Help for Haiti

Help for Haiti
This organization has been in Haiti for many years. They are trustworthy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Home again.

Well, we are finally done with the convention season. Back from Washington, DC from the Children and Adults with ADD (CHADD) conference. On the way there, we blew out a tire on the trailer and had to jack up the trailer, take the tire and find someplace that had a replacement. We ended up in a Washington, PA WalMart. Thank goodness for cellphones, AAA and WalMart.

As usual, I knew that the tires were getting worn, and that I needed to replace them, but life always seemed to be too busy and other things got in the way. And I forgot. And I procrastinated.

And I paid the price.

Luckily no one was hurt, and it just pushed our time-table back a few hours. God is good, and we are thankful to Him for keeping us safe.

Melinda was able to attend many workshops and gained a lot of new and useful information. We exhibited some of our products, met many new friends, and got reacquainted with many old friends. Overall it was a good time. Beckie was the only child with us, and she had an upset stomach part of the time, but she was a trooper and a good sport.

On Saturday night, we took a "Monuments by Moonlight" tour and saw many of the memorials in our Nation's capital. It was about a four hour tour, but I think you could spend several times that long and still not see everything.

But we are still very glad to be home. Exhausted and ready for some rest.

Special Needs Homeschooling – Memory Difficulties

All children forget things they’ve heard now and then, but for some children forgetfulness happens frequently and is problematic. Parents of the chronically forgetful are faced with the difficult task of trying to determine if their child is genuinely not retaining information or is being willfully non-compliant.

One way to determine if memory issues are causing difficulties is to check in with the child is to see if she can repeat back what you just told her to do. A child who only remembers one out of three directions will not be able to comply with completing all three. Sometimes a child with working memory difficulties can repeat back what they’ve heard immediately, but the information is not retained long enough for them to act on it before it is forgotten. When memory issues are causing difficulties, there are a number of strategies to improve retention and compensate for weaknesses.

One way to help those who have trouble remembering things is to develop routines that can become habits. For example, if you want your child to do the same three things every morning, have him perform the activities in the same order and in the same location each day. Once there has been enough repetition to form a habit, the child no longer has to work to remember the three morning chores.

Some children remember sequences and lists better when using music as an auditory prompt and reminder. Try making up songs that incorporate the task you want your child to complete. Generate your own song or use a familiar tune and change the words to fit the activity.

Songs allow for repetition, which helps with memory and can aid your child in sticking with an activity for an adequate amount of time. For instance, you could sing a song about washing hands to help your child remember all the steps involved and to keep them washing long enough to get clean. They can learn a tooth brushing song and sing it in their minds to keep them brushing and remembering to brush the top and bottom teeth on both sides.

Another strategy to facilitate memory is to use visual cues in addition to the auditory directions given to a child. For young children or those with language delays, use gestures along with your verbal directions. If you need to remind your child to put his coat in the closet, point to the coat and then to the closet as you tell him to pick up the coat and hang it where it belongs.

When a child has difficulty remembering routine daily activities try using pictures, charts, and lists that can serve as constant visual reminders. This will relieve some of the burden on auditory or working memory alone. Post the charts or checklists where the child can see them at the time and place they are needed to complete the tasks. This will also help the child to be consistently reminded through visual cues without the parent needing to frequently prompt and repeat what needs to be done.

For activities that are not part of a routine, the child needs to develop strategies using internal cues to help retain the information long enough to complete tasks. For some children, repeating the directions to themselves over and over until the job is done may be effective. For example, the child who is likely to forget what he was sent upstairs to retrieve might prompt himself by repeating, “Go to the bedroom. Bring back the history book.”

My own children benefited greatly by applying the “make a movie” technique. Before I’d give them a direction, I’d instruct them to “make a movie in your mind” about what I was telling them to do. Then I would tell them step-by-step what I wanted them to do. I’d ask them to picture themselves completing the task and encouraged them to imagine themselves following the directions to completion.

The more color, detail, and even humor that was included in their movies, the easier it was for them to remember what they needed to accomplish. I’d tell them to push the “play” button and then send them off to do the errand with a reminder that if they forgot what they needed to do they could replay the movie in their minds and see if that helped them remember.

