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Archive for April, 2014

One of the things that I am finally getting a grip on is that Pookie will take longer to teach than Little Miss has done. Yes, I always knew it in my head but my heart was another issue. In many ways, Pookie is showing a lot of intelligence. There are other areas however where extra time and work is greatly needed. So, with that in mind, I am doing something a bit different this next term.

A fact that I have come to realize is that Pookie loves to be kept busy. Yes, he does like some down time, but overall, he is happiest when he is occupied with something. I have purposely kept his number of workboxes per session down to about 4-5 activities. I felt that would exhaust his attention span. He is teaching me a different way of thinking. Depending on the activities he is doing, there are days when he wants to do more. He loves variety and does show a great aptitude for catching on to new things. Given too much down time, he actually gets bored and cranky. I honestly believe that he enjoys the challenge of the lessons some days. Maybe not every lesson, but I do see the excitement quite often. Academically, if you look at the overall picture, he is still solidly in the preschool level. Conceptual learning and abstracts are still out of his realm of understanding. So, instead of going from Pre-K to 1st grade he is going to do Kindergarten.

I love the Heart of Dakota curriculum that we have been using. He seems to enjoy it as well. The only problem that we have is that it goes by too quickly for him. The entire program for each day only takes about 1-2 hours, depending on the hands-on activity he does that day. Pookie needs more than that. He needs more activities to reinforce what he is learning. As I was reading through Sue Patrick’s book, The Workbox System: A User’s Guide, I was reminded of her ideas for giving her son several activities that each taught the same concept. While each may contain the same information, the different approaches helped the child to grasp and retain the information better.

So, with that in mind, here are my thoughts on how to proceed with Pookie. First, continue with a Pre-K/Kindergarten level until I am sure he has mastered the information. To me, that is common sense. You cannot built a sturdy home on a shaky foundation. Your child’s academic progress is no different. They need that same solid foundation to progress effectively. What I am changing up is how I go about his education. This upcoming term, I will be blending two similar curricula into one as well as continuing with Montessori styled activities.

My Father’s World Kindergarten program is very good with teaching the basics, such as the alphabet and numbers. In many ways, it reminds me of a good Pre-K curriculum. There are worksheets and hands-on activities for Pookie to do each day. They spend an entire week on each letter of the alphabet to help insure that the child is learning the letter and it’s sound.

Heart of Dakota’s Little Hearts for His Glory program is for children ages 5-7 years old. It covers all the basic school subjects, including science and history. There are plenty of hands-on activities as well. In the teacher’s guide, there are options to the math and reading/phonics program. Here is where blending the two curricula will work.

In the mornings, Pookie will be doing the My Father’s World curriculum.  We will be working on lapbooks that correspond to the week’s lesson theme as well.  Being as this curriculum is the gentler approach of the two, it will be perfect for mornings when Pookie is the most active and preferring a lot of hands-on projects.

In the afternoons, we will be doing the Heart of Dakota program.  By afternoon, Pookie is ready for that cuddle time with me on the couch as I read to him.  As we go through the books, I ask him to point out various items in the pictures to be sure he is paying attention to the details.  Because he had all morning to get the wiggles out of his system, he will be more ready in the afternoon to work on those few assignments that require him to sit at the table or desk.

Intermittently throughout the day, he will have two 15-minute breaks in the morning and again in the afternoon to free play or simply chill out.  He will also have a snack break halfway through the morning and again halfway through the afternoon, in addition to his lunch break.  Each of these curriculum programs are short in duration each day.  Even doing both, Pookie will not be overwhelmed.  I will always have the option to scale back a bit and do each program at half-speed if needed.  This is just another way of saying that I will take two days to complete a single day’s lessons for each program.  It would take twice as long to complete the programs, but with Pookie, we cannot do long breaks anyways.  The longer time period for completing the programs would work in his favor.

Montessori style activities will always be a part of his day for years to come.  He thrives on the hands-on learning.  Through it, he is able to show his knowledge and understanding.  They also address his need for sensory input each day.  From sensory bins to sorting activities and beyond, Pookie will have plenty of things to do that will stimulate his senses and broaden his learning opportunities

There are many adaptations that I still am making to worksheets in order for Pookie to be able to do them successfully. I will post some of those ideas in an upcoming blog. Many of the adaptations are similar to past ones, such as turning cut and paste activities into file folder games. There are a few new ones however that may give ideas for you to try.

I am really looking forward to the upcoming school term.  I have tentatively planned to start the new term in June, after we get back from a church youth camp.  Now that I have a good sense of what Pookie’s homeschool routine will be, I am working on Little Miss’ curriculum plans in more detail.  Both she and Pookie are getting curious about what they will be learning.  Every so often, I take out a hands-on element from their upcoming term so they can explore it a little.  It is capturing their curiosity and interest in a big way.  Pookie is especially showing interest in doing the Melissa and Doug Beginners Pattern Block Puzzles.  I am enjoying watching his excitement towards learning.  As long as their is interest and excitement, he is guaranteed to learn, which in turn gives me much hope for his future.

