Help for Haiti

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hello Again!

Hello friends! I haven't blogged for awhile, but I'm back now. I've been feeling like the deflated lawn decorations in this yard so I thought I'd take a picture to give you a nice visual symbol as you read. I came down with a cold on November 25th, and it quickly turned into a sinus infection, ear infection, and lung infection for which I've taken numerous medications and...I'm gradually improving but still not over it. My right ear drum perforated and I've been like the auditory processing struggler who says "Huh?" for the past several weeks. I've decided to try to get back to some of my regular activities and hope that full recovery will happen ANY DAY NOW. There's never a good time to be wiped out of commission, but I think the month preceding Christmas was especially inopportune. This is the first year that I've ever been unable to get Christmas cards sent before Christmas. I started my gift wrapping the day before Christmas and recruited my family (okay, "coerced" would be a better word) to help with the wrapping and food preparation. Did you know you can wrap gifts for someone with AD/HD while they are in the same room as long as you put a movie on to watch? I did very little shopping other than online, and am very grateful for Amazon's selection that allowed me to shop from home. When Christmas Day arrived, I felt a bit like Dr. Seuss's Grinch proclaiming:
"It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! (Or Christmas cards from the Borings!) " And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas, " he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
Well I know that Christmas means a whole lot more, and I hope that my Christmas traditions never overshadow the birth of Christ. How comforting it is to know that nothing I do, or don't do, can stop Christmas from coming or minimize its gift to mankind in any way.
It was wonderful to spend time with family. Even our rescued dog, Slapshot, did great being in a new place with new people. I used to worry about how my kids would do with the relatives, and this year I was worrying about how the dog would do. He was very subdued and calm, I suspect due to the Christmas sock he had eaten, but he made a very positive impression on his new extended family members. And so, though I coughed through the Christmas season like Dicken's Tiny Tim, I join him in saying "God Bless Us, Every One!" and may your 2010 be filled with peace and joy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Biggest Loser - of Important Items

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know that I prefer things neat and orderly. My family, on the other hand, casually consider themselves slobs and refer to themselves as "Slobonians". Clutter doesn't bother them, so it is very hard to motivate them to clean up and put things away where they belong. My youngest daughter has AD/HD and the impulsivity and inattention result in clutter, misplaced items, and zippers left unzipped on backpacks. I have found some of her things in the oddest places, and she has no recollection of how they got there. This week, while at my part-time job as a speech therapist, I got a text message on my phone from Beckie. She is taking a couple of classes at a community college and was texting me to accuse our dog of taking her calculator out of her backpack because it was missing and she knew it was in her backpack the day before. While it's true that our recently rescued dog has yet to learn what he is allowed to chew on, I thought it more likely that she left her backpack unattended and someone stole the calculator from her backpack. In any case, it was distressing since it was an expensive calculator was borrowed. I was not happy with having the expense of replacing the borrowed calculator and then having to buy Beckie another one since she will have more math classes to take in the future. A few hours later, Beckie sent me another text to let me know she had found the calculator. One of the other students in her math class had found it on the sidewalk the day before and recognized it as being Beckie's calculator and returned it to her. Yea! Beckie admitted that she had left the zipper open on the pocket she used for her calculator, so it could have fallen out without her knowing it. Whew! What a relief. That is until my husband Scott got a call from Beckie's cell phone in the afternoon, and it wasn't Beckie calling him. Beckie's cell phone had been found in the grass near the local elementary school and the person was calling to say she'd leave it at the front desk in the school office. Scott managed to reach Beckie at home, and she insisted that it was impossible for her cell phone to be found by a stranger when she was positive it was at her friend's house. (Why would she leave it at her friend's house instead of in her hand where I usually see it? Who knows?) Beckie reluctantly agreed to walk to the school and retrieve her phone, though she was still adamant it had to be some kind of mistake. Except that it was there, to her amazement, and she learned that it had first been found a couple blocks away from the school at a place she had not walked past that day. We are all mystified. I pointed out to Beckie that she had lost an expensive calculator and a cell phone in the same day, thereby making her "The Biggest Loser" in our family so far this week. Since this time both items were returned to her, I think she was secretly amused by the title. She was definitely angry when the calculator was missing, and if she had even known her phone was missing she would have been upset. Perhaps this will help her remember to zip up pockets and so on. Time will tell.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Math Teaching Tip

Working with a variety of modalities also increases the likelihood of later recall of material. When we incorporate auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic input in subject areas where our children struggle to learn, we will also be helping them learn to pay attention for longer periods of time. With that in mind, I want to share with you one of my more successful teaching activities that kept my children engaged and made the material we were studying more memorable for them.

When my son was having trouble with the concept of “borrowing” in math, I lined up my children in place value positions, gave them Cuisenaire cubes and rods, and we acted out a story. I was the sheriff from Robin Hood (one of their favorite movies at that time) and came to collect taxes from the “ones” child. When she didn’t have enough cubes to pay her taxes, I showed her how to “borrow” from her neighbor and explained that she could only borrow 10 cubes from that neighbor. We did the same thing for the “tens” child borrowing from the “hundreds” child, and enacted several scenarios for practice.

I had lined them up in birth order with my youngest, Beckie, in the ones place. My middle child, Beth, was in the tens place. Josh, as the oldest, was in the hundreds spot. I recently asked my children if they remembered doing that activity, and they responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” Josh also pointed out to me that a variation of the activity has continued over the years, because Beckie asks to borrow money from Beth, who in turn asks to borrow from Josh. He blames me for this generalization of a skill learned in those early years of our homeschooling. Before you feel too sorry for him, I want to point out that I’ve also taught him how to say “No” nicely to refuse requests.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Geography: She's having none of it!

I'll admit that I'm not strong in geography. I have a feeling that my children learned as much from the PBS show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" as they did from me. But I'm o.k. with that. As long as they learn it, I'm happy. I do have some good geography materials by Cindy Wiggers, and I made it through all of the U.S. Geography book with my children. At least at one time they could name the states and capitals, and they know how to label mountains and rivers on maps. My daughter Beckie and I are currently working on world geography. I am learning it along with her, since if I ever knew this information the files must have been deleted somewhere along the way. (When this happens, I blame one of the car accidents I've been in for killing off some brain cells. They've been minor accidents, but I think whiplash and trauma might have messed with my brain for stuff like geography.) While we were learning about North America, we pulled out maps and had the globe in front of us. I would ask Beckie to locate various landmarks, oceans, etc. Following along in my curriculum instructions, I asked Beckie to find Nunavut. Beckie, whose AD/HD manifests in both a short attention span and a tendency to blurt things out, is not good at hiding her frustration. She glanced at the globe for a few moments, then informed me that she didn't see "None of it". Ah...and did I mention she has auditory processing difficulties as well? Being the adaptive instructor that I am, I showed her the spelling of "Nunavut" and encouraged her to look pretty far north on the globe. With that support, she was able to find it but continued to tell me that she could find "None of it" for several other items that day since she was amused by her own misunderstanding and pun. At least she's having some fun during a subject that does not hold her attention easily.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

See? I'm not dumb!