Memory challenges can be frustrating for parents and children alike. By incorporating strategies into daily activities, children can begin to develop skills and learn to compensate for their memory difficulties. It’s never too early or too late to work on improving memory.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Homeschooling? Buy yourself flowers!

With all the commercials and advertisements for "back to school", it's easy to see the portrayal of relief as parents send their children back to school. For those of us who homeschool, this time of year means getting back to work. Most homeschoolers take the summer off or do a lighter schedule during traditional school break times, so the end of summer means it's time to kick it up a notch again. There are notification forms to fill out and turn in, curriculum to prepare, and school supplies to buy or locate. Homeschoolers, it can seem as if everyone else is sighing with relief that school is starting while for you the work is about to increase. Don't buy in to those feelings of dread! We homeschool for a variety of reasons, and it's good to review them before diving into a new school year. Why did we decide to homeschool? What were those benefits again? Keep these foremost in your mind and you will find renewed enthusiasm for the tasks ahead. I started a tradition years ago that I'd like to share with you. The first day of school each year, I do a shorter school day to ease us all back into the routine. After we've finished the day's assignments, I go to a flower store and buy myself some fresh flowers. I pick out a card (okay, sometimes I pick out a sympathy card because let's face it - homeschooling is hard work!) and I have my children sign it. Then I set the flowers and card on the dining room table for all to enjoy...until the cats knock the vase over.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pillow case, anyone?

My son, Josh, and my daughter, Beckie, both have been diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. If you've ever mistaken the words "truck sale" for "drug sale", for example, you'll have an inkling of what it's like for them. Pairing visual cues along with auditory directions is helpful, but sometimes I forget to do that. A few weeks ago we were rushing around getting ready to go to a conference. As I was taking my mental inventory of things I needed to take with me, I realized that I'd left my medication upstairs in my bedroom and would need to take a dose while we were still at the conference. So, as Josh was heading upstairs I asked him to grab my purple pill case from my bedroom so we could take it with us. He answered with his usual, "Sure, Mom" and headed upstairs. He was gone for several minutes, and when he finally came back downstairs he approached me with a baffled look on his face. He was holding up a pillow case and said, "I hope this is what you wanted because it's the only pillow case I could find. I don't know if it's purple or not." Josh's color blindness aside, I'm sure my face mirrored his bewilderment back to him until I realized that he had heard "pill case" as "pillow case" and had done his best to comply. You gotta love a guy who will unquestioningly hunt down a pillow case, no questions asked.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ginger Ale and Latin

My son Josh has difficulty remembering things. Once he's gotten information into his long-term memory, it's there to stay. It's hard to make the transfer before the information evaporates. We laugh about some of the things he does remember, which appear to be random snippets of his various life experiences. Once he surprised me by instantly translating the words when I was reading a quote in Latin. He remembered that the Latin phrase for "Death to tyrants!" was shouted at President Lincoln's assassination just before John Wilkes Booth jumped to the stage. Not only did Josh have the receptive understanding, he was able to say it out loud without struggling to recall a single word. He had heard it one time during a documentary his father was listening to on a car trip. Another time we were talking about the time he and his Dad went on a camping trip with a group of friends. At one point during the weekend Josh wanted to get something out of our van and inadvertently locked the keys inside. Since they were in a different state than I was, I could not provide the spare set of keys so they had to call an auto service to unlock the doors. As we recalled the incident together, Josh remarked that he drank a can of ginger ale while waiting for help to arrive. There are times when he can't remember what errand his Dad asked him to do before going to work, but he remembers drinking that ginger ale clearly. Isn't memory fascinating?

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'll prioritize that...later!

Sometimes there are so many things to do that it's hard to figure out where to start. This is true whether you are organizationally challenged or not. It's easy to become overwhelmed when faced with a long to-do list. I've noticed that the naturally disorganized members of my family have a hard time with the executive functions of initiating and prioritizing, and often they start with less important things that are easier and will take less time to get done. Unfortunately, that often means that pressing matters wait while non-critical items get done first. I have tried to help my son Josh with prioritizing by reviewing his to-do lists, putting stars by the most important items or high-lighting them. (Some of you know that Josh is color blind, but he can still see differences in color contrasts.) I've discussed with him the items that are on a deadline to be completed, and the items that can wait a little longer though hopefully not indefinitely. After one such heart-to-heart chat with Josh, he pensively nodded his head before replying, "Okay, Mom. I'll prioritize that later." Aaarrgh! At least Josh realized the contradiction and gave me one of his famous "maybe being cute will be enough this time" grins as a reward for my fruitless efforts!

