Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
1. Use leftover pieces of gift wrap to practice scissor skills. Include some narrow strips of paper so that beginners can feel the success of cutting through the strip. Snip, snip!
2. Cut out images from the wrapping paper to play a matching game. Want something that will last? Glue one set of pictures on the inside of a file folder, and glue the matching pictures onto index cards or card stock paper. A little packing tape will work about as well as lamination to keep the pictures preserved for multiple uses.
3. Work on handwriting skills by having your child circle images on the gift wrap. If that's a bit too challenging for your student, help them just draw lines connecting the pictures on the wrapping paper. Washable markers may show up better than pencil, especially if the paper has an intricate design.
4. Use both hands together as you tear wrapping paper into pieces. Glue the pieces onto the back (blank) side of another piece of gift wrap. For a greater challenge, try shaping the pieces into seasonal shapes such as a snowman or Christmas tree.
5. Develop hand strength by balling up the paper and squeezing it.
6. Practice following directions and visual discrimination by pointing to named pictures on the wrapping paper.
7. Work on listening skills by covering your eyes and trying to identify the location of a crinkling paper.
8. Teach about recycling by crumpling up old wrapping paper to use for packing material when preparing packages to be mailed. For added fun try throwing the wadded up paper into the box from various locations near the "target".
9. Work on expressive language skills by naming or describing pictures on the paper.
10. Provide sensory input by putting scotch tape on paper. Try to offer a variety of thin, heavy, slippery and shiny paper to experience the different qualities of each.
Don't you just love inexpensive materials that you can make yourself? I sure do, and I feel so frugal and creative when the activities are also fun for my kids.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Monday, November 01, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Those times spent in nature are some of my favorite homeschooling memories for this time of year. My son, Josh, gave me another fall memory that is equally imprinted in my mind. With his AD/HD, auditory processing, and sensory issues, Josh often said or did unexpected things. His impulsivity gave him a tendency to do whatever came into his head, with the result that I often found myself trying to figure out what was going on with Josh based on what I was seeing and hearing. Our special needs children do what comes naturally to them, and often don't realize that not everyone experiences things the way they do. In this instance, Josh starting making weird vocal sounds as he played. I went into my analysis mode as I observed him. Is he stimming? Has he developed a vocal tic? Is he trying to calm and organize? Alert himself? Keep others at bay? Provide sound effects for what he is playing with? Can he stop making the sound if I ask him to? The speech therapist in me tuned in to see if the sounds Josh was making could be considered vocal abuse and could physically harm his voice. As I observed Josh, he seemed content. He could stop on request, but returned to making the sounds a minute later. It was not vocally abusive and his pitch and volume were within acceptable ranges for his "normal" voice. In the back of my mind, I recognized something vaguely familiar about the sounds Josh was producing. Then it hit me and seemed so obvious that I almost laughed at not recognizing it sooner. Josh was reproducing the noise of a leaf blower! Once I realized it, I became aware that somewhere in the neighborhood a leaf blower was in use. It was faint and distant and I had not even registered it. But Josh had an uncanny ability to imitate noises and he heard things that most people don't notice. He did a pretty accurate leaf blower noise. He also made airplane and vacuum cleaner noises, but I recognized them right off the bat. The leaf blower noise took me awhile, but whenever I hear one in use I still smile and think of little Josh's noise imitation talent.
Friday, September 24, 2010
It is so important to build up our children in truth, recognizing and pointing out their gifts and strengths. Kids with AD/HD get corrected and directed a lot. They may be very aware of their differences. Others seem oblivious but still need to develop an accurate perception of who they are. Until our children have achieved a realistic perspective of themselves, we need to take advantage of opportunities to help those with learning challenges see the contributions they make in our lives. We need to direct their attention to all the things they do well, even as we are teaching them and redirecting them in their areas of struggle. This developing sense of identity is what you can see emerging when you read Josh's journal entry.
