Help for Haiti

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Colored Overlays for Reading

I presented several workshops at the Indiana Association of Home Educators and mentioned that some people find it easier to read when they use a colored overlay. For those with Irlen Syndrome, formerly known as scotopic sensitivity syndrome, having colored lenses or overlays can help a struggling reader read more easily. For more information about symptoms, self tests, and treatment go to I am not trained in the Irlen Method, but have used colored overlays with my children to help them focus and manage printed information. A mom who attended one of my workshops decided to try a blue Heads Up reader with her son, a struggling reader. She has given her permission to share their experience here:

I was at your workshop yesterday and I was amazed at how you were speaking of my son! Almost everything you said described my 11 year old, Avery. I know he's dyslexic but he has not been technically diagnosed. Well, to make this quick...He has trouble concentrating when he's reading, it takes a long time and he starts daydreaming. I bought a blue Heads Up reader. I never believed in magic wands until last night. I gave it to him and said, "Here, put this on the page." His face lit up, he exclaimed, "That's awesome!" and he started reading a pleasure book I bought for him at the conference. He was up early this morning and read for 2 hours straight using his, as he named it, Avery Focus Helper.
Thank you for your ministry and for all of the great information you gave yesterday. I feel much more empowered to help my son reach his full potential!

Here is her follow-up one day later:

p.s. He's still reading, even to and from church today with his little AFH.

Very exciting! I love hearing stories like this and knowing that a low-tech solution can make such a difference in a child's life. As someone who loves to read, I am thrilled for Avery who is just beginning to discover that reading can be fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

See you in Indianapolis!

I will be heading to Indianapolis tomorrow to speak at a homeschooling conference. My Heads Up crew (Scott and Josh) will be with me to man the booth in the vendor hall. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones. Hope to see some of you there! I will be presenting these workshops:

1. Helping the Distractible Child Part 1 - (preschool through elementary)
2. Helping the Distractible Child Part 2 - (middle school through young adult)
3. Adapting Curriculum For Learning Differences
4. Developing Receptive and Expressive Language Skills

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Get Back Up and Don't Give Up

Years ago I convinced my brother to go skiing with me. I had been skiing once prior to this, and I never made it off the easiest slope known as the "bunny hill". The easier slopes provide a rope tow up the hill rather than the chair lifts used by more advanced skiers. I shared all my skiing knowledge with my brother, which took at least two minutes, then set him free to practice his new skills. As I was holding the rope tow on my way to the top of the slope again, I saw my brother about half way down the hill. As I watched, he wiped out and just flopped onto the ground. Then I noticed he wasn't moving. In my mind, I became his rescuer. With my novice skiing skills, I pictured myself as a keg-toting Saint Bernard braving the winter cold to get to the victim of a mishap, but I was determined to reach my brother as quick as my wobbly legs and skis could carry me. I zoomed (only in my mind) down the hill toward him, and just as he managed to push himself into a crouching stand I plowed him over and took us both several feet further down the hill. Ta-dah! Have you ever been "helped" like that? Someone with good intentions directed your way but leaving you feeling bowled over? I've felt like that during some of my homeschooling challenges. I've met people who seem to find me normal enough until they find out I'm a homeschooler. At this point they helpfully question my competency and qualifications while providing me with an extensive list of topics that I must cover or my children will be permanent outcasts from educated society. This exchange concludes as I am trying to figure out which concern to respond to first and they slowly back away, shaking their heads and murmuring that they could NEVER homeschool their children. "I can't either!" the small voice in my head replies. "What am I thinking?" Plowed over again. Other times the challenges come from my own homeschool students. I may think I have a lesson plan so exciting that even my struggling learners will flow right along with the lesson and beg for more. In my enthusiasm, I might be several minutes into an activity before I become fully aware of the blank stares of my children. Why, they actually look...(gasp!) bored with my incredibly thought out and creative lesson designed specifically to promote their love of learning. But they don't love it! Plowed over again. When something or someone knocks you flat, get back up and don't give up. Just as my brother cautiously got to his feet again and continued to conquer the "bunny hill" slope, and as I carefully avoided knocking him off the slope, you can't let setbacks define you. A face plant in the snow is rough. Being re-planted by a circumstance or by someone "helping" you is also rough. But staying down is not the place to be. Rest a bit if you need to, before picking yourself up. Just don't stay down so long that you get frostbite. No matter how many times it takes, get back up again. It will be so much better than remaining in a plowed over position. It will be worth it. I promise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Like a Gazelle Through the Mess

