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Archive for June, 2011

When you are a parent to a special needs child you devote much of your time, energy, and attention to that child. Tending to their daily needs, therapies (both office visits and working with your child at home between office trips), special diets, and researching to learn all that you can about your child’s specific diagnosis and what therapies are available to aid them can take up much of your time. Raising one of these special blessings is a full-time venture.

As I have mentioned before, Little Man has Autism Disorder. He was officially diagnosed at age 28 months in July, 2010. They found that his cognitive level of understanding was in the range of 8-10 months of age. This level of delay, along with developmental delays that he has, means that we have a long road ahead of us. He is making progress, but he needs a lot of help in learning even the basics that come by nature to typical children. Currently, he is 3 yrs old and still unable to feed himself even finger foods, he drinks from a bottle, is non-verbal, and cannot do more than the minimal in helping to dress himself. Toilet training isn’t even being considered at this time. In general, he requires as much assistance and supervision as a 12 month old.

Little Man isn’t our only child at home. There is also the Little Princess, thus named because she always reminds us that she is her Daddy’s Princess. LOL Little Princess is 5 yrs old and a typical child. She is articulate and is a blessing to us. She is a quiet child in that she is not one to get rowdy. She is a wonderful little helper and adores her brother. Often, she can get him to respond to her when others cannot. Her most often used tactic? When he is in his “bubble” and doesn’t seem to notice others, she will keep talking to him and trying to show him noisy toys until he finally responds. Yes, she has learned to nag him out of his bubble!

In the midst of all the homeschooling, therapies, and life in general, it always seems that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Little Man is obviously the squeaky wheel in our home. Because of his limited abilities, he demands more one-on-one help as well as paying enough attention that you notice the subtle ways that he tries to communicate. In a situation like this, it is easy for the quiet, typical child to feel overlooked. How many times do siblings of a special needs child say to themselves, “Don’t forget about me?”

Little Princess needs the same love and attention as Little Man, though in a different way. I had a heart-to-heart chat with her today. We talked about the upcoming homeschool year and the Keepers of the Faith program that we will be doing together. The Keepers program is a Christian-based program that teaches basic life skills along with good Christian values. As we looked through the child’s handbook together, she began telling me which ones that she wanted to do. We will be incorporating them into the homeschooling as her life skills subject. One of the things that she is really excited about doing is cooking with me. I had found a fun magazine called, Yum Food & Fun for Kids which is filled with recipes that children can help make. The recipes are very easy and some can be made by children with minimal supervision. We looked through the Summer, 2011, issue and found a children’s tea party menu and recipes. This brought about an idea. Little Princess is wanting to have a tea party with Momma while Little Man is napping in the afternoon. So, we are going to start having afternoon tea together as a daily routine. This will be our special time to spend with each other while taking a break from the day.

I am going to look around at the store and find a couple of dainty looking tea cups with saucers and maybe even a little ceramic teapot. As excited as she is about having this afternoon tea, I want it to become a special time for us. Something that she will enjoy and look forward to. I have to admit that I am as excited about it as she is. So, now I am on the hunt for recipes for little treats and sandwiches to serve with our tea. The magazine had a few, but I want to add to them to give us a variety. It is my intent to make the tea time with her be an opportunity to give her the one-on-one time with me that she is wanting.

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Workbox Idea

Just a quick posting this time. I am still getting the homeschool area set up and am going to combine PECS with the workboxes. Instead of putting the numbered labels on the boxes, I am going to use the vinyl ID pouches made for lanyards. I can then easily change them out for seasons or as my daughter’s tastes change. For Little Man, I am going to have pictures of the actual workbox tasks contained in each basket in the ID pouch. Each of his tasks will be stored in it’s own basket so that he can easily find it when he is old enough to retrieve the task from the shelf on his own. I am going to buy the baskets at a dollar store. The ID pouches are attached to the basket using binder rings. This will work whether using the plastic baskets with an open weave design or with a wicker style basket with a handle.