Friday, September 10, 2010
I like to give my children a lot of different ways to learn. My two kids with AD/HD are strong visual learners, and their sensory processing challenges lead them to seek out hands-on experiences. So, besides offering them fidget items when the lesson doesn't have manipulatives, I try to find ways that they can see and touch objects as they learn. I also know that my children are externally motivated (not unusual for those who have weak executive functions) and they need frequent reinforcement or reminders to stick with a task. In case I haven't mentioned it before (though I think maybe I have either here or during my workshops) I am also reluctant to spend a lot of money on things I can make myself. Of course I always think I will go to craft shows and then make whatever has grabbed my fancy once I get back home, but I never seem to do that. But with school materials, I sometimes manage to get inspiration from my recycling bin. The picture above shows a simple set of materials that are readily available and can be used for a number of things. It took me about 15 minutes from start to finish to make it.
First, get a cardboard egg carton. Make sure it's clean and no eggs have cracked and leaked in it. I spray mine with Clorox Anywhere Spray to kill any germs. (Disclaimer: Melinda cannot be held responsible for any icky things you pick up from your egg carton. I am not a doctor...blah, blah...) My egg carton had a little circle indented on the bottom of each cup, and I cut around them to make the holes in the middle of each cup. If your carton does not include these handy, preformed circles, you can just cut your own. The circles need to be large enough for a clothespin to fit through but small enough to hold the clothespin in place. Leave the lid on the carton so you can store small materials inside and to provide a base for the clothespin to stand on. There are many ways you can use your newly recycled materials, so I'll just get you started with a few ideas. I'm sure you will be able to come up with more ideas, and I'd love to hear about them.
- Use the clothespins to practice counting.
- Practice fine motor skills by having the child place and remove the clothespins
- Use as reinforcement by putting one clothespin in place for each completed task
- Use as a motivator by placing clothespins in the carton for each task that needs completed. Remove a clothespin as the work gets done, visually depicting for your child that progress is being made.
- Paint the clothespins (or use colored popsicle sticks or tongue depressors) to match colors
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
It's time for an exhortation, my friends! This is a call for all homeschoolers. If you are starting a new school year, on your first day back to school go buy yourself some flowers. I started this tradition for myself years ago, and since then I have been urging my fellow homeschoolers to join me in starting out right each new school year by buying some lovely fresh flowers to commemorate the onset of another year of homeschooling. Please join me in this tradition even if it is your first year of homeschooling or you are an “empty desker” with grown-up homeschooled children. All are welcome!
I began this tradition to help myself get excited and enthused for another school year. Having a son and daughter who struggled with numerous learning challenges, school was never an easy time for us. I have friends whose children basically taught themselves to read. That sure never happened in our home school. As the "Back to School" specials and commercials increased in frequency during August and school supply sales had started as early as July, I found I had 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. One day at a time. One lesson at a time."
While other moms in my neighborhood were counting down the days until school started again and were making plans to meet for coffee the first morning school was back in session, I knew that my work would just be picking up again at that point and I would not be included in the neighborhood back to school social gatherings. In my community, very few people choose to homeschool. In fact, in all the years I have been homeschooling there have only been a handful of other homeschooling families in our area. I made up for this by talking to myself while drinking my coffee as we started our homeschool day. You can call it a parent-teacher conference if it makes you feel better!
I actually homeschool year round, but we have a much lighter schedule during the summer months. The onset of a new school year meant getting back up to a full schedule, and I admit if I thought about it too much it was more overwhelming than exciting to think what the next year would bring. It didn’t seem right to begin the homeschool year feeling a bit sorry for myself, so I made myself coffee and decided to celebrate the new school year with my own homeschool style kickoff.
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. If you have a struggling learner or family challenges and you homeschool long enough, you come to realize that not only will you have “on” days and “off” days, you sometimes have “off” years. During one particularly hard year, my son hit a growth spurt and grew two inches in about six months. Unfortunately, it seemed like that was all he did, because the physical changes affected him so greatly that as far as we could tell all we had to show for our time was his big feet and dangly arms but not much had happened in the academic realm.
The coming year held no guarantees that things would be any less challenging, so when I picked out my flowers 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. I think it's o.k. for our kids to know that sometimes homeschooling is hard for us, too. It’s absolutely worth it, but we do make sacrifices and face challenges at times.
One 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 mature and decide to buy you flowers! In the meantime, please join me in buying yourself fresh flowers and having your children sign the card for you. Be sure to share this idea with your homeschooling friends as we embark on another school year. I’d love to hear about your “Back to School” flowers.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
We had a random drawing from our subscribers for five tickets to the Heart of the Matter Online Conference.
