Help for Haiti

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

iPad Grant for kids with autism

When it comes to technology, I have way more ambition than skill. Getting an iPhone a couple years ago helped me see how even a novice user could find and use great apps. Diving further into the utility of technology for my personal enjoyment as well as my speech therapy practice, I was drawn to the iPad2.

Last spring my wonderful husband bought me an iPad2 (I may have given him a few helpful hints) and I dove into technology and apps with the aforementioned ambition. In addition to educational apps and therapy tools, I am impressed with the potential of the iPad2 to be used as a communication device.

One big drawback with most communication devices is that they are bulky and heavy, therefore the children may not drag their devices with them wherever they go. I've also seen devices that are used primarily by adults who know the child well and can "read" them enough to select the page or icon needed. Basically when this happens, the child is communicating to an adult who then communicates with the augmentative communication device.

The iPad2, I think, will be (and already is for some of us) the Augmentative Communication device of the future. Thin and lightweight, it's already ideal for portability. There are more communication apps becoming available daily, and they can be customized for individual needs. iPads are significantly less expensive than traditional devices and some insurance companies are catching on and starting to cover some of the costs.

Then there's the cool factor (spoken like a true nerd still longing for coolness) that the iPad offers. LOTS of people have iPads or would like to, and children using them have devices that don't look like "tools" but are appealing and versatile, and, well, just plain cool. On the spot, pictures can be taken and added to a communication app. Aides will not need extensive training for iPad use, because it is so user-friendly even a novice with technology (ahem, like myself) can easily learn to implement apps.

I came across a site,, and saw that the iTaalk Autism Foundation is giving away an iPad a day until December 31, 2011 for children diagnosed with autism. There is an application online at their website, along with more information about Check out the resources and training for parents and professionals after you read about the grant at the link below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homeschool Flashback #5 Executive Functions

Ahhh, executive functions. We love them, and when they are lacking we long for them. Children with AD/HD struggle to develop vital executive functions such as organization and planning. Students with learning disabilities and struggling learners (officially identified or not) often have some degree of executive dysfunction.

Any experienced teacher can look at a student's notebook and tell if that student is able to organize and access the information and materials they will need. Intelligence plays a part in academic success, sure, but the organized student typically comes out on top. Executive functions help students to show what they know. If they have completed an assignment but can't locate it the teacher has no way to assess their performance. A very bright student who forgets about an assignment or fails to complete the work even though he has the capacity to do so will be out-performed by an average student with the executive functioning skills to complete tasks accurately and on time.

Children with learning challenges work harder and longer to get results and deficits in executive functioning impact all areas of life, not just the academic realm. Consider, for example, the child who forgets he made plans with one friend and is off with another when the first friend comes calling. Or the child who struggles with time management and is chronically disorganized causing her to be late for practice again because she can't find her mouthguard.

Some children just naturally seem to develop executive functions as they mature. Others need much more direct instruction than our modeling alone provides. In the picture above, you can see the rudiments of Josh's attempt to develop some executive function skills. He has written out the date and the tasks he needs to accomplish each day. He put a check mark next to completed work. Josh's system is far from sophisticated, but it reflects his burgeoning attempts to incorporate some organization into his day.

Is Josh's method acceptable? It wouldn't be what I would choose, but Josh is a unique individual. I had shown Josh various organizers and examples that I would use but he had to find something that worked for him. The picture shows what he came up with, and although there are many things I would do differently the idea was for Josh to find a system that worked for him.

It's too bad executive function skills can't just be absorbed by spending time with people who excel with them. The good news is that executive skills can be taught. It may take awhile, but they are so important that it's worth the investment of time to help your children develop in these areas. Experts say that executive function skills continue to develop into the twenties, but don't wait to start working on them until your child is already floundering. Help your young child to develop strategies to keep track of his possessions. Assist your older children in using calendars and organizational aids. Help your child write a list of what needs to get done for the day. When executive skills don't come naturally, even the most primitive progress is just that - progress.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Homeschool Flashback #4 Discipline

Discipline is not fun! The example above shows just what my daughter thought about having to practice her spelling words and then use them in a sentence. She became especially frustrated if she missed the same word several days in a row and had to go through the practice exercises. I thought of this discipline as a training technique to improve and develop her spelling skills and character. My daughter viewed it as punishment for being young enough that she was forced to learn to spell words and live up to adult expectations for her education.

How many of you teachers and parents would give in to your child at this point and not push them further? No one? That's what I thought. We push our kids to greater levels of achievement, not out of some malicious sense of payback for what we endured as children but because we know that giving up is rarely helpful. Learning to stick with a task, even one that is hated or just not fun, is something that everyone must come to terms with sooner or later. As adults we understand that hitting the wall a few times until we accomplish something makes the success all the sweeter. Likewise, giving up leaves a lingering sense of failure that is hard to eradicate.

In the example portrayed above, you probably noticed an unenthusiatic attitude about doing schoolwork. I did talk to my daughter both about the need to persevere and the need for self discipline. These two things generalize far beyond the academic realm and into many aspects of everyday life.

As I talked with my daughter, I tried to help her see that working at mundane tasks was just a part of everyday life. As a child, it might include her school work and chores. As an adult, it would encompass caring for a home and completing whatever work she had committed to do.

Here's the rub: if a person does not learn to discipline himself or herself, there will be others who will gladly discipline them. If you don't like being told what to do, don't wait when you see something that needs to be done. Take initiative, and no one will have to tell you what to do because you've already taken care of it. Learn to think for yourself and develop your own convictions, because if you don't there will be plenty of people who will gladly tell you what to think and how to act on their beliefs.

Your child may think learning to spell and do schoolwork is a pain. But it is a character growing kind of pain with a bigger purpose beyond mastery of an academic skill set. As it says in Hebrews 12: 11 "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."