Friday, July 20, 2007


Josh tends to take things very literally. As a speech therapist, I have worked with him over the years to help him recognize and understands figures of speech, proverbial statements, metaphors, and to make inferences from what he hears and reads. He has gotten better, although he still tends to take things literally unless it is a familiar phrase or concept. He has also progressed in his problem solving skills, using logic and past experience as a guide.
I am usually glad to see him try to reason things out on his own, but once when I wanted him to follow a direction literally he went in another direction. I had found a recipe for making omelets in a zip-loc bag. It was recommended for families because each member could put the ingredients they preferred into a zip-loc bag and then boil the bags until the omelet was cooked. Then each person could have an omelet exactly as he or she liked it, and it could slide from the bag onto a plate for serving. This sounded like a good idea to me, so I decided to try it out. I mixed up an omelet, put it in a zip-loc bag, and put on a large pot of water to boil. A few minutes later as I worked in another room, I called to Josh in the kitchen to see if the water was boiling. He said it was, so I asked him, "Would you please put the zip-loc bag into the water for me?" His reply was the usual, "Sure!" About five minutes later, I went to check on my omelet, and to my dismay I saw that the bag had leaked and there were rivulets of egg and other ingredients floating around like some sort of disgusting soup. Then I realized that the bag was not leaking...there was no bag! Josh had opened it up and dumped everything in the water. He remembered me saying to put the bag in the water, but that didn't make sense to him and I had never asked him to boil anything in a bag before. So, he reasoned that I must really mean to empty the bag's contents into the pot. For future reference, I encouraged him to ask for clarification if I was giving him a direction that didn't make sense to him.
More recently, I handed Josh a jar of salsa, a bowl for the salsa, a bag of chips, and a bowl for the chips. I asked him to put the salsa in its bowl and put the bag of chips into the other bowl. He said the usual, "Sure" and proceeded to put the salsa into the bowl. I continued on with other things and Josh finished what he was doing and wandered off to play on the computer. I had to laugh when I saw a full, unopened bag of tortilla chips inside a large bowl. I showed it to Josh and asked if that was really his idea of putting the chips in the bowl. He grinned sheepishly and said he just "spaced out" on that one. I am choosing to believe that's the truth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Do You Have A Napkin?

While riding in the car with Beckie the other day, she called to me from the back seat asking if I had a napkin. I tend to keep a supply of napkins handy, and I was happy she had thought to ask for one instead of just wiping her hands on the upholstery or ignoring a spill in hopes that it would dry without Mom ever noticing it. But Beckie's next question took me by surprise, because as soon as I handed her a napkin she asked if I had a pen or pencil. As it turned out, she wanted the napkin so she could write down a friend's phone number before she forgot it. But a napkin? My first thought would have been to ask for a piece of paper to write something down on. This got me thinking about the way the AD/HD mind works. Scott, my husband, has been writing things down on napkins, receipts, paper menus, envelopes, and scraps of papers ever since I first met him. Our son, Josh, is also a napkin writer. And now Beckie has joined in the practice. The problem is, this system doesn't really work. Napkins and scraps of paper get thrown out. If I notice writing on them, I save them, but often the writer no longer remembers whose phone number is written down. So we have torn off corners of paper with lonely phone numbers lacking owners, but can't throw them out on the chance that the writer will somehow recollect the significance of the number sometime in the future. Since the scraps are often small and irregular in size, there is no good way to store them and make them look neat. I think Post-it notes would be much better to use, or even better than that would be the small spiral bound notebooks that are portable and would prevent the loss of loose napkins or torn off envelope flaps. Each of my AD/HD family members has been provided with these tools, yet each persists in napkin/scraps of paper writing despite frequently not being able to access the information at a later date. My non-AD/HD daughter doesn't napkin write, so I suspect it has something to do with the way the AD/HD brain approaches tasks. Are there other napkin writers out there?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Home at Last!

