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Archive for February, 2011

Let the Adventures Begin!

I finally got the book, “Sue Patrick’s Workbox System: A User’s Guide”  in the mail.  I spent several hours reading it Friday night and my head is swimming!  There is so much that can be done with this idea.  I have been thinking of all the ways that I can use the posters and centers with Micah. 

I decided to get a binder and start writing down all the ideas and separating them into subjects.  Basically a reference binder for upcoming lessons.   The first poster projects that I am going to get set up for him are posters of shapes and colors.  I would like to find a color poster using crayons or paint splotches to represent the colors.  Something for him to match with duplicate pieces.

The poster idea is going to be a wonderful addition for Abbie also.  She loves file folder games and this is just a larger version.  Reading about using posters in this manner was a “slap myself on the forehead” moment.  A kind of “why didn’t I think of that?”  I am so happy that I found Sue Patrick’s book.  What a blessing to have found it so early in our homeschooling adventure.

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Therapy went Great!

Today, was Micah’s speech therapy appointment.  His therapist stops by the house and spends about an hour with him.  Micah was very responsive to her and interacted with the games that she brought. 

One surprise that we had was when she showed to him a new game on her Iphone.  It was a game where you have to touch the shape that it asks for.  I was so happy to see that Micah was able to do it.  We have a wooden puzzle of the geometric shapes that we play with.  As we handle each piece, we tell him what it is called.  Sometimes, we ask him to point to a specific shape.  This was the first time he has done it for someone else, let alone using something other than his puzzle.  I am so proud of how well he did.  Micah is trying so hard to learn and his hard work is playing off.

Micah also hit a milestone today with the wooden beads I placed in a bowl.  I had 2 bowls and prompted him to take the beads from one bowl and place in the other.  After many tries, he finally got it and was able to put about 6 beads in the bowl before he got distracted.

I am still writing up ideas for making the shoebox type activities.  I am collecting up old Scrabble letter tiles as often as I see them to use in making some spelling games for Abbie adn Micah to use.  Abbie may use them more right now, but Micah will be using them later.

One tip to share:  Make good use of your refrigerator or a magnetic white board hung low enough for the kids to reach.  In teaching sight words, you can have shapes of various colors cut out and use a magnet tape on the back.  Do the same with little cards that have either the color or shape names on them.  You can  play the game 2 ways.  Match the shapes with their name card or match with the color card.

Patterns:  Trim strips of colored paper into squares. Place a piece of magnet tape on each.  Next, arrange several of the squares into a series of patterns.  Have enough pieces left over so that your child can continue the patterns.

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On Our Own

When Micah was first diagnosed by his doctor as showing signs of autism, he was about 18 months old.  I started contacting, at her request, the Early Intervention program to help with Micah’s delayed development.  He was non-verbal and unable to do simple things like feed himself finger foods along with other delays.  After his official diagnosis by the Child Study team at Oklahoma University 10 months later, we finally were able to get an appointment for an evaluation from the Early Intervention program.  It was a series of glitches in the system which caused the 10 month delay, but it finally got going.  Sad part is, by the time they started his therapy he was only 9 months from being “too old” for the program.

From the time we first suspected autism, I started researching various therapies and options for Micah.  I am not a “wait until you are directed by a professional” type of person.  Thank goodness for that or the period of time before the Early Intervention started would have been wasted!  I began doing the FloorTime approach, when Micah responded to.  We played on the floor together and gradually, he came more out of his world and into ours.  The moment that I remember as a very direct example of his breaking through was the day that he came up and tickled me, ran away giggling, then came back to do it again.  I said, “you tickle Momma, Momma tickle you” and then tickled him back.  Again, he ran away giggling only to come back and tickle me.  He kept this up off and on all afternoon.

Recently, I began introducing elements of ABA approach into Micah’s therapy.  He is now (thanks to Daddy getting him started on this) pointing to which food on his plate he wants a bite of next.  In his therapy, I have been introducing him to sensory boxes.  A container of rice, wooden beads, or other objects to help him become more accepting of things touching his hands. Occassionally, we get out fingerpaints or some other messy stimuli for his hands.  It is gradually working.  He is more willing to let me put lotion on his hands or otherwise stroke his hands.

In a month, Micah will be 3 yrs old and no longer of age for the Early Intervention program.  Now what will we do?  Living in a rural area, we have limited options.  There is a Headstart program in a nearby town but it is not equipped to handle a special needs child with the amount of delay that Micah has.  This leaves the option of pursuing the therapies ourselves.