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Fireflies

One of the joys of homeschooling is the blessing of being able to take an interest of your child’s and turn it into a teaching opportunity. Our daughter loves watching the fireflies at night. While at the library, I found some children’s books about fireflies that I am now using to design a lapbook for her to do.

Making a lapbook is turning out to be easier than one would think. I have found free lapbooks online and am using them as a model to reference on what to include. The lapbook includes: vocabulary words, life cycle wheel, predators mini book, foods source mini book, habitat, fun facts, anatomy chart, and a few little pictures to color and add. We will also be including a little reading list of the books we used to make it along with fun stories about fireflies.

Little Princess is excited about making this lapbook. Seeing how easy it is to put this together, I am planning to make more for the upcoming school term.

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With our new homeschool term starting in a month, I am preparing our home for our first “official” homeschool year. We have been wanting to set aside a room in the house to dedicate for homeschooling our kids. Keeping that in mind, I am de-cluttering the house so that I can turn the living room into the classroom. The room is next to the kitchen, which makes it convenient also for doing science centers activities or art projects that may need extra table space.

The “Princess” has an old school desk we were given by a neighbor. “Little Man” has a Little Tikes table with chairs that he can use. I already have one small bookcase which the Princess can use for her workboxes. There is a large bookcase in the room where I can store Little Man’s Workboxes. There is room to add another large and small bookcase along the walls. The small one will be used for their book collection. The larger one will hold school supplies as well as curriculum, homeschool reference books, and any educational games that we may have. If there is room, I will hang up a dry-erase board on a wall above a small bookcase or other area.

I am really excited to get this done. We have been talking about getting the room set up for a while now. Each time we try, something always prevented us from getting it done the way we wanted. This time I am making it a priority. We have an opportunity right now to go ahead and get it done. I am rearranging and de-cluttering the entire house, one room at a time. I am boxing and bagging up anything we haven’t needed in the past 6 months. Old toys, clothing, books, and much more. It is amazing to consider how much we hold on to even though it is no longer being used. Often the items are in good shape and can be used to bless another family. So, anything in good condition is going to be donated and items that are broken or missing parts will be trashed. The main things that are going to be spared the de-cluttering purge will be seasonal clothes that still fit, reference books, and tools.

I can’t wait to have it all done. It will be nice to have our possessions weeded down to the things we actually use or need. My dream home is one that is sparsely furnished with only the necessary items used on a regular basis. It will make life simpler in maintaining the home. It will also make for a more peaceful setting as well as allowing us to be better stewards of the blessings that we have been given.

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Workboxes – Revisited

This year, we started out using workboxes for the homeschooling. We loved it, but found that once my oldest daughter’s family moved in and space became a factor it didn’t work as well. The system itself worked, but we no longer had the space for the workboxes. So, what to do? For a time, we gave up the workboxes completely. I found that this was not a good option. We got far less done each day and there was a lot more interruptions. As the Little Princess (age 5) would finish each assignment, she would come to me to know what came next. Often, this would interrupt my work with Little Man (age 3) with his therapy/preschool tasks. Unfortunately, when Little Man gets interrupted he becomes difficult to work with. You have to stay on task with him or he gets frustrated and impatient, often walking away or going into his “autism bubble” for a time.

I am planning to begin our new school year in July. In preparation, I have been looking at others’ blogs about their workboxes and seeing the variety of ways that other families have adapted them to best fit their family. Here is what I am planning for this year:

Little Princess will have a visual schedule with a 12-square grid. As soon as her curriculum order arrives, I am going to take pictures of the books to make her schedule cards. These, along with other activity cards, will be placed on her daily visual schedule. I love the way “Ginger-Snaps” blog put it in that she didn’t want to spoon-feed her children in their schooling. I will have a small bookcase for her schoolbooks, a bin of the file folder games, a binder with mini interactive poster type activities, and other materials. Science and lapbook activity materials will be stored in a bin/workbox. This will take far less storage space than the traditional workbox system. As she completes each activity, she will remove the card and place it in a small bin/pocket under her schedule. To help her with knowing what page in her workbook to complete, there will be a bookmark at the page.

