Friday, October 23, 2009
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.