Have you ever heard your kids say something like, "See? I'm not dumb!" ? I don't know if there's a connection to learning disabilities or not, but I've heard this type of statement from all three of my children at different times. It bothers me, because I have never told them or believed that they were "dumb" and in fact I went out of my way to be sure they knew I thought they were great. Sure, AD/HD has its challenges and my children may not always present as if they are on the ball. But I, the mother, never waivered in my belief that they brought a lot to the table even if what they brought was not traditionally appreciated! And how can I explain my "neurotypical" daughter also trying to convince me that she's not stupid even when I never thought she was? Maybe it's just a manifestation of self-doubt and a glitch in self-esteem that everyone experiences at times. Yesterday, I was talking with my daughter about her struggles with math, and she quickly pointed out that she got an A in English, adding "See? I'm not dumb!" Let me back up and say that I told her I knew she could do the math and was smart enough to understand it. I told her that her teacher was new to teaching this course and that sometimes the way information is taught can make the subject matter more difficult. I encouraged her to take advantage of the math lab, where she might find someone who could explain how to solve the math problems in a way that made more sense to her. I encouraged her to problem solve how she could help herself, and reminded her that I was proud of how hard she's working. Hey! That could be in a parenting book! Except...somehow Beckie was still worried that she didn't measure up in my eyes. When my children imply that they think I might have the opinion that they are dumb, I feel both surprised and saddened. I want so much for them to know I love them no matter what, and when they make statements like that I feel like I have failed them somehow. Then on top of that guilt, I feel dumb for not communicating my unconditional love to my children. So I ask them, "Do you know that I love you no matter what?" and they tell me yes and we hug. See? I'm not dumb, either!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Love Someone With AD/HD

I picked up a button at a conference because it caught my eye as I was walking past. It reads, "I love someone with ADHD". Having a husband, a son, and a daughter who all share that diagnosis I placed the pin on my nametag to wear for the rest of the conference. In reality, there are many people in my life who have been diagnosed with AD/HD and I do love them. But I thought it would be interesting to see which of my three family members would:
1. Notice the button and actually read it.
2. Ask which "someone" the button represented.
Once again, my family surprised me. They all noticed the button and read its message, though at different times throughout the day. When my husband, Scott, read it he sighed and hugged me. When my son, Josh, read it he grinned and hugged me and said, "I love you too, Mom." When my daughter, Beckie, read it she beamed with pride and gave me a hug. I guess this means I'm doing something right and my family feels secure in my love for them since they all three assumed the message was about them!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Down Syndrome: More Alike Than Different

This is a great video featuring several adults with Down Syndrome sharing a glimpse into their lives. It is encouraging and fun to watch. I like having this type of reminder to look past the diagnosis and see the whole person. We are not our labels, our children are not their labels, and sometimes we can exceed what our labels imply about us. I've watched this video several times and every time it makes me smile.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Joke Answer Is...

If you work with AD/HD children, you know how easily they get bored. It's a balancing act to find work that challenges them without being so simple their attention wanders or so difficult that they become frustrated. My personal goal when teaching is to try and have the child working in an area of strength and achieving success about 80% of the time at a minimum. The more difficult work (in our case, things like listening tasks without visual or tactile cues) takes up about 20% of the time. I want my children to learn to sit down for sustained periods of time. They do need to listen without having a bunch of props to grab their attention. So I work on those things but make sure that they are experiencing success in their assigned tasks at least most of the time. One of the aspects of AD/HD that makes finding such a balance tricky is that our kids may perform differently from day to day or in various settings. This is especially true if the AD/HD is comorbid with other learning disabilities. So how can we tell if we are accomplishing the goal of challenging our children without frustrating them? Sometimes we just have to read the body language and listen to what our children are saying. "This is stupid" may well translate into "I don't understand and I feel stupid." "I'm bored" may mean "I need to move around and find ways to alert myself again". A child who looks droopy may be fatigued on a task and needs to switch to something else for awhile and then come back to the first task. In my daughter's case, I often get unmistakable clues by how she responds to a question. If she is muttering under her breath, I am challenging her and approaching melt-down levels. If she answers matter-of-factly, I am usually right on with getting her to think but not frustrating her. Since Beckie likes variety and creativity, if I don't provide enough amusement in our lessons she will often deliver it herself. I knew she was not feeling challenged when I asked her a question and she gave it a few second's thought before replying, "My joke answer is..." and then went on to tell me the real answer. This was Beckie's way of letting me know she knew the correct answer but it was not very interesting to her and her joke answer spiced things up a bit. The longer you work with a child, the better you become at reading their cues and figuring out when you are challenging them too much or not enough. Don't worry if you don't feel like you have a good grasp on it yet. In my experience, children show us over and over again what they need until we recognize it. If we don't catch on right away, they will give us many more opportunities.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The CHADD Conference

I just got back from the CHADD Conference (Children and Adults with AD/HD) yesterday and it was great to attend some sessions and connect with old friends. I did a video interview with Sarah Wright, one of the authors of the book Fidget to Focus. I also interviewed Kathy Kuhl, author of Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner and Clark Lawrence of the Executive Function Center. I enjoyed re-connecting with those folks and it was a blast to interview them considering I have absolutely no expertise with any videos other than my home videos! I suspect it is far easier to interview than to BE interviewed, but all of my "subjects" were informative and appeared relaxed. I also got a kick out of meeting Kim, who approached me the first night there to tell me she had seen the video I did with my daughter about the Sock Boxes for ADD-Friendly sock organization. A few others recognized me from this blog or other conferences where I've been a presenter and were nice enough to make a point to come over and say hello. I met Deisie from Chicago, who sat with me through two sessions and then came to my panel presentation the next day. I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up presenting at CHADD in a few years herself. I answered a question in Chris Dendy's session and she said she liked my idea and might use it in her future presentations. How cool is that to have someone you admire (and her books are on my shelf) like your idea enough to use it? Woo-hoo! I left the conference motivated to keep advocating for our children with differences and with a few new ideas to work on to add to my skill set when working with these kids. I heard stories that helped me keep things in perspective. Things with my children could be worse. Things with my children could be better. I'll keep working to support and encourage them as we teach each other through life. Stay tuned for those author interviews as a future blog posting.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

It's So Obvious (to our kids)

Have your kids ever given you an incredulous look because the answer to your question is so obvious - to them? I'm pretty sure I've given that kind of look to my children many times, even though I know they are outside the box kind of thinkers. In fact, I'm not sure they know there even is a "box". Some things just seem so apparent to me that it's hard to remember that my kids don't approach life in the same way I do. Our kids can feel that same kind of frustration if we don't immediately understand their way of thinking when something seems very obvious to them. A few days ago I was preparing to do some school work with my Beckie, and she was flitting around the house burning up some excess energy. I called her in to the dining room, and she came right away. I turned my back to take our books off the shelf, and when I turned around she was gone. I arranged the books for the first subject of the day and called Beckie back into the dining room. She popped right over, but when I leaned over to clear some space on the table for our globe, she darted off again. This yo-yo action in and out of the room happened several times within a couple of minutes. I called her back, and asked her why she kept leaving the room when she knew it was time to do school. That's when I got the look that said, "Why are you asking me a question when the answer is so obvious?" I waited for her reply, truly not knowing the answer, and she simply sighed and said, "To dance!" She said it in that way kids have of letting you know you should have known the answer but they will try to patiently explain it for you. I think that's a good reason and a way for hyperactivity to be expressed in an acceptable way, though it explains in part why school sometimes takes us longer than I expect it too. In fact, if we didn't actually have to get anything done, I might have joined her in dancing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spared from Envy

