error.

The table of contents of Super Star Speech is to the left. The book is 73 pages long, walks me through an articulation test. Page 10 is particularly important, because, there Lott shows me what is developmentally and age appropriate.

Lott walks me how to work on correcting the error at home, and I am pleased to see that I am already following some of her recommendations (the first three). We have had a lot of speech therapy over the years - I guess I learned something. I like knowing I'm on the right track, going about correcting the error in the right way. Next comes drilling - which I want to handle with kid gloves. That has the potential to create anxiety, and I choose, for now, to continue to help her in context. She's saying the name of our rec therapist, Heather, better, by reminding her in context. Lott offers some clever games at the end of the e-book that include repetition within the games, which is one way to sneak repetition in without actually sitting down to do what I call "drilling".

Lott gives parents a description to use with the child to help them place their lips and tongue in the right position. That's helpful.

Super Star Speech offers a list of words that contain each sound, plus many ideas for practicing sounds at home, beginning with lists of ideas and ending with games and flash cards to print.

If you are working with a child on articulation issues, I think you'll find Super Star Speech very helpful.

* * *

I was also given two games in e-book form to download and review, "The Insect Game", and "All About Animals".

I do like the ease that e-books give a family that is bigger than four people. With e-books, I have the option of printing as many playing boards or pieces as I desire, and the game isn't limited to four people.

The Insect Game ($3.50 / download) - okay, I'll fess up - I hate cutting little insect parts from cardstock. If you don't like to cut out little parts with scissors, don't order this one. I tolerate cutting lots of pages of straight lines for game cards, but the insect feet take more time if you're like me and like them really uniform and neat. (It's a Pennyism.) The e-book is eight pages long, and printed as-is, there are enough parts for four players. I have the option to duplicate pages to add more players. There is a set of basic game rules and Lott gives suggestions to create an easier version for younger players.

The vocabulary introduces a lot of terms like "thorax" and "phylum" and "arthropoda. This one is the more challenging game for us at my house.

* * *
All About Animals is really versatile; it is meant for children in grades K-5,and Lott has done a fabulous job making one game appropriate for such a wide age range. Lott has included two sets of rules, which she calls "options". I like that instead of calling one "easy" or for "younger" players. In my house, that makes a difference. My homeschooler has begun to realize that she is playing games with an age range on the box that younger than she is. She's not ready for some older games.

Lott has set this game up in a way that we can begin with all visuals - color picture cards matching them to the pictures within the categories on the game board. We can actually play a version where there is NO reading required! Later, the fact cards can be used a variety of ways. Lott's rules call for the facts to be read aloud, but the game could be modified for a child who is unable to speak or unable to hear with a simple sticky note to cover the category so that only the fact is revealed.

My homeschooler likes to categorize items, and she likes to play with the cards. I asked her how she knows the sting ray is a fish, and she told me, "My brain just knows." We've got to work on identifying how she knows what she knows. She clearly has memorized categories but can't explain why an animal falls within a particular category. This game gives us a new way to work on that.

I like the fact that we can make this a really short game if we need to. On days when my girl is extra wiggly and having trouble sitting, this is one we can pull out, play, *finish*, and be successful completing something.

If you purchase Super Star Speech in e-book form, or any of the games, there are additional expenses. You'll need to access a print or office store or own a printer, paper or cardstock, and toner, plus a pair of scissors.

Lott blogs helpful info about speech therapy and articulation helps and hints here.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of Super Star Speech, please click here.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given complimentary e-copies of Super Star Speech, The Insect Game, and All About Animals. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Honest answers may not be the desired answers

Originally from Grosse Pointe News on 4-22-10.
Posted w/ permission.
Mary Beth Langan posted this on an internet group where parents
chat about autism.

COLUMN NAME: X-tra Special Advice

BY: Mary Beth Langan and Theodore G. Coutilish

HEAD: Honest answers may not be the desired answers

COPY: As parents of a child with Fragile X Syndrome and autism, we are often asked about our son, Andrew, 9.

“Is he getting any better?”

“How is he feeling?”

“Is there any progress?”

The questions are often very well meaning and a way for people to show they care about our family. The problem is not always knowing how to respond. It’s not easy. Sometimes, it requires thought to give a truly honest, well-balanced answer and we don’t always have the time, especially in passing. Especially if Andrew is with us and is his usual not-so-patient self.

Like many children, his growth, maturity and development are full of victories and spoils, celebrations and frustrations, and pleasant surprises and unpleasant disasters. At times, it’s one step forward and three steps back. Minor milestones can be wiped away as fast as you can say “C is for Cookie”.

There are three basic ways to handle these situations:

1. Politely lie and tell them the short version of what they want to hear. “Yes, he’s doing fine and growing tall. Thank you for asking. You’re so kind.”

2.Tell them only the positive parts of the true story. “At age 9, he’s using a sports bottle instead of a sippy cup. He is doing much better with his toileting skills. He recently sat through an entire assembly at school! Thank you for asking. You’re so kind.”

3.Tell them a mixture of life as we know it. “Some days are exhausting. He had a major meltdown yesterday, ripped up a book and did unmentionable things on our carpet. He’s still essentially nonverbal. On the positive side, his toileting skills are improving and when he’s happy, he has the best smile in the world! Thank you for asking. You’re so kind.”

Lately, we tend to choose number three.

It takes longer to explain, there are more details and some times follow-up questions, you risk bringing down the conversation, it takes more effort and patience, and you may see a pity reaction.

Please, save your pity. We do not need it — or want it. But we do appreciate your understanding of our real life. Not just the glossy version.

Andrew, like all children, has his own beautiful gifts. We know some of them and others are revealing themselves to us in God’s own sweet time. He knows the computer better than some children his age, figured out Dad’s iPhone faster than his mother, has the most contagious laugh you ever heard, and cracks up all three of us from time to time.

Like one recent Saturday when he gave his dad a baseball hat to wear to Eastern Market after Dad was coming out of the shower with shower hair. Only Andrew had bed hair himself. People in glass houses… you know the rest.

We appreciate the questions about life with Andrew. Please keep them coming and thank you.

It’s up to us how to respond.

Honesty is still, and always will be, the best policy.

Grosse Pointe residents Theodore G. Coutilish and Mary Beth Langan created this column to share experiences from their journey as parents of a child with Fragile X syndrome []. Send your questions or comments to mblangan@....

'Daily Prayer Extended Version -- April 22, 2010'

After Monday night's encounter, this prayer and these verses hold deep meaning for me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chronological Age vs. Mental Age | autisable

Insider's perspective of Chronological Age vs. Mental Age autisable. I'd prefer the term "developmental age" instead of "mental age."

Posted using ShareThis

To Go Or Not To Go, That Is The Question

My son's team plays the second game of the spring season tonight. After the event on the playground, Monday night, I am hesitant to try to go watch my son play.

To go to the game, or not to go to the game, that is the question.

