Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Digest 27

It's been a while since I've written a digest. Between taking some time off over New Year's and rearranging my writing schedule a bit it just hasn't fallen into the rotation, but here we are...the first Sunday Digest of 2011. Given the gap I should have plenty of material to choose from.

1) I wanted to start off with a moving video posted by our new friend, Justin Buzzard. We met Justin because he has spoken several times at our church while we are seeking a new pastor. Justin is an excellent preacher, and is starting a church in the San Jose case you're looking. He is also the uncle of Brody, who is affected by autism. Brody's parents took some photos of him at a recent beach outing and overlaid "10 Things Every Child with Autism Wants You to Know..." If you've been looking for a good way to pass this information on to someone, well here it is.

2) Here the inimitable Varda explains why we need to keep telling people how to understand and help our children reach their full potential, regardless of what their challenges and needs might be. It wasn't that long ago that children with special needs were sent off to institutions without question, or worse.

3) Ever have one of those moments when your temper gets the best of you and you can't seem to get a grip on your anger? Please don't tell me I'm the only one...My fellow 5 Minutes for Special Needs contributor, Laurie, shared some of the secrets she's learned over the years to get a grip on her anger. Fake it!

4) I've been attending some IEP meetings with a friend. Perhaps that's one reason this piece, sort of retrospectively viewing the IEP track of education over the long haul jumped out at me. The analogy at the end is powerful.

5) Last but not least, we've been encountering lots of situations lately where I wish I knew better how to support my daughter's social skills. Hartley shared some of the things she's learned here. I definitely need to try a couple of these to see if they will help in our scenarios.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Noble and Precious

So I'm jumping into my look at the inner qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman. As I already mentioned, she is often upheld as the "super-type" role model for Christian women. Reading through the list of all that she DOES could cause one to throw up one's hands in despair and crawl back into bed. I'm not sure that's why God put her in the Bible though. Somehow I think we're supposed to look at her character - who she IS - and to strive to BE rather than to DO. This is a lesson God has been impressing on me for quite a while, and it's taking a long time for it to get into my skull...and perhaps even longer to get into my heart.

To find out who this woman is I thought we could look at the adjectives that the author uses to describe her. The passage begins:
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (NIV) (emphasis mine)
Already we are seeing some special things about this woman. She is noble and she is worth a lot (which I will refer to as precious.)

In the original Hebrew, the word noble (New International Version, NIV) is translated from chayil (khah'-yil) which refers to a force (of means, men or other resources) producing virtue, valor, and strength. The word is derived from chuwl (khool) or chiyl (kheel) a primary root that means to twist or whirl, to dance, to writhe in pain or fear, to wait, and to make to bring forth. The King James Version (KJV) translates chayil as virtuous. The English Standard Version (ESV) says excellent. In other words this woman possesses an internal force (from some resource) that causes her to bring forth virtue (goodness), valor (courage), and strength. Boaz uses chayil to describe Ruth when she rendezvous with him to ask him to "redeem" her (Ruth 3:11). Ruth's chayil is probably what helped her stand by her mother-in-law even when it meant leaving her own family and being reduced to the status of a beggar-woman. The result of her chayil is that she became the great-grandmother of King David, and one of a handful of women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. As a Christian this chayil need not come from my own resources...I can rely on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There's no great virtue in anything I try to do apart from Him, actually. (Isaiah 64:6)

I was particularly struck by the reference to this woman's worth as exceeding rubies. Why not gold or diamonds? Is there something about rubies that makes this reference most apt? So I did a little research and found out that "rubies are the scarcest of all gemstones and command extremely high prices." (So ladies if your husband or significant other offers you a ruby don't pout at him that you wanted a diamond...) The author is telling us that this woman is so precious she is more costly than the rarest of jewels. It also appears that this analogy refers us back to earlier sayings in Proverbs where wisdom is considered more precious than rubies (see Proverbs 3:15 and 8:11). As such this woman personifies wisdom. Also note that the value of the woman comes from how scarce she is and yet is assigned to her by her husband (and only him), not by herself.