The winners are:
- TIM MCAULIFFE
- Amy Mason
Please email me with your Name and email address so HOTM can get you the tickets. If we do not hear from you in the next day or two, we will open it up to the first readers to respond.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Hope to see you soon!
Melinda L. Boring
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I recommend the book "Smart But Scattered" by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. Billed as "The revolutionary Executive Skills approach way to helping kids reach their potential", it is packed with practical ways to identify and address issues related to executive functioning. I found a copy at my library and it is available on Amazon.com as well. As for concerns about too many Tootsie Rolls, I feel your dental pain. Here's the upside with our distractible kids...they love/crave/need variety so the rewards not only can be changed, they should be changed now and then. And if your family is like mine, you do not need more trinkets cluttering up your house. For example, you could use a reward to work toward a larger prize by having two zip-loc bags side by side marked in some way to make them distinctly different. A small set of Legos goes in one bag, with one piece being transferred into the "I did it!" bag with each completed task. You could tape the picture of the completed object on this bag for added motivation. When all the pieces have been transferred the child can make whatever the set was designed to make, or if your child is like my son he can make something completely different! This is also a great way for your child to earn back toys that have not been put away or have been forgotten under the bed or in the bottom of a toy box. In any case, the child is getting rewarded for completing tasks and learning patience while working toward a larger goal or prize. The rewards don't have to be big or expensive, just rewarding. I used to sing the song "I'm proud of you" (from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood) to my kids when they did something well. It cost me nothing and took only a minute, but the children got the acknowledgment they needed. The entire song went like this: “Proud of you, I’m proud of you! I hope that you are proud of you, too.” The song repeats one time and it’s over. To this day, my children remember this song. Since you may not always be physically with your child when she completes a task, try recording a celebratory song on an inexpensive recording device and have her play it for herself when she completes a task. She can keep it in her pocket or you can leave it at the task completion spot. Again, if things tend to get buried or misplaced at your house try using industrial Velcro to keep it in one place. And now...(drum roll)...for the distractible adult here are a couple tips we've tried over the years. First, and only moderately successful but better than nothing, when my easily-distracted husband sets out to do a task I remind him of his goal and loudly hum the theme from Mission Impossible. "You're in, you're out!" I helpfully remind him as he heads out the door. The other tip I've used on those especially scattered, brain fog days is to wear a recording device and tell myself what I need to remember. I record a message, then when I get to the top of the stairs or in another room (yep, it could have evaporated from my brain already) I listen to the message. Usually it's something simple like "I'm going upstairs to get my sewing scissors." Sometimes I throw in an encouraging message like "You're the woman!" just to keep my motivation strong. Check your cell phone for an application that allows you to do voice recordings. That might be a good technology tool for distractible teenagers to use. It's faster than writing things down and we almost always have our cell phones nearby. Plus, cell phones are less likely to be lost than scraps of paper with hastily scrawled notes on them.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 02, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I’m one of those moms who believes in teaching children how to think and make choices for themselves from a young age. My goal is to train them up into independent adults, capable of critical thinking and able to explain their convictions and not just parrot my beliefs. To work toward this goal you have to start small, by allowing children to make decisions in non-essential areas while the stakes are low. One such area for me was to allow my children to choose their own outfits for the day. My daughters carefully made their selections and chose outfits that generally matched. My son, who is both extremely artistic and colorblind, chose outfits that would look right at home if he were a very young circus clown performing in the center ring. When we ventured out into the community, we appeared, if not fun, at least interesting enough to chat with and get to know a little. When some people found out we were homeschoolers I could see the “Aha!” moment as if that explained the wild outfits. For others, the fact that my children didn’t feel pressured to conform to others’ ideas about what to wear seemed cool and made them a little envious of our freedom. Either way, it was a good conversation starter.
