Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flea Circus (review and discount code)

Games! We love to use games to work on relationship building and social experiences in autism intervention at our house. Games that sneak in some academics are a bonus.

Flea Circus from RnR Games is a game for 2-6 players ages 6 and up.

Packaged in a box that reminds me of animal crackers, Flea Circus is priced at $15.95. The game comes with a deck of Flea Circus cards and one set of dog tokens and one set of cat tokens.

The concept of the game is pretty simple: Cats are worth 1 point; dogs are worth 2 points. The object of the game is to collect more points (with dogs and cats) than any other player.

The cards in the deck tell players what to do, whether to take animals from the center pile or whether to take animals from the piles other players have collected during the game, or whether to put animals back in the middle.

If you're looking for games to play with a child with special needs, Flea Circus offers a variety of opportunities for developmental and academic experiences.

Reading is not necessary; the cards use pictures instead of words.

The rules of the game have players taking or giving animals with different cards, which requires players to pay attention to the rules and to what the cards mean.

There are lots of rich opportunities for attention sharing, attention shifting, gaze following, turn taking here.

The games are relatively short in length. I love the opportunities to stretch attention time by achieving success with short games without having to cut it short without completing the game because it was too long.

Because cats are worth 1 point and dogs are worth 2 points, there is an opportunity to practice simple math within the game.

Flea Circus provides the background for fun, for relationship building, for social practice in a game where younger children or children with developmental delays can play with older kids. I like that it can be played with two people or six people (not every family is a family of four).

This is a game I will consider on days when my 'Rella has a cold or is having an 'off' day. I need games and activities where she can experience competence on 'off' days, and this one will work well for that purpose.

And it will be a game I consider on days when we plan a picnic on a blanket on the ground or some other event (outdoor concert, outdoor play, sib's baseball game) where we might be on a blanket and need to pass time in a fun way. Flea Circus is compact enough to take along for events like that.

Variations: We have enough little animal figures from play sets that I think we could add some of our own for more points and increase the math practice of the game.
WARNING – Small parts choking hazard, not for children under 3 years old or chewers.

We like this game; it is simple without being too babyish, and provides a background activity for a lot of relationship / social experience. Thumbs up from my house. ;)

RnR is offering 20% off through 2011 with the code CREW20. ;)

To read my Crewmates' reviews of Flea Circus or another RnR game, Pig Pile, go here.

RnR games sent me Flea Circus for review purposes as part of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew of reviewers. I get to keep the game. I received no compensation for the review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Ya never know when you'll stumble onto a nature study...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Theory of Mind and Context and Past Experience (again)

Two pieces of non-verbal communication are context and past experience.

Maybe you have seen the "fact" that is often quoted that only 20-30% of our communication is verbal, that 70% or more of our communication is non-verbal.

(I have not located the source of that particular statistic.)

Today, I opened this poorly written email from school:

Next week, Aug 29-Sept 2 is our annual can drive against C. Last year they beat us by collecting over 20,000 cans! Yes! 20,0000! Please help us bean CHS on and off the field by bringing in as many cans as you can all next week. Collections begin Monday!!!!!! All donations will aid those in the W community.

My first thought was, "If I had known they do can drives here, I'd have been setting aside our empty cans (Coke, soda, pop, whatever you happen to call them)." We don't drink a lot of carbonated, canned beverages, but I certainly would have saved them for a can drive had I known.

My second thought was about past experience and context:

In our former state, a CAN DRIVE is for empty beverage cans that can be recycled for cash. Context is important. We left a state that charged 10 cents per bottle or can as a deposit that the purchaser would bring them back to recycle them. This state does not charge that deposit.

Is this that kind of can drive to recycle empty beverage cans for cash?

Or do they refer to canned food, which would be a FOOD DRIVE to me?

I read it again and again. There were not enough clues in the text to help me.

So, I relied on creative problem solving. I went to the opposing high school's web site looking for information. It is a CANNED FOOD drive.

Glad I didn't dig the Coke cans from the recycle bin at the house.

I will be glad when my context more closely matches that of the people here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Free Career/Occupations E-books (ends Aug 27)

When we were doing heavy behavioral intervention (years ago), we spent a lot of time on photographs of people dressed up to show different occupations. We taught our daughter to identify those photos, but not much else.

The Old Schoolhouse has some mini-unit studies on different careers and occupations that go way beyond identifying photographs. And at the moment, they're free.