In all of this we can be encouraged because our virtue and our value are not dependent on ourselves. It is not our own work, but the work of Christ that makes us noble. It is not up to us to be precious on our own, rather as the Bride of Christ He has made us precious, more precious than rubies.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Link 5 Minutes Post

I thought I should start posting a link to my 5 Minutes for Special Needs posts here, mostly for completeness sake. I know some other bloggers do this, too. It gives me some chance to comment more editorially on those posts. This one was hard to write, for some reason. I felt disjointed even while I was writing it, but the overall question seems important to explore. In this "information" age, how much is too much to share about ourselves, our experiences, and our encounters with others. What do you think?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Into the Word

I can't be the only Christian mom out there who struggles to find time for reading the Bible. Honestly this is not just an effect of motherhood...I have always struggled with the "discipline" of daily Bible reading. It's not that I don't understand the importance or agree with the concept:
Every relationship needs two way communication...our experience with autism does nothing but highlight this fact. One of the most devastating aspects of autism is how communication is impacted, particularly for individuals who remain non-verbal, but even among the verbal the subtleties of conversation like sarcasm and figures of speech can be sadly inaccessible...but I digress.
Prayer is a whole different post, but that's how we tell God what is on our mind. My prayer life has also become a lot more pragmatic these most frequent prayer is, "What do I do now, God?" followed quickly by, "HELP!" with "Wow, thanks!" a close third. Hearing from God can come in several ways, but reading the Bible is one obvious way He can lead us and answer our questions and needs.
Mostly I'm just busy. I always have been and always will be. I'm busier now that I ever have been in my life. There have been seasons when I've been able to consistently wedge Bible reading into my routine for weeks and months at a time. Usually some "crisis" will occur that gets me off track. The longer I go without the easier it is to justify. Just trying to be brutally honest here.

There are all sorts of Bible reading programs out there. Read through the Bible in a year, two years, three years. I tried the last of these starting last year and hung in there until February, then fell hopelessly behind and gave up. This year I ran across "the Bible reading program for slackers and shirkers" which sounded good, but also (oddly) seemed like a lot of work - which day is it, what am I reading again?, where did I leave off? So here's what I'm doing now. I'm leaving my Bible OPEN. When I first read this I thought it was kind of impractical. Around here paper (and we have a lot) is considered fair game for scribbling by two members of our household. Any writing implement will do - sharpie on onion skin anyone??? However, I did find a shelf that is out of reach of the imps, uh preschoolers, yet is still in my eyesight every day. There's a small shelf in my closet right above my dresser. Every day when I'm getting dressed (even if it's just jeans and a t-shirt) I see my Bible sitting there OPEN. Just inviting me to take a gander. Most days I manage to pick it up and read a few verses. Even if I re-read a bit, it's easy to read a little further until I know I've hit something new. Right now I'm making my way through Proverbs 31. Just a few verses, but God has been meeting me there.

Psalm 37:4

Hebrews 11:6

Another idea that I'm working on also relies on daily visual contact. I'm finally getting around to framing some inspirational thoughts from a ladies retreat I attended last May (told you I'm busy) of the activities at the retreat was making our own recycled paper. I'm putting one quote and one Bible verse reference on each paper and framing them. Now I just need to find a good spot to hang them and each day I'll be reminded of these key verses.

Some other ideas that can keep you reading often, if not every day:
  • Attend church regularly - sermons are God's way of making a certain verse, story, or book jump out at you.
  • Find a good Bible study - we have a weekly Bible study with a few other people from our church. We're studying a harmony of the gospels. I don't generally get to my homework, but we read some verses while we're at the study, and it is another opportunity for God to highlight His word for me. There are some groups like Community Bible Study that include childrens' programs.
  • Listen instead - I haven't tried this one, but I have friends that listen to the Bible on CD or mp3s each day.
  • E-mailed readings/devotionals - You can also sign up on-line and have devotionals e-mailed to you or added to your reader of choice.

What do you do to keep reading?

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I thought I'd finish out the set by posting some basic information about dysgraphia. Dyslexia is a learning challenge in the realm of reading and understanding written materials, dyscalculia affects an individual's ability to understand and perform mathematics and other skills involving numbers. An individual affected by dysgraphia has difficulty with writing tasks - from the motor skills used to handle a writing implement to the process of putting thoughts down on paper in written form. Because writing is a skill that develops in a continuum from early childhood (preschool) through adolescence and into adulthood, different challenges may arise at different times.