I Think The Shoes Got Tied Made Me Hurt

My daughter and I took a walk this morning. A neighbor needed something we have, and we decided to deliver it on foot.

Part way to our destination, my daughter told me, "My toe hurts."

After some discussion, I decided to have her try to walk in sock feet. The distance was short. We watched where we were stepping very carefully.

We met the neighbor. The neighbor and I chatted for a few minutes. The sidewalk was chilly. My daughter's feet got cold.

I convinced her to try her shoes again. I put her shoes back on her, this time, I loosened the laces and left them untied. Perhaps that would take the pressure off of her toe long enough to get us home.

It worked.

On the walk home, she told me, "I think the shoes got tied made me hurt."

She has to work so hard to express herself in her own words. No wonder she tries out lines from TV shows. We still have to work on context and meaning when she uses those TV lines.

PS: This short anecdote from this morning is an illustration of how far we have come, she and I. She knew the neighbor needed something, understood I needed to take it to the neighbor, understood that she would go with me. She is coordinating her actions with me, turning a corner when I turn, following my lead, looking to me, referencing, for direction. She knew I didn't know that the shoe was hurting her toe. All of those examples involve joint attention, perspective taking, theory of mind. She was able to wait while I chatted briefly with the neighbor. Joint attention and self-regulation. And on the way back, she was flexible enough to let me try her shoes again, untied, this time. And the experience sharing statement that revealed her thinking about the shoes reveals the development of thinking, mindfulness, that we didn't target or get in the behavioral approach we began with. We had a nice walk, this morning, she and I.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reflections on Greeting Strangers in Public

I posted this morning about greeting strangers in public.

During the period of time where my daughter was really "into" greeting strangers according to their culture or ethnicity, I had to be on alert while we were in public. Her mind was making an instant association with a TV show for children the second she recognized a person from a certain culture or ethnicity. That meant that I had to increase my "radar". Increasing my "radar" also means I must guard against growing more learned helplessness. (See my right side bar of labels for the posts on "learned helplessness".)

I increased my "radar" to be more aware of people around us, seeing the world through my daughter's eyes. It's a lot of work, actually, to be on alert for a potential opportunity. If I saw a group of Asian people shopping, I would watch my daughter for the point where she saw them. My joint attention had to work on her behalf, too. And I had to grab her attention, then, because I wanted her to reference ME, follow my cue. A hand on her shoulder is often enough to get her attention. When she referenced my face, I could make a slight frown, use a slight head-shake to indicate "no" - but I had to wait until the moment our attention was shared, so she knew what was in my mind/attention.

And, while she wanted to greet the Asian group shopping in the same store as we were, she was able to refrain from doing so, based upon my nonverbal cues in our nonverbal conversation because she'd referenced what was in my mind.

Not long after that, she saw a group of people from India, and she looked at me, referenced me, and told me, "Mom, I am NOT going to say 'Namaste' to those people!" She was proud of herself.

I thought the matter was a done deal months ago. Over. Lesson learned. I turned off my "radar".

And then, recently, she did it again - left my side to run up to a person with a particular ethnicity to say hello to them in the language she assumed they speak.

So, we began, again, working, in context, NOT FOR HER TO MEMORIZE A RULE, but for her to reference me for what is appropriate in those situations, to reference me before leaving my side at a store. We've not had to practice referencing Mom at a playground in a situation where she sees a person or ethnicity (I consider "teenager" an "ethnicity" in this case) that triggers an association with a TV show. But in reflection, now, I think we're going to have to figure out a way to do that.

Greeting Strangers In Public

My daughter with an autism spectrum disorder notices people. Sometimes, when she recognizes an individual from another ethnicity, she speaks to them in what she thinks is their native language.

The first time I saw her do this was outside a grocery store in Florence, Kentucky, Y'all where we were meeting family at a hotel for a couple of days.My daughter and I were exiting a grocery store, and an African American couple were entering. The man was dressed in what, apparently, looked like hip hop attire to my daughter, and suddenly, she faced him in a way that let him know she was addressing him (her non-verbal communication was beautiful, here) jumped into a hip hop position, crossed her arms, flattened out her palms, fingers spread wide, and said, "YO!" rather loudly to this man. I was mortified (and rather frozen at the time). He didn't miss a beat. He jumped into exactly the same position, mirroring hers, and greeted her back with a "YO!" and a huge grin. His generosity put me at ease.

Before I can even see what is happening, she's in the middle of a group of people in saris, greeting them with "Namaste!" Or she's greeted a Hispanic family with, "Hola!" The Chinese family in the warehouse club laughed when she told them, "Ni hao". I was so embarrassed. I'm trying to explain to her the fact that we just don't do that. She doesn't get the idea that it might offend someone.

She learned those greetings from televison for children. She learned another phrase from television for teens.

As I try not to replay the incident from the ballpark Monday night in my mind, (I can't help myself - I need to understand the "why" so I can help her learn something different) I have to wonder if my daughter thinks that "Your outfit is so last year," is an appropriate greeting for a person whose culture or ethnicity is teenager? My daughter clearly doesn't see the phrase as a cut-down or offensive, any more than she can understand that a Japanese American family might be offended that she'd assume they speak Japanese by greeting them with "Konichiwa!".

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Making Mistakes

Nice blog entry about the value of

taking the time to teach mistakes is

Monday, April 19, 2010

To The Three Teens Blocking the Slide On the Playground Tonight

Dear Teens,

We were at the ball park to watch my son play baseball. Tonight was his first game of the season, and he was the starting pitcher. I'm so proud of him! He works hard, and his hard work pays off. He's a good little player for a 10-year-old! His development has happened so naturally, so uneventfully, and he's able to put his mind to something and work toward it.

I made sure to arrive early tonight so I wouldn't miss a pitch or his first at-bat.

My baseball player's twin sister has autism. She has a hard time at the ball park. She begs to go to the playground. Doesn't matter what fun activities I bring for her to do at the field; she begs loudly to go to the park. And begs. And screeches. We're working on that, but I can't work on it with her at a little boys' ball game with a playscape staring right at us. There's an attention deficit component, where she can't think of anything else. And a self-control component, where she can't stop herself from asking again and again if she can go to the playground. Autism is different, and I've learned over time that we work on development of self-regulation and self-control at home, and we see the fruits of it when we're not at home. She's made a lot of progress. Instead of being like a baby, she's more like a preschooler, now. That's huge. And we're still moving forward. :)

Playgrounds are a magnet for younger children. In some ways, this daughter is like a preschooler. She enjoys the playground and the younger children who also like playgrounds. The playscape is something she can't do at home. We don't have a playscape at home - the sets for big kids start at $3K, and when you're paying for autism therapy out of pocket, (it is not covered by insurance) you can't always budget $3K+ for a playscape for your back yard.

Being with younger children is good experience for her, navigating around one another, watching out for the little kids, negotiating turns on equipment. The playground is directly behind our game field, tonight. I allow her to go with her big sister.

