Help for Haiti

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolutions ...Or Not?

I am hesitant to make resolutions. It's not that I don't think they are good things. I'm just not sure that a mere calendar change is an adequate reason (or excuse) to vow to do things that should be happening regardless of the time of year. If something needs to be done, I don't wait for a new year. I guess it's a good time to review life and see if the goals are still aligned with who I am now. But I also don't take things lightly if I say I am going to do them, so I don't want to set goals unless I know I will be able to see them through. It's like making a promise to myself, and that commitment shouldn't be taken any more lightly than if I were promising something to another person. I can easily see areas needing improvement. So many, in fact, that it could be overwhelming to try and address them all. I don't want New Year's resolutions to set me up for failure or hang over me with a looming condemnation as days slip by without goals being accomplished. So for now, I am living by general Christian principals without delineating specific and measurable goals. I tend to be driven by nature, and do not lack motivation and objectives I hope to meet. What I need is to live in grace, understanding the mercy of God who created me and knows my heart. I believe God will show me the areas where I should set goals, and only He can help me accomplish anything of true importance. The bottom line for me is that I want to be smack in the center of God's will for me, and my prayer is that if I stray He will nudge me back to the place I should be. So I guess I actually do have a New Year's Lifetime Resolution to stay close to God and cooperate with Him when He reels me back to Himself.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fun with the endocrine system

My daughter, Beckie, has been learning about the endocrine system. I explained that the endocrine system includes hormone-producing glands, which as a teenage she has in abundance. Without missing a beat, Beckie responded in a hostile tone with "What do you mean by THAT?". This was immediately followed by "I'm sorry!" spoken in a weepy tone. Just her little way of letting me know she was following the discussion on the influence of hormones, cracking me up as usual. When we finished the lesson and were on the review portion, I asked Beckie if she could tell me the names of three glands in the endocrine system. After a pause she replied, "Sure! P...M...S!" I told her I needed something a bit more specific (and accurate!) than that, but it was a nice try. And it did convey the idea that the endocrine system is related to hormonal influences, so maybe I should have given just a tiny bit of extra credit for the response.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

"Normal" is whatever you're used to

My daughter, Beth, has grown up with an older brother and younger sister who struggle with AD/HD, auditory processing, and sensory issues. Any outsider to our family in our younger days would have been able to see immediately that two of the children were not typical in many ways. To Beth, however, she's grown up with them and is used to the way they need to hear directions repeatedly and have tasks broken down into small steps. She's grown up seeing strategies in place to help her siblings keep track of school materials, shoes, and of course the elusive and frequently missing library books. She grew up pairing visual cues with auditory information to maximize retention and knows that without writing information down her siblings will not retain it. Beth has an in-depth understanding of the need her siblings have to be in motion, even while they are doing school work. She can list a dozen safe ways to meet the need for physical activity without it being too distracting to others or dependent on the weather. Beth is adept at redirecting a distractible child and helping them get back on track with their focus. Now a college student majoring in special education, Beth recently joined me at my part-time employer to be a substitute teacher in a preschool classroom. She thoroughly enjoyed her day with the children, and those working with her gave her rave reviews. They said she was a natural, and jumped right in without having to be told what to do with the kids. When I passed the compliments along to Beth, she was pleased but really didn't think what she did was a big deal at all. Beth's whole life has been part of her preparation, and to her she is truly doing what comes naturally. Her response to some of the challenges of special needs kids comes automatically, through years of practice and observation in her own home. Beth feels passionately about helping children who struggle, and her insight and experiences make her a natural in her interactions. Her responses reflect that "normal" doesn't necessarily mean "like everyone else". "Normal" can be whatever you are used to, and will vary from unusual person to person.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Education

Two of my children are now old enough to be voting in their first presidential election this year. I have taught them since they were young that they needed to know their rights, because if they didn't it would be easy for someone to take those rights away. The right to vote is hugely important, and my husband Scott and I both wanted to support Josh and Beth as they learned to exercise their right to vote. We decided the best way was to vote early on a day that Beth didn't have to be at class and Josh didn't have to be at work early. We went to the early voting site and stood in line for two hours waiting to vote. Scott and I tried to explain what to expect, but neither of us had ever voted early before so we described our usual electronic voting booths. Then we found out it was a paper ballot, so we told them to tuck the electronic voting information away in their memories for a future voting time! Since the paper ballot involves filling in the ovals, and Josh and Beth have been students long enough to recall that process from standardized testing, filling out the forms was simple to do. (I had the urge to tell them "Fill in the circle completely and make your mark heavy and dark" just like when I administer the California achievement test.) The actual process of voting didn't take that long, and then we had the opportunity for further education about the process. Josh noticed that his name "Joshua" was printed out as "Joshud", but was assured that it wouldn't affect his vote and his ballot was still valid. Beth discovered that her middle initial was incorrect, as was her address on the pre-printed sticker. When this was brought to the attention of voting officials, we found out that there is another person living in our county with the same first and last name as Beth, but fortunately with a different middle initial. The ballot Beth filled out was voided (the other person had already voted early, too) and Beth got to fill out a new ballot with her correct information. Beth was faster at voting the second time around, and it was a learning experience for us all and a good reminder to pay attention to the small details. If Beth hadn't done so, her vote would not have been counted because her information that she wrote would not have matched that of the other person who shares her name.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