Today at my church the topic of the main teaching was parenting and the great influence that our parents have on us. My daughter, Beth, attended the first service and expressed her gratitude to me for being a good parent. Ah...there's nothing like getting some appreciation from your offspring. My younger daughter, Beckie, gave me a hug and pointed out that it was a good thing she was my daughter. Upon further elaboration of this thought, Beckie explained that God had spared me from having to feel envious because if she had been someone else's daughter that is surely what I would have felt. I would have wished she were my daughter, resulting in envious feelings as I watched her being a member of a different family. So God gave Beckie to me to parent and enjoy, and she fully expects me to do so with humble gratitude! Two girls, two different "take away" messages. I do agree with Beckie that God blessed me with the privilege of being her mother, and the mother of Josh and Beth as well. Plus, I got to homeschool them all. That must be why I'm barefoot much of the time - He blessed my socks off. Just ask Beckie.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Learning in Waiting Rooms

As long as I've been a homeschooler, I always seemed to have some very portable items I could grab as we headed out the door so we could work on something in waiting rooms. For one thing, my kids were NOT good at the waiting part whether it was a doctor's office or a grocery store line. For another thing, I thought they might as well be learning or reviewing rather than complaining or getting into things. Now that I have an IPhone I have downloaded all kinds of educational aps so I always have something to do while I wait. Yesterday I had an appointment with my allergist, and while waiting for him in the examining room I pulled out my phone to work on my Spanish skills. I especially appreciate being able to push the speaker icon and hear the Spanish phrases spoken aloud. I was diligently concentrating on learning the phrases when my allergist walked in. He said, "Hi. How are you?" just as I pushed the speaker icon and my phone loudly pronounced, "Tengo hambre" which means "I am hungry". I sheepishly looked up from my phone and told my doctor, "I guess I'm a little hungry?" He laughed and said a few Spanish words to me so that we could further our rapport before getting down to business - in English, so I'd actually understand what he was saying besides discussing our hunger. That was not the only part of the visit that amused me, however, as I had earlier been reviewing my information with the nurse. This office has transferred all of the patient information to computers and it was all typed in by hand. The resulting file on me indicated that I get vitamin B injections (I never have) and that apparently I use my asthma inhaler as a nasal spray. Interesting picture. I do have an asthma inhaler, but since it's for my lungs I use it as, well, an asthma inhaler. I have two nasal sprays for my allergies, so it really never occurred to me to also sniff my asthma inhaler. I think I set the record straight, but now I really want to see what my primary care physician record says that I'm up to! Waiting rooms are a great place to learn all kinds of things.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

To Tell, or Not to Tell?

I've met many parents who are pretty sure their child has AD/HD or some other learning challenge but they are hesitant to make it official by having their child evaluated and diagnosed. The fear that a label may limit their child, be inaccurate, or be used in discriminatory ways is valid. When my son, Josh, was approaching school age I thought about the advantages of private schools with smaller class sizes. Several people suggested that I go ahead and enroll him without telling the school personnel about his AD/HD diagnosis so they couldn't turn him down. That was before we knew he also had an auditory processing disorder. I was assured that once he was enrolled in the school, they couldn't kick him out just because he had a diagnosis and they would be forced to work with him. Wow! For one thing, Josh was pretty easy to pick out of a group as being different than his peers. I'd give it 5 minutes tops before things became unavoidably noticeable. So basically I would have had to keep him out of sight until school had officially started. Then there was the whole idea of the people he would be spending hours with each day being tricked into having a student that they weren't prepared for and apparently didn't feel equipped to deal with in their classroom. That made me feel sorry for Josh and for the teachers, since having someone who was "forced" to work with my child because I had hidden some vital information from them just didn't sit well with me. I loved that boy, and the thought of sending him somewhere that he might not be wanted didn't make sense to me. I had the same dilemma when it came time for Sunday School at church. I didn't want to bias the teachers against Josh by telling them all his struggles, so I coached him on the way there and dropped him off like all the other parents with their children. The Sunday School teachers, bless them all, are volunteers in the church and most don't have training as educators - and for most kids that's just fine. But to do the "drop and run" with a special needs or challenging child is not a good idea, as I came to realize. Every week, the other parents would pick up their children and happily leave. When I came to pick up Josh, I inevitably got pulled to the side and told, "I need to talk to you about Josh." Then I heard, week after week, a full litany of complaints from frustrated and bewildered teachers who were describing things that were not unusual for Josh but were not typical for most children. For example, Josh was not adept at sitting still for long. He was not deliberately disruptive and was never disrespectful, but his need to stand at the table while coloring his page instead of sitting in a chair like everyone else was considered problematic. His sensory issues led him to sit at the back of the group on his carpet square, and everyone else was huddled together and bumping into each other which Josh was carefully trying to avoid. But that meant he wasn't "with" the group because he had made a row of one - just himself! And the list would go on and on until I was finally allowed to leave with my miserable son who knew that somehow just by being who he was he had screwed up again and people were unhappy with him. Those experiences led me to advocate more and be preemptive with anyone I left Josh with for any length of time. When there was a sub or a new Sunday School teacher, I made a point of telling them a bit about Josh and strategies that would help them, and I was careful not to dwell on the negatives. I shared Josh's strengths, too, for I found that if I became negative about my son others felt free to share every little thing they saw as being wrong or weird about him. I was well aware of Josh's struggles and it served no purpose other than to discourage me when others felt the need to complain about him. All this, and he wasn't even doing anything "bad" on purpose! When someone was going on and on about all the things Josh did or did not do, I learned to quietly point out something that he had done right, or I'd share something that Josh had enjoyed learning in their class previously. This seemed to derail some of the negativity some of the time. Just as with our kids, nothing works all of the time but something will work some of the time. We need strategies for working with those who are in a position to care for our children, and hope that something will work some of the time. Whether you are a natural advocate or a reluctant one, if you have a child with a learning difference or special challenges, you must be an advocate unless and until your child one day develops the skills to advocate for himself. In my experience, being deliberate in my advocacy was hard but preferable to what happened when I just waited and hoped things would work out for the best.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making the Most of Your Time

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NASB)

When you are homeschooling a special needs or struggling child, you are not always on the same timeline as others. The curriculum you use needs to be adapted and usually one of the biggest modifications involves time.

Our children with various challenges and differences do not develop at the same rate as those who are typically developing. They need more time to learn skills and retain information. They may mature more slowly and need additional practice and support to progress. My son could take two hours to do an assignment I thought should take twenty minutes, and it was the same way with chores. Other children have medical issues like seizures that can interfere with their ability to remember previously learned skills. They need to re-learn information, and that takes time and makes the rate of progress variable. So given those kinds of situations, how can we make the most of our time and be good stewards of that resource?

One lesson I learned about my use of time was that I really needed to focus on my goals for each of my children. Once the goals were in the forefront of my mind, it was easier to eliminate things that were not conducive to helping achieve those goals. When everything is treated as being equally important, there is no priority and the important issues may get pushed aside by lesser matters.

With my son, Josh, it became clear that he was not going to be able to do many different subjects in a single day and finish all of his work. Although he didn’t need as much sleep as I did in those early years, I didn’t want him spending all day and then the evening trying to get his schoolwork done, struggling all the while. I homeschool for many reasons, including helping my children develop a love for learning. Spending too many hours on school tasks seems like a good way to achieve burnout for all of us. My husband and I agreed to focus on the basics with Josh, and limit the amount of time spent on highly structured learning tasks.

I had to pare down my long list of what I would like to do and instead think realistically about what I could do each school day. Because Josh and his sister, Beckie, had learning challenges I had to eliminate some of the supplemental material I had originally planned on and limit the work to the core essentials of their education.

In addition to recognizing the best way to invest our time, we need to try to teach our children to make the most of their time. Many kids live in the moment, which is a perspective that has blessings of its own. Without losing that ability to fully experience life as it happens, we need to gently guide our children to consider future events and plan for them in a thoughtful manner. This does not come naturally for most children, and there may need to be consequences that occur as part of the learning process.