Let me tell you about my baseball player's twin sister. Maybe some background will help with context. You see, she regressed into autism after their first birthday. I watched her stop babbling. I thought she'd gone deaf. She quit responding to her name, quit interacting with me, quit paying attention to me. A year later, she had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

We didn't know if she would speak. And then she began to speak - expressively. The same words she could say, she could not understand. We knew that because we were using a behavioral program from behavioral psychology to teach her, and that behavioral program charted all of her progress. She could identify words going in one direction (expressive), but not the other (receptive). It was as if she was able to speak (pronounce all the words, having memorized many words and phrases) a foreign language but not understand a word she was saying.

She became a one sided word machine. I longed for interaction, dialogue, conversation. Instead I heard entire stories or cartoons, from beginning to end, which she could recite in perfect prosody, and without missing a syllable. But she couldn't have a conversation. Until then, I had no idea that a child could acquire hundreds of words and not be able to interact in 2-way communication. I didn't understand, then, about levels of joint attention and I didn't understand the importance of non-verbal foundations of communication. I didn't understand the idea of a developmental age.

When she was five, with the help of developmental psychology, and new professionals to guide us, we realized that she was missing basics of interaction. She had no reciprocity, no back-and-forth, no turn-taking at non-verbal levels. I learned that she couldn't have a verbal conversation because she couldn't have a non-verbal conversation. Non-verbal conversations come first in development. We still spend time practicing non-verbal interaction with her.

Fast forward to tonight. I let her go to the playground with her older sister to keep an eye on her at close range. I can read the non-verbal communication on that playscape from my position beside the field, because the playscape is directly behind the field on which my son's team is playing. I can see the playground from my position and can be there quickly if I am needed. I can see from my chair at the ball field that you teenagers are blocking the slide and that my daughter with autism is attempting to use the slide. My older daughter's body language shows me she's uncomfortable with the situation that she's watching from the ground. I leave my son's game (while he is still pitching) to see if I need to help my girl navigate the roadblock you've created with your bodies. When I am close enough to hear her, I notice my younger girl is scripting a lot, reciting the same lines over and over, some from TV shows. She does that when she's anxious. Your teenage presence x3 is the primary source of her anxiety at this moment. Surely you notice this unusual behavior, too. Don't you suspect she might have a disability?

I see the three of you, two teen girls and a boy, clean cut, attractive, pleasant looking kids, on top of a platform that leads to three parts of the playscape, the slide, a swirly ladder, and a fireman pole. You three are taking up most of the platform, and specifically blocking the entrance to the slide. You three are in the way in a high-traffic area atop the playscape. (What in your minds makes you believe this is even polite?)

As the playscape became more crowded with little kids, what kept you from thinking or acting upon the thought, "We should move. We're taking up all the room up here and making it difficult for the little kids who love slides to access it." The fact that you did not get down on your own made me reluctant to ask you to take your important conversation somewhere else. I suspected you would defend your right to be there and the situation would get worse. And I hate confrontations.

I decide to say nothing. My daughter must learn to navigate obstacles like you pose on her own. Will she ask you to move? I don't know. I do know that if I jump in for her every time, she'll never get experience, and she needs experience. And she's capable of managing the nonverbal communication involved in approaching the slide (with intent to slide - I know you teens are able to understand the intent in her actions) and waiting for someone to move out of her way. Except she's not ready, from a developmental standpoint, to be around teens like you, strangers at the park, behaving like alpha dogs establishing territory among a bunch of little kids.

I'm guessing you felt pretty dawggone smug with yourselves. If I said something to you, you'd probably say, "We're not stopping the kids from sliding." No, not with your mouths or spoken language. However, your very presence in that spot at the top of the playscape spoke something else (non-verbally) to the children and to me and my older daughter. Your actions and behaviors are rich in meaning.

We've been to two parks in recent days, where there were no teens. I blogged about our visits here and here. When we're at the park with littles, I see how far she's come. The passive-aggressive situation you gave her tonight is a completely different animal.

I watch my daughter climb the stairs, step onto the platform, and approach the slide. Her non-verbal communication indicates she wants to slide down the slide. Occasionally, the teen blocking the slide will step aside to allow my daughter through, but not often. Your non-verbal communication, rich with meaning and intent, says "no", or you were passive-aggressively thinking, "you'll have to ask me first" in an unspoken game of "Mother May I?" that a child with developmental delays is unable to navigate. Either way, you teens are bullies. Soft bullying is still bullying. And my daughter has not experienced that, yet, and has no idea how to navigate a trio of teenage bullies who are head and shoulders above all the other children on that playground. I watched and studied the situation. Almost every time she tried to enter the slide and encountered you, she retreated and went down another way. I could see her talking as she approached you, and it sounded like scripting to me. (She scripts when she's anxious. The professional term is "delayed echolalia".) Your body language told me you were talking about her, and not being kind.

She was almost always the only child on the playscape who attempted to climb the platform and use the slide. Occasionally one of the little kids there tried to slide, but they mostly stayed away from the platform where the three of you stood together. To little kids, you're big. Intimidating.

Once, I saw a really little girl climb up there, and you were blocking that slide, so she tried to go down the fireman's pole. One of you reacted swiftly, called her by name, ordered her not to go down that way. She tried anyway, and you grabbed her from danger. Ironic that your bully stance created a problem for one of the children you apparently knew.

In your minds, you were innocent - just talking - yet you'd staked out the most popular piece of real estate for little kids at the ballpark - for YOURSELVES to have an hour long conversation. Why were you at the ballpark? Was someone in your family playing ball? You're big enough to self-regulate and watch a game. Why weren't you doing that instead of planting yourselves on the playscape with a "we got here first" attitude?

You were out of place - you had no business being there, unless you were a part of the action, playing with, babysitting, interacting with, chasing little kids, lifting them up to reach the monkey bars. You were doing none of that - you were simply having a stand-up-on-this-platform-and-block-the-way-down-pow-wow in a place built for younger kids to play on. (Seriously, how many times do you see teens playing on a playscape?)

I watched. My older daughter watched. She was upset by your behavior, murmured to me that she didn't understand why you kept taking up all the room and blocking the slide.

I chose to say nothing, until I saw a woman, the mother of one of you, come from a ball field and climb the stairs, heard you tell her that the woman in the sunglasses (me) was staring at you, tell her what my daughter said to you. (Did you call your mother from your cell phone to tattle on my daughter or on me?)

I didn't hear my daughter, but I learned later that the exact line she told one of the girls was, "Your outfit is soooooooooooo last year."

That line is from a TV show (Hannah Montana, if you're wondering). A TV show where the teens who are friends cut one another down and get big laughs. I've told her not to say that line. Yet, I can't stop her from saying it. To my daughter with autism, I think, it is something acceptable that big kids (teens) say to one another. They say it on that TV show, and everyone laughs. She doesn't understand the meaning and context of it outside of a TV show. Maybe she was pretending to BE IN a TV show, and she didn't understand why you didn't laugh like the actress in the show.