If you are on facebook, consider 'liking' The Old Schoolhouse there. You never know what Gena Suarez will offer to fans. Right now, she's offering a $35 value, free. Use the code FBWANNABE here.

Football - Ideas from friends

In addition to asking here on my blog, I asked friends for ideas on what 'Rella can do during football games and marching band competitions other than screech, "I hate football!".

And of course, my peeps came through, in a big way! :)

Here are some of the great ideas I was given:

What about 'videoing'. I am thinking of Valerie Foley and her son Billy. He creates footage and adds to youtube. Could Rella 'video' what is happening? I don't have to think of ideas for Nick as he can't attend functions.... and when we do take him, I give him the iPad!! :)

One thing that comes to mind are the friendship bracelets made out of embroidery thread. There are some pretty basic ways of knotting them, and I always fasten mine to my pants with a safety pin when I'm working on it so it doesn't fall (say, under the bleachers in your case).

Are there cheerleaders? Can you ask for their help?

Get a noisemaker and tell her to cheer and make noise when someone gets tackled or makes a touchdown.

what about an ipad or something - you could even get earbuds and let her watch movies/shows, play games, there are all sorts of apps like on an iphone. and Penny, lots of the younger kids that sit around us during the football games hunt for money in the stands (gross I know, but they love to find random pocket change which is everywhere), they eat nonstop, go on bathroom trips, hmmmmmm. Welcome to High school Friday nights!! :)

Our younger kids hand out cups of water/refills to the band

Snacks, lots of snacks.

yea videotaping?? we can barely make it thru a game- but pictures, videotaping are actually things he will do. and at a certain time we will go get something from the concession. but i don't know if we have made it through a quarter... also what about her DS...can she take that and just play for part of it? sometimes you do what ya gotta do

and yea on that ipad. When I want AJ to have a longer time I give him his DS. if short, I give him the ipod touch. great investment for us. short simple games vs 'level' games which get him in trouble time wise.

What about a small dry erase board and marker?

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Marching band season has begun. We want band events to be a family affair. Football games are ripe with challenges for a tween on the autism spectrum. The bleachers are hard and uncomfortable. The stands are crowded and people (strangers) are too close. The band next to us is too loud (and I forgot the ear plugs and have no idea where our noise canceling headphones are). The crowd is loud. We had a snack before we left for the away game, but not a meal. Following the game and football is not the easiest task in the world.

Add up all of the sensory overload and we have a recipe for upset and frustration that comes out as a loud, screechy, "I hate football!"

And autism, the one we know, doesn't sit and wait.

Even watching Big Sis in the band at halftime was a bit of a challenge.

Football games are not the place to bring a "to-do" bag filled with crafts and coloring books. The "to-do" bag works better at my son's baseball games, where we can spread out on a blanket on the grass.

I am on a mission to find more roles for my girl at football games. I bought a camera for her to use (she took a bunch of pictures of the opposing team's pep squad).

Today, we joined the sewing ladies to help make flags for the parents to wave during games. The sewing ladies are using leftover scraps from the color guard flags, and 'Rella and I joined them today to help. We painted. (I don't sew.)

She'll have a flag to wave.

I am still pondering roles for her at football games and band competitions and am not feeling very creative right now.

Send me some ideas. Please?!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Learning Vocab

I have a new favorite vocab resource. Webber(r) Core Curriculum Vocabulary Cards are a new item from Super Duper, and two review sets arrived at my house last week.

The cards come in a tin, which makes for easy storing. Each set contains 200 cards the size of playing cards, and the cards cover 100 high frequency vocabulary words. There are 25 vocabulary words each in categories of science, language arts, social studies, and math. Each vocabulary word is portrayed two ways and accompanied by an illustration. One card displays a definition; the matching card displays the vocabulary word.

Each set comes with a booklet that lists the vocabulary words within each set and describes games and uses.

I ignored the game suggestions and set about using the cards to determine which of the high frequency vocabulary words my child knows and what she does not know.

When you are the parent (or a professional, for that matter) of a child with a communication disorder, you often don't know what your children know. And you don't know how to evaluate them. A lot of these kids don't test well. Tests don't provide an accurate picture of what they know. Additionally some children have a vocabulary that is bigger than their comprehension. My child has a very rich vocabulary and sometimes I don't realize that she is using an appropriate word or term without really understanding the meaning or concept behind it. Her vocabulary fools me and others around her.