That's Just Warped

Hello readers! Many of you are familiar with my ongoing quest to help my son, Josh, get to places on time. It has been a lifelong (his life, that is!) battle and neither of us wants to concede defeat. Josh has never been on standard time, and his internal clock doesn't match any time zone that I'm aware of. We've talked (o.k., I talk and he pretends to listen) about the impossibility of leaving home at the time you are due to arrive somewhere else and actually getting there on time. Josh wants to be able to beam from one place to another like Captain Kirk from Star Trek, playing the roles of both Captain Kirk, and Scotty who activates the beaming device. It has never worked. Josh keeps hoping that somehow it will. Today, for the first time ever, Josh admitted to me that "beaming doesn't work." This is progress, right? Wrong! Because the next thing he muttered was, "I'll just warp there." AAAARGH! I told Josh, "No! Warping doesn't work either!" Josh just smiled and turned on his IPOD, saying "Listening to music now." That's his version of "Nobody's listening. La, la, la." And so the battle continues.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best Little Brother Ever - Is His Sister!

Josh and Beckie have always been close, even though they are five years apart in age. Since they share the diagnosis of AD/HD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Auditory Processing Disorder, they have more in common with each other than with their neurotypical sister, Beth. I have observed Josh and Beckie as they interact with each other, and they are so in sync that they often need only a word or gesture to convey complete thoughts. When one is upset, the other can speak for them and explain why the sibling is upset and what might be helpful in the situation. They also recognize when the other is headed off course, and come to their father or me to discuss what they think needs to be done. They can cheer each other up, provide comfort, or give encouragement more effectively than any other companion, because they understand each other and think alike. I know that Josh recognizes the special relationship he has with his youngest sister, although he had hoped for a younger brother since he already had a little sister before Beckie came along. He quickly discovered that Beckie was eager to play with him in some of his favorite pastimes: Legos, cars, digging with sticks, climbing trees, and anything else he thought up. Beckie has always been very versatile, playing dress-up one minute and laser tag the next. As she grew and began martial arts training along with her older siblings, she could even spar with Josh a bit. Not long ago, Josh did something to tease Beckie and she retaliated with a warning kick that stopped just inches from Josh. Josh grinned as they bumped knuckles to say good-bye before he left for work. He kept grinning as he looked at me and said, "She's the best little brother ever!"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hey! I just insulted myself!

I am so glad to have my daughter Beckie in my life. She has a plethora of good qualities, along with a feisty temper that she assures me she got from her Dad! The other night her older brother Josh got home from work and had once again been insulted by a coworker who never misses an opportunity to try and victimize Josh in some way. As Josh described the most recent episode, Beckie's extreme loyalty to her brother surfaced along with her indignation that he is treated badly and repeatedly by the same offender at work. She blurted out "That guy sounds like he has the emotional maturity of a 15 year old girl or something!" Scott quickly agreed and said that's exactly how this guy is - emotionally immature and manipulative to try and get a rise out of Josh. After a few thoughtful moments, Beckie (who is 15 by the way) said with some astonishment in her voice, "Hey! I think I just insulted myself!" Her impulsivity and belated insight into what she was saying cracked us all up and relieved some of the tension and frustration we felt at what Josh had experienced on the job. I love Beckie's obvious affection for both of her siblings, and I have no doubt that she would willingly take someone on either verbally or physically to defend them. Even though Josh is about 6'2" and like Beckie has a black belt in martial arts, Beckie would still throw herself into the fray to try and protect and defend him if she thought it would help. Consequences? Like Scarlett O'Hara, she'd think about that tomorrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sequins in the Socks

When Josh was young, he liked to collect rubber bands. We'd go for walks and he would pick up rubber bands that were left behind along the sidewalks. Josh liked to wear as many rubber bands as he could find to put on both wrists. If it left grooves in his skin, he didn't mind. In fact, I finally figured out that what Josh really liked was the deep pressure it gave him on his wrists. He didn't have good awareness of his body, so the input from the rubber bands felt good to him. I was concerned about circulation and that it looked odd for Josh to be wearing so many rubber bands, so I bought some terrycloth wrist bands from a sporting goods store and had Josh wear those instead. The rubber bands were meeting a need for him, so I didn't want to just take them away without an alternative replacement item. But then Josh started collecting sequins that were used for art projects. Because his pockets were usually full of paper clips and other found treasures, Josh decided the best place to store sequins was inside his socks. I think it would drive me crazy to have just about anything besides my foot inside my sock, but it didn't bother Josh at all. Plus, he wasn't doing his own laundry yet so getting them out of the socks was not an issue for him. I gave Josh Zip-loc bags to store his sequins in, because in this case it was an issue of storage and not a sensory need. He was just doing a little sorting and problem solving to keep the sequins in a separate place from his other collections, and if you think about it...socks are pretty handy and convenient for storing small items. Unlike storage containers, in cold weather you almost always have socks on, and once an item or items are in the sock it's ready to go wherever you do.
Most of us wouldn't think to use our socks that way, but for a little guy like Josh with a different way of thinking it makes perfect sense.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Library Basket

