Help for Haiti

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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Challenge and "I didn't do it!"

When you are parenting a struggling learner, you may find that you are having to correct or redirect them more frequently than other children. As a homeschooler, you have to work on academics throughout the day and behavioral issues can pop up constantly. It's not necessarily negative behavior or willful defiance from our kids, but inattention and impulsivity can cause problems that need to be addressed often. Have you ever felt like a "NO!" machine? Or a verbal "STOP" sign in your child's life? I know I have, and it saddened me to realize it because it wasn't the Mom I wanted to be or what my kids needed. But in a way, it seems necessary to keep them safe, prevent damage to property, and teach them how to behave in acceptable ways. It's especially important for kids who don't learn and remember easily, since they may have to experience something multiple times before it begins to sink in and true learning occurs. Having two children with working memory problems, I sometimes slipped into correction mode and automatically prompted my children without really keeping track of how often they were hearing negative or just neutral comments from me. I think they were probably hearing corrections about nine out of ten times when I spoke to them. Unfortunately, this would be difficult for an average child and can be devastating to a special needs child or struggling learner. Those kids need to hear encouragement and positive remarks more frequently than most, but often hear them even less than their typically developing peers. I knew I was in need of a "Mom check" when I started to hear my son say, "I didn't do it!" before he even knew what I wanted to talk to him about. If a car backfired on the street, Josh was conditioned to shout, "I didn't do it!" just to be sure his innocence in the matter was clear. If dirty dishes were left on the table and I wanted someone to put them in the dishwasher, Josh would respond with "I didn't do it!" and then he would comply with my request. Whoa. That's pretty sad, isn't it? The thing is, often Josh did do things that needed to be addressed. He didn't learn from just an experience or two, and often took up to six months to remember three simple rules. So yes, he did have a lot of Mom input in his life. And it's valid to say that he truly needed that level of intensive input. Where I dropped the ball was in not recognizing that he also needed the same level of intensive encouragement. Learning was harder for Josh, but he really tried to please and it's not like he struggled on purpose. I needed to acknowledge that more, and had to make a very concerted effort to include praise as part of my Mom skill set with all my kids, but especially with my struggling learners Josh and Beckie. So here's a challenge for you. If you are ready to take a closer look at your own Mom responses, get a couple of golf clickers or maybe a couple of row counters like knitters use. Keep one clicker in one pocket to track the number of negative, corrective, or neutral comments. Put the other clicker in a different pocket and use it to track the number of positive and encouraging remarks you say. You could track it for 15 minutes, an hour, or for one full day. At the end of your tracking period, compare the number of positives to negatives and see how you did. A general rule is to aim for 3 positive comments for every negative one. It's not easy to do for some of us, and like any new habit will take effort and repetition to develop. I'd love to hear how this goes for you!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Auditory Processing Train of Thought

My son, Josh, needed increased response time when he was younger. When asked a question, he took longer than most to formulate his responses, so often he was skipped over in a group setting. The teacher or coach would ask him something, get no response for several seconds, and move on to someone else. Part of the problem was that Josh gave no indication that he'd heard the question. He did not change his facial expression or otherwise let the speaker know that he was actually thinking about what had been said. It was frustrating to Josh to know the answer but have such a limited window of opportunity to express it that he often was unable to reply in the time allotted. I worked with Josh to develop a few strategies to let the speaker know that he had heard and was processing what was said to formulate a response. The first strategy was to hold up one finger in the "wait a minute" pose, to indicate that he needed a little more time. This was probably the easiest to implement, since it did not require an oral response when Josh was already struggling to formulate a verbal answer. The next strategy was to actually say something like, "Give me a minute, please" or "Could you repeat that?" (This was much preferable to saying, "Huh?" which happened so frequently when he was younger that I screened his hearing multiple times!) This strategy let the speaker know that Josh was intending to answer, and the repetition often helped him and gave him a little more time to process. Josh also learned the strategy of asking for clarification, by simply asking "Are you saying ____?" or "Is this what you mean?". It's also important to teach our auditory processing strugglers to use verbal strategies when they are on the phone, because obviously visual cues like the upheld "hold on" finger won't work. Once when I was on the phone with Josh I asked him a question and he was quiet for so long I wasn't sure he was even still on the phone. I asked if he was still there and he told me, "Yes, Mom. But my train of thought is still boarding." I've also noticed that Josh's train of thought will sometimes derail entirely if he is interrupted during the boarding process. When that happens, often by well-meaning people trying to help him out or speed things along, Josh's train has to go back to the beginning and start all over again. So instead of moving things along more quickly, it actually backfires and takes even longer. This is where it's helpful to teach our kids the gestural cues as well as verbal scripts so they will be less likely to be interrupted and the train of thought can actually leave the station.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Suspect