The blue tin holds Level One for grades 1-3 and ages 5-9, and we began there. The yellow set is for developmentally older children.

I did something that, in retrospect, I should not have done. I opened the science set with my girl and read a definition card to her. I set her up to 'perform' for me, something that can cause her anxiety to soar. She handled it like a pro, though, giving me a term that summarized the definition I read to her. When she seemed to struggle to find a word, I quickly handed her both the word card and definition card. We made it through all 25 words (50 cards) and stopped.

I realized that she does not know a few key terms. Or maybe she knows the terms but doesn't know she knows them and isn't able to convert what she knows into something she can tell me. She knew gravity, but was not able to identify liquid and solid. No problem. Now that I have this new information, we will be able to talk about, in context, liquids, solids, and gasses in the kitchen as we cook together. We are going to make throat lozenges today with honey and slippery elm powder. Guess what we will talk about as we make them??? ;)

The next day, I let her choose the set she wanted to work with. Would she like to go through the science set again or use one of the other sets? And I made her the teacher. She chose English Language Arts. And she quizzed me with the definition cards and waited for me to provide her the vocabulary term. The set up reduces the potential for her anxiety.


We are able to identify terms she knows solidly, terms she sort of knows, and terms she does not understand, and I can set about focusing on all of them in our day to day interactions and in context.

I don't want her to memorize terms outside of context in order to be able to fill in the blanks on a worksheet.

I want her to experience the terms in context so that she is able to make self-to-text comparisons in the future.

We'll get to the games from the booklet soon enough. For now, though, these vocab cards are a non-threatening (to her) tool (a worksheet, on the other hand, is intimidating to her) to use to see what she knows, to give her new insight about what she already knows, to help her put in to words a definition for what she already knows, and to begin to explore new concepts. They help me identify which is which.

With unique learning needs in mind, these card sets are not simply vocabulary words. The value of these card sets as a speech and communication tool is high for me. They provide opportunities for relationship work as well. Turn taking. Sharing attention. Shifting attention. And if my girl is having a rough day, I can choose a small number of cards to work on.

I like the visual component of the illustrations (most of them, anyway). I like the tactile component that my daughter gets when handling the cards. I like the kinesthetic piece - movement is always a positive in learning. There are opportunities to be creative as families and classrooms make up new ways to use the cards.

I have two concerns about them, and they're both common issues in card sets. One, I'd like the sets to be bigger, with more than 25 words to a set. Two, the illustrations, meant to be picture cues, are sometimes too specific or too general, which is an issue that is hard to avoid. Here's an example: I don't like the illustration of a washing machine (maybe it is a clothes dryer?) to accompany, "This is anything that has moving parts and does a job." I'd rather see a variety of contraptions pictured here to illustrate ideas of different machines.

The sets are priced at $39.99 each and are available from

Super Duper sent me two sets of Core Curriculum Vocabulary Cards to use at home in order to review here. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When genuine interest isn't there

One of my favorite magazines is The Old Schoolhouse. The most recent magazine to arrive features an interview with Guy and Angie Penrod. You may 'know' Guy, as I do, via his music with the Gaither Vocal Band.

In the fantastic interview with TOS's Deb Wuehler, Angie Penrod makes a statement that makes me stop for a moment of a little pity party: "Because of the kids' genuine interest..." All eight of their children enjoy learning, have genuine interest, study, listen, read, write, etc, without complaining. All. eight. of. them.

What does a parent or teacher do when the "genuine interest" isn't there? What if interaction with mom or dad or a teacher is difficult due to developmental delays? That has to happen before genuine interest can happen. What if auditory processing challenges interfere with read-alouds and oral narration? What if fine motor skills interfere with the physical part of writing and composing? What if math and reading don't come easily? When all of those things are in place, we often see pure resistance replace any kind of interest.

I don't even know why I'm blogging about this, except to say that reading a statement like that can be discouraging to a parent in my shoes, that I still have to fight the urge to compare myself to a homeschooling mom like that one, to fight the urge to call her a success and me a failure.
I have to resist the urge to wish my kid were more like hers and focus on accepting mine as she is and moving forward from there. I still grieve the child before the regression into autism and I am painfully reminded that all it takes is a statement in a magazine to remind me of it, even a teeny little bit and I still compare myself to others in an apples to oranges way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Engaging Students, The Next Level of WORKING ON THE WORK

Engaging Students, The Next Level of WORKING ON THE WORK by Phillip Schlechty is a new offering from Jossey-Bass, aimed at teachers in school buildings that comes from Schlechty's experience, education, and expertise about how we best learn, how we teach, and how to align teaching to meet the way we best learn.

