Help for Haiti

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

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.