Here is an example from the Boring family homeschool: I have a lesson planned and go over it with the kids. They start goofing around, are not working on their assignment even though they know what is expected and are capable of completing the work. I do not mind spending more time on a lesson if my children do not understand something. However, when it is clearly a matter of choice and they are choosing to be silly, they are wasting their time and mine and there will be consequences. I think that the children should experience the consequence of their poor decisions so that hopefully they will make better choices next time.

With that goal in mind, we started “homeschool homework” when the children were wasting time. I would set a time limit for a certain assignment, and if they did not complete it within that period, they had homework with Dad when he got home. This kept them accountable to Dad, and kept them from more play time until their homework was done. This worked well for us since my husband did not have to plan or teach the lesson but could just follow-through with what I had assigned.

Making the most of our time will be manifested differently for each of our families. We all have limitations and demands on our time. Finding balance, remembering our goals, and investing time in our children will allow us to experience the satisfaction of time well spent.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Easy to Make Matching Game

Here is an idea for an easy matching game for colors and sizes using recycled materials you probably have in abundance. Start saving the plastic lids from jars - peanut butter, mayonnaise, milk and juice jugs, pop-up wipes, etc. When you have a collection of lids, take a plain file folder and arrange the lids however you like on top of the file. Trace around the lids, then remove them and color in the circles to match the lid colors. I didn't color in the circles for the small milk jug size since most of my small lids are the same color, but you could match colors on that size as well if you have a variety in your own collection. I outlined my circles in black to provide a greater contrast to make the target stand out. Store the lids in a gallon-sized zipper bag and you have a quick and easy matching game. The larger lids are great for little hands or for those who find fine motor tasks difficult. To make the game more durable, laminate the file folder. You'll be able to re-use this game with your own children, plus it's a great portable game to take with you since it's lightweight and doesn't take up much room. It's an inexpensive, fun way to help kids learn and a great way to recycle those lids.

Friday, September 04, 2009

ADHD Friendly Sock Boxes

My daughter, Beckie, has a sock problem. She is disorganized and tends to have her things strewn about the house and can't seem to find socks that match. The two most common outcomes are:
1. She wears the first two socks she finds, which usually don't match, and it gives her a clownish look.
2. She "borrows" socks from my sock drawer which I unhappily notice on her feet later.

In this short video I share with Beckie an AD/HD friendly way to organize and keep track of socks. I hope it is helpful for your family as well!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Flower Follow-up Pictures

Here are my annual "Back to Homeschool" flowers. I picked carnations, because they tend to last pretty long and I like the way they look. (Plus, they don't trigger any allergy symptoms or give me an immediate headache the way some flowers do!) I brought home two different cards and let the kids decide which one to sign. Beth picked one card, and the two with AD/HD picked the other. Sometimes they really do seem like twins born 5 years apart. Beth saw the card and immediately jotted a message. Josh and Beckie both looked at me and said, "What am I supposed to write?" I guess I could have dictated something awesome that would make me sound like Super Mom. Instead, I made them think of something with the only stipulation being that they had to sign their names somewhere on the card.
I like that carnations are sturdy. They have nice strong stems and can survive having the vase tipped over and refilled a few times. They are probably not considered to be the most beautiful flowers, but are quite lovely and the aroma is not overpowering. They have staying power and can last a couple weeks and still look good, which is a long time in the fresh-cut flower world. Sure, they can be damaged, but they are not as fragile and finicky about their conditions as many flowers are and that allows us to enjoy them longer. So I guess I want to be like my carnations, lovely in my own way and able to last while doing what I'm created to do. I want to share in a pleasing way without being overpowering. I want to outlast a spill or two and go on despite them. I want to thrive in the conditions I'm in without demanding a certain amount of this or that in order to bloom. I want to be there for my kids when we bump into a learning hurdle - again - and not let the bumps wipe us out. Like my carnations, I want to stay strong and provide a beautiful example for others to enjoy. I want my presence to be pleasing and worth seeking out. I'm not there yet, or even close, but it's something I like to think about and hope someday to attain.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My friend Joyce

Recently I spoke on the phone with my good friend, Joyce Herzog. Although separated by many miles we are connected through our similar philosophy that all children can learn and there are many ways we can help them. Joyce has been an experienced educator both in private and public school settings, and she tutors students who are struggling to learn. Talking with Joyce leaves me humbled, for the woman is like a walking library of knowledge and wisdom. Although she's already authored multiple books, there are many more books inside of her just waiting to find their way into print. Lest you think Joyce is merely an intellectual, I need to mention that she has a delightful sense of humor and is one of the most creative people I've ever met. If one solution doesn't work, Joyce can come up with several more things to try in a matter of minutes. Give her a topic and she can come up with games to teach it and practice the concepts. Tell her a child's diagnosis and she can tell you how to compensate for weaknesses and teach to the strengths. Always optimistic and realistic, Joyce knows and shares strategies that work. Sometimes health issues slow her down physically, but her mind is hard to keep up with at times! She has so much mental energy and enthusiasm that it stimulates listeners to think of creative possibilities for themselves. I encourage you to check out her website at:

Joyce has time-tested, educational products on her site as well as advice for homeschoolers. My personal favorites on the site are the "Hints" section and the "Links" list of resources for special needs and struggling learners. At Heads Up, we only carry products that we can whole-heartedly recommend as meeting the highest standards that we would want for our own family. Joyce's books, Timeless Teaching Tips, Learning in Spite of Labels, and Choosing and Using Curriculum are available at our website

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Annual "Buy Yourself Flowers" Reminder!

It's time for my annual exhortation and reminder for all you homeschoolers who are starting a new school year to buy yourself some flowers! This is a tradition I started for myself years ago, and since then I have been urging my fellow homeschoolers to join me in starting a new school year out right with some lovely fresh flowers to commemorate the onset of another year of homeschooling. Please feel free to join me in this tradition even if it is your first year of homeschooling or if your child is in a more traditional school setting. All are welcome! I began this tradition to help myself get excited and enthused for another school year. Having a learner who struggled with numerous challenges, school was never an easy time for either of us. As the "Back to School" specials and commercials increased in frequency during August, I found I was having to take deep breaths and tell myself, "It's going to be all right, Melinda. You've made it this far. You know this is the right thing to do, and you can do it." While other moms in my neighborhood were counting down the days until school started and making plans to meet for coffee the first day school was back in session, I knew that my work would just be picking up again at that point. So I started buying myself flowers on our first official day of school for the year. I would select a nice bouquet and a card for my children to sign for me. At this point I have to confess that one year I was especially dreading the onset of school because the previous year had been so rough. The coming year held no guarantees that things would be any less challenging, so I selected a "With Deepest Sympathy" card for my children to sign. With their impulsivity issues, it wasn't until after they had scrawled their names on the card that they noticed the "With Deepest Sympathy" part at the top of the card. Then I heard cries of "Mo-om!" and we all had a good laugh together. Besides, I think it's o.k. for our kids to know that sometimes homeschooling is hard for us, too. Still worth it, but hard at times. Most years I pick out a more optimistic card to go with the flowers, remembering to avoid those dark purple crunchy ones that my cats seem compelled to chew until the vase spills. Last year, my daughter who graduated from our homeschool in 2006 bought me the flowers and picked out a card. Perhaps this will lead to an even better tradition where the children buy you flowers! But until that point, please join me in buying yourself flowers and share this idea with your friends as we embark on another school year.