I am going to share a very good idea with you, to help you keep track of library books and library DVDs. Get a medium-sized basket and keep it in a central location such as the living room of your house. Inform every family member to keep all library materials in that particular basket, and not to put anything except library materials in it. This will help your family to avoid library fines and the stress of having to hunt for missing items, since it will be easy to keep track of when materials are due back to the library. Before the next trip there you can check the library basket and pull out all of the materials that need to be returned. Ta-Da! No more late notices and overdue fines. Now I should tell you that although I still think that it's an excellent idea, this has NEVER worked for my family. They drag library books into every room of the house as well as every vehicle and backpack they can find. You'd think they like having library fines or something. Beckie has had a weekly paper route for years, but has yet to realize a profit because every cent she makes has to go toward library fines. That job is the only thing keeping her out of debt at the library. This morning, I got a notice that a DVD I had checked out was overdue - by a couple of weeks! That fine adds up fast, and I was appalled because I had checked with Scott the day it was due back and he thought he had returned it. I even had him double check for it to make sure, and he didn't find it which made it seem likely he actually had returned it. After I got the notice, I asked Beckie if she had seen the DVD, and she remembered seeing it "under a pile of stuff upstairs". Now, I never took it upstairs, and we watched it downstairs. So how did it end up in another part of the house? No one knows. No one remembers taking it up there, or seeing someone else take it up there. Yet fortunately someone remembered seeing it or it would still be missing. So go ahead and try the library basket idea. I hope it works for you. Just remember that it's like all the planners you buy - they only work if you actually use them.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I found it! Lost it! Found it again!

About a week ago, I heard Scott give an excited "whoop" as he yelled out to me "I found it!" Since Scott frequently loses and re-finds things, I had to go see which item had been "found". This time it was the book I had given him for his birthday last December, "ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life" by Judith Kolberg & Kathleen Nadeau. I actually met Kathleen Nadeau at the CHADD conference last fall, and had her autograph the book. I asked her to write something like "Scott, this will only work if you USE the ideas", but instead she wrote "All the best" which was probably nicer. Personally, I love organization and office supplies that help keep things neat and tidy. But it's been well established over our 24 years together that my ways of organizing do not work for Scott. I was hoping that strategies that work for others with ADD might give him some ideas that would actually work well for him, because I have no new ideas at this point. Unfortunately, the book remains unopened and in pristine (unread) condition. As I write this, the book has already been buried a couple inches deep under one of the piles of paper on the desk. Maybe it will eventually end up on the shelf next to another book that Scott lost and found and lost and found over the years. It's title is "Driven to Distraction" by Edward M. Hallowell. I just checked and it is still on the shelf, so it's possible that those two books can hang out together when "ADD-Friendly Ways" resurfaces and Scott has another "Eureka! I found it!" moment.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Should screen time be limited?

Many of our children with AD/HD and autism are visually stimulated. They love video games, computer games, and movies. These things hold their attention often longer than anything else. So should we limit the time we allow our children to engage in "screen" activities including t.v., video games, and computer games?

I don't think there's any hard and fast rule about how much time to let our children play video games, watch t.v., etc. but there are some things to keep in mind as you think about your specific child. When my son Josh was young, I limited his t.v. viewing to one hour per day. He was always able to attend to movies and video games, so it was tempting to let him do more because he actually stayed in one place with sustained attention for awhile. But I wanted him to learn from reality, and much of the "screen" world is fantasy based. I also wanted him to interact with others, and "screen" activities can be done as solitary activities. Even when there are games for more than one person to play at a time, the topics of conversation are severely restricted. I also noticed with Josh that when he was engaged in a video game or movie he would lose track of time and if allowed to he would spend hours playing screen games with really nothing gained from that time other than making it to the next level of the game. The skills learned in video games aren't really transferable to life skills, and often the content is not something we'd want our kids to imitate. For some people, screen activities can be like an addiction and can decrease both the desire and opportunity for social interaction.
On the other hand, when Josh was about 6 years old I realized that he was a strong visual learner and that he could remember what he'd seen in a movie 6 months ago but not what I'd said to him a minute earlier. So I realized that by restricting Josh's screen time I was limiting one of his best ways to learn, and started supplementing our school work with educational shows and library DVDs on topics of interest. You will need to monitor the content of any movies, but they can be a great teaching tool for history, science, and more. We also did some virtual field trips on the computer. Since Josh struggled socially, having knowledge of some video games and movies gave him the opportunity to join in conversations with others. Having a video game available made waiting rooms and long car trips more tolerable for him.
My suggestion is to consider what all the screen time might be replacing for your child, and what kind of things she is taking in while engaging in those activities. Then put some limits in place. You can be strategic and use some of the screen time to make it educational, and once your limits are in place you can offer an incentive of additional screen time to be earned by an activity of your choosing. The bottom line is that screen activity need not be entirely eliminated, but it should not take the place of real life, socially engaging activities.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Heads Up Helping!