I have been working with Micah on his therapy for about 16 months.  I know what works and he responds well to it.  I am continuing what I have been doing all along, but changing it up a little bit to challenge him a bit more.  The speech therapist that has been working with him will continue on with him.  She has a private practice in addition to working part time for the early intervention program.  She has laid down so much groundwork with Micah that I don’t want to lose that ground by hiring someone new.  Micah responds to her and interacts with her. 

I have been looking into the Workbox System, as I have mentioned before.  I am using it with our 5 yr old, Abbie, in her homeschooling.  I am now working with Micah to get him started on using the visual schedule and workboxes as a part of his therapy.  It is slow going at this point, but we are getting there a step at a time. 

By the time Micah is old enough to begin homeschooling officially, he will have the workbox routine as a part of his daily activities.  He will have had a chance to become comfortable with it.

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Over the recent weeks, I have been taking stock into the goals of our little homestead.  It really is interesting that the goals that we have had are ones that will bless us most in the times when costs are getting high and becoming a burden.

We have been off-grid for nearly 3 years now.  That will continue with the new house with one change.  Instead of being non-electric as we have been, we will be putting in a solar electric system.  We are starting small and will add to it as we go along.  After having done without electricity for this long, we won’t need to add a lot all at once.  At first, I only need enough to power my netbook and charge my cell phone.  I am using this as a learning experience.  As we see need for more, we will simply add to the system.

I have the garden pretty well planned out.  Fewer vegetable varieties, but larger amounts of what we do plant.  I am focusing on planting vegetables that I am able to can or dehydrate to store in the pantry.  My lettuce, baby bok choy, spinach, and such will be in raised beds that I can turn into mini cold frames this autumn.  With some greens having a very short time from planting til harvest, I can plant several times through the season to give me fresh greens well into early winter.

DD5 has chosen her garden plants for this year.  Each season, she has chosen a few things to plant and grow in her own little garden.  We will be making it a homeschool project for her.  She chose some easy to grow vegetables like cherry tomatoes, green beans, carrots, squash, and pumpkin. 

I look around our homestead and realise that the efforts we have been and still are making have served in preparing us for the economic issues our nation is dealing with today.  By getting fully out of debt, scaling back on the things we truly don’t need, and watching our spending, we have been preparing for a time when money is not stretching as far as it used to.

I am so grateful to have learned how to live the way we do.  It helped our Grandparents manage through the Depression and it will help us today.

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A New Step Achieved

Last night, Micah reached a new achievement.  Daddy has been home from the road (he is an over the road trucker) and was feeding Micah.  Instead of feeding as usual, Daddy put 4 food choices on a plate.  He gave Micah a taste of each.  Micah then was asked which food he wanted as Daddy pointed and named each item.  Then, with his hand touching Micah’s elbow, he gently promted his hand towards the plate.  Micah touched the pasta, so Daddy gave him a bite of it.  From that point on, Micah began pointing to various items.  Sometimes, Daddy had to touch his elbow to get him back on task.  He mainly did it on his own though.  Micah was excited and ate more than normal.  He even began touching his bottle for a drink!

This is huge for him to do this.  At age 3, he is nearly 2 yrs. behind in his development.  Typically, you start with offering 2 choices. Daddy just gave it a try and thankfully, Micah was ready for it.

It is amazing to watch the growth and development of each achievement.  Things that are taken for granted by parents of typical kids become things that are celebrated with a special needs child.  We cheered Micah and gave him lots of encouragement.  He giggled and danced as he was “rewarded” with a bite of the food he chose.  It was his first glimpse at the ability to take control of your world.

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Autism or Tantrum

This question has come up in our family over the past couple of months.  It is so hard sometimes to deal with good intentioned family or friends who think they know what autism is, but in reality have no clue.

Our son will be 3 yrs old in April.  He was officially diagnosed with Autism 6 months ago, though the pediatrician agreed with us that he showed signs of it much earlier.  When he was evaluated, the panel of doctors and specialists concluded that our son was developmentally at the age of 6-8 months and is non-verbal.  It was devestating to hear this, but it explained so much.

Since that time, he has been receiving therapies to help him and has made progress.  There is much that he still cannot do, such as feeding himself with his fingers or utensils, but he is making eye contact and interacting with us much more than before.  He is vocalizing and we are optimistic that he will one day in the near future begin to communicate with us verbally.

Our son thrives in routine and in a stable enviroment where he is better able to predict what is going to happen.  Changing the furniture’s placement or other new things can have an upsetting reaction from him if done too quickly.  One example was when we rearranged the bedroom to make more room for visiting family.  Our son became very upset and had a hard time going to bed in his room for nearly a week.  He would lay on a blanket on the livingroom floor and fall asleep.  Once asleep, I could carry him to bed and he slept through the night.