Wow! What a rush!
Last weekend was the first that we had spent at home for six weeks. Beginning in late April, all through May and the first weekend of June we were exhibiting at homeschool conventions.
We traveled to Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey. I estimate that we drove around 5,000 miles. We met lots of great people for the first time, and saw some old friends. I wish we had many, many more hours to speak with you folks. It is quite a rush to teach, learn, encourage and generally share life with people who are going through the same struggles and challenges. It is draining, but well worth it. I hope we helped many of you.

In talking with hundreds of people who are grappling with special needs challenges, there is one thing that I find most common. Everyone at some point (and often it is after a six hour session trying to teach a 30 minute math lesson) asks themselves "Am I really up to this? Wouldn't Josh be better off in public school where they are trained to handle this?" The answer is always: Yes, you are up to it and no, he wouldn't be better off. Even if you are not officially homeschooling, the fact of the matter is that you will still be homeschooling. Let me explain.
The public schools are by definition and necessity designed to serve the masses. Their weakest point is when they have to specialize or accomodate for people who learn differently or have learning disabilities. If you child falls into this catagory, he/she will get the standard issue education- whether or not it is a good fit for their needs. If they are to succeed, you as the parent will have to complete their schooling at home. Thus you will still be homeschooling.

Strengths of homeschooling are: teacher-to-student ratio (tough to beat 1-to-1),
self-paced & independent study,
wide choice of methods & curriculum,
better, personalized learning environment.

So be encouraged and be reassured.
It is frustrating.
It is exhausting.
It is also the very best thing you can do for your child.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Way With Words

Well, standardized testing time is here again and I just got Beckie's test results back. Her highest score was for language expression, which should come as a surprise to no one who knows her. I suspect this may help explain why you can't win an argument with Beckie. She always has an answer, even if her answer is incorrect. She is never at a loss for words, and has a driving need to get the last word in during any discussion if she is comfortable with her conversation partner. If she is not at ease, she may let the verbal discussion come to an end, but I'm sure she finishes it in her head so she's still getting the final say. She is continually expanding her vocabulary by impulsively blurting something out, and then asking what a word she just used actually means. I can usually tell if it's a word she's picked up by reading, because the pronunciation is off. But Beckie also has an ear for hearing subtle nuances, and once she's heard a word a few times she's got the pronunciation down. We've started learning Spanish, and I've been impressed with how easily Beckie is producing the words. So this is what happens with the kids who were always non-stop talkers as they become teens? Not a bad outcome at all.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Everyone in my family is a native English speaker, so you'd think we'd be able to communicate with each other with ease. After all, we speak the same language, right? I don't know if this is AD/HD related, sensory processing related, or something else, but my two children with AD/HD seem to express themselves differently than my neurotypical child. This shows up most clearly when they are feeling sick. I'll ask my neurotypical child what her symptoms are, and get a precise description that's almost cellular in detail. I'll ask my AD/HD children what their symptoms are, and I'll get vague descriptions that confuse me. They can be tired, but not sleepy. Their stomachs can be queasy, but not upset. Words that most people use as synonyms have very distinct differences to them. When they do describe symptoms in ways I understand, they still express them in unique ways. For example, when my son had strep throat, he didn't tell me his throat hurt very badly. He told me, after a thoughtful pause, that it felt like his uvula had been acided off. I don't think "acided" is even a word, but I got the picture. I usually end up going through a total body checklist with them when they appear sick, asking if they have symptoms in various areas until I can pull the information together to get an overall impression. None of my children have language delays or disorders, so their inability to just state the facts of their illnesses baffles me. Even when I think I have an idea of what they are experiencing, I've learned that the symptoms may change within a few hours. What started out as only an upset stomach can end up as a sore throat or aching leg muscle. I think it may be that the way they process sensory information, including their internal sensations, is atypical. They may have a vague awareness of symptoms for a while before they become severe enough to enter into their conscious thoughts, and it may take even longer to discriminate the exact location and severity of the sensations. Since I can't get into their bodies to experience what they are feeling, I will have to continue to try and translate their use of language into something recognizable so we can treat the symptoms - whatever they are!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Conference Schedule, 2007

We will be running around like screaming banshees this year. Here is a listing of where we will be, and when. If you see a bedraggled and confused man, sitting on the ground, counting his fingers and mumbling to himself, please take pity on him and direct him to this list.
Also, if "SPEAKING" appears after the event Melinda will be presenting one or more of her workshops.