Some warning signs of dysgraphia include:
  • ineffective pencil grip and poor writing posture
  • poor penmanship
  • fatigue during writing tasks
  • finding ways to avoid writing
  • saying words aloud during writing tasks
  • incomplete sentences or missing words
  • trouble putting ideas onto paper
  • problems with sentence structure, common usage and grammar
  • significant differences between written work and ideas expressed through other means such as oral or practical skill.
Parents and school staff should work together with the student to determine an appropriate combination of support and accommodation to best meet the student's needs. In some cases written tasks can be performed through other means such as speaking or using a computer instead of handwriting. Assignments can be modified to reduce reliance on written skills. However, because handwriting is an important facet of everyday life, remediation and coping skills should also be used to strengthen writing abilities.

This website has a variety of suggestions for different developmental levels to encourage writing skill improvement.

One particular idea that I wanted to emphasize is the introduction of computers early in a child's schooling. There is a lot of advice out there about limiting screen time and reducing childrens' exposure to technology in order to encourage more physical activity. I want to emphasize that "computing" should be done in moderation. However, I do feel it is important to begin familiarizing children with computers, keyboards and mouses (mice?) earlier rather than later. Our daughter is in first grade and her class spends about an hour each week in her school's computer lab. I have observed a couple of short sessions in the computer lab during my regular volunteering time. The students use the keyboard to log in to various software programs. They use a combination of point-and-click mouse skills and keyboard strokes to drive the software. If they are not familiar with the keyboard and mouse they lose learning time, and have trouble completing their tasks. I was relieved that our daughter has learned these skills. In fact we have a little competition going sometimes as to who spends more time at my desktop computer. Fortunately I can always access my laptop! As technology increases I imagine that computer skills will become even more essential to daily life, though I'm not sure that handwriting will ever completely disappear.

For more information on dysgraphia, you can start here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review - Parenting with Love and Logic

Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition)
It is hard reviewing parenting classics. Last time I tried this I could not give a glowing review. This time around I'm a little more positive. I had heard a lot about "Love and Logic" parenting, but I had never read the book, so when I saw this goodie sitting in our preschool's parent library I snatched it up. It turns out that I do a lot of their recommendations already: giving children limited choices to help them learn to think for themselves, setting limits, and sometimes allowing for natural consequences. What I am perhaps missing is the calm finesse the authors characterize as "consultant parenting." I tend more toward their "drill sergeant" mode, so I've been working on that with some success. One key point that I've taken away and that seems to be helping the general flow of life around here is that I should not allow my kids' problems to be my problems, unless they are truly too big for the child to handle on their own. Lately when the twins come with their latest "tattle tale report" instead of dropping everything to go sort out the situation I say, "Did you use your words? Tell them you don't like that," and I offer a kiss to help them find their nice strong voice. Unless there is a safety issue in question this keeps me out of the fray and lets them learn to handle hard situations, which they will eventually need to do on their own anyway. Wouldn't you like your child to be able to say,"I don't like that!" when another child is picking on them? There are a few things I really liked about this book:
  • First, they present their overall philosophy and then they provide a ton of real life situations (48) where their principles can be applied. Everything from pacifiers to internet use is covered at least briefly. It helps you see that this is not pie in the sky parenting advice, but really can work in a variety of situations. One of those 48 suggestions covers when to get professional help. I wish I had read that page about four years ago. It might have saved us a few months of heartache.
  • Second, their view of spanking is not that it is "wrong" per se, but that it is ineffective compared with other techniques they say leave children "wishing for a spanking." Considering that some of the natural consequences they suggest include the child paying for their own, yeah. Around here that could bankrupt a kid pretty fast. This is much more in line with my current thinking on this hot button topic. We avoid spankings almost entirely around here and have replaced them with several more effective techniques.
  • Third, they actually mention special needs children. Once. On page 130. It is presented in the context of how to help children handle bullies. If I have a beef with this book it is that they don't address special needs children and their parenting more, but at least they recognize we exist, briefly. I think a lot of the ideas in this book can be applied to special needs children directly - with developmental age taken into consideration - but it would be nice to hear the authors thoughts on this community. Not everything will work. The extended heart to heart discussions of a child's behavior post facto would probably spiral us back into the situation, and even if they didn't would not result in the "aha" moments described in the book. Language is just too much of a barrier for this to be effective for us.
One thing that I'm going to have to watch out for as I practice more of these techniques is that I maintain the right "voice" as I deliver the various parental  messages they endorse. The calm component is a big challenge with my short fuse temper. Providing choices just doesn't come across the same when offered at drill sergeant volume by a beet red face. The empathy component of delivering consequences is also hard to remember for the same reason. It would be easy to slip into either anger or sarcasm (which is lost on the child anyway) instead of the shared sadness the authors advocate.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rejoicing Along the Way