There is a nice review of HeadsUpMom's book on The Old Schoolhouse Magazine website. The link is:

Check it out!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When you get younger and I get bigger...

I've commented before on the way my children with AD/HD don't have an internal sense of time passing. If they are doing something they enjoy, they just live in the moment and don't realize how much time has actually passed until someone points it out to them or they look at a clock. If they are doing something that is less preferred (like spelling, math, etc.!) they are unable to sense how much time it will take and therefore believe they will be quite old before they complete the task. A couple days ago I remembered something that both Josh and Beckie said to me when they were preschoolers, and it made me think that they were such creative thinkers that they were not restricted to thinking that time always progresses forward. Josh and Beckie are 5 years apart in age, but their thinking patterns and development have been remarkably similar. At some point in their early years, each said to me something to the effect of: "Mom, when I get bigger and you get younger, I'll teach you." In their minds, the aging process was fluid, so that I might go in reverse and get younger while they continued to grow older. I'm sure part of that idea was the hope that they could be in charge some day. It's interesting to me that these remarks were made long after they had developed object permanence and had a general understanding of cause and effect. Josh and Beckie still don't really have a good sense about time passing and they struggle to get places on time. But they have given up the hope of my becoming younger and leaving them in charge.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Miracle of the Fish

No, not THAT miracle! I'm talking about Beckie's fish, a pet Beta she keeps in a wall-mounted bowl in her room. It's not that she doesn't like the fish or care what happens to it. It's just part of how her AD/HD manifests, that she can remember the daily task of feeding the fish but the non-routine cleaning of the bowl eludes her attention. I noticed in July that her poor fish was swimming in about 2 inches of water in a very dirty bowl. I told her she needed to clean the bowl and add water right away, because I didn't see how the fish could survive much longer in those conditions. She said she would, but that she'd need her Dad's help to get the bowl off the wall to be cleaned. Her Dad said he would help, but he also has AD/HD so they both immediately forgot about it. Last week, I thought about it again and checked in with Beckie to make sure she had taken care of it. She still hadn't! Yet the fish lived on. So I managed to catch both Beckie and her Dad at home and called them together to remind them about the fish and to urge them to act on it right away before they forgot again. They managed to get the bowl cleaned and filled with fresh water in about 30 minutes. It wasn't that the task was too hard, it was that it wasn't part of an established routine and the fish was unable to do anything to get their attention long enough for them to take the necessary action. Though things were looking pretty grim for him in his bowl of evaporating water, Neon the fish is presently happily swimming in a full bowl of clean water.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Perception is everything

Last night I was talking with my youngest daughter, Beckie. Of her subjects, math is particularly challenging for her, so we have decided that I will work with her every night, so I can maybe catch concepts that are more difficult for her more quickly. Previously, we allowed her the leeway to work independently, and sometimes she would struggle through for weeks before I would work with her.

Anyway, I was stressing to Beckie that this is a transition year, and the schoolwork was going to be more difficult and would require her full attention. If she couldn't keep up we would have to look into making different arrangements, maybe trying a private school, etc. I thought that I was keeping my voice level and calm. I finished what I was saying and Beckie wandered away.

A few hours later, she stuck her head in my office, and asked if I was in a good mood. I thought that was an odd question, but I said yes, and invited her in. Then she said "If your not in a good mood I can come back later to work on my math with you..." and then I realized that she heard our earlier conversation much differently that I had intended. She thought that I was upset and yelling at her, but I was just trying to explain to her that the expectations were going to be higher as she enters her second year in the high school period.

Math may be hard, but effective communication is much harder!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Don't forget your flowers!