*The photo above was taken on 8-13-09 in Chillicothe, Ohio by my daughter, Beth.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monk, The Odd Couple, and Messes

I am a defeated perfectionist. I think I was born wanting to line up my diaper pins and while I was growing up the rest of my family was also neat and orderly. I thought most people were, and even lucked out with my college roommates who were organized and kept their possessions fairly tidy. When I married Scott, I was surprised to find out that he was disorganized. When we were in college and he just had a few things to keep track of he seemed to be functioning just fine. When we had an apartment and later bought a house and shared possessions, he showed me his amazing tolerance for clutter, losing things and misplacing materials. And it is amazing to me even now, after 25 years together. He honestly doesn't notice the piles of stuff and random items left throughout the house. Having children just added to the clutter and extra things to deal with (me) or not deal with (the rest of the family). Remember Felix and Oscar, the Odd Couple who were opposites in their tolerance for neatness? Have you ever watched Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective who is a cleanliness addict? I am drawn to his character even as I relate to some of his behaviors as he attempts to straighten and clean and put things in order around him. Like Monk, I can relate to his genuine distress when surrounded by others who are less meticulous. I have a strong desire for my surroundings to be organized and predictable. In fact, it feels like a need, not just a want. I have a certain spot for items like scissors and tape, and it distresses me to go to retrieve them and find them missing. When I ask my family members if they know where the items are, they typically can't recall or they tell me where they last saw them. It makes so much sense to me to just put things back where they belong so they are there when you need them. I've tried to explain how it will save time in the long run and be less stressful all around, but even when it's another member of my family rushing around trying to find a lost item I seem to be more anxious about it than they are. My husband and two AD/HD children have proudly declared their ethnicity to be "Slob-onians" and the messes really don't faze them. I, on the other hand, am allergic to dust and don't want all these allergy shots and medication to be for nothing, so I try to clean. But I can't keep up with them. I've thought about hiring cleaning help, but that is expensive and much of what needs done is putting things away so that the cleaning can be done. I've written up chore lists in detail so they don't have to think about or remember what to do, just follow the list and check things off as they go. They resist using the list, wanting instead to eyeball the room and announce, "It looks o.k. to me." Trust me, it does not look o.k. I know by now some people are thinking I need to lower my perfectionist standards. I have done that, and I can even be satisfied with just the appearance of clean for some rooms. I have discovered that the Slob-onians can un-clean a lot faster than I can clean and it is impossible to keep up with them. Since I seem to be as incapable of changing as they are, I have acknowledged my status as defeated perfectionist. The desire for clean and orderly is still strong, but the reality of life with Slob-onians defies the realization of that desire.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tea Party or White Water Rafting?

As you think about materials and activities to use with your children, it's important to take their personalities and interests into consideration. Publishers design materials to be useful to large groups, and it wouldn't make sense from a business standpoint to try and individualize every aspect of the curriculum. As homeschoolers, educators, and parents supplementing their child's education we can individualize to best meet our child's needs. I found that my children did better when I made the curriculum work for them by changing it to fit their learning styles and supplementing with games and other media that would appeal to them. I had one child out of three who could easily go with a curriculum in its original form. The other two needed something different or various alterations to the material for them to maximize their learning opportunities. My daughter, Beckie, is a very versatile child. She easily engages in activities traditionally geared toward girls and in her earlier years could dress up in frilly princess outfits and stroll about with a lacy umbrella and oodles of fake jewels. Beckie could just as easily hold her own in activities typically thought of as designed for rough and tumble boys' play and could make vehicle noises and Lego creations with the best of them. She is already a second degree black belt and frequently sports numerous bruises obtained during her martial arts classes. Beckie made an observation in church awhile back that I hadn't even thought about, and I had to laugh when she pointed it out. The women's ministry was offering a Mother/Daughter Tea for the women to attend. It was a fun time for dressing up and enjoying pretty china and the company of other women and girls. The men's ministry was planning a white water rafting trip that would include some camping and outdoor adventures. Beckie leaned over to me and commented, "Why do the guys get to go white water rafting and we get tea? I don't even like sitting around drinking tea, but I'd love to go white water rafting!" I agree that Beckie's options were rather limiting for her. She is physically fit and enjoys outdoor activities. The rafting trip would be a better match for her, and I'm confident she could have kept up with the boys in the group. In this case, it wasn't a choice she was offered and it was tea or nothing. Beckie made a good point, though, and it reminded me not to limit her because of her age or gender. Someday Beckie will go white water rafting. She may develop skills that are not usually taught in standard curriculum or at the generally expected time for her age. That's o.k., and if someday she develops an affinity for tea parties, I'll support her in that as well. We shouldn't hold our kids back because they are interested in something that won't be covered in this year's scope and sequence or because they aren't at the "right" grade yet. Instead, let's figure out how to make our materials work for what our kids are ready to learn, and remember who they are as individuals as we make our choices.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Self-esteem and Reality

Some children lack confidence because they are very aware of their own struggles. Their self-esteem is low and may lead to a reluctance to try tasks or join in activities. This is especially apparent if they have a learning glitch or other challenges and their siblings do not. The comparisons are inevitable, and the child who struggles may feel inferior or somehow defective. As educators and parents we can work to balance this skewed perspective and help our children develop an accurate view of themselves by pointing out things they are good at or show an affinity for throughout the day. Often these strengths are not the traditional academic areas, but may be reflected in athletic skills or artistic endeavors. I had a chat with my daughter once when she was discouraged about one of her school assignments. It wasn't coming easily for her and she began to droop as she came face-to-face with the challenge. I told her there were different ways people could be smart, and pointed out several areas where she was able to excel. As I explained that some of us are athletic, some of us are artistic, etc. she concluded happily, "I'm pretty much the whole package!" Her struggles were forgotten for the moment as she reflected on her strengths. The goal isn't for us to encourage our children to believe things that aren't true just to make them feel better. Our intention should be to help our children develop an accurate view of themselves with the recognition of both strengths and weaknesses. We all have areas of struggle, and some are just more visible than others. Let's do what we can to help our children see themselves as God sees them, as individuals who are valuable and have areas of struggle and areas of gifting. This truth is the foundation for genuine, lasting self-esteem based in reality.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Diving Boards and Moose Tracks

Years ago my youngest child, Beckie, had mixed feelings about jumping off the diving board at the local community pool. She had been through a few rounds of swim lessons by then and could swim and tread water. She watched others jump and splash and could tell they were having fun. She decided she wanted to try it, and I agreed to let her try a jump off the lower diving board. She confidently climbed up the ladder, then slowed as she approached the end and came to a stop. Suddenly, her confidence was gone and she stood there trembling with indecision. I was standing nearby on the edge of the pool, ready to jump in and rescue her if necessary. (I am not much of a swimmer, but I would have dog-paddled to her and tugged her out!) Beckie looked at me, looked at the water, looked behind her at the line of kids waiting their turn, and reversed course back down the ladder. She got her courage up and repeated the scenario a few more times, each time getting angrier with herself for not taking the plunge. I did my usual Mom pep talk things, like pointing out that she could already jump and knew how to swim and that after the first time it would get easier. Knowing Beckie, I knew if she didn't go for it during this visit she would talk herself out of trying again for a long time. She knew she could do it, I knew she could do it, but she just couldn't make herself jump. At that point I decided verbal encouragement and logic weren't cutting it and I tried an incentive. This reward may sound like a bribe, but I assure you it was really an incentive! I told Beckie that if she jumped off the diving board she could have a scoop of her favorite ice cream, Moose Tracks, when we got home. The promise of ice cream was greater than her fear of the unknown sensation of jumping off the diving board and she immediately got back in line for a turn. When she got to the end of the board, she hesitated and reminded herself of the Moose Tracks that awaited her successful jump. Then BOING off she went! She came up grinning and swam to the side of the pool, climbed out and got right back in line for another turn to jump. After her third jump, the life guards blew the whistle for rest time so she had just gotten her jumps in on time. She came over to me and as I wrapped her in a towel and hugged her proudly against me she informed me that she had earned three scoops of Moose Tracks. Apparently she thought each jump earned a scoop, and was keeping a mental count as she envisioned the ice cream piling up. Good thing the rest period started when it did! I informed Beckie that the Moose Track reward was a one time incentive for learning to jump off the diving board. But I did give her three scoops that night because I know the courage it took and in my opinion, she earned it. It was also another good reminder for me that I needed to be very specific in my communication, and that sometimes kids need a little more from us than our words of love and assurance.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Simple Truth