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At Therapy Works, where Pookie goes for his OT and Speech therapies, they have a really simple style of visual schedule.  It is one of those ideas that have you asking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  Well, here is the schedule strip.  I made one for him to use here at home.  Much easier than the yardstick idea that I had.

You only need 4 things to make the schedule strip: wooden ruler, self-adhesive loop tape (the fuzzy part of the hook and loop tape), a pair of scissors, and a length of ribbon.

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I cut a piece of the loop tape that was about 11.5″ long.  I adhered it to the back of the wooden ruler so that the hole near the end of the ruler was still showing.  Next, I threaded a ribbon through the hole and tied it to form a hanging loop.

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That is it!  Your child now has a very portable schedule strip to use.  I am using this now for Pookie.  I place his morning schedule on the strip.  He has a little container into which he places the PECS cards as we do each activity.  The PECS style cards that I have for his homeschooling are about 1″ square.  You can easily make them on the SEN Teacher page I linked to in my last post.   Just use your own graphics or ones found online through a Google Images search.  You can also find them already designed on Pinterest.  The website which I used to find the ones shown here are from Homeschool Creations.

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I have been working on a storage binder for Pookie’s collection of PECS communication cards. What a task! It is amazing the sheer number of cards that you can come up with. When I first began looking for graphics for his cards, I struggled to come up with things that would be needed. Now, after watching how they are used in his therapy sessions, I am getting a lot more ideas on what cards to have done up.

My favorite “go to” website for making his cards is still the SEN Teacher website. On SEN Teacher, you can go to the printables area and find the option for making your own PECS cards. They give options for sizes, with or without borders, and the choice of using their search engine for graphics or uploading your own.

Making the Binder:

You will need a 3-ring binder (I used a half sized one for this project)
Cardstock, for the pages
Heat laminate
Adhesive-backed hook and loop tape*
Hole punch
Scissors

*Note: for clarification purposes, Loop tape is the soft fuzzy portion. Hook tape is the rough portion.

Step 1: Turn your binder so that the hinge side is facing away from you. I wanted the book to be a flip-book that has pages that flip upwards. Cut 3 strips of loop tape to length so that it fits parallel to the hinge edge. Adhere the strips evenly to form 3 rows. (Later, you will be able to use these rows as a visual schedule or a choice board.

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Step 2: Using heat laminate, laminate the cardstock pages. If using a half-size binder, cut the pages in half to fit. Be sure to not use contact paper or a cold laminate for this step. The adhesive on the hook and loop tape does not stay adhered to cold laminate. It only works well on heat laminated items. Hole punch the pages to fit into the binder.

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Step 3: Adhere 2 rows (up to 4 rows if using a full sized 8.5×11 inch binder page) loop tape onto each page. If desired, you can add the loop tape rows to both sides of each page.

Step 4: Place pages in to your binder and Voila’ you are done.

PECS cards: I went to the SEN Teacher website and made the cards we needed to start with. The therapists offered to print them for me and heat laminate them. So, I saved the cards to my computer and emailed the files to them. At Pookie’s next appointment, they were already printed and laminated for us. All I had to do was trim the cards out and adhere a piece of the hook tape to the back of each card.

To use the binder, I first organized the PECS cards by category. I arranged each category on its own page in the binder. Most frequently used categories are towards the front of the binder.

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When I am setting up Pookie’s visual schedule, I place the cards onto the front cover of the binder starting with the top row and going from left to right. We start by choosing what activities he will do and in what order. I generally will set a limit of about 5 activities as a time. I place the cards in the order chosen onto the binder cover. If at home, I have a container sitting beside the binder. As he chooses each activity, the card is placed into the container. If we use the binder away from home, a blank page in the front of the binder can serve as a storage place for the cards instead of the container.

After we have completed the session, I place the cards back onto their pages. This makes it easy to find them again next time.

One idea that I haven’t done for this binder, but plan to do next time is to print out an extra copy of the PECS cards. The second set can then be used to make an index for the cards. This way, if a card should be lost, I will know which one needs to be replaced. It will also help later on when Pookie is old enough and used to using the binder enough to put the cards away himself.

In making the binder, I was surprised at how fast I ran out of the loop tape. I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. We had just opened up a new 15′ long roll of the hook and loop tape for this project. By the time I placed the rows on the cover and on about 8 pages, the loop tape was gone. I now have 15′ of hook tape left over but I know that will be gone quick enough once I get more cards printed up. I stopped using the hook and loop “coins” for the PECS cards. In the long run, it is far less expensive to by the long strips and cut them to size. The cheapest resource that I have found for them locally is the Lowes store. The hook and loop tape comes in 15′ rolls.