Little Man will have the traditional workboxes. I am going to buy clear boxes with locking lids to store his tasks in. Each will be labeled with a picture of the task inside. He is also going to have a visual schedule. At his age, it may not have as many activities, but will give him the opportunity to learn how to use a schedule. For autistic children, a visual schedule is a very important tool to help them become more independent later on. In addition to the games I have already bought for him, I was led to a wonderful website, Preschool Fun, which has a large selection of pictures of TEACCH tasks for autistic children that the teachers of the class made for the children. They are all easily made at home. Most are made from very inexpensive materials with some materials being used for more than 1 task. I am following a suggestion from another mom and planning to make a small notebook with the pictures and a materials list. This will become a catalog of activities for me to make up for Little Man to work in the future as he is ready to progress to new activities.

I will post pictures later after I get the school materials organized and ready to go.

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Dealing with the hot temps of summer without a fan or A/C is one of our greatest challenges.  A typical summer has about 4-6 weeks of temps over 105*F between mid-July and late August.  We are blessed to have some shade around the house and 9′  ceilings throughout the home.  This helps, but not in high humidity.  Below are a few tips that we do to help in managing the heat.

* The most important aspect is to stay hydrated.  Drinking lots of water helps to prevent heat related problems.  Stay away from carbonated products and drinking too much juice.  I was shocked to learn years ago when I became dehydrated that all the fruit juice I had been drinking did little to keep me  from dehydration.    A new favorite of ours it to have “Smart Water” on hand.  Smart Water is a bottled water that contains electrolytes.   Unlike sports drinks, it only has the electrolytes added – nothing else.

* We each have a scarf that is soaked in cool water, then worn to keep cool.  I have been very pleased with how well these work.  If you don’t have the specialty scarves that have the crystals in them to keep the scarf hydrated, use a bandana instead.  The bandana will have to be dipped in water more often, but is still effective.

* I have a large plastic tub with rope handles that I fill with water for the kids to play in.  The kids jumps and play in the water in  shady part of the yard during the hottest time of day.

* Soaking your feet in a dishpan of water in a shady spot also helps.  My eldest daughter, who is in her last trimester, sits on the porch soaking her feet and weaing a scarf that has been dampened to help tolerate the heat.  It helps her quite a lot.

* One wayI avoid heating the house too much is to have cold meals during the afternoon and evening.  We eat lots of salads: lettuce, pasta salad, potato salads, fresh fruits, etc.  Any cooking, such as the potatoes for potato salad, are cooked in early morning or late evening when the temperatures are cooler.

* Use a grill as often as possible for food prep.  My husband loves to use the grill.  He makes burgers (veggie ones for Little Man and I), hot dogs, kabobs, and grilled veggies. 

* Take a siesta.  Being off-grid, I have come to appreciate the concept of taking a rest after midday meal.  This is when the temps are at their highest.  We all have bottles of water with us near our beds.  Usually we all lay down for 1-2 hours to nap or read quietly.  This time allows us to relax.  It is a great benefit in that because we are resting, we are not tempted to work outdoors in the heat.

* Heavy work, such as weeding the garden or washing laundry by hand, are done in the early morning hours when temps are at their lowest.  By 10:00 am, the temperature in summer is often too hot to do these tasks without risk of becoming sick from the heat.

The one thing we find vital is to keep up on the weather reports.  We  abattery operated radio for this purpose.  If the day is going to be extremely hot, such as last smmer’s heat index reaching 110*F and higher, we head for the lake or other location for the day.  If you know that the heat index is going to be exceptionally high, take the family to the library or other lcation with air conditioning during the hottest part of the day.

Our coping ideas are pretty simple and basic.  Maybe for those who have never been through a summer without fans or air conditioning, these ideas will help.

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