Many people with AD/HD and learning challenges also struggle with organizing their possessions. Add to that the difficulty with time management that often accompanies disorganization, and the result can be extreme clutter and cringe-inducing messes. Unfortunately for those of us who like to have things neat and orderly, the cringing is usually emanating from us, not those who created the clutter fest. Another unfortunate fact is that the organizing strategies used by those who are naturally organized do not typically work for those who tend to be clutterbugs. (I think I made up a word there, but if you are one or live with a "clutterbug" you'll know what I mean.) Because the messes and the clutter bothers me, I have spent a great deal of time trying various strategies to conquer the piles and bring order (and may I add, inner peace for me) to my surroundings. My ways do not work for my family. I have tried methods that made no sense to me, but promise to work for the naturally disorganized - but they, too, have failed. My daughter has a very messy and cluttered room, but she does not struggle with it because it genuinely doesn't faze her. Once I pointed out that she should at least have a clear path to her bed instead of a few cleared off patches on the floor. "Doesn't it bother you to be surrounded by all the mess?" I asked her, trying not to appear as appalled as I felt. Her reply was "No, not at all! I just leap like a gazelle through the mess to get to my bed." She said this quite proudly, as gazelles are truly admirable in their graceful maneuvers and Beckie is truly athletic and probably capable of some gazelle-like moves. I couldn't think of anything to say at that point, so I withdrew to regroup and try again another day. My husband, Scott, also tends toward cluttering things up and not noticing them so his solution is to wait until things get really bad and then grab a trash bag and start stuffing things into it. While the initial result is less clutter, it is followed by weeping and gnashing of teeth when the kids find their prized possessions mixed in with trash. Not to mention they are even less likely to sort through a trash bag than things that are out in the open in their rooms. My son, Josh, who has the most severe AD/HD in my family, has been the one to conquer his disorganization with the greatest degree of success. His room is the neatest of the three children's rooms. He figured out what works for him, and now he is the one taking up the challenge of helping Beckie. I am standing aside and letting Josh work with Beckie on this. I'm hopeful that she can still be like a gazelle without all the mess and clutter.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I'm weird, you're weird, we're all weird now!

Today's blog post is by a guest blogger. My daughter, Beth, is a special education major and shares her experience with a young friend who has Asperger Syndrome.

I am notorious at reading too deeply into simple statements, but this struck me as profound.

I was baby-sitting for a near and dear family for me. Upon returning from a short bike ride to drop off the younger of two brothers to soccer practice, the older brother and I had an extremely brief conversation. It went something like this:

M: *mumbles something about himself being a "stupid-dumb head"*
Beth: Hey, I don't like the sounds of that. You are not a stupid-dumb head!
M: I know, sometimes I say things like that.
Beth: Well, I don't like those words. They aren't true. And I bet your mom doesn't like them either.
M: She doesn't mind.
Beth: If I mentioned to her that you said that, would she be sad?
M: Don't mention it to her, okay? It doesn't mean anything. You don't have to mention it.
Beth: I just don't want you to say those things about yourself. I like your head. I want you to like your head too!
M: Okay... I'm just weird.
Beth: Oh?
M: Yeah. I'm weird. You're weird too. Everyone is weird!
Beth: Yeah, but you know what? Being weird rocks. Let's scream it.. ready? 1, 2, 3-

What makes this profound is my buddy in this story has Asperger's syndrome. He is a quirky boy, and fitting in isn't always easy. However, strides have been made, society has come a long way. Self-confidence and self-love is a rare find in individuals such as these, and it warms my heart to know that these kinds of children can proudly scream "Being weird rocks!" in place of being a "stupid-dumb head." Having a difference can be isolating, and it's encouraging to know that not only can people cope with this, they can be proud of their differences too.

We still have so far to go, though. However, I do think it's important to celebrate these small steps, for they are significant.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sensory Issue: He's sniffing EVERYTHING!

A friend contacted me recently to ask for some suggestions for helping her son. He is on the autism spectrum and recently has started sniffing all kinds of things, even dropping to all fours to sniff the floor at Wal-Mart and stopping to sniff at light poles. This behavior is especially embarrassing to his siblings. My friend asked her son to stop sniffing things and he told her he can't. She came to me to see if I could suggest something inexpensive to try with her son. Here is an excerpt from my reply to her:
You are both right - he needs to stop the gross/embarrassing behavior, and...he can't. I always try to think about how every behavior, no matter how quirky, is meeting some kind of need. We do things that are somehow rewarding to us. With that in mind, you can't just tell a child to stop smelling objects because something in his brain is telling him to do those things. But in your family, in our society, those things will never be acceptable. So you have to try to come up with something that meets those sensory needs and is also an acceptable behavior. Some of the solutions might still be considered "quirky", but there are degrees of quirky and some are easier to take than others. For the sniffing, try soaking a cotton ball in something with a distinct smell and keep it in a snack-size ziploc bag for portability and easy access. You might want to have several separate bags with different smells, and when your son feels the urge to smell something you can redirect him to one of the cotton balls. (Ideas include: cologne, coffee, air freshener, extracts - peppermint, lemon, cinnamon.) You know what smells your child can handle and what ones might set him off, so you choose what works for you. If you discover a favorite scent, you could apply it to a handkerchief or piece of material that he can keep in a pocket and pull out to sniff as needed.
My friend decided to try various aromas on cotton balls and used a large pill case to house each scent separately. The pictures above show her solution, and here's what she says about it.

I bought a pill holder and put cottonballs scented with different things inside each of the seven compartments.
Now, whenever my son has the urge to sniff, he can grab that, open one, and smell away. I used vanilla flavoring, coconut, perfume, lotion....anything that had a strong smell and I tried to find some different from each other. Still quirky, yes....especially in public...but way less quirky than dropping to all fours and smelling a floor in public.