Yesterday morning I walked out my front door and down the porch steps and discovered that there was a critter in the trap set by the company hired to remove whatever had busted into my attic. Here are some pictures of the alleged culprit. It's possible that this hapless opossum was just doing it's nocturnal food search and ended up in the trap, while the real attic dweller is still on the loose. I'm hoping that's not the case, but the trap has been reset until we know for sure. I'm counting on the professionals here to determine when the attic has been truly vacated and it's safe to block up the hole the varmint created in order to gain access to the attic. It may look kind of cute in these pictures, but when it hissed at my son it lost major cuteness points.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

In a family where three out of five members have been diagnosed with AD/HD, it is not unusual to hear frequent reminders back and forth. These prompts are necessary, since forgetfulness and becoming distracted are daily (if not hourly) occurrences. What's frustrating is when the distractible person is reminded to do something he had actually remembered that time, and he is reminded anyway because there's no way to know if and when he will actually recall something on his own. There's no consistent clue to indicate when something has been received and retained or if it has evaporated before being acted upon. During busy times, the distractible members of my family get even more forgetful and sometimes need multiple reminders about a single task. Sometimes they try to help each other remember things, but forget that they've already reminded the other person. My two AD/HD children don't like to lend money to their non-AD/HD sibling, because they know they are likely to forget a.) that she's borrowed from them and b.) if she's paid them back if they do happen to remember. Other times I prompt my children to do a task, only to be assured that they will...but they don't follow through without further reminders. So I found it amusing when I heard my distractible Beckie indignantly tell her distractible father, "I'm not YOU, I'll do it!" when he reminded her again about something that needed to be done. The reality is, sometimes she does remember. Often she does not. I guess it was harder for her to be reminded by someone who also is distractible and forgetful at times.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Tipping Point?

Do you ever wonder if something is the last straw, or possibly the second to last straw? I thought I was coping with things pretty well, but then something else happened and I'd think I was at my maximum capacity for dealing with things. Then something else happened on top of that, and now I'm feeling stretched tight as if I'm held together like surface tension at the rim of a water glass and one more drop will cause an overflow. It started with a headache, which is now in its 10th week. The pain makes it harder to function, but I was getting by. Then last Friday I was at a conference in Pennsylvania when I got a phone call informing me that my Dad had a heart attack and was in the hospital. He seemed to be doing well by the time I got the call and both my parents value what I do at conferences and didn't want me to make the drive back to Ohio and leave the conference early, so I stayed in touch by phone and plan to drive to see my parents tomorrow. Dad's had a few more minor medical issues but they seem to be resolving at this point. I'll feel better when I actually see him in person. Anyway, after a long drive home on Sunday we arrived about 9:00 at night. I unpacked until about 11:00 p.m. and was feeling exhausted and ready for bed when my cat helpfully indicated to me that she heard something in the ceiling of my bathroom. Sure enough, there is some sizeable varmint living up there and from the sounds of things it is installing indoor plumbing and a bowling alley no doubt in preparation to give birth up there. Last year a racoon moved into the attic and had 3 babies, and we hired a company to block the entrance to keep them out. The current varmint broke into a new spot, so we called the company back and they are trying to trap whatever animal is trying to move in with us and will then block off the new hole and the other possible areas for critter breaking and entering so this does not become an annual event. It will cost a lot and of course we didn't budget for "animal-in-the-attic removal", but we really don't want to co-exist with wildlife in our home. Those things are cute in Disney movies. They are definitely NOT cute in my house. Is it the last straw yet? Nope. When I went out to go to work this morning, I found that my GPS had been stolen out of my vehicle. In addition to feeling violated, there's another unexpected expense to replace it. So that was the last straw, right? Not exactly. When I got home from work, I'd gotten a statement in the mail that my CAT scan cost $1,600 didn't help determine the cause of my ever-present headache. I now know that I don't have anything readily treatable or any accute sinus infection, but I don't yet know what I DO have or how to treat it. Maybe things will settle down for awhile now. Maybe what I perceive as straws are really more like stir sticks and I shouldn't be so overwhelmed by them. I have a sneaking suspicion that deep down inside, I'm a wimp and should be handling things better. I'll think about this some more as soon as I come out from under the covers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lessons from our Moms