For all my fellow home schoolers, it's time once again for my annual tradition and I hope many of you join me and make it your own tradition as well. As we start back to a new school year we begin with new supplies and a fresh beginning. Some of us have taken the summer off, while others like myself have done a lighter schedule over the summer. Now it's time to get back to work again and celebrate the beginning of another homeschooling year. My tradition is to buy myself flowers on the first day of school. While reminding myself of the many reasons I home school, I can't overlook the fact that it's going to be a lot of work and even with all the advantages it is a huge commitment for me. The flowers remind me to celebrate the beauty and this season of my life. I'm already an "empty-desker" with my older two home school graduates, and have only three years remaining for my last student. I don't want to miss the joy because I'm focused on all the work. So I'm going to buy myself flowers today, along with a card that I will have Beckie sign to go along with the flowers. I will put them in the center of the table and enjoy them until one of our cats decides to chew the heads off the flowers or knocks them over. At that point, seeing it as a teachable moment (we are back in school, after all) I will remind my family once again not to leave things on the table because they might get drenched.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Blue Lid and Snack-size Bags

I hate to buy food and have it go to waste or sit in my cupboards for months. So I try to find foods I'm pretty sure will be eaten. About a week ago I sent Scott and Josh to do the grocery shopping and when I was unloading the food I saw that they had gotten crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth. In the past I've had jars of crunchy peanut butter in the cupboard, uneaten for months. So I stopped buying it. I asked Josh why they had gotten the crunchy kind since no one eats it, and he told me he likes the crunchy kind that comes with a blue lid. (Yes, Josh is colorblind, but he can see blue pretty well.) Maybe the kids go through phases where they like a certain kind, because I know there have been times when the crunchy peanut butter was not touched for weeks. I have discovered another amazing way to get kids to eat healthy snacks. If I buy baby carrots or grapes, for example, they can sit in the fridge until they go bad because apparently it's too much work for my kids to bother washing them off. If I wash the food and put it into small snack-size Ziploc bags, the kids will eat them within a few days. There's something about looking in the refrigerator and seeing a packet of ready-to-eat snacks that makes the kids go for it. Josh will jokingly tell me that I've fixed the baby carrots just the way he likes them as he pulls a snack bag from the fridge. Unfortunately, the way I discovered this was through the realization that the kids were eating the snack-sized portions I had packed for my lunches on days I work!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Be Specific

When you have a child with a learning challenge, it is important that you be very specific in your directions. In general, struggling learners are not strong at making inferences and generalizing what they've learned. They tend to take things literally and have to be taught the meanings of figures of speech, idioms, and proverbial statements. In my family, they tend to take the path of least resistance and do the easiest and least time-consuming way to complete an assigned task. This is why you have to stay with them in the training phase and not leave them alone if you expect the job to be done the way you intended. For example, I asked Josh to remove some books that we don't need from the top shelf of a bookcase. I also showed him another high shelf in a different room and a large box of books. I explained that I wanted to replace the books he would be removing with books from the box, and put other books from the box on the other shelf. The idea is to eliminate the box of books by finding spots on the shelves for them. Josh agreed to do it, and I left to run an errand with my daughter. When I got back home, there were fewer books in the box, but the books I wanted removed were still in their location. The shelf in the other room did have new books on it, but instead of sliding the current books over to fit the new ones in Josh had just dumped them on top. He didn't leave himself enough time to do the rest of the books because he had to get to work. I did not specifically tell him how I wanted the books to be put on the shelf, so he plopped them up on top because that was fastest and easiest. When he gets home from work, I will be very specific about what I need done, and I will stay and coach Josh until the work is complete. My hope is that someday he will begin to infer more, based on what he knows of me or how I have had him do tasks in the past. In the meantime, things like this show me where the gaps are and what supports are still needed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Are you absorbing?

I've heard that individuals with autism think in pictures, not words. Temple Grandin has even written a book (Thinking in Pictures copyright 1995 Random House) describing her very visual way of viewing and interpreting events. My daughter, Beckie, has learned to compensate for the deficits in her working memory by visualizing what she is hearing or reading. Gander Publishing has wonderful resources for "Visualizing and Verbalizing" for reading comprehension and all three of my children experienced this technique with their "Time Flies" history programs. I think being able to make associations helps Beckie retain information, and I observed one such association last week. I had been asked to come and observe some classes and do a bit of educational consultation with the instructors. I went to observe on three different days, and watched the students as they interacted and engaged in a variety of activities. I took notes as I watched the children, and as an assistant in the classes Beckie knew why I was there and saw me taking everything in. When she was leaving to go assist in the classes last week she asked me, "Are you coming in to absorb today?" It took me a moment to realize that she was asking if I was going to come and "observe" again. She corrected herself and said "I mean 'observe'", but I think the association of "absorb" and "observe" is pretty fitting for what she saw me doing. I was observing, by absorbing all I could about the classes and how they were run. In fact, I think if you really want to be observant, you should be absorbing. Thank you, Beckie, for another word picture!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Seeking God