This video is inspirational as it describes how 19 year old Johnny, a grocery store bagger who has Down Syndrome, transformed the atmosphere around him through simple acts of service. Don't ever think that because your child is "just a bagger" or "just a _____" that their impact to touch lives is somehow lessened. Our special needs and struggling children can make a difference. Johnny's story demonstrates how his desire to share positive memories with the customers touched people and brought them back to his store again and again.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Default Answers

My children, like many who struggle with attention challenges, are very bright. This may not be the first impression they give, but they are smart in many ways and have learned to predict and anticipate adult expectations at times. For example, when my children have been to a friend's house or basically any activity where they've been out of my sight for five minutes or more, they know I will ask them what they've been up to. (I think of it as my "homeschooler hover"!) I noticed that over time they began to develop certain default answers they fell back on when they'd been in Sunday school or at AWANA. Even if they hadn't been paying attention, they managed to come up with some general answers they hoped were close enough to satisfy Mom's inquiring mind. If I asked them about the Sunday school lesson and what they had learned that day, they would respond with "Jesus?" When asked for a bit more detail they would add, "God? The Bible?" all with a hopeful expression on their faces, a questioning intonation, and a clear wish that their guesses would be accurate this time. I have to give them credit for selecting default answers that have a good probability of being correct given the context. It's a strategy I encourage them to use during schoolwork or test taking. I've taught them to utilize context clues, prior experience, and choose what seems to be the best answer based on what they know. By offering me their default answers, I'm going to recognize that they are generalizing a strategy rather than focus on the fact that they weren't highly attentive and are just taking their best shot at a response. Hey, they're going to be right some of the time, and they are trying!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Social and Life Skills Advice From Mr. T!

Sometimes it helps when our kids hear advice from someone other than Mom and Dad. Here are some short clips that pack a Mr. T. punch with blunt advice for improving social skills. Each of these is presented as a little poem delivered by Mr. T. The first is about being a good listener. The next one gives advice for procrastinators, followed by tips for making a good first impression. Next, Mr. T. gives suggestions for good hygiene and follows it up with a reminder for those who tend to monopolize conversations. Finally, Mr. T. promotes the value of perseverance for success. Actually, you may want to enjoy these out of earshot of your children, or you may hear them saying "I pity the fool!" Mr. T style. Then again, it could be used as a teaching tool to point out how you can express the right idea in the wrong way. In any case I hope you can extrapolate the good parts, folks, and enjoy the humor in these short clips.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Yesterday I added a wallpaper border in the master bathroom. I am a complete amateur with wallpaper, but considering that I can read directions and few people actually see that bathroom other than my immediate family members I decided to go for it. When my husband came home from work, I told him that there was a surprise upstairs. Earlier my 16 year old AD/HD daughter had walked in on me during the application process and saw me standing on the bathroom counter. She asked me what I was doing since she didn't notice the wallpaper, so I didn't tell Scott what the surprise was so he could have fun looking for it. How playful of me! AD/HD guys love that! When I heard him heading upstairs I followed him up to see his reaction to my surprise. He was standing with his hand on his hip, shaking his head and saying, "Well, it's kind of hard to miss this." Unfortunately, in an apparent attempt to out do my surprise, one of our cats had hurled her stomach contents across the carpet leaving her own surprise for us to find. Welcome home, honey! Surprise! Our room is the only one with carpet in the entire house, so Popcorntail perversely always pukes in that room. Anyway, that was definitely not the surprise I had in mind for my husband. As we were in the process of getting supplies to clean up after the cat, Scott noticed the wallpaper and actually seemed to like it. When you live with AD/HD, you often get unintentional surprises. For example, you may be surprised to find an empty milk carton that has been carefully placed back in the refrigerator. Why do they do this?!? Do they think you won't notice, or maybe will blame yourself? Likewise, you may be surprised upon receiving a letter from your local library that your child has not returned books you didn't even know they'd checked out and now they owe a substantial fine. You may be surprised, as I was just this morning, to find out that your child is having a sleepover at your house that very night - and the other parents have already agreed that it's okay. You might be surprised when listening to the old messages on your answering machine when you realize that the call you've been expecting actually did occur but your family didn't bother to let you know on the dry erase board that is right next to the phone for just such a purpose. Best of all, though, is when you are surprised because they DID remember your birthday or some special occasion. It is harder for them to plan ahead and remember things, so it means even more when they do it without repeated coaching from you. That's the good kind of surprise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who is a friend?

When are kids are small, we try to teach them what it means to be a good friend. When a child struggles with social skills it is difficult for them to discern who is actually behaving like a friend. My son, Josh, had great difficulty recognizing body language and tone of voice and often missed social cues. At times this was a blessing because it meant that he missed the facial expressions, unkind comments, and even blatant rejection that was frequently directed at him. I felt enough pain for both of us sometimes, I think. I remember so many incidents of Josh trying to connect with other kids and my trying to coach him so he would be more successful. One summer, years ago, Josh was probably 6 or 7 years old and we had gone to the community pool for the afternoon. He saw a boy about his age and approached him to see if he wanted to play. They exchanged a few sentences, and suddenly I saw the boy shove Josh as hard as he could into the deep end of the pool. Josh had only recently learned to swim and was not yet up to swimming in the deep end, and I ran to the side of the pool and pulled my spluttering son out of the water. There was a red hand print on his back from where he had been pushed. By then the other boy had run off, but I approached a life guard and made her look at the mark left on Josh and pointed out the boy who had left it. She said she knew him and would talk to him about it. Another attempt at a relaxing afternoon was superceded by this distressing incident. Josh and I talked about it at the time, trying to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid similar events in the future. It wasn't until years later that Josh was able to tell me more about what he was thinking that day. He said he'd really wanted to play with someone and that boy was also by himself and looked to be around the same age. He never did figure out why the boy shoved him into the deep end and took off. But Josh remembers what he was thinking as he was sinking down in the water. "Maybe if I make it back up we can still be friends." Wow. There was never any hint of friendliness from that boy toward Josh, and certainly propelling another child into the deep end of the pool without knowing if he can swim seems obviously hostile. But not to Josh, who didn't innately understand how a friend should act. For most children, an experience like that makes a huge impression and they have no desire to be around the one who rejected them. For Josh, it was just one more confusing experience in the confusing world of social interactions.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My friend, Shadow

We found him through a poster hung on the bulletin board at Big Bear.
“Mixed Lab/Boxer puppies. Free to a good home.”
As it turned out, he was priceless.

For fourteen years he was a part of our family.
He either traveled with us, or waited faithfully guarding our house for us until we returned home.
He never complained about anything, except for the not-so-subtle reminders that it was time to feed him. He usually waited for visitors to carry around his big, metal dish around the room, as if to say "Dog on strike! They never feed me!"