Here is another guaranteed way for you homeschool moms to either meet new people or run into people you haven’t seen for awhile. Trust me, this works for me every time. First of all, tell yourself that you will get up extra early and run to the store to get a few items before the store is crowded. Assure yourself that since no one else will be there, and you are only ducking in and out quickly, you really don’t need to take your shower before you go. In fact, since you will be showering after you get back from the store, it doesn’t make sense to put on makeup because you will just have to reapply it later and that wouldn’t be using your time effectively. After all, you are going early to be strategic like the efficiency machine that you are. So just run a hairbrush through your hair and throw on your sweatpants and an old shirt, and go conquer the first task on your list for the day. Isn’t it great to be getting a head start on your day? Avoid looking in the rear view mirror as you remind yourself that there is NO WAY you will be seeing anyone you know this early. It helps to repeat this to yourself several times. Who else would be crazy enough to go to the store at this hour? No doubt the store will be practically deserted. Whenever you try this strategy, you will either meet someone who sees in you a kind person willing to help them, someone who assumes you are a morning person looking for someone like-minded to chat with, or (best of all?) someone you have not seen for months. This last person is usually someone who seems a bit skeptical of the whole homeschooling thing, and no matter if you see him or her first and try to hide behind a display, you will be spotted. It’s like a law or something. When you have run out of excuses to babble in a vain attempt to explain away your unusual appearance, you can catch up with your acquaintance. Just remember to emphasize that this is your unusual appearance and not at all what your typical daily self looks like. Use words like “exception”, and “atypical”.
Another option is to adopt my other strategy and just relax. In my case, I am now middle-aged and peoples’ expectations for my appearance no longer pressure me. I wasn’t a beauty when I was younger and I’m certainly not getting better with age. When I have these unexpected meetings I try to relax and enjoy the moment. God forbid that I should miss the opportunity to talk to another person because I am worried about being perceived as a weird homeschooler. Someone may still draw that conclusion after talking with me, but it won’t be because I held back.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Yesterday was a big day for my daughter. She graduated with honors with a B.S. in Education from The Ohio State University. She hand embroidered Jeremiah 29:11 on the top of her cap, and I am very proud of her accomplishments and her perspective about her future. Since I homeschooled Beth all the way through high school, I have been asked by many people through the years if homeschooled students can go to college. Fortunately, with the growth in homeschooling we are not considered to be such a fringe element of society anymore. Many homeschool students have found success in a variety of venues. Beth's graduation from college answers that question with a definitive "yes". College is not for everyone, homeschooled or otherwise schooled. But for those who wish to seek that additional education, homeschoolers can hold their own in any setting. What a joy to celebrate Beth's success!
Of course, it seems nothing goes without a hitch when there's a big event and multiple people involved. Beth's graduation was held outside in the stadium at OSU, and the heat and humidity were both high. Both of Beth's grandparents came to see Beth graduate, but grandma doesn't do so well in the heat. Just after I got a text from Beth saying that she wasn't feeling well and felt dehydrated, grandma passed out in the bleachers. We were able to eventually find the first aid station and she is fine, but we were shook up and spent time in the first aid station while waiting for Beth's turn to get her diploma. With a graduating class of over 8,600 students, it took a long time. We did leave grandma with the medics, at her insistence, and popped back into the stadium to see Beth officially graduate. Because there were so many students, instead of calling their names they tolled a bell that sounded like a funeral dirge the entire time students were receiving the diplomas. My two sensory/auditory processing children were beginning to twitch from the relentless ringing.
Next we drove to a restaurant of Beth's choice, The Cheesecake Factory, but they didn't take reservations and there was a 2 1/2 hour wait. We hunted around for other restaurants in the area, but all had long waits so we headed back home. I had potato salad, a fruit and yogurt parfait, and graduation cap cookies on hand, but that hardly made a meal for eight. So we got carryout to go along with it.
My son, Josh, is an author and he broke out of his usual sci-fi writing mode to pen this "Ode to Beth's Graduation":
Rush so we will be on time.
Walk a mile and then we climb.
Hungry since we walked so far.
Left the food back in the car?
Seated up so very high.
Great view of that cloudy sky.
Now the band begins to play.
Half an hour til the parade.
8,600 tassels tall.
Did you have to name them all?
Graduates who have done your best!
Survive this day and pass the test!
Moving speeches, people sing.
Can anybody hear a thing?
Think it's time to go inside
Before this turns to suicide.
People get their PHD's.
Hangin' out with EMT's.
Additional speeches get carried away.
What? You mean we're just halfway?
More interesting show to watch:
Grandma versus the Red Cross!
Sunburn in the first degree.
People leaving. Wait for me!
Diploma time's a living hell.
Someone kill that funeral bell!