Happy Mother's Day (a little late, but still heart felt) to all of you mothers, and all who have mothers. There! That should cover everyone. I was thinking about the kinds of things I wanted my children to learn from me as their Mom. I wanted to teach my children some rules they could utilize throughout their lifespans, thinking something along the lines of, "Mom always said..." Here are some examples of principals and ideas I hoped to pass on to my children:
1. It is better to take responsibility for your actions than to weasel out of things.
2. If you don't learn about your freedoms and rights it will be easy for others to take them away.
3. Your friends may move away or stop being your friends, but your siblings will always be in your life so you need to learn to get along with them.
4. If you don't learn to discipline yourself, others will be willing to tell you what to do.
5. Hard work almost always pays off.
6. Decide who you want to be and start acting like him/her now.
7. Learn to deal with boredom while you're young - you'll be ready to handle mundane tasks as an adult.
8. If you use the last of the toilet paper roll, replace it.
9. Make decisions about how to respond to others before you are in the heat of the moment.
10. Give others the benefit of a doubt when you can, and choose to forgive.

Here are some of the incidental things I know my kids learned from me:
1. Mom doesn't like finding empty milk containers in the fridge.
2. Mom needs more sleep than we do.
3. When Mom is tired, she's not as patient.
4. It's better to tell Mom we broke something than to leave it for her to find later.
5. Sometimes even Moms cry.
6. All people should be treated with respect, especially Mom.
7. Mom doesn't give up on us.
8. Mom is pretty funny sometimes.
9. When Mom says "No", she means it even if we take turns asking her.
10. It takes a while to get her there, but when we make Mom blow it's an impressive show.

So some of the things I've taught my kids aren't exactly the kind of ideals I'm proud of but I think I managed to get some good in there, too. My kids' lists of what they learned from me might be interesting to see. Perhaps someday when I'm feeling particularly strong and resilient I will ask them to write it down for me. Until then, I'll keep working to develop the wisdom I intentionally try to pass on to them.

Monday, May 04, 2009


I have been on the road and have pictures to share! I've met many new people and re-connected with some old friends. In the lower picture, I am with Jamie. We met in Cincinnati. The picture at the top shows me with my good friend, Carol Barnier. We are kindred spirits in many ways and Heads Up will soon be offering Carol's wonderful books for sale. I saw Crystal briefly in Cincinnati. I think we originally met in Indiana, didn't we Crystal? I suspect that some people who have heard me share stories over the years come to my sessions to find out what my kids have been up since the last time they heard me speak. Also, somewhere along the way on my homeschooling journey, I became one of the veteran homeschoolers. Now, people with kids who are like my Josh was when he was little look at me with awe as if I'm some kind of survivor. Which, frankly, is a pretty accurate assessment for both Josh and me! I hope that people are encouraged and think, "If she did it, maybe I can do it, too." As overwhelming as it was to work with a struggling learner while wondering if I was doing everything I should in the right order, at the right time, with the right worked. When people found out I was homeschooling they'd ask me if I intended to homeschool my kids through high school. That was too much for me to think about. I was more of the mindset that I would homeschool for the next minute, the next day, at least the rest of this year, etc. until gradually two of my children did complete high school at home. I'm honored to share with you, my fellow travelers on this homeschooling journey. It has been humbling and memorable, and I'm glad I didn't miss it by giving up too soon. My children have truly made me into a better teacher than I ever wanted to have to be! But "easier" is not always "better", and so we travel onward.