So I explained to you three and the mom, she has autism, we didn't know if she would ever talk, she is talking now, and yet, she's still has a lot to learn about social appropriateness. I apologized for her. And by the way, you're too big to be up here, would you please get down, she can't navigate her way through all your body language.

I descended the platform, took my place on the sidelines, to keep an eye on my daughter.

The mom of one of the girls followed me, and told me a thing or two. Her voice was calm, so was mine. This was not a particularly heated exchange, but it was not pleasant.

One thing she told me is the playground belongs to everyone and the teens have a right to be up on that platform. (Come on, I'll ask again, when do you see teens playing on a playscape? Uh, NEVER. It is not a cool place for teens. Socially inappropriate. I wasn't referring to their "rights". I was referring to "appropriateness".)

PS: It's a PLAYscape or PLAYground.

Not a STANDscape or STANDground.

What did I want them to be doing, she asked me, out vandalizing cars?

(Are they vandals, I wondered?)

(I wished I'd asked the mom if the teens ever learned how to *share*. That's one skill kids practice on a playscape.)

She informed me that she has a nephew who is autistic and that he is non-verbal, has never said a word, and that he is 10 years old, and that if MY daughter can TALK, that means SHE CAN COMMUNCIATE, and that she was INSULTING her daughter ON PURPOSE.

And because my daughter can talk, that mom informed me, she should have ASKED them to move each time she wanted to slide. She did ask, with her body language. And the teens' very presence in a place they didn't belong was intimidating to her and their body language said, 'no'. My daughter did not understand the complex unspoken rules your daughter and the other two teens had established there.

Why didn't your daughter ask my child,

"Do you want to slide?"

She told me that I'm not a good parent to allow my child to insult someone's outfit.

You have no idea what kind of parent I am.

She went on and on about how being able to speak equals full and total communication.

You are so wrong.

She accused me of trying to make her teen feel guilty after my child insulted her without apology.

We never got an apology for the behavior of the teens.

Mom of teen girl: I appreciate the "mama-bear" in you. But you're way off base, defending soft bullying. And I understand, you were somewhere watching a game, not watching your teen. Teens don't have to be monitored for safety like my child does. What you didn't see was how long they'd been up there, what they were doing when approached by younger children, you missed the soft bullying there.

Mom of teen girl, YOU HAVE NO CLUE. YOU HAVE NO IDEA what communication is. You're making too many assumptions that are not true. Behavior is communication, and tonight, my daughter's behavior communicated anxiety and not knowing a good way to approach a wall of teens blocking the slide. (Your daughter's behavior expressed soft bullying.) The communication you assume that my daughter has because she can talk assumes a higher level of joint attention than you even begin to understand, lady.

Mom: Words don't always = the 2-way communication that you think it does; echolalia (delayed echolalia in this case) does not = an insult. Having a 10 year old non-verbal nephew with autism does not make you an expert about all things autism. You know nothing about my daughter (that's why I'm trying to explain it to you, yet you seem to be incapable of understanding and perspective taking. Your joint attention needs some practice.) I have a 10 year old verbal daughter with autism who copes by memorizing laugh lines from TV shows - and by knowing that about my daughter, I can't presume to know anything about your nephew.

Mom: let's trade. Your daughter can have the kind of autism that mine does. Mine can be neurotypical. I promise you, my daughter would not be on the playground blocking the equipment meant for younger children.

And teens, your behavior tonight was a form of bullying, judging and picking on someone weaker than you, someone vulnerable. You need to recognize that. Own up to it. Accept responsibility. Apologize. Make a better choice next time.

You feel smug and innocent because you didn't TELL her verbally that she couldn't slide. Yet, you bullied with rich meaning and communication at non-verbal levels.

Hey, I'VE GOT AN IDEA! Let's have a big meeting, invite some friends! There's a doctor's office down the street - let's meet in his patient waiting room. It's small. It won't matter that we're that we're taking up chairs meant for patients, even the wheelchair in the waiting room. It doesn't matter that we're pushing the boundary of appropriate - after all - we have a right to be there! Some of us are the doctor's patients, and all of us could be if we wanted to. The idea that the chairs are for patients with appointments is implied, and we'll ignore that, because we have a right to be here. So, here's the rule: IF A PATIENT ASKS ONE OF US FOR A SEAT, WE WILL GET UP AND GIVE OUR SEAT TO THAT PERSON. But we won't have to unless we're asked with spoken words. We won't talk to anyone outside of our group, won't ask if we can help them, won't offer anyone a seat - we need to have our meeting, after all. We'll ignore all non-verbal communication from patients who throw disgusting looks our way, patients who sigh. We'll ignore people who complain verbally to one another. If we are asked in direct, spoken words to move, we'll do so willingly. IF someone with an injury, both feet in casts, for example, complains that we didn't get out of the wheelchair, we'll tell him, "You have feet, that means don't need a chair because you can stand or walk around!"

The mom did ask the teens to leave the playscape, and for that I am thankful. At some level, the mom understood that the teens did not belong there from a socially appropriate standpoint. The little kids were happy, too - they *swarmed* the slide, their behavior told me they were absolutely thrilled they had access to it (finally). The mood at the playscape was completely different when the teens left the perch.

When I was a teen, if I had been one of the three on that platform, blocking the slide for nearly an hour, my parents would have admonished me for being to big to be on a playscape for little kids; they would have sent me somewhere appropriate. My parents would not have defended me by saying, "she has a right to be there".

Times have changed.

And autism is so misunderstood.

In case you're wondering, my daughter did not script lines from videos or talk about the outfits of any of the little kids at our recent park days. Her anxiety was low, there, with no intimidating kids like you, there.

Did I make my daughter apologize to the teen girl? No. I didn't learn what my daughter said until I had the conversation with the mom and the teens had vacated the playscape (hopefully not to vandalize cars).

And yes, on the way home, I talked to her again about how that line from the TV show is NOT appropriate, that she hurt a girl's feelings, and asked her not to say it again. Will she be able to stop herself from saying it the next time she sees a teen who reminds her of that TV show? I don't know. Only time will tell. We're still working on the perspective taking and self-control pieces.

PS to my READERS: Be sure to keep reading the next few posts as I think through this incident.

# # #

Here is a picture I took of that playscape four games later - no teens up high, blocking the slide!

Collaboration, Self-Awareness, and My Role

Today, I am *keenly* aware of my role in my daughter's inexperience with collaboration from nothing into something. (See previous post for background.)

I am a walking compensation for her.

This change in the way I do things may be one of the most challenging I have had to make in the remediation journey. (I wonder if deep down inside, I thought she wasn't capable of making this shift? Is that why I compensated? That makes me feel ashamed. Or was I simply unaware?)