The other day the child made a sticker chart for me. We are big on sticker charts around here. We have been for a long time. Way before I understood what was going on with our daughter, back in the days when she used to pull my hair (hard, repeatedly) every day but "she's just a toddler...she doesn't understand..." was the only explanation I actually got her to stop doing it by using stickers. One morning I noticed that she hadn't pulled my hair (by some miracle) so I gave her a sticker. We put it on a piece of paper. It gradually evolved into a chart and a system. Every day she would get a sticker before nap and before bedtime if she was nice to mommy's hair. Thus began our love affair with sticker charts, though the passion is mostly in the heart of my daughter and not mine. I find them tedious to keep up, which is actually a good thing because any reward system needs to be faded over time and replaced with more natural effective praise. But I digress...

My sticker chart (pictured above) is woefully empty. My daughter told me that I could give myself a sticker every night before bed if I finished all my work for the day. Ha! How did she know I've been struggling with this very issue. Either she's more aware of people's emotions than I give her credit for, or she's heard me (ahem) discussing the problem with other people. Or maybe she's just tired of me telling her that I can't play "money store" (bank) with her because I need to get my work done. I'm pretty sure she didn't read it from a certain blog post...

At any rate she was trying to use a tool that we have shown her for other challenging situations and applying it to my life. How sweet....except really draws attention to how impossible it is for me to get stuff done. She asks me (often) how many stickers I've earned. "Just one, sweetie..." One day, in a week, I felt like I could honestly say I'd done everything on my list.

Then I read this blog post by Tasra Dawson. We were (briefly) in the same writing group. She's going places. I think perhaps her philosophy helps her along in this regard. In summary she was reminding us (ME) that everything we do should be a celebration, an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back and worship the One who gives us strength. Rather than trying to finish everything how about if I try to be glad each time I finish one thing?

I don't expect this to be an overnight transformation, but I think I need to re-purpose this sticker chart. Maybe I'll get a happy face each day I remembered to rejoice along the way. It sure beats the alternative.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Five Tips for IEP Preparation

Today I attended my first triennial Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. It was not for our daughter, but for a friend of ours. I was glad to go because our first triennial will happen sometime in the next few months here (it's complicated) and I wanted to see what it was like. In today's meeting the answer was: LONG, crowded, and more to come. In this case eleven people were in the meeting room and five were conferenced in by phone. Six people had some kind of report to read and there were quite a few goals to review and revise. I'm still on a big learning curve when it comes to IEP meetings, but there are some things that I think are generally helpful no matter what sort of meeting you're heading into...

Don't go alone. Let's face it - it's intimidating sitting in a room with a bunch of experts often using professional lingo that you may or may not understand, trying to listen to what they are saying, writing things down so you can remember what was said later, thinking about how to respond, keeping emotions in check, etc. Bring a friend, a fellow special needs parent, or another family member. Even if the other person just takes notes it will let you focus more on the other roles you must play during the meeting. This is the role I filled for our friend, taking eight pages of notes.

Remember you are part of the team. This cuts two ways. First, it means that you should try at all times to maintain a professional demeanor. There may be times when this is extremely difficult, which I can say from personal experience. As a parent your emotions will be running strong, but it's really important to keep your cool. Second, don't discount the importance of your role. The other members of the team may know more about speech, occupational therapy, psychology, education or behavior theory, but you know more about your child. You know that they like the color yellow for everything or that they really hate it when the seams on their socks get under their toes. You know how their day at school affects the rest of their day, and you know how to get them to do stuff. You know what works and what doesn't, and THIS is the key to truly individualizing an education plan. There are a lot of general practices that work most of the time for some kids, but you know the little tweaks that will make it work for your kid. Without your input the experts can be left experimenting, and this can waste precious time.

Ask for reports ahead of time. Particularly if there has been a recent assessment, but even for simple progress reports, it is good to look written reports over before you're at the meeting. Remember you will be busy listening, thinking, responding, and staying calm. The last thing you want to be doing is reading through a report laced with jargon, graphs, and test scores in the midst of all this activity. We have generally found that even requesting reports ahead of time you may not get them until the day before, but it's still worth it to read through the reports. Mark things you agree with, things you disagree with, questions you have, and action items that you can draw out of the report.