When around family members who are not familiar with Autism, we have been running into the problem of their not being understanding of our son’s sensitivity to stimuli and change.  A common phrase is that he is acting like a 2 yr old having a tantrum, then they scold him for it.  This upsets our son even more.  Yelling at him for having an outburst brought on by over stimulation will NOT make him stop crying.  The yelling only makes it worse.  It is so hard to explain to them why he is upset and crying when they have their own minds convinced that it is a tantrum, not an autistic outburst.  I have spoken with his therapist about it and she even states that he is not even developmentally old enough to know what a tantrum is, let alone have the type of tantrum the family members say he is having.

In January, our son came down with the flu.  He had a horrible time at the onset with a lot of uncontrollable crying and clinging to me.  I ended up swaddling him in a light blanket at the suggestion of the therapist and it worked.  She told me that with our son, we have to take it back to the very beginning and when nothing else works, treat him as you would a little baby with no way to communicate.  Check the diaper, check if they need fed, and if nothing else works, swaddle and rock them.  This incident brought the family members to realize just how autistic our son is.  They are showing signs of being more patient with him and understanding.  It is a first step.

I wonder however how to handle strangers at the store or other public places.  I take our son with me and if the stimuli gets to be too much, he reacts.  When something is said, I try to educate in a gentle manner as I am trying to calm him.  On a side note, I do have to wonder why this happens most often in the checkout line.  Some strangers are patient about it but there are a few that get very rude about it. 

How do you explain autistic behavior to someone who criticizes, yet has no interest in learning anything?  I cannot leave my little one at home each time I go grocery shopping or do other errands.  Not only is it unrealistic, but how else can he learn that these outings won’t hurt him?  He needs to learn to adapt somehow.  I take him in the quietest times possible so that the amount of stimuli is lessened.  What more can be done?

I would love ideas from others with experience with autistic toddlers on how they manage to help gentle them into public situations as well as how they handle well meaning family members who just don’t know the difference between an overly stimulated autistic child and a child having a tantrum.

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Workboxes

I have been trying a new-to-me method of organizing my daughter’s homeschooling.  Luckily, I have been blessed to discover the workbox system by Sue Patrick while we are in the beginnings of our homeschool adventures.

Abbie loves her workboxes.  Currently she has only 6 but I will soon be giving her more.  She will be starting Kindergarten next autumn, so at this time we are doing mostly Pre-K level work.  It is giving us both a chance to get into the routine of homeschooling as well as learning to be more efficient in the use of the workboxes.

Typically, we have workbook pages in math, reading readiness, copywork, crafts, a lapbook or unit study based on a chapter book, Bible activity, and flashcards of a few Dolch words.

Abbie is enjoying being able to go to her workboxes and being able to do the enclosed task.  She acts as though each box is a surprise to be opened and enjoyed.  I love watching her excitement as she completes each one, places her “token” on the tally sheet, and continues to the next.

We use a simple chart to place the velcro backed tokens onto.  Each token is numbered to match it’s cooresponding workbox.  When she has completed all her boxes for the day, she gets a sticker to place on her incentive chart that I bought at a school supply store.  There are enough spaces for 20 stickers per chart.  When she fills up the incentive chart, she gets to go somewhere special as a treat.  Her usual choice being to go get an ice cream cone or milk shake.

My youngest child, Micah, will soon be 3 yrs. old.  I have begun to use the workboxes with him for structured play and therapy based activities.  When he is older, these will be replaced with homeschool tasks.  Micah is just learning the routine at this point.  He doesn’t yet understand what it is all about, but is learning the steps.  His cognitive understanding level is about 10-12 months of age.  Like most autistic children, he thrives on routine.  That is what makes the workboxes effective for him right now.  I take him through the steps as we work through the workboxes together.  Gradually, he will become so adept at the routine that I will be able to fade back and allow him to work through them independently.

Micah’s workboxes contain things like a picture book, puzzle, sensory activities, and a favorite toy to end with.  I mix up the activities so that he doesn’t have a lot of repeated tasks such as 2-3 sensory activities back to back.  He seems to enjoy it.

For me, I find the workboxes to be a blessing in the ease of use.  I am able to plan out the activities in advance and place them in the boxes at night.  The next morning, Abbie is able to start as soon as breakfast is over.  I plan them so that one child is doing independent work at times when I am working one on one with with the other child.

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