I will use much strength to practice slowing down, pausing, waiting, pace setting, staying self-regulated when my girl is uncomfortable and showing it.

Self-awareness is amazing in many ways. What is it Dr Phil says? You cannot change that which your are unaware ... something like that.

I'm aware. Now I've got to make the change in my role and responsibility and put the brakes on my compensation.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Collaboration - How do we learn to collaborate?

I have not written about our journey much lately. One reason is that I'm tired and overwhelmed - and am behind and playing catch-up. Since my son began exhibiting symptoms of H1N1 flu on halloween, we've battled all sorts of illnesses at my house. Since our mid-winter vacation week in early February, we've been especially hard hit with illness. The school-building-school kids brought home sore throats and stomach bugs and colds. I had an upper respiratory something in late February that kicked my rear for almost two weeks. Then, there was a biomedical conference, a homeschool convention, an auto accident that prompted us to do nothing but relax for a few days, and the mouse that chewed through two seat belts that sucked up some energy, time, $ at the dealership.

For my daughter, my homeschooled and skating princess, illness brings with it dysregulation, resistance, upset. Focusing on our latest objective within relationship development is not our main priority when she's ill.

There's another reason I've not written much (although the sick and busy winter is the main factor):

I'm in a mode of pondering,
a studying response of sorts.

We saw our "autism consultant" in February. The assessment we complete every six months showed some positive growth, and revealed an important objective that is holding us back. It's a collaboration piece.

The assessment of Mom & daughter revealed that my girl senses no experience of collaborating with another person from scratch, from nothing.

She can join me in an existing activity and she is able to collaborate. I don't mean she can follow my prompts. I mean, she *collaborates* when the process is already in motion.

I can join her in an activity-in-progress, and begin to collaborate with her and she with me. I don't mean she can lead me through an activity. A lot of Floortime kids can lead but not collaborate - that's not what I mean, I mean she can collaborate, not only lead while we only follow. She can give up her own agenda and *collaborate* with someone who joins her in her play or activity.

But to begin with an idea and nothing else and develop something together from nothing - my daughter needs experience in that kind of collaboration.

Who knew that collaboration is so involved?

I understand how some observers might call her "non-compliant" or "strong-willed". I am so thankful for the way the assessment/eval/observation is structured, because that allowed us to see the pieces that are clearly in place and the piece that is not. Inexperience is very different from non-compliance.

As I think about it, I see very clearly how this inexperience is holding us back, is creating obstacles for us.

I have become a master at "guided demonstration". I know how to set up an activity in a way that my daughter can observe me in action, where I can offer her opportunities to join me, at her pace, in her time.

Having her observe and join was a necessary step in her development. It lowered her frustration and anxiety. It gave me a door into teaching her, not direct teaching, but teaching through games and activities, which is a positive move. But I'm weary of having to modify *everything* for a guided demonstration approach. I'd like to use some homeschool resources as they are intended, out of the box.

I've used "guided demonstration" to a point where it's a big part of her experience. Now I have to learn to use myself differently to give her new experiences with collaboration. We learn by doing - so we've got to "do".

Her anxiety in some settings is, I believe (as I ponder), related to this inexperience in this particular area of collaboration. Sunday School is one example. Sibling interaction. Homeschool work, lessons, learning. Homeschool co-op classes, maybe. (There are other factors at play - I know that - and yet, I see where having confidence and competence in this kind of "from scratch" collaboration would be an asset there, and probably reduce anxiety and frustration.)

She can't sit down with me for a lesson unless I set it up in a "game" (via "guided demonstration"). So, I modify. Some modification is okay. I don't want to have to modify everything. And I wanted an answer for why she is unable to join me without my starting everything without her. Now I have it. Makes sense, too.

A lot of learning is experiential, and as long as I can approach her learning in a hands-on way, in context, she is learning. But we inch closer and closer, developmentally speaking, to the point where she is going to need to be able to sit down with me, side by side, for some "work" and instruction. And it's that joining me without a demonstration that shoots her anxiety soaring. I never thought about it being related to a collaboration experience piece until February. Now, it makes sense to me - and yes, it's holding us back.

I googled "teaching collaboration in autism" - I got a lot of hits about teacher collaboration, not how children learn to collaborate. A search for "how do children learn to collaborate?" yielded only slightly better hits. (THIS was my favorite., although it's a rabbit trail and not directly related to my thinking about collaboration.) Where do we go to learn about how children learn to collaborate through experience?

I return to the resources that have been the most helpful through this journey. I'm pondering about the progression that Piaget described, the one that Ruth Beechick outlined for me so beautifully. Our collaboration objective must be rich in "manipulative mode". That's where experiential learning begins. And there must be many opportunities to learn.

As I think about it, maybe collaborating with me in an activity in progress or allowing me to join her activity in progress for collaboration ARE the "manipulative modes" for collaborating from nothing. Collaborating from nothing requires some joint attention on something not visible and concrete, on a thought or idea, mental image mode. Perhaps we are bridging the gap between manipulative and mental in the area of collaboration.

How are we going to begin? How do I use myself in a new way to offer her experience at this kind of collaboration, without trying to "get" something from her? Hmmmmm. Making lunch together from nothing, no offering her a choice as a starter (that's an activity-in-progress), maybe. I've got some ideas, thanks to our excellent consultant.

How did you help your child experience all the different faces of collaboration?

Alphabet Beats, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

The TV Teacher presents alphabet beats - writing lowercase letters, an educational video that teaches parents and children how to teach children to write lowercase letters.

The video uses rythmic chants that describe the motor action, auditory and visual cues and clues, for teaching lowercase letters.

The creators of the video recommend that parents watch the chapter together with your child and then practice while chanting together.

Each video letter chapter is approximately four minutes in length. The creators recommend watching just one or two chapters a day, and no more than four chapters. There is a sample from the video here (the demo is about the letter "p").

There creators establish a pattern and stick with it: Each chapter begins with the letter introduced with a visual of an item that begins with that letter. M is for magnets, for example. Miss Marnie demonstrates the visual with the rhythmic chant. ("V" surprised me - I saw "dirt". Then a vacuum cleaner. *grin*) Then the video features a few more items that begin with that letter. Then more practice with the rhythmic chant. She draws on a chalk board at first. See the pattern? I like that video gives students a break and that the entire four minutes is NOT drawing letters. After some more video examples of items that begin with that particular letter, Miss Marnie demonstrates how to draw that letter on lined paper...then more words that begin with that letter...then more practice.

I'm not a teacher by profession. I didn't learn little chants and poems to use in my homeschool classroom to help with skill and concept development. In terms of handwriting, this video provides me with the necessary how-to in terms of letter formation, and the creators give me the descriptive poem along with the rhythm. They say it enough times (a lot) in each chapter that I am able to remember the chant to use it later, away from the video, in real-life writing situations, like making a grocery list with my homeschooler. She tends to form a few letters in uppercase all the time, and having the video demo, the rhythm, and the chant to remind her of the place to start the letter, the direction to travel with her pencil, and how to finish, is helpful to me.