Go in with clear expectations. I call these my bare minimums. I go into the meeting knowing what I want to come out with. Careful here - you may not get it! It's still good to go in with a list of what you want to see happen. You may decide during the meeting that what the school is offering is equivalent, sufficient, better, or unacceptable, but if you go in without knowing what you want then you won't know how to respond at all.

Give yourself time to reflect. I know I always need a few hours (or days, even) after an IEP meeting to process my emotions, consider what was offered or suggested, and formulate my response. We do not sign approval on the IEP plan until after this processing time is over. You are required to sign that you were present at the meeting, but you don't have to approve the IEP until you are ready to do so. This can sometimes mean a second meeting, but sometimes (as in today's meeting) that has to happen anyway. Often you can just meet your child's case manager (the school staff member who coordinates IEP actions) to sign the paperwork if that is all that is needed. Also be aware that you, as a member of the IEP team, have the right to call another meeting at any time, so even after you sign an IEP if you have concerns that something isn't working for your child you can revisit the plan and work together to address your concerns.

Finally, I wanted to note again that for parents of faith an IEP meeting often has a spiritual component. One of my early posts here addressed those concerns. You can view that post here.

What's your favorite IEP tip?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Goals for the New Year

Apologies for the long absence...I was keeping up right until New Year's and then, well, lots of fun stuff happened and I couldn't do everything I wanted to do. Bad stuff happens, life gets full. Good stuff happens, life gets full. Same result, but I prefer option B, thanks!

Meanwhile, today over at the Special Needs Blog Hop they're talking about goals for the New Year. Goals, mind you, not resolutions. Five things we'd like to reach during this New Year. Here are my five:

Get organized. No really. Perhaps I should say get more organized. Three years of just going through the paces and trying to keep up with the essentials has left us kind of buried in paper (among other things). Everywhere I look there are piles of projects that I'm going to work on "later". Well, later has come, my friends. So far I'm using this 21-day challenge except I'm letting myself work at my own pace and I'm not posting photos here because it would move too far away from my purpose. I'm almost done with the second challenge. (Clean off my desk in a day? NOT) I did get it cleared off in one day, but dealing with the detritus has taken another day on its own.

Get a shower. That's my incentive for getting up a wee bit earlier in the morning, which should mean I go to bed a little bit earlier at night. Didn't happen tonight, but you know.

Improve my writing. There's a 31-day challenge for this, which I haven't started yet. I figure I should finish the get organized challenge first. Being subscribed to these via e-mail and Google Reader is letting me do them on my own time schedule, which is kind of essential around here. In fact, I just noticed that 21+31=52, and if memory serves there are 52 weeks in a year, so even if I only get to one challenge per week I'll finish both of these by the end of 2011. SWEET.

Make my husband's lunches more interesting. He used to have this cushy job where he got to eat in gourmet restaurants every day for lunch (rough times, right?) Then when he decided to start our home business again, right before the economy tanked mind you, we cut back to brown bag lunches. That was over three years ago. During that time I've packed him a sandwich, a yogurt cup, some fruit, a drink, and a cookie or two anywhere from 2-4 times per week. Seemed like he could use a little menu variation. So one of his Christmas presents was a new lunch box and thermos. I can send hot leftovers in his thermos. Tomorrow he has requested left-over chicken, stuffing and gravy. Gotta  beat cold cuts, right?

Get a clearer vision for who God wants me to be. I'm thinking about starting with Proverbs 31:10-31. My primary job right now is wife and mom. There are other things I do (writing, supporting my husband's business, leading our church's Sunday School, volunteering at my kids' schools) but wife and mom are at the top of the list. The Proverbs passage has long been held as the "ideal" woman. I think one large chunk of the things I struggle with comes from trying on my own strength to meet a lot of "ideals." I have high expectations for myself and for my kids, which is not all bad, except when it is. Loving has to come before expecting, I think. So instead of looking at the Proverbs 31 woman for what she does (I already do plenty) I'd like to find out more about who she is...her foundational character. I'm thinking that's how she gets it all done well. In the end...
"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many woman do noble things, but you surpass them all." (Proverbs 31:28-29, NIV, emphasis mine)
There's doing and then there's surpassing. I'm tired of just doing.

Check out the blog's fun!


Related Posts with Thumbnails