As I finished this little binder, I am already making plans to do a regular sized binder. That one will be at least 2 inches thick to allow room to grow. I simply filled up the 1″ binder way too quickly. Once I have the larger one made, I will relegate the half size binder to be Pookie’s working binder. It will only contain the cards he uses most often. Some of the pages in his working binder could be outing-specific. For example, cards for going to the Zoo so that he can let me know what animals he wants to see the most. Maybe pictures of his favorite foods sold at the zoo, funnel cake, nachos, and seasoned fries are his favorites. It would give him the ability to choose what he wants to eat. We could do the same for other restaurants or fast food locations. The key idea is to give him the communications skills he needs to make independent decisions for himself.

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Story Stones

I have been finding the cutest idea on Pinterest lately. They are called Story Stones. These smooth stones are small enough for preschoolers to handle, yet too big to be a choking hazard. Buying a set of story stones can be pricey. Today, I found a preschool blog called Pre-School Play that tells how she made them herself. She also shows a good number of examples of the ones that she made. I am thinking of so many ideas for using this idea.  Alphabet letters, numbers, stones painted like dominos, and of course the story elements.

Here are some more story stone idea links that I found that are very inspiring.

Easter Story Stones includes the story

Fairy Dust Teaching has a photo tutorial on making the story stones

Adventures at Home with Mom has a great post about the benefits of story stones along with examples of the ones she has made.

Crafty Mom Share has a blog post about the Nativity story that includes a picture of the Nativity story stones she made.

Thrive 360 Living has a great example of story stones they made for the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

My Small Potatoes has a great picture tutorial on hand painting story stones.

 

I am so excited to give this craft idea a try.  I am always looking for new ways to incorporate pictures or other hands-on elements into story time with Pookie.  I can see so many uses for this, including using them for story sequencing activities.  These websites were very inspiring.  Making a set of story stones for the Nativity would be a great gift idea for the little ones in the Children’s Church class.  Maybe make some for other Bible stories using elements of each story to paint or decoupage onto a stone.  The ideas are only as limited as our imaginations!

Enjoy!

 

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The Tapestry of Autism

The puzzle piece has come to be known worldwide as a symbol for autism. This colorful design is one that has meaning to many who are impacted by autism. It says so much, and yet…..it leaves out so much.

I look at autism as simply one thread in the rich tapestry of our son’s life. Tapestries are beautiful works of art. They can tell a story or give you a glimpse into the life of the one who made it. Each thread interweaves with the threads around it. A single thread touches many. Think of how a weaving is done. You have the main foundational threads on the loom through which the colorful threads are woven to create the design. Autism is simply one of those foundational threads. Why do I say it is foundational? Each and every thing that Pookie learns or experiences is touched by autism in some form or fashion. Whether it be through the developmental delays he is challenged with, interacting with others, or simply going grocery shopping with me, autism is always there. You cannot separate fully the autism from Pookie’s life experiences.

But, Pookie is far more than just that one thread. He is a much loved son, brother, and friend to those in his life. He may not play with kids in a way considered “normal” by society’s standards, but he likes to be around other kids. At church, the older children have taken Pookie under their wings so to speak and they include him in their activities as much as he able to participate. At home, Pookie loves to simply hang out with Little Miss. If he finishes his homeschooling before she does, he gets antsy for her to finish so that they can go outdoors together.

Pookie loves to paint. Some days, he simply makes what could be considered background designs. At other times, he has made paintings that are reminiscent of the Impressionist style. I will always cherish the first of these that he made at age 4. He was standing at a window looking out and seemed so sad. I tried to distract him without success until I asked if he wanted to paint. He came to the kitchen table and chose the paint colors that he wanted. The end result was the painting below.
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He was telling me something in that picture. His Daddy was gone on the truck and he was missing him. When I asked if he missed his Daddy, Pookie smiled at me. His mood lifted after that. We had found the source of his sadness and acknowledged it.

Pookie loves music. He loves to listen to K-Love, a Christian radio station. When we are in the car and the radio is not on, he will fuss and gesture towards the radio. If I turn on a station other than K-Love, he will fuss again until I change the station. Luckily, we all enjoy listening to it. He listens to the three VeggieTales CDs that the kids own. Often, after listening to them, he will hum the tunes or sing them in his own way.

Pookie has a sense of humor. He laughs easily. One quirk that is present with him is his ability to make himself laugh by tickling his own belly. He has a joy that is infectious to those around him. His happiness can make anyone smile or laugh.

Cuddling is important to Pookie. He loves those times when I sit down to read to him. I will tell him to choose a book from his shelf. After making his choice, he comes to the couch and cuddles next to me while I read.

There are so many ways in which our lives are blessed by Pookie. Often, we don’t even consider autism in his behavior or developmental skills level. He is simply our son. We accept him as he is. Of course, we are working towards him becoming as independent as possible. His therapies are helping us to achieve that goal.

When it all comes down to who Pookie is, there is much more than just a diagnosis of Infantile Autism. He has a life that is full of the love of family and friends. He has talents that we have only begun to see being developed. He is a little boy who has so much to offer those around him. He is a walking testimony of the grace and blessings of a God who is more powerful than autism. He is our son.

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