I really like the message of this book. "Too often teachers confuse work with activity." (p 101) "Redefining the role of teachers also requires redefining the roles of students. (p 102). I could pull a hundred quotes from the book for you. It's a book that I find myself nodding along in agreement with as I read.

Homeschoolers, I suspect, will relate to the two sentences I pulled from one chapter (An Alternative View of Teaching). Those quotes are reasons many of us homeschool.

I see sometimes many of us as homeschooling parents and teachers everywhere become too focused on the wrong things. Schlechty refocuses readers in the right direction, away from rote memorization and toward engaged learning. His focus is on staff in school-building schools, but I benefit as well as his words shape how I think about teaching and engaging my homeschooler who has special learning needs.

His section on Design vs Planning changes the way I think about what we do at home. I come from a world of planning via IEP objectives and goals, and through homeschooling, I am trying to design opportunities for learning and growth without the planning. I had not been able to clarify that in my mind until I read this section in Chapter Three, Motives and Motivation.

The ToC is here. Excerpts are available here for you to read. Check them out. This may be the book you're looking for to help you refocus on engaged learning. I've certainly been given a lot of information to think about, to assimilate and accommodate, from it, as I continue to grow into the teacher my girl needs me to be.
Disclosure: Jossey Bass Teacher sent me a review copy of Engaging Students by Phillip Schlecthty. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Winner of Robert Pierre CD Giveaway

Winner of the Robert Pierre CD Giveaway is

Comment #2: Becky!

Congratulations, Becky!

Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Food for Kids

The cover of this cookbook draws me in. It looks fun to me. And as I open the cookbook, I quickly relate to the author. Sheri L. Sanderson is the mother of a child with celiac disease, and and Woodbine House bring us Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Food for Kids, 150 Family Tested Recipes. Finding foods that our kids will eat and that are gluten free (and more) can be a challenge, and Sanderson knows that.

The first four chapters are educational and informative:
Chapter 1: A Guide To Gluten-Free Beginnings
Chapter 2: Understanding Celiac Disease
Chapter 3: Special Help for Your Child
Chapter4: Before You Start

I often say that being just gluten-free would be sooooooooooooooooooooo easy. Adding dairy, soy, nuts, eggs, and other foods to the "free" list makes meal prep more complicated, and Gluten-Free Food for Kids is a gluten-free cookbook. If you're anything else free, you'll need to know how to make your own substitutions or skip certain recipes. (What is a substitution for powdered dry milk or buttermilk powder, anyway?) Bottom line: This book is a solid option if someone in your family is ONLY gluten-free. If you have other frees on your avoid list, I'd recommend you borrow this one from the library to see if it is something you will use enough to buy.

The Poultry chapter is my favorite and that's the one I'll be cooking from first. Chicken with Dijon Sauce and Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets are calling my name. There are recipes for homemade pizza sauce and mini pizzas that I'd like to try on a biscuit recipe ('cept I need a substitute for the buttermilk powder in the buttermilk buscuit recipe or perhaps I will use biscuits from a gf baking mix).

There are quite a few recipes for dishes that I already make and there are a large number I won't make because I know we won't eat them (stuffed peppers, for example).

The recipe list gives readers a lot of variety, including appetizers and snacks, breads, breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas, salads and veggies, soups and stews and sweets. The Party and Entertaining chapter is important - seems we all struggle with party ideas. The Lego cake idea is genius. The last chapter contains craft ideas. I wish I'd had this when my girl was in preschool.

The appendix and resource list at the back are a real wealth of information. There are cooking tips galore with a troubleshooting guide that I wish I'd had when I began over 1o years ago.

Sheri L. Sanderson's web site is HERE.

Woodbine House sent me a review copy of Gluten-Free Food For Kids. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Greg Laurie: Let God Change Your Life

Pastor Greg Laurie brings us Let God Change Your Life, How to Know and Follow Jesus. The book is for anyone and everyone, believers and seekers alike, written in Laurie's down-to-earth and easy-to-follow style, about exactly what the title suggests.

I visited a church in recent months where I left the sermon frustrated that I didn't feel like I had anything to bring home with me to ponder and use in my day-to-day interactions. I still don't feel settled since our cross-country move in April. I feel disconnected from people and disconnected from God.