Over? Really? Now we're free!
To the Cheesecake Factory!
Two and a half hour's wait?
Fifty bucks for a piece of cake?
Everything else is crazy as well.
Ten miles around the Hilton Hotel.
Home at last. What a day.
Now we get to eat parfait.
All is over, and I'm glad.
...just what year is Beckie's grad?
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
My daughter, Beckie, has AD/HD. Now that she's a teenager, her primary challenges are with the executive functions (EF) like planning, organization, and working memory. She also continues to need more prompts and external rewards than her peers without EF challenges.
Beckie and her sister have been sharing a hair dryer for years. It is important to Beth, the older sister, to have the hair dryer put away after use. Beckie couldn't care less if the hair dryer gets put away, so there is little internal motivation on her part to do so. Remember, anything that requires extra steps is not popular with our kids or adults with AD/HD. Additionally, they need more frequent rewards than their "neurotypical" peers. This need often extends into adulthood.
The hair dryer wars went on for a while, with hard feelings on both sides. Since the girls were not able to work out their differences and the hostility was escalating, we met as a family to problem solve together. If something didn't change, the hair dryer wouldn't be the only thing to blow at our house. At one point in the discussion, Beth told Beckie she just needed to remember to put the hair dryer away. "After all, you are a teenager. It's not like I'm going to give you a Skittle every time you remember to put it away. You just have to make yourself do it."
When I heard Beth say that, it was a light bulb moment for me. Having recently attended a conference on Executive Functions, it was fresh in my mind how the presenters shared that many with EF struggles will continue to be externally motivated throughout their lives. Since the EF challenges continue throughout the lifespan, affected individuals also continue to need more encouragement, praise, recognition, and rewards than those without EF struggles. This explains why my husband, who regularly makes the coffee, asks me how it is sometimes before I've even taken a sip. My first thought is, "Um, it's fine. It's always fine?"
I've come to realize that my husband needs that frequent positive reinforcement because making coffee and doing other chores is not intrinsically satisfying to him. He needs to know that his efforts are appreciated. Once I understood that, and realized that my son with AD/HD is the same way, I trained myself to make a point to express thanks for even mundane, everyday things. They need that. I can easily give them that. So when Beth made the comment about Skittles, I realized that Beckie was getting no reward when she remembered to put the hair dryer away. She honestly tried to remember, but since having the hair dryer put away was meaningless to her and she is highly distractible she often forgot. Since it wasn't important to her in the first place, she experienced no internal satisfaction when she completed the task.
I devised a simple plan to help Beckie be more successful, and hopefully end the hairdryer war or at least reach a truce. Knowing that she loves Tootsie Rolls, I bought a bag of miniature Tootsie Rolls and put them in a small bowl in the bathroom. I told Beckie that every time she remembered to put the hair dryer away, she could have one Tootsie Roll. Beckie thought it was a great idea.
Now some of you are thinking, "Why should a teenager need a treat to do what she is supposed to do? Won't that just keep her dependent on external rewards?" Good questions. Here's what I think. By showing Beckie a simple way to motivate and reward herself, she is learning a strategy that she can eventually use on her own. Because her EF difficulties are likely to continue into adulthood, she absolutely needs to figure out ways to reward herself. Would it bother you as much if she were buying the Tootsie Rolls herself and using them as rewards for completing tasks? Probably not, because most of us do this in one form or another. I'm just showing Beckie an example of what she can do to keep herself motivated and on task. In the future, she will know how to do this for herself.
Asking Beckie to try to remember to do a task that was not important to her just didn't work. She meant to, intended to, sometimes did remember to, but not with adequate consistency. Now, every time she goes into the bathroom, she sees the little bowl of Tootsie Rolls. It is a visual reminder and incentive several times a day, even though she only dries her hair once a day. She is aware that one of those treats will be hers if she remembers to put the hair dryer away. Guess how many times she has forgotten to put it away since the Tootsie Roll plan has been in place? Zero! She has not forgotten to put that hair dryer away a single time, and it has been several weeks since we implemented the plan. Did this teenager benefit by an external reward system? The results would indicate an absolute YES!