The days of playing fetch, or tug-of-war were over long ago. When we went for walks, you could tell that his spirit was much more vibrant and playful than his body would allow him to exhibit. Getting up the stairs was a burden and he sometimes needed a little help to surmount the challenge.

I knew the time was near a few months ago when a construction worker left the gate to the back yard open. My daughter let him out late at night to do his business, but then couldn't get him to come when she called. She woke me up at 3:00 am, because she was afraid that he had died out there. When I went out and found the gate open, I knew he was out running the neighborhood again. But this time was different. I walked around the block until I realized that I wouldn't find a black dog in pitch darkness, and he wouldn't hear my soft whistles. I went back to bed. He was barking to be let back in within an hour. When you're 81 in dog years I guess running wild just doesn't have the same appeal as it did when you were young.

His body was ravaged.
Five years ago the vet cut out a big tumor. The tests came back. It was cancerous. We didn't get it all. The damnable stuff came back; slowly, but inexorably, like....well, like a cancer. It was on his chest, which made it difficult to walk, or lay down, or climb, or run. But he never complained.
He started having seizures about a year ago. The vet said it was way beyond what he could analyze or treat and suggested we take him to the University Vet clinic. $800 later they wanted to do more tests: MRIs, CAT scans, consults with heart specialists. We took him home with no suggestions or treatment. He was glad to be home.
The worst was his incontinence. Usually during the night. In the morning, I would come downstairs and clean up the mess, with him standing nearby with an embarrassed & apologetic look on his face. Very undignified for such a handsome dog.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend told us about some vets that make house calls named, oddly enough, "House Calls." I made an appointment. Yesterday they came out. We started explaining everything that was going on with my dear friend. The more we talked, the clearer it was that there would be no medication that would clear this up; no pill or special food. Then she mentioned that the arthritis was probably making it very difficult for him as well. Arthritis. I hadn't considered that. It would certainly explain why his back legs shook when he was just standing there. And why he seemed to sink, lower and lower as he walked by.
The vet gave us some options. Pain meds, seizure meds; but they all had some nasty side effects.

There would be no hospice, or pain management. He had suffered in silence. And he had seemed very content, even if he only got five minutes of petting or scratching a day in return for 23 hours, 55 minutes of pain, he was willing to take that deal. But we had to decide for him that it was a bad deal.

The vet helped him to go to sleep for the last time. They shaved a small place on his leg and started an IV. We were petting & loving on him to the very end.

Some things God allows to be a mystery to us, unanswered. I hope that when I arrive in heaven, I will find my Lord Jesus waiting to welcome me. And you will be by His side.

Goodbye, my friend

Friday, July 10, 2009

Febreeze Rice...Yum!?!

My son, Josh, has hypersensitivity to smells as part of his sensory processing profile. He used to lift his plate up to his nose to sniff his food before eating it. This happened even with familiar and favorite foods. Fortunately as he got older he was able to inhibit this behavior, or at least do it so surreptitiously that no one noticed. Once I cooked a chicken drumstick in the microwave, and Josh wrinkled his nose and announced that it smelled like our dog Shadow when he is wet. Wet dog never smells good! Consequently, Josh wouldn't eat the drumstick, and his description of the smell grossed out his sisters so much that for months they all refused to eat chicken. Last night I made cilantro rice with fresh cilantro. This recipe also included orange marmalade for a taste of citrus. The main course was to be served over the cilantro rice, but I noticed that Josh skipped the rice. I asked him why, and he grinned and told me he had sniffed out the rice but that it smelled like Febreeze or something so he didn't want to eat it. Josh is not a picky eater, but when a smell reminds him of something non-edible he can't bring himself to eat it. I'm guessing that the orange citrus smell is what reminded him of cleaners, so I can see why he wouldn't want to eat it. We like fresh food, but not "cleanser fresh" smelling food. The rest of us didn't get the Febreeze impression, so we ate the rice. I didn't push it with Josh, because he wasn't complaining about it and we all have foods we don't care for and choose not to eat. Plus, I imagine the Febreeze rice for Josh would be like asking me to eat something that smells like bleach or Pinesol. I'm just glad he is able to tell me why some foods are o.k. with him and others are rejected.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

9,096 Days!

Next month is my 25th wedding anniversary. Months ago my husband, Scott, approached me with the idea of taking a vacation and revisiting all the places we went to on our honeymoon. This time we would have our three kids with us, and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. Since part of our honeymoon was spent in Canada, we would all need passports. Passports can take a while to process. Scott printed out the forms and then...they got lost and forgotten and now there is no way we could get passports in time for our anniversary trip. Now at this point some of you probably think I'm angry and upset. But remember, Scott and I have been married almost 25 years now, and this is neither surprising nor unusual in a relationship with an AD/HD adult. I could have taken over the planning myself, but I was busy and left it up to Scott. By doing that, I knew there was a possibility that the details wouldn't be tended to and I still couldn't muster up the energy to follow-through with him to make sure everything got done on time. Yesterday I asked Scott if he would be o.k. with my planning something simpler for us since we can't make the Canada trip, and he agreed. So I am making plans for a day trip or long weekend, depending on the kids' schedules for classes and work. It's not that Scott isn't enthusiastic or romantic. He remembered that this is the year of our 25th anniversary. He just isn't good at planning by himself, or following through on his great ideas. He is a kind and intelligent man and a wonderful husband, and I won't diminish that by being disappointed when his AD/HD interferes with his intentions once again. This was an inadvertent lapse, not deliberate sabotage. If you ignore the AD/HD factor, it can lead to bitterness and resentment. If you know your spouse struggles with AD/HD, however, it always has to be factored in for the health of your relationship. Planning and organizing a trip may be outside of your spouse's skill set, as it typically is for Scott. Don't let that be the defining element in your view of your partner, but just one of many things that are true of him or her. Today I got an email from Scott wishing me a happy anniversary. Is this another AD/HD moment, since our anniversary is not until August 11th? No! Scott's anniversary message informed me that we have been married exactly 9,096 days today. Now that's romantic!

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Capital Idea!

Do you remember learning the states and capitals? For a child who has trouble with memorization it can seem overwhelming to try and remember all 50 states and capitals. Not only that, but we'd like our children to be able to find them on a map. More memorization! My children suggested that perhaps we should move to a small island so they would have less to memorize. While I understand their memory challenges, I still wanted them to learn the information. I found a wonderful states and capitals game that used cartoon pictures to help visually associate the state with its capital, and also depicted where the state was located. (You can see the game at The visual cues helped tremendously and soon my children were making the associations and began committing the facts to memory. I still needed to review the game cards now and then to help with retention, but the pictures always cued them to the correct response. One time I was doing a crossword puzzle and couldn't remember the capital of Alabama. Knowing that my kids had learned all the states and capitals I hoped that my son could help me out. I called out to Josh in the next room and asked, "What's the capital of Alabama?" His immediate response came back, "A!" I thought he was saying, "Eh?" since with his auditory processing issues he often needed repetition. So I repeated my question, and got the same response only this time with that querying inflection as if he was beginning to suspect it was some kind of trick question. When I realized he was telling me the capital letter for Alabama, I started laughing. Josh was not trying to be funny, he was attempting to answer what had to seem like a pretty dumb question for me to be asking him. He is pretty literal and impulsive and said the first thing that came to mind. Technically he was right about the capital of Alabama being the letter "A". Bless his heart for trying to answer my question even though it didn't make sense to him. When I explained that I actually wanted to know the state's capital city, he was able to supply that answer as well. We joke about always being able to tell a state's capital as long as we know what letter the state name starts with!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mouth Breathing and the Mama Bird