Today some godly women are fasting and praying with me for Josh's work situation. We are seeking God and asking Him to make it clear if we should be advocating for Josh in his current position or if God wants Josh to make a change. Josh has gone the established routes for reporting incidents, through his supervisor, the HR person in his store, and even meeting with the general manager of his store. They all assure him that what he has experienced is not acceptable and they promise him that things will change. Yet nothing concrete has altered. Josh finally felt he had no choice but to take it up a level, and called the district HR person. Although she was polite and professional, and also stated that the abuse Josh has experienced is unacceptable, she took no action on his behalf and left him with the advice to report every single incident to his supervisor. Josh has already reported more than enough for action to be taken, but it's not happening. His supervisor is not always available or in the store when the incidents take place. Josh actually likes the job most of the time, and he would rather not leave at this time even though this is not his final career destination by any stretch of the imagination. But unless something actually does change, he will have to continue working with the repeat offender of verbal abuse and bullying whenever their schedules overlap. Fortunately, Josh is resilient, and I love him for that and so much more. He has been an example to me of showing grace and returning respect for inexcusable behavior by management. I can tell, though, that this work environment is taking a toll on him. So thank you, my friends, for your prayers on Josh's behalf. Many of you only know of Josh through hearing me speak at conferences or at our Bible Study. Your support means more to me than I can express. You know my mother's heart, and how hard it is to see and hear what Josh has experienced. You stand with me, and your compassion and caring ministers to my very soul. I appreciate you all, and the God who knows His child Josh better than any of us ever will. May He make His will known to us!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Motivation and Internal Drive

I'm not sure if this occurs more often with people with AD/HD or other learning disabilities, but in my experience those individuals are more motivated by external rewards and are less likely to be self-motivated. Since children who struggle need more encouragement and support, I wonder if they grow used to it and rely on it rather than find internal ways to motivate themselves. I've seen this in children who want to know up front what reward they will get for completing a task. They have become dependent on external reinforcement of some kind, either verbal praise or concrete rewards.
The mentality of "it's not my job" seems to go along with the difficulty in motivating oneself to do less-preferred activities. At my house, I often hear "It's not my assigned week to clean the kitchen." Even though the speaker is without clean dishes for his own meal, he cannot bring himself to do a job above and beyond what he is assigned and fails to see how the extra effort helps him and the rest of the family in the long run. You know the sense of responsibility is shallow when someone walks past a crumpled paper on the floor near the trash can because she didn't put it there and it's not her paper. These children don't share ownership enough to contribute and initiate outside of the specific requirements told to them by others.
When faced with a large task like cleaning her room, Beckie gives up before she even starts and concedes to living with clutter. She likes having a clean room, but can't make herself do what it takes to accomplish it. Only when threatened with consequences or offered an incentive can she force herself into action. She responds to the external prompts and can't seem to create the internal drive and motivation for herself.
I fear that externally motivated individuals will limit themselves to doing what others tell them to and will be disappointed when they don't perceive the external praises and rewards to be adequate for continued motivation.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'm Trying!

Beckie and I are working to learn Spanish together. We are using one main program, and supplementing by using more right brain strategies to include visual images and make colorful flashcards to help us with vocabulary words. For example, one of our chosen vocabulary words for today was "el bano" for "the bathroom". With a little help from my artistic Beckie to help with the drawing part, my flashcard has both the Spanish and English written words on it along with a picture of a man sitting on the toilet playing the banjo. The banjo keeps him modestly covered, and since "banjo" and "bano" (pronounced "bahn-yo") sound similar it will help me make a connection between the word and the meaning by using that auditory similarity and the visual cue of the picture of the man in a bathroom. Beckie has a good ear for languages, it seems, and she picks it up quickly. For some reason today, she had a hard time pronouncing the Spanish word for "brings", which is "trae" and is pronounced "trah-ay". After several models and some struggling, she finally turned to me and said "I'm trah-ing!" instead of "I'm trying!" It's good that she has a sense of humor as we hammer away at our practice.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cooking the AD/HD Way

I've been working with my kids to teach them the basics of food preparation and simple cooking skills. Their impulsivity makes the dialog entertaining (Mom: Beckie, the next thing to do is add one egg. Beckie: Crack it first?) Okay, I had to laugh at that, and eventually Beckie joined me. She knew, of course, that we don't use the eggs with the shells included. She just asks questions and makes comments without thinking sometimes. Scott decided to teach them how to make grilled cheese sandwiches, which is one of his favorites. Unfortunately, there is some waiting involved before you can flip the sandwich in the pan, and waiting is BORING especially when you have AD/HD. When I am cooking I spend the waiting time preparing additional ingredients I know I'll need or by cleaning up as I go. When my AD/HD family members have to wait, they leave the room to find something else to do. This risks them getting involved in something and not remembering that they were cooking until the smoke alarm goes off and they are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to take time to save their game before dealing with the burning food. (Hint: The AD/HD mind will say "The food's already burnt, but this game can still be saved!") Anyway, the strategy used for the grilled cheese was to set the stove timer. That way, they could leave the room but not lose track of time because the timer would beep to pull them back to the kitchen in time to flip the sandwich before it burned. Since they each wanted more than one sandwich, they got to practice this several times. I found it annoying to hear the timer going off every minute until they finished making a pile of grilled cheese sandwiches, but it was much less annoying than the burning smell and the smoke alarm would have been. I'm all about strategies, and this one seemed to work for them.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Yesterday I went for a walk with my son Josh. I told him I was planning a gathering for some friends, and one of them is allergic to tree nuts. I know that walnuts and pecans grow in trees, but since peanuts grow in the ground I wondered if that would be a different category of allergen. I mused aloud as we walked, realizing that I don't know which nuts grow in trees and which ones don't. I told Josh that I really like Brazil nuts, but I don't know where they come from. With his usual grin, he told me, "Mom. They're from Brazil!" And then he looked at me like I was nuts.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I have no regrets