The hair dryer war seems to have ended peacefully, and Beckie has had great success while learning a strategy that will serve her throughout her life. She reports that she feels she has met the challenge, although she adds with a grin that once in a while she has forgotten to take a Tootsie Roll reward.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
My son, Josh, has significant working memory challenges. I realized over time that my son not only was unable to recall names, neither could he readily recall faces. He had no difficulty recognizing those of us he interacted with on a regular basis, but for those he saw infrequently he honestly had no memory or context for knowing them. It would be unsettling for him when virtual strangers (to his mind) would call him by name and initiate a conversation. Josh has never been good at faking anything, so he would genuinely ask, "Do I know you?" or "I'm sorry, but have we met?" Unfortunately, this attempt to be polite and seek clarification had negative social implications. People naturally feel hurt when others don't remember them, especially people whom they remember quite clearly and have shared past experiences. I remember a mother of one of my daughter's friends coming up to me and telling me that Josh asked who she was and she told him "I've only known you for YEARS." It was true, but months would go by in between each brief contact and Josh never transferred the information to his long-term memory so each contact was starting fresh - for him. If I told Josh who people were and when he had seen them before, it sometimes jogged a vague memory for him.
There is a name for this "face blindness", and the term is "prosopagnosia". In severe cases, individuals have difficulty recognizing their own family members, friends, and even themselves. Many people with autism, PDD, and Asperger Syndrome experience prosopagnosia. I guess Josh had a fairly mild version, and I wondered if what registered in his mind's eye was like a snapshot of faces, rather than the more dynamic version of faces changing to reflect a variety of emotions. Since Josh used to have difficulty recognizing different emotions expressed on faces, I thought maybe he only had one still picture in his mind and if it didn't match what he saw there was no recall. I don't know for sure, and Josh has improved over the years. It's too bad that there's not facial recognition software we could install in our brains to help us make the connections. I have worked with many children with autism who focus on part of something rather than seeing the whole. If this happens when a child looks at a face, he may see just the nose, or only the mouth, and not how those parts comprise a face. I have had children stare at an object I've held in front of my face, without recognizing that there was a person holding the object. If a face is viewed as individual component parts without seeing the whole, that face is not likely to be recognized in the future.
For our verbal children with the language skills to express themselves, we can teach them strategies to ease the social tension. Having someone admit "I know lots of people have trouble remembering names, but I even have trouble remembering faces sometimes" may prepare others in advance so they won't be offended or surprised when they have to reintroduce themselves. For our nonverbal or less verbal children, we can advocate for them by explaining the challenges of prosopagnosia and reassure others that it is not a personal slight when our children don't acknowledge them with recognition. My hope is that when we explain that there is a neurological glitch, others will be more flexible and accepting and won't misinterpret our struggling learner's behaviors in a negative way.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sometimes companies use the marketing strategy of offering the possibility, in addition to enjoying their fine products, of actually winning additional prizes. The prize offerings are often in the form of financial winnings, but may include the lure of exotic vacations or new cars. I don't buy products just because they offer the potential for prizes, but if it's something I would buy anyway I certainly take the time to read the bottle top, box flap, or inside the bag to see if I've won anything. (So far, nothing, but I'm only middle-aged so I guess it could still happen!) Usually, my message reads something like, "Please try again" or "There are many chances to win" (insert here, but you probably won't) so...please try again. It doesn't surprise me when I don't win, since the odds are against it and it's not like I'm trying day after day to strive for a prize. One day, though, I was feeling a little discouraged and opened a wrapper without realizing it was one of those "might win a prize" wrappers. When I read, "SORRY YOU DIDN'T WIN!" it was like an unexpected dig. "Wait a minute!" I cried out in my mind. "I wasn't even trying to win that time!" In my discouragement the message translated into "SORRY YOU ARE A LOSER! AGAIN! AND PROBABLY ALWAYS WILL BE!" Gee, and I just wanted a little treat.