I struggle with a "good enough" amount of time spent. When I push my daughter for just another moment, I can increase her frustration and resistance, and interfere with her trust in me. I like that the videos are short, and a set time, so that *I* know when to stop.

I like the patterns set up within the chapters - the "variations on a theme" or "same-but-different, different-but-same" value is high here, especially for children w/ special needs who sometimes have challenges recognizing patterns.

I also like the fact that it takes the "me" out of the equation. It's not "I" who is telling my daughter to write letters this way; it's Miss Marnie!

The creators of the video keep distractions down - there is no distracting background music during the rhythmic chant and time for writing letters. The background is sparse, yet attractive, either all white or all black (blackboard). The visual examples of words that begin with each letter are attractive.

Viewers may download specially lined paper to accompany the video at

The DVD is priced at $35 as a stand-alone, or $64 with the upper case video.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of Alphabet Beats, please go here.

I was given Alphabet Beats Writing Lowercase Letters as part of my participation in TOS Crew of reviewers. I am not compensated for my review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tales from Terrestria, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew, I was given two books from the Tales From Terrestria series to review, book one, The Quest for Thunder Mountain, and book four, The Isle of Dragons.

Ed Dunlop has written an allegorical series for young adults called Tales from Terrestira (there is another series for children 10 and up). The Tales from Terrestria series does not need to be read in any particular order. The books are priced at $7.99 each. I enjoyed the stories; I think my children will enjoy them, too. I would let my 10 and 12 year old children read them.

"The Quest for Thunder Mountain," is the story of Gavin's quest to want to seek and to seek King Emmanual's will. In this midevil adventure, with knights, their ladies, and castles, an abruptly unemployed Gavin asks a question that I have asked: "What if King Emmanuel's will for me is something terrible?" he asked...."What if he wants me to be something I just cannot be, or do something that I just cannot bear to do? Aye, Sir Wisdom, I want to serve him and I want my heart to be yielded to him. But what if his plan for me is something that would make me miserable?"

Author Dunlop weaves a a series of stories that give readers, listeners and families, students, classes, opportunities to make some important comparisons, yes, self-to-text and text-to-self, but more than that, text-to-text comparisons with scripture.

"The Isle of Dragons", fourth in the series, is the story of 16-year-old Joel of Seawell. The verse that introduces this book, Proverbs 13:20, provides a peek into the decisions in Joel's path, "He that walketh with the wide men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Joel experiences a lesson that many teens his age experience - who should we trust, to listen to, his friends, or his parent? Peer pressure and peer acceptance is a powerful force. "But try as he might, he could not get away from one simple fact: the Tournament was a point of contact with other youth his age. If he went, he was part of the group and would be accepted by them; if he chose not to go he would be on the outside looking in." (p. 65-66)

"The Isle of the Dragons" is the intriguing story of Joel's journey to a forbidden place and the consequences that follow, a story of a father's unconditional love, and lessons learned.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of books in the Terrestria Chronicles series, go HERE.

A Double

PONY League baseball season is about to begin.
Today, my boy has a scrimmage.
The weather is miserable, more like winter than spring.
17 Apr 10
Temps: Mid 40's
Wind: Brisk
See boy hit ball with bat:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, a Jossey-Bass Teacher review

TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION, 49 Techniques That Put Students On the Path to College, by Doug Lemov ($27.95) from Jossey-Bass Teacher, for grades K-12 is a thoughtful, well-written list of (as the title describes) 49 teaching techniques
"gleaned from years of observations of outstanding teachers in some of the highest-performing urban classrooms in the country."

For over ten years, teacher, trainer and administrator Doug Lemov has observed hundreds of classrooms, analyzing outstanding teachers who have transformed at risk students into achievers. What he found was that there is a tool box for success, and they are techniques that can be learned and employed by any teacher. As a result of Lemov’s Techniques, West Denver Prep students (93% who are qualified as low income) demonstrated the highest academic growth at any middle school in Denver for the third consecutive year in 2009, with median growth percentiles of 90% in Math, 85% in Writing, and 66% in Reading.

Doug Lemov is a Managing Director of Uncommon Schools and runs it's True North Public Schools network in upstate New York.

I immediately look for a yellow highlighter as I begin to read this book - I believe I have done that with every book that arrived from Wiley.

This one requires more equipment than a highlighter, because it comes with a DVD of video examples to illustrate points in the book. How many times have I wanted a video demonstration of a concept or objective?! The video is a nice addition. The reader gets the visual examples without having to pay for or travel to a conference.

This statement sums up what I am trying to accomplish in a remediation program as I homeschool one child: "Too often teachers have not taken the time to teach their students, step by step, what successful learning behavior looks like." page 146, from Chapter Five, Creating a Strong Classroom Culture.

Teaching what successful learning behavior looks like involves self-regulation, self-control, and self-discipline, and Teach Like a Champion recognizes that fact.

One of my favorite chapters is "Building Character and Trust," Chapter 7. Technique #49, "Normalize Error" is one I need to remember as I help a sib with homework. I think this book offers important information for parents who homeschool; parents who help school-building schooled children with homework; for teachers and tutors.

Some of the techniques will make you think to yourself, "I know that!" But do you do it? Or could you do that one better? And others will have you thinking, "I should have known to do that!" The techniques -- for all learners -- are practical to implement, appeal to my common sense and to what I know about learning and the brain, about relationships, as I've researched all those things the past nine years because of a child with autism. They're really positive, too. I like that!

Technique #5:
Without Apology. If teachers aren’t on guard, they can unwittingly apologize for teaching worthy content. Kids respond to challenges, so instead of apologizing, say: “lots of people don’t understand this until they get to college, but you’ll know it now. Cool.”

Technique #22: Cold Call. In order to make engaged participation the expectation, call on students regardless of whether they have raised their hands. Cold calling is an engagement strategy, not a discipline strategy.

Technique #45: Warm/Strict. Teachers must be both: caring, funny, warm, concerned, and nurturing – and strict, by the book, relentless, and sometimes inflexible. Teachers send the message to students that having high expectations is part of caring for and respecting someone.

One of the statements I've heard at homeschool conventions by college professors who present at conventions is that there is a big difference between public schooled students and homeschooled students in college. Homeschooled students have far superior critical thinking skills. Chapter 9 of Lemov's book is, "Challenging Students To Think Critically, Additional Techniques for Questioning and Responding to Students".

The Teach Like a Champion web site is here. A sample video clip is available there. I always look at the table of contents of a book I'm considering online. Peek at this one here. Chapter 1 is available here; the Index, here; and the DVD contents, here.