A few days ago I was doing school with my Beckie, and she was her usual somewhat restless self. She tends to rush through school work, fearing that it will take forever, and wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible. I'd like her to develop a love of learning, but we're still working on that. As we were going over some geography, I asked if a certain mountain range was along the eastern or western border of the state we were studying. Grinning at me, but without opening the book to look at the map, she confidently proclaimed "Eastern!" I told her that was incorrect, and that she needed to actually take the time to look at the book in order to answer the questions just as we always do when working on geography. Her response is typical of the impulsive, risk-taking kids I've worked with over the years. She smiled and said, "I have no regrets. I had a 50-50 chance of being right!" For me, it was about her truly learning something. For Beckie, it was about getting finished with the work. So the compromise? Beckie will learn how to find information, but doesn't have to memorize facts she cares nothing about. That way, when it does become meaningful to her she will know how to find the information for herself. And I get to relearn all the information I've forgotten since it wasn't meaningful to me when I was Beckie's age. Beckie, I understand, but I will still work to equip you for your continuing education and any life skills I can pass along to you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Paint like Zorro!

We just had to have our thermostat replaced in our dining room, and since the new one wasn't the same size and shape as its predecessor we will need to repaint around it to cover the exposed wall. It reminded me of the time when we first painted the dining room. I'd read up about various glazes and finishes and decided to try to add some texture using a glaze applied with a feather duster. After the base coat of blue, I started applying a white glaze in my typically meticulous fashion. I was getting this wonderful cloud-like effect, but being meticulous meant very slow progress so Scott offered to take a turn. I gladly turned the feather duster over to him, and left him to paint for awhile. Scott's method was to paint with Zorro-like swipes, which was much faster. The Zorro method was a little too rough for the feather duster, though, which began losing feathers by the end. It also wiped out the lovely clouds, but clouds change their looks over time anyway and what we ended up with still looks good. The Zorro method of painting was probably more fun than what I was doing, and now I hope that Zorro/Scott will paint once more to cover the area around our new thermostat. What do you say, Scott?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Say What You Mean

Once more, I have an amusing auditory processing moment to share. My son Josh, asked me if we had any ice cream in our downstairs freezer. I told him we had some mint chocolate chip down there, and was surprised to see the puzzled expression on his face since that's one of his favorite flavors. Then a few seconds later he broke into a grin as he told me, "It sounded like you said "Cement Chocolate Chip" and I was wondering what ingredient would be so hard that it would be like cement. Then I figured out what you were really saying. So, can I have it all, Mom?"

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Bitterness. It is so easy to feel it and so hard to rid yourself of it. I guess like many things, it's better if you can prevent it than to try to eliminate it once it's there. When you have a child who struggles, you have a greater likelihood of being rejected or misunderstood as a parent. Besides that, if you are like many of us, you also feel your child's hurts as if they are personally happening to you. In a real way, we are rejected when our children are, because we cannot fully separate ourselves from who they are - and I'm not sure we should as long as they need us to advocate for them. When a child acts differently from the norm, or in ways that are interpreted in a negative light, it is a near certainty that sooner or later we will get unsolicited advice from relatives, friends, and even strangers. Sometimes we are just given "the look" of disapproval, and that can be as painful as spoken words. The reality is, not everyone can understand your individual situation. Some people take one look at us and decide they don't even want to understand us. Here's the rub: if you let those looks and comments get under your skin it will be hard not to become bitter and resentful, and as a result you will be less effective with your child and will feel less contented than if you can rid yourself of bitterness. I've been working on this area a long time in my own life, and the most helpful thing I've found is to choose to believe that the person making the comment is genuinely trying to be helpful. Often, they have no clue as to what I've already tried, etc. but I let them off the hook in my mind. I pray a prayer of gratitude for them that they don't have to deal with the struggles I do, and then I let them go and let the judgmental comments and poor advice slide right on by.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Burning Rings of Fire