Indiana Association Home Educators (IAHE) - March 23-24, 2007 (Indianapolis, IN);
Indiana Homeschool Support (IHS) - March 31, 2007 (New Paris, IN);
Dayton Resource & Curriculum Fair (DRCF) - April 27, 2007 (Dayton, OH)- SPEAKING;
Information Network for Christian Homes (INCH) - May 4-5, 2007 (Lansing, MI);
Christian Homeschool Assoc. of PA (CHAP) - May 11-12, 2007 (Harrisburg, PA);
Fort Wayne Area Home Schools (FWAHS) - May 18-19, 2007 (Ft Wayne, IN);
Florida Parent-Educators Assoc. (FPEA) - May 24-26, 2007 (Orlando, FL);
Education Network of Christian Homeschoolers (ENOCH) - June 1-2, 2007 (Edison, NJ)- SPEAKING;
Christian Home Educators of Ohio (CHEO) - June 21-23, 2007 (Columbus, OH)- SPEAKING;
School Based Occupational Therapists & Physical Therapists - August, 2007;
Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD) - November 1-10, 2007 (Crystal City, VA);

Sunday, February 11, 2007


My AD/HD family members like to spread out their belongings, and don't really seem to notice the stacks of clutter until my twitching is impossible to ignore. I realize that organizing and noticing details doesn't come naturally to them, so to simplify the tasks I sat down and wrote step by step directions for each room in the house. I listed what supplies are needed, where to find the supplies, what tasks should be done daily, which ones only need done weekly, and some jobs that could be done just as needed. I stood in each room, reading and revising the lists, until I was convinced that if each of the items on the list were completed the room would look reasonably clean. I slipped each list into a plastic sleeve, so the items could be marked off with a dry erase marker when completed. I put each sleeve on a ring, so it could be hung on a designated hook and easily located and replaced once a room was cleaned.
I still think it's a good idea, and it should have worked. Should have. It wasn't long before the excuses starting coming in - no dry erase marker could be found, the written list had gone missing and no one remembered moving it or seeing it, or my least favorite "The room looked pretty good already." Just yesterday, I asked my son Josh to please clean the kitchen since he had been assigned that room for the week. He started the dishwasher, then informed me he had to leave for work. Before I could say anything, he pointed out "But at least the sink is empty." A glance revealed dirty dishes in both sides of the sink, although there were fewer than before he started. I pointed out that the sink was not in fact empty, but Josh just cheerfully replied that at least it looked better than it had. Somehow my AD/HD ones equate "starting the dishwasher" with "I cleaned the kitchen now" even if the sink, counters, and floor are filthy. In their minds, the kitchen is clean and they are happy with it.
Reminders to use the list loop us back to the previously listed excuses. It puzzles me that they seem to like it when things are clean and they can find what they need when they need it, but they won't put forth the effort to maintain it even when I finally manage to get things truly clean.

Monday, February 05, 2007

organizational skills

Someone wrote to me recently, asking how to help adults who have never developed good organizational skills. Lack of organization skills impacts every area of life, and can leave highly intelligent people at a disadvantage when they can't get their hands on what they need when they need it. Being brilliant won't matter much if appointments are missed or deadlines aren't met. An average person who is organized has an advantage over an average person who is disorganized. Life is complex and there is a plethora of information to keep track of, so as much as we may inwardly rebel against the constructs of organization, we must acknowledge the necessity for it. Here are some tips that my husband uses to help his naturally disorganized brain to keep track of important things. He makes as many daily tasks as possible a habit, done at the same time and the same way so he doesn't have to think about them and remember what to do next. It's just automatic. He leaves his keys on top of things he needs to take with him later, even if that means leaving his keys in odd places like the refrigerator, because that way he knows he won't leave without the item he needs. He uses reminder alarms on his computer, thus freeing himself up from having to memorize dates and times and eliminating the problem inherent in writing notes on napkins and scraps of paper which inadvertently get thrown out by some organized person who thinks it's trash. He keeps a notepad and pencil handy when he has to sit still at church or some other meeting, because wouldn't you know that's when his brain tends to think of things and he can write them down before the ideas are lost. He has used audio recording devices, which I highly recommend for use in the car. That's much safer than trying to write things down while driving or at a traffic light. The problem we had with that was that the device got lost before a habit of keeping it in a designated spot was established. Despite that, it's still a good strategy. Just start out with an inexpensive model first!