Published by Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley
Publication date: April 22, 2010
$27.95; Cloth; 352 pages; ISBN: 978-0-470-55047-2

Jossey-Bass, an Imprint of Wiley, sent me this book at no charge so that I may review it on my blog. I am not compensated for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Coached For Life, a B&B Media Group, Inc. Book Review

My elementary-school-aged son began playing baseball several years ago. I was slightly concerned about what kind of coaches we would encounter. We have been fortunate to have coaches who are gentlemen, who put fun ahead of winning, who treat the players with respect while expecting the best of them.

When B&B Media Group offered me the opportunity to review, "Coached for Life", I jumped at the opportunity. I'm so glad I did.

I had not thought about the long-term impact of a coach on the life of a child (or young adult), nor had I spent any time reflecting upon the impact of a coach on an entire team.

Sometimes, a coach, or coachES, are so incredibly influential on each team member, that they impact the courses of every member on the team.

And "Coached For Life" is such a story.

I enjoyed "Coached For Life", as I read about the players whose lives were impacted not only while they were playing together under two unique coaches, but after they left school and headed out into real life. The testimonies these players relate about their lives and the impact their special coaches played is uplifting and inspiring.

B&B Media Group sent me a complimentary review copy of Coached For Life. I am not required to write a positive review in exchange for a review copy. I was not compensated for this review.

Time4Learning, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Time4Learning is “a convenient, online educational program that combines learning with fun educational teaching games.” My daughter used the a Pre-K section so that I could review it here. The Pre-K section is fun and educational. The activities are developmentally sequenced for the little ones. Here's a screenshot of a partial list of activities:

My older elementary-school-aged homeschooler is developmentally delayed. She needs some foundational experience in some of these areas, and she is enjoying playing the games. I like the fact that for her, there are a mix of really easy sections and some that are a little challenging (money and measuring, for example). Practicing in areas of competence and areas of slight challenge is good for building resilience.

My daughter tends to dislike anything that is too "educational" in her mind. Schoolwork creates a lot of anxiety for her, and if she perceives a worksheet or activity as "too hard", she shuts down with screeching, protesting and resisting. Time4Learning has not only NOT shut her down, she's asked to use it (that is huge at my house).

My daughter has mixed colors, learned about healthy habits, read a book about going to the doctor (which did not mention shots, thank goodness), helped create a story about herself, matched all sorts of things, played a memory game within several topics, and asks to play again. I like the section on feelings. I recognize a few activities that are specifically helpful for children on the autism spectrum (feelings is one of them).

Within each area or topic, there are patterns that repeat. There is a story option, a matching game, a memory game and other familiar activities within each section. A student should recognize the pattern once he has played in one or two areas. I like the variations on a theme, same-but-different value to the pre-school section.

She's getting math and reading practice. I want to spend more time with her on the money and time activities.

The Pre-K section has a *huge* Playground section with activities to interest just about anyone. There are six big categories in the Playground: Action Games; Kid Places; Puzzlers; Activities; Educational Games; Puzzlers. The sections are big, with lots to do. For example, within the category of "Kid Places", Time4Learning gives kids 10 places. One of the choices there is "Arthur". In the Arthur area (from PBS Kids), there are 36 different game choices.

Time4Learning is priced at $19.95 per month for the first child in the family and $14.95 per month for additional children in the family. Sign up and login are easy. My daughter and I have separate login accounts, which means I can print reports and look at what my daughter has done online.

Time4Learning offers a forum for parents where we can interact. The company offers a Getting Started Guide and Hints section to help you use their product. And Time4Learning offers support by e-mail and telephone.

Time4Learning gave us a month's free access to the Lower Level for pre-school and early elementary students as part of TOS Crew. I was not compensated for my review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

To read my Crewmates' reviews about Time4Learning, go HERE.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010 MidWest Convention Session Debriefing

I am home. Tired. Glad to be home.

My older daughter, who happens to be a school-building schooler, joined me in Cincinnati for the 2010 MidWest Homeschool Convention. I offered to bring her along, and at first, she balked, because she is not a homeschooler. (Her sister is.) I asked her to look over the teen track before making a decision, and she liked what she saw and she joined me on the trip.

Thursday evening, 5 pm - 9 pm; Friday, 8:30 am - 9 + pm; and Saturday, 8:30-6pm, we attended sessions or shopped in the exhibit hall.

The list of presenters and topics each session made choosing one presentation each hour very challenging. For the opening session of the convention, my daughter and I headed to see John Stonestreet from Summit Ministries as he spoke about why students walk away from their faith. Stonestreet is an excellent speaker who knows his stuff, and he's passionate about Christ. My daughter attended quite a few of his presentations and went to bed one night quoting him. I'd like to send my children to one of the Summit Ministries student conferences in the future. (I found this particular lecture here.)

First time homeschool convention speakers Tim Cash and his wife, Barb Cash drew big crowds. Tim Cash is a former MLB player who is a MLB chaplain, dad of five, and husband to Barb. I attended two of his four sessions. (The other two sessions were for men.) My daughter and I attended the first of Tim Cash's sessions together, Not Ashamed - Living Out Your Faith – The Power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. - He is a really fun, yet serious and authentic combination of teacher/preacher/story teller and I don't think we checked our watches once during his presentation. Cash brought up a question for self-examination, "Have I embraced God for WHO HE IS, or have I reduced Him to who I want Him to be?" Tim Cash reminded me, "God is not going to put something too heavy or ill-fitting on me." And he spotlighted a Ravi Zacharias quote that has deep meaning for me as I consider the behavioral intervention we began with (and ultimately abandoned) as a child was diagnosed with autism nine years ago: "Rules without intimate relationship will always promote rebellion."

I attended Tim Cash's second presentation, Sportsmanship & Godly Character – The Value of Athletic Competition, without my daughter. (She headed to the teen track to hear Jeff Myers talk about Four Deadly Questions that session.) My son (also a school-building-schooler) is a big sports fan, and baseball is his favorite sport. We've been involved in baseball for several years, and we see the boys on the team (mine included) struggle with the wrong focus each season. Ever see a child's entire day ruined by one at-bat or play on the baseball diamond? I have. Cash walked us through what the focus should be, illustrated with anecdotes, supported by scripture, with practical examples of what good character on the playing field looks like on the outside and thinks on the inside. I left that session with several pages of notes and a lot on my mind. Cash stretched me and grew me. I purchased a copy of the audio on CD of this presentation to share with my men at home. And I'd like to send my son to one of the UPI clinics (the list of clinics for 2010 is not yet on the web site).

Barb Cash spoke on the topic, She Senses the Worth of Her Work ~ Finding Value and Beauty in This Crazy Homeschooling Life. Barb Cash is a match for her husband, Tim, on the wisdom and entertaining scales. She's a delight to hear. She's also a story teller, letting her stories illustrate her points, and when she described a quiet moment after breakfast, where she noticed the table covered in dishes, spilled pancake syrup, a big mess left for her to clean up, her reaction was not upset, but praise and thanks that she would get to share her lives with these people, her husband and her children. She reminded us of 1 Timothy 6:6 and jerked a knot in my tail. I can let the drama and challenges of autism weigh me down and color my days in a negative way. She illuminated my need for an attitude adjustment for sure.