I view Greg Laurie as more of a teacher than a preacher, and his book teaches. Laurie's book is longer than a Sunday sermon and provides specific scriptures, "why bother", anecdotes, encouragement, and ideas for real-life application to believers, to seekers, to backsliding children.

After the introduction, Laurie divides the book into three sections Part One: How To Know God; Part Two: Discipleship; Part Three: Making Him Known; notes, and Bible resources.

Sometimes, Laurie's words are almost too challenging; he stretches me and grows me, and his words reveal my weaknesses as I read them. Other times, Laurie points out observations that I've noticed (some as a direct result of having a child with special needs) that I don't think a lot of people are aware of, and I appreciate the way he brings those observations into the light and challenges the way we think about God, church, the gospel. Pastor Laurie's words reach me at both the head level and the heart level, and I suspect that is exactly what he intended.

Let God Change Your Life is a 288 page paperback retail priced at $14.99.

Let God Change Your Life: How to Know and Follow Jesus by Greg Laurie

David C Cook/June 2011

ISBN: 978-1434-70207-4/208 pages/paperback

The B&B Media Group sent me a review copy of Let God Change Your Life. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I am tired, tired of having to think so much, tired of not being able to put my brain / mind on "automatic".

I have to think and concentrate multiple times every day about information that should be automatic, and it is not automatic because we are so new here. Getting around town requires thinking and concentration. Remembering what each grocery store carries in terms of GFCF food takes a lot of mental space and time- none of it is automatic yet.

Getting info from the "I have to concentrate on it to remember it and apply it" part of my brain to the "automatic" part of my brain takes me many experiences over time. The process is sometimes exhausting and feels defeating.

I celebrate little victories when I do instinctively accomplish something now that wasn't automatic three months ago when the move was newer.

I want my girl to grow and develop in a way that things that are automatic for us are automatic for her. I don't want her having to remember a bunch of social skills rules to consciously think about to apply. I want to give her opportunities to experience what we experience and feel them from the inside out. I don't want her memorizing routines. I want her to be able to get herself dressed and ready, to warm up food, to make a meal, to do laundry etc without memorizing a task list every time.

It's another important reminder about how I want to approach autism intervention -- and WHY.

Thursday, August 11, 2011



A reason for the dysregulation and upset (read the last several blog entries for more info) of the past two weeks: 'Rella complained of a sore in her mouth yesterday and last night, I noticed that she was grimacing every time she swallowed.

Autism mom Tammy Vice is familiar with the phenomenon of out-of-nowhere dysregulation that preceeds illness, and she shared with me me her name for the illness: Pre-Illness Syndrome. Tammy should write a song about it.

It is something viral. Unfortunately, it's a little like going on a bear hunt. Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Can't go around it. Gotta go through it. Hope it finishes running its course quickly and I get my sweet girl back really soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Opportunities to Reference by Playing 'Hangman'

One early non-verbal foundation of joint attention (theory of mind) is referencing. We reference the physical and concrete (manipulative mode) first, and later, reference at higher, abstract levels. A child will not be able to reference meaning in someone's mind if that child does not (can't) reference in physical and concrete ways.

Giving the child opportunities to reference visually is important. I'm not talking about eye contact. I am referring to referencing for meaning.

On a yahoo list called Autism-remediation-for-our-children, where parents share ideas with one another, one parent recently shared using the game "Hangman" to give her daughter repeated opportunities to reference for meaning.

I got permission to share it here:
we played hangman. I drew the gallows, and the space for the letters in the word on the board (we have a chalkboard) and sat side-by-side and then I gave my daughter the chalk. She already was familiar with the game, so that was a non-issue. What was different here, was I was completely non-verbal. She would guess the letter and would have her chalk held in the air, ready to write, while I paaauuused, maybe vocalizing, "Hmmmmmm..." and then when she would eventually turn to reference, I was ready with clear non-verbal communication (face, body language) it got more proficient, I just did the facial expression. It was hard at first, b/c we were working on a weakness, but eventually she got it! I never directly asked her to look at me, so that she could make the discovery developmentally.
The example was too beautiful not to share. I wish I'd read this when we were busy extinguishing referencing in ABA drills.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Art Class

Here's a Susan-less moment from the weekend (yes, there were some):

Because our new state and our new hometown have much less to offer the tween and teenage crowd on the autism spectrum, I am looking for thinking-outside-the-box opportunities for my girl.