Some of you may have read an earlier post about the varmint that moved into my attic this spring. It turned out to be a raccoon with four babies, but they are gone now after spending six weeks with us. Bear with my city girl excitement here...we now have a robin's nest in the tree in our front yard. I have been watching the mama bird since she started building the nest. I've noticed on multiple occasions that she sits in the nest with her beak slightly open. At first, I thought perhaps she was "giving egg" (as opposed to "giving birth") but she has continued to do it off and on for over a week now. I have seen her with her beak closed, so I'm curious about the open beak posture. When I work with kids who are mouth breathers, I encourage the parents to rule out allergies if they have not already done so. A child with swollen tonsils and adenoids may also be a mouth breather. Children who are chronic mouth breathers tend to have chapped lips with reduced sensation, so drooling may be more of a problem because the children are not aware of it or do not feel the wetness as acutely as most. For some children, the initial physical cause may have cleared up but mouth breathing has become a habit. If a child's mouth is open because that's the only way he can breathe comfortably, however, there is no point in addressing the open mouth posture until the underlying cause has been treated. Breathing will always come first. Once breathing is not an issue, you can begin to work on lip closure and better mouth and tongue postures. As for the mama bird, she seems to be doing well. I've decided that birds (at least the mamas) must not ever have AD/HD, or they would not be able to sit there for hours and hours being as immovable as a statue. They may, however, have swollen birdie adenoids for all I know!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mom's Summer Reading Club

When my kids were younger, they looked forward to joining the local library's summer reading club. They would read and earn a prize like a pencil or a coupon for miniature golf. It was great fun for them, but they did not usually choose books that I would consider educational. I don't mind having them read books at an easy level or just for fun. At the same time, I would prefer that they read some more challenging material as well. So I started a new tradition I call "Mom's Summer Reading Club". My children could join my club in addition to the program at the library. My club was a bit different from the library's, however, since I printed off a list of books and the children had to select titles from that compilation. Occasionally one of my children would approach me with a specific book in mind and ask if it could be added to my list. Sometimes I agreed, and other times I did not think it was a fit for my list but reminded them that they could read that title for the library club. I assigned a point value for the books, with harder and longer books earning a greater number of points. I also individualized the prize list with items or activities that I knew my children would enjoy. I had a long list of book titles for the children to choose from, and they were all books I would be happy to see my kids reading. In fact, some of them were going to be read during the school year anyway even if the children did not select them as part of their summer reading choices. The prizes earned were also based on a point system, with smaller items such as a Dairy Queen Blizzard requiring only 5 points while $10.00 to use at the thrift store cost 20 points. I think it's important to have a range of point prizes, because some children need the reinforcement and reward sooner rather than later. As quickly as my Beckie acquired enough points to cash them in for a prize, she would come and find me to collect what she had earned. My Beth, on the other hand, would save up her points and enjoy the anticipation of a trip to the thrift store. That was my most popular prize with her, and she did a lot of reading during Mom's Summer reading club. To this day Beth enjoys reading classics that Mom would happily add to the book list, although Beth no longer expects prizes for reading. My Josh was somewhere in the middle, able to push past the early prizes but not as interested in accruing points for the bigger items on the prize list. I posted both the book list and the prize list on our refrigerator. Several of my kids' friends thought it was a great idea and hoped their moms might do something similar with them. It's such a simple way to encourage our reluctant readers or motivate our children to read a variety of materials over the summer or anytime.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Watch Where You're Going!

I've noticed something about children who are learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Some of them focus their vision down toward their feet and hands, and end up tumbling off the bike because they are not watching where they are going and it throws their balance off. Others are so determined not to run into trees or telephone poles that they stare at the object they want to avoid and steer right into it. After a few crashes and spills, most kids get the idea that they have to look ahead to where they want to end up. I see similarities in my own experiences as I've worked with struggling learners. Sometimes I am so focused on what I don't want to have happen that I mentally steer right into it and crash into anxiety, fear, and discouragement. I find myself obsessing over what's not going well and how to fix it. I think for the millionth time that I'm failing at the most important things in my life. I see a cloud for every silver lining. I look down instead of up and lose my balance. The future is overshadowed by the present. If there are good things, they are buried beneath my pile of thoughts about all the mistakes and things I need to work on. I think I need to try harder. Crash! I fear I will never succeed. Crash! I'm not sure I can go the distance. Crash and off the bike I go! When this happens, I need to take a deep breath and make a decision to find the good things. They are there. I may have to push some of the obstacles aside in order to see them, but they are no less real when I'm not aware of them than when I am. Instead of concentrating on the obstacles in front of me and the things that are not going my way, I need to watch where I'm going. Appreciate all the things I love about my kids. Not miss the beauty in life just because there's ugliness, too. I need to lift my head and see where I am headed. Be deliberate. Take in a bit more of the big picture. I love the Bible verse in Psalms 27:13, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." I want to see that goodness more clearly than the things I crash into!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I dedicate today's post to my little friend, Brian. Brian's parents are friends of mine, and I started doing speech therapy with Brian late in August 2008. It has been a privilege to get to know Brian during his first year and now past his second birthday. He is one of the few children I've worked with who attempted to say my name, "Melinda" which came out as "Minda" when Brian said it. I think it's the best nickname ever. To impress me further, the next week he came out with my last name, "Boring", using a good "r" and everything! His parents were great at following through with all the strategies and suggestions I offered them. Brian has made steady gains in his language skills and now frequently imitates words and short phrases that he hears adults using. Imagine my surprise when we met in the community for a therapy session and Brian took one look at my bottle of Diet Pepsi and pointed to it while loudly announcing, "Beer!" It was one of his new words for that week, and in typical fashion he was over-generalizing it to every drink he saw. His mom and I shared a good laugh over the fact that I couldn't persuade Brian to say "pop" and his insistence on calling it "beer". Incidentally, I don't even like beer, so the accusation was even more amusing. I saw Brian again yesterday, and administered a standardized test that confirmed my impression that his language skills have reached an age-appropriate level. His mom informed me that thanks to a news story and the adult discussion following it, Brian has added the word "alcohol" to his vocabulary. I'm proud of Brian and his family for how quickly he progressed in his skills and he can now be discharged from speech therapy. He'll never remember our speech therapy work together. But Brian, I'll never forget you! Super job, buddy, and have a cold one! Milk, that is!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Okay! What?

Sometimes our inattentive kids can be a bit impulsive as well. When that happens, you may ask them a question or tell them to do something and get an immediate answer. They learn to answer right away because we train them to respond when spoken to, and we don't tend to respond well when we feel they are ignoring us. So our kids get used to us telling them things to do or asking them questions, and they sometimes respond automatically without thinking about what was said. Once I was administering a test to a boy and I explained the instructions for a subtest and asked if he understood what he was supposed to do. He immediately replied, "Okay" followed by a brief pause and "What?" because he hadn't really been tuned in to what I was saying. This happens a lot at my house. I say something and get the reply of, "Okay! Wait! What did you say?" Usually the repetition helps, but I'm not always patient about having to repeat myself. For those of you with a distractible spouse or if you are easily side tracked yourself, you know this "Okay! What?" type of answer is not limited to children, either. If you give in to your ornery tendencies, you can claim that your child or spouse agreed to doing something they don't even recall responding to and would never have conceded to doing if they had been paying close attention. I don't recommend that, no matter how tempting it may be. Taking advantage of that weakness will not help you become the person you are intended to be. Instead, continue to work on strategies that promote "Think before you speak"... and pray for patience.