Wendy A. West Pidkaminy, LCSW, spoke on the topic, Parenting Challenging Children with Power, Love and Sound Mind: The Nurtured Heart Approach from a Biblical Viewpoint. I went with one child (the one with autism) in mind, and left with a different child in mind. I headed to the vendor hall and purchased Pidkaminy's book for more clarification. An hour was too short to touch on more than a brief overview. Her book and program are the Christian version of the work of Howard Glasser and his Nurtured Heart Approach. In many ways, the approach uses some of the techniques we learned in the behavioral approach we abandoned many years ago, yet the approach, I think, uses the techniques in the right way, for the right reason, in the right context (the context of relationships). Seems that with challenging children, we tend to be very negative with them, telling them what they do wrong, what they need to do better, more than we affirm what they do right. Shifting to the positive is enough, according to Pidkaminy, to be a catalyst in huge positive changes in the child and the family. I will have to write about this one as I read the book in depth.

Jay Ryan spoke on the topic, Classical Astronomy: The Biblical Purpose for the Sun, Moon and Stars. This was one of the many rooms that was too small for the crowd who came, although my daughter and I managed to get seats in this one. (There were sessions we were unable to attend because all the seats were taken and every inch of floor and wall space were taken by people.) Ryan taught us about how to look at the day and night sky for clues about time, navigation, and season, and how to use the sun, moon, and stars without a telescope, in the classical sense. I had no idea that when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed under a full moon. After 24 hours of consideration, I purchased Ryan's textbook and hope to use some of it this summer to study the night sky. This session was videotaped and will be available, free, on The Homeschool Channel. Sign up for e-mail notifications so you'll know when this one airs.

Dr. Larry Schweikart is a history professor at the University of Dayton, and author of several books. He spoke on the topic of one of his books (with author Mike Allen), "A Patriot's History of the United States". He clearly loves history and draws the audience in because of his passion. He loves this country, too. Schweikart wants to set the record straight - the textbooks that my children use in public school are slanted, he says, and he has authored and co-authored books to dispel myths and lies that our children are being taught in school. My daughter went with me to this session, and she and I found it interesting and timely. He opened my eyes to the history being taught to my school-building school kids. (UPDATE: Saturday, 17-Apr-10, I found "A Patriot's History of the United States" in paperback at a warehouse club for under $14.)

Julie Anderson's session was another packed session in a too-small room. Who knew that Understanding Introversion / Extroversion (I/E) Level would be so popular? Introversion and extroversion refer to the amount of external stimulation your brain needs or wants in order to feel happy, content. I had some big a-ha moments in this session - my husband and I are probably extreme opposites. This is a topic I'd like to study more. I wish I'd had time to talk to Julie in the exhibit hall. (There is a clip from the session here.)

Scott Flansburg: The Human Calculator spent an hour dazzling us with his ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide at warp speed. He gave the audience some tricks and short cuts, and taught us to begin counting with zero and end with nine instead of beginning at one and ending with ten. His favorite number is nine. And he taught us why. My daughter and I enjoyed that hour very much - it was another session where I don't think we checked our watches.

Tim Hawkins performed during the convention. Our tickets to his show were late Friday night. We laughed and laughed and laughed! Click through to his web site and watch some of his clips. He's so gifted!

Psychologist and parenting expert ("Traditional Parenting") John Rosemond's first session on Thursday night was supposed to be about parenting strong-willed children. After a half-hour of listening to him talk about why we don't need experts like him (our grandmothers didn't need them, he reminded us), never getting to the topic of the strong-willed child, and in my mind, running out of time to talk about them, I slipped out of the session and headed to the vendor hall. I stayed long enough to hear him say that if we stacked all the parenting books one on top of the other, the ones listed at Amazon dot com, well over 100,000 titles, they'd compete with the height of a skyscraper, and he nicknamed them, "The Tower of Parenting Babel". He was humorous, but not what I came for. So, I left. If he actually got to the topic of strong-willed children, I don't know, because I wasn't there. And I opted to skip all of his other sessions. I plan to borrow some of his books from the library over the summer to get an idea of what, exactly, I missed.

Jan Bedell is a neurodevelopmentalist who is a practioner of the ND approach. I attended a session about homeschooling a special needs child, where Bedell outlined the sensory challenges experienced by our children. Having studied sensory challenges for the past nine years, including the HANDLE approach (another neurodevelopmental approach), I was mostly bored. I had a couple of specific questions I wanted to ask Bedell about autism, but never managed to catch her alone at her vendor booth in order to chat with her. I did get a copy of the free articles about autism and learning disabilities that she offered at her booth. I haven't read them yet.

Attorney David Gibbs had my attention during the very last session of the convention. Parental Rights Amendment – Is it Necessary? Is it Dangerous? In summary, Gibbs believes that spelling out parental rights in an amendment may actually narrow the rights we currently have. He reminded us to pray and pray more, reminded us of the privilege we have to approach the throne of God at any time, for as long as we desire. Gibbs compared our open door with our Heavenly Father to a 10-minute meeting we might be able to get with a legislator. Christians need to pray and pray more.

We tried to get into several sessions that were filled to capacity. In an attempt to maximize time in the massive vendor hall, we failed to arrive early enough for a seat in a small room. I wanted to see Shelley Noonan; my daughter wanted to see Jobe Martin's presentations on creatures that defy evolution. I'm not sure why the conference organizers put some of the presentations in small rooms. With 4500 families registered, my guess is that most sessions would draw more than 100 attendees.

The Homeschool Channel gave me a list of presentations they were videotaping at the convention that will air here. They told me to provide my e-mail address, and I did, and within 24 hours, I had a notification from them of what would air next (nothing from this convention, yet). From the MidWest Homeschool Convention of 2010, Dr Susan Wise Bauer, Amanda Bennett, Woody Robertson, Barbara Beers, Terri Johnson, Michael Flaherty, Leigh Bortins, David Quine, Catherine Levinson, Jim Weiss, Jay Ryan, Cindy Wiggers, Carol Barnier, Dr Jobe Martin, and Andrew Pudewa are a few of the speakers on that list; the list is substantial.

I took the time to look at the list of presentations being video-recorded, which allowed me the opportunity to attend other live sessions, and purchased 11 audio CDs of sessions I could not attend that were not video recorded.

My daughter and I had many opportunities to speak with folks while waiting in line or eating a meal at the convention, and as I spoke with them, wished I'd changed my gameplan a bit. There are quite a few sessions for students in or approaching high school that have to do with transcripts and test-taking that apply to everyone, not just homeschoolers. We might have spent a little time on those topics at the convention, but didn't this year.

The weekend passed quickly and was fun. We learned a lot.

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Created by OnePlusYou -

Stat Counter