One opportunity is an art class. I have exchanged several emails with the owner of an art studio for children. He has not had a student with autism before. He's willing to give us a try.

Saturday, 'Rella and I headed to the art studio to attend an open house. I wanted to get a feel for the people there. Does it even have the potential to be a good fit for our situation? We needed to check it out.

We were greeted at the door by one of the teachers. She talked TO 'RELLA, not to me, and gave her as much processing time as she needed to answer questions. The teacher did not assume that 'Rella didn't hear her. (Remember this incident a few years ago?)

Next, we met the owner. He interacted with 'Rella in the same slow, gentle way.

And he introduced us to a third teacher, the one who will teach the homeschool class that 'Rella would attend. And yes, she interacted with my daughter in that same slow, gentle way.

If I didn't know better, I'd think our developmental/autism remediation consultant had trained them all.

They're willing to let her try the class. I'll sit in the art studio library and be nearby during class.

While I registered and paid for the class, the third teacher we met sat with 'Rella at a table featuring a beautiful photograph of an animal. They sat side-by-side and drew together.

I hope and pray that this art class with a group of homeschoolers is a good fit.

Here is the drawing we brought home from the open house. Can you tell what kind of animal it is?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Something's wrong

Something's wrong. My girl is dysregulated. She can't tell me why. I haven't figured out why, yet.

We've experienced months of progress and good days and now this.

She can't sleep. She was almost terrified last night. Upset. She cut her own hair in the middle of it. (ugh) Susan helped her. (see previous post)

Did she get into the cheese again? (That happened before we moved.) Has she had a dietary infraction? Gluten and dairy contribute to her dysregulation and we try to be very strict with her diet because certain foods dysregulate her so. Still, occasionally, she sneaks something and I find a wrapper or other evidence after the fact. I'm looking for evidence now in my quest to help her.

Is this the red-throat-thing-that-tests-negative-for-strep again? We battled that thing for several years. It sent her sensory seeking in bizarre ways (she wasted a lot of toothpaste and shampoo, for one thing) and kept her in a state of dysregulation.

Maybe it's strep.

Or an ear ache. Or tooth ache. Or head ache. Problems sleeping for her are sometimes pain in her face or head.

Maybe it's reflux.

Or hormones.

I don't know. She knows she's upset and dysregulated and knows it's bigger than usual. She is not able to give me the insight I need so that I can help her, to address the pain or a dietary infraction.

I hate autism. Hate it. I hate the part of autism that keeps her from being able to identify and tell me what's going on, the part that separates her from herself - I hate the part of the autism that holds her and the whole family prisoner to the dysregulation, that mocks me as I scramble to find clues and put them together to help her.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


When I was a little girl, I had a dozen imaginary children and some imaginary friends.

My 'Rella has begun to have imaginary friends. One of our rec therapists thought that 'Rella was hearing voices and she quit before I could fire her. (I did talk to two professionals in our lives about the imaginary friends, both familiar with development, who said that the imaginary friends are not 'voices' but are signs of developmental progress and a really good thing.)

Lately, an imaginary friend named "Susan" has been showing up. "Susan" makes 'Rella say and do mean things. My observation is that 'Rella is dealing with negative feelings in a bigger, broader way and "Susan" helps her do that.

It's a good thing, right?

"Susan" has begun to show up at times that are not good for me. This week, she joined us while we were grocery shopping, for example.

My 'Rella has been incredibly dysregulated this week and "Susan" has been an unwelcome visitor quite a bit. 'Rella is itchy and scratching, too, with some stubborn eczema causing physical discomfort.

Is she sick? Is she dealing with hormonal changes? Does she have pain that she doesn't recognize in a way to tell me about (sinus pressure, for example)? I don't know.

There are days when she can kick "Susan" to the curb, and days when "Susan" won't leave.

"Susan" is self-awareness for my girl; she's aware that she's upset, angry, dysregulated.

The days when she can kick "Susan" to the curb allow my 'Rella some experience self-regulating.

The days when "Susan" won't leave are challenging for the whole family. Those are days when I wish I had a doctorate in developmental psychology. Those days are trying for all of us. They keep me looking for a physical cause (did she eat some gluten or dairy? is she sick?) and at the same time, keep me hopping in terms of how to interact with this dysregulated child in a way that will allow her to kick "Susan" to the curb.

I think it's time to do some reading about imaginary friends.
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