I recently had a conversation with my son, Josh, who told me he was weary of people asking him where he attends college. When he tells them that he is not in college but works full time, they look at him expectantly and ask, "But you're going to go to college, right?" Josh goes on to explain that he has taken several college classes, but with his various learning challenges it has been much harder and more time consuming for him than it is for most people. Given that experience, he does not want to take more classes until he is sure of what he wants to do so that he can make every bit of effort count toward a goal. The people who are talking to Josh share the expectation that bright, young adults who can go to college will go to college. Josh told me that for him, going to college seems like jumping through burning rings of fire to get a little piece of paper at the other end. Stop and think about that for a minute. If you know something is going to be that difficult and potentially painful, you think long and hard about whether it's what you really want before you go forward. Furthermore, you consider other options and devise strategies that increase the likelihood you will succeed. Josh is doing exactly that as he works, writes science fiction novels in his time off, and stays away from the burning rings of fire until he is sure he cannot attain his goals unless he moves through them. I think that's pretty good problem solving for a young man who knows himself and his strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps he will take more college classes someday, but for now Josh is making the decision to put that on hold and develop himself in other ways. A lot of people would benefit from taking such a thoughtful approach to why they do what they do, and to what end.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An Honorable Man

Last week a local businessman passed away after a short battle with cancer. John McConnell, or "Mr. Mac" as he was known to anyone with more than a passing acquaintance, was one of those special people whom, it would seem, cannot come into contact with another human being without touching their lives in some way. For me, his lasting legacy was bringing an NHL club to Columbus. The cynic will say that it was a shrewd business decision and his investment has gone up in value. But Mr. Mac knew next to nothing of hockey, except that there were many sports fans in his city without a professional team for which to root. Since entering the league, the Blue Jackets have suffered seven consecutive losing seasons. The 2007-8 season was the best, when the Blue Jackets finished 11 points out of the playoffs, but were competitive right up to the last few weeks of the season.
While I may quibble a bit with the theological implications of the above quote (I believe that God and my relationship with Him is what truly defines me), Mr. Mac's philosophy is a fine and admirable one to practically direct one's life.
Mr Mac was a fine, honorable, caring, respectful man who lived a life of integrity and sacrifice for his fellow man. He will be missed.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

We are still alive; Hard times

Sorry for the long delay between posts.

Last month we had an interesting experience. A longtime friend who is very well known among homeschoolers as well as the special needs community emailed us. She was scheduled to speak at a conference in Illinois, but her health just wasn't good enough to allow her a long drive and then the exertion of presenting workshops. So she was looking to find someone to fill in for her. HUMom accepted. Then we found out that she would be doing six workshops over two days. So......

HUMom learned the material from audio and video recordings, edited the handouts and I modified PowerPoint files. For six, one-hour presentations. In two weeks. In short, this was a rather stressful time. Yikes!

All went well, and actually we had a very pleasant weekend. The most difficult part was that there was so much information that HUMom could have probably presented twice as long and still not gotten through everything. Our friend has over 30 years experience with special needs children and has written dozens of books and curriculum. Her name is Joyce Herzog and if you have never run into her or seen her work, I would urge you to look her up at She is a wonderful lady, with a huge heart for kids who learn differently.

The point of this post is that sometimes we are put in situations that are overwhelming and seem much more than we can endure. The demands and the difficult circumstances are just beyond us and we cannot win. I'd like to say that we will all overcome and have success, but that just isn't true. I do want to say that sometimes we need to look from a new angle or point of view to see what is going on. What if your definition of "success" is only one of many? Outcomes that are not what we wanted or desired can still be useful to help us learn about ourselves or life. Or they can serve to strengthen us or teach us endurance.

I have a few heros in life. One was Lou Gerhig. The epitome of consistent, reliable excellence. Until Cal Ripkin broke his consecutive game streak, Lou held the record for most games played without taking a single day off. Not only that, but he was productive - many years leading the league in RBIs, homeruns, etc. If it weren't for a fellow named Babe Ruth, Gehrig would have been known as the most prolific hitter of his time. Lou was struck down in the prime of life by ALS, which has come to be called "Lou Gehrig Disease."

Another hero is Brett Favre and here is the point for all my ramblings. Brett is another Ironman, with the most consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback. He recently retired after 17 year career. Sports Illustrated interviewed him in 2007 when they named him Sportsman of the Year.

"Ask Favre for his own favorite memory, and he is quiet for a moment. "I've got so many plays running through my mind," he says, finally. "The funny thing is, it's not only about the touchdowns and the big victories. If I were to make a list, I would include the interceptions, the sacks, the really painful losses. Those times when I've been down, when I've been kicked around, I hold on to those. In a way those are the best times I've ever had, because that's when I've found out who I am. And what I want to be."

Working with special needs children is not glamorous. Often it is not pleasant. Most times it is exceptionally difficult. But, in teaching them, you just may find out who you are. And what you want to be.