I started thinking about the messages we communicate, and how our struggling learners might be translating them. I might say, "That was a good try" and my child might mentally translate that into, "I did it wrong again". I can see how easily my own perfectionist tendencies might be perceived by my children as "Nothing is ever quite good enough." I can say, "Let's keep working on this" and "Work hard and do your best", but depending on the child's temperament and interpretation of my tone of voice it might be perceived as criticism rather than encouragement. For most of us, we can shrug off those "You are a loser" messages and get on with life. For those with learning disabilities who struggle, day after day, with tasks that are unavoidable and reoccurring, it is harder to ignore and resist that message. Day after day, they struggle to complete work. A math fact or phonics rule they "knew" yesterday eludes them today. They do not know why, they cannot explain it, yet they experience the frustration of having material seemingly evaporate before they can nail it down. So they start the learning process over, or repeat work that in their minds they believe they should already know. They notice that other people seem to have it much easier, and even when no one else says it they draw the conclusion "I am not a winner". Every day, it's like they are opening the wrapper or bottle to see if today they will be a winner. Over time, resignation sets in along with the belief that winning is for someone else.
There are no easy answers here. I have no quick fix to offer, or sure-fire rapid remedy to make your child feel like a winner. Every child is different, as are teachers, parents and families. What I can offer is more of a life strategy, a paradigm shift that views struggles as a part of life. I shared my own struggles with my children (at age-appropriate levels) and taught them that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Some are more visible than others, but the fact is that we all need others who are strong where we are weak. Likewise, we all have something to offer. I believe that beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I shared that belief over and over with my children. I made it a point to focus on the whole child, not just the academic areas and disabilities and differences. Despite the diagnosis, I would not allow my children to use it as an excuse for not developing good character traits or not doing as much as they were able to. Are some things harder for you than others? Do you sometimes feel like you are a loser? Sure. Does that feeling make it true? Absolutely not. Speak the truth to your children, boldly and repeatedly. Say it out loud so they can hear your own mental battle resolve. It might sound something like this: "I sure have a hard time doing this, and other people make it look easy. Sometimes I feel like a loser. But you know what? I'm not! Even though I might feel like a loser, I know I have a lot to offer. Nobody is good at everything and I'm not, either. But that doesn't make me a loser." By talking it through, your children are learning from you. They will see how you acknowledge an emotion and tackle a thought that is not healthy or true. Over time, they will learn how to battle the "I am a loser" notion with the truth that they are individuals with great worth and value in many ways. Next time you get the message "SORRY YOU DIDN'T WIN!" think about translating that into a message that reflects gratitude and appreciation for all you have to offer. Be resilient and teach your children to be resilient. Don't fall for the "You are a loser" message. The next time you are faced with a challenge, "Please Try Again", because there truly are many chances to win.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Even if you have insurance, it may not cover all the therapy sessions your child needs or the other medical expenses you incur. Here's what I have learned over the years:
1. Most medical professionals will work with you on financing. If you are self-employed or uninsured, sometimes they will agree to charge a lower rate than what the insurance companies are charged. Talk to the billing department and tell them how much you can afford to pay each month. If you are at least making monthly payments, you are much less likely to have your bill turned over to a collection agency.
2. Some agencies (like those with United Way) have sliding fee scales based on ability to pay. You have to share what your income is and how many are in your family and so on, but you may be able to afford therapy that otherwise would not be available to your child.
3. Check with your local school district, even if you are homeschooling, if you feel comfortable in doing so. Some schools will provide therapy and other supports even to homeschooled students. It varies from district to district, and I always recommend checking with Home School Legal Defense Association (www.HSLDA.org) prior to contacting your local school district. HSLDA members can speak with their region's special needs coordinator for additional suggestions, including homeschool-friendly specialists and consultants in their area.
4. If you personally know someone who is trained in an area that your child needs help, think about an exchange of services. What do you have to barter with? I saw a friend's child for speech therapy in exchange for her watching my children for a few hours now and then. It was worth it for both of us! More recently, I had two friends with sons in need of some speech therapy. I tried to persuade them to drive with my daughter (who has her permit and needs more hours of practice before getting her license) in exchange for speech therapy. They didn't go for the idea, but because they were friends I saw their sons anyway. Try not to take advantage of your friend with professional training, but instead think of something that won't bust your budget that you could offer in exchange for their professional expertise. They should be able to give you ideas and show you how to implement strategies at home.
5. I don't have personal experience with this organization, but I came across this website some time back and thought it might be helpful for a family feeling buried under medical bills with ongoing expenses and no end in sight. It's called "NeedyMeds" and has information on medicine and healthcare assistance programs. There is more information on the website www.NeedyMeds.org and if you are a low income family or are uninsured or under-insured this organization may be of help.