Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Digest 37

So much to share with you this time around that it may not all fit into one digest. There has been a lot of amazing stuff on my favorite blogs to visit lately...

1) My fellow 5 Minutes for Special Needs contributor, Suzanne, shared her inward (at least) response to a person who left an anonymous note on her car window. I hope the person read it, somehow. Just another reminder that not every disability is visible, even the physical ones. Let us be kind to one another, please.

2) My "down under" blogging friend Autism &Oughtisms shared a touching post about her autistic son and his imaginary friend. In addition to exploring various theories of imaginary friends, she explains how she views this as a positive step in her son's development. I distinctly remember my own joy when my daughter at more than four years old pretended to use an invisible object in her play for the first time. I was ecstatic and nearly burst into tears.

3) Tammy over at Praying for Parker expressed one of my darkest fears. Statistics estimate that 90% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. Tammy points out that some view this as a way of preventing Down Syndrome. What happens when we can test for autism prenatally? I have no doubt there are people working toward this. I can't quote statistics, but my general sense is that the average joe (or jane) has a more positive view of Down Syndrome than they do of autism. Interestingly, both disorders can have a whole range of effects on the developing child, so termination ends a life that isn't fully understood. I think I am particularly sensitive to this topic right now because an acquaintance of mine is expecting the birth of her third child in the next few weeks. According to some prenatal screening her unborn son has a higher than normal risk of Down Syndrome. She already has one child with special needs...and has gathered a whole pack of people around her to pray, not necessarily that the test will be wrong, but that their family will be able to celebrate the birth of their son no matter what the future holds.

4) I continue to enjoy the Special Needs Siblings Saturday posts at The Squashed Bologna. Mid-October, Varda's guest blogger was Michaela Seafoorce. I ready her SNSS post, but also followed Varda's advice and read two of her posts on her own blog here and here. I have been thinking a lot lately about peer advocates and how to find them, how to teach them, what to say. Michaela is just one example I've looked at. More on this in the weeks to come as I get my thoughts together...

5) I am kind of shaking my head these days in disbelief that I'm the mom of a second grader. It's all going by so fast. Laura Shumaker's post at City Brights about the transition to adulthood was a wake up call...time will continue to fly by and one day the child will be the adult. What then? The only thing I can do at this point is to continue to try to build in the skills and support that she will need when we get there a dozen years or so from now.

I hope you will enjoy all the links as much as I did, and if you visit do let them know you found them through The Simple Life.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fallen Stars

I scrunched along the sidewalk with my littles this morning, trying to enjoy the forced march from our light rail system to our home after dropping the minivan off for repairs. The kids were thrilled to see autumn leaves littering the sidewalk. I don't mind autumn too much, but I dread what comes after. Winter for us means rain, and lots of it...cabin fever with three children is not high on my list of enjoyable every pile of autumn leaves carries with it a sense of impending doom.

As we shuffled along crunching leaves underfoot one leaf grabbed my attention. A bright red maple leaf somewhat separated from its mates lay in stark contrast with the dark gray cement of the sidewalk. It looked for all the world like a bright star fallen to earth. I started to look around me more carefully, the wonder of a child renewed in my heart. No wonder my dear hearts like to scoop these up by the handful and carry them home where they sit in one place or another, first beautiful then slowly decaying into brown bits of dust that I scoop up and toss in the mulch bucket. Reds, yellows, and oranges each carrying a bit of heaven to our feet. We can carry the stars in our hand, just like a child, if we will open our eyes.

Jenny Matlock

I am linking up with Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday fest, except it's Autumn break, so no letter this time around, just the prompt: Autumn Colors. What's Autumn like in your neck of the woods? Head over to Jenny's to see the vast palette of colors He has given us to enjoy this season.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review - Whole Body Listening Larry at School

Our cheerful socially skilled friend, Larry, is back on the scene. This time he's tutoring new students Leah and Luka (fraternal twins, no less) on the importance of Whole Body Listening. Similar to the earlier book (reviewed here) where Larry helps his sister, Lucy, learn to listen with every body part, Larry walks Leah and Luka through the whole process, too. In this case the listening lessons occur in classroom and playground settings. For example, following a buzzing fly with your eyes instead of looking at the guest speaker at an assembly means you'll miss the best part of the show. Singing a song during story time distracts everyone from hearing the climax of the book. Responding to a friend's sad story with your own happy tale makes them think you don't care, and caring is essential to listening with your heart.

The second book is also told in a straightforward rhyme which is helpful to struggling readers. The pictures, narration, and speech and thought bubbles all help convey the message of the book. Two differences I noticed, and liked, arise from the use of two characters, one male and one female, who need to learn Whole Body Listening skills. It seems that sometimes we think of only boys (or less often only girls) as having a problem with listening. Boys tend to be more active and girls can be silly with giggling and such. The truth is that both boys and girls can struggle with listening skills. I liked seeing that played out. I also liked that at times one of the twins might be depicted as having successful expected behavior while the other was struggling. This emphasizes not only that they are separate individuals (something that again is sometimes hard for us to keep in mind in our concept of twins), but also that it is possible to succeed in one area of listening, while struggling in another area. Perhaps you've mastered listening with your ears, but your eyes tend to rove the room instead of focusing on the teacher.

Last but not least I have to assure you that even though the message is the same, the story remains fresh for my child at least. A friend gave us a copy of this book some time ago, but I had hidden it away in hopes of reviewing it before releasing it to the wilds of our book pile. When the child saw it this morning she sat down right away to read it. She compared the body parts diagram in the two books, and insisted on reading it again tonight with our bedtime repertoire. So if you haven't already had the chance to check out these books, I would encourage you to do so. I think they have both greatly encouraged good listening for my little social skills scholar.

P.S. Sorry I can't seem to post an image of the book at the moment. Blogger will upload, but not embed the image. I'll try again later if I can...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Clean Up

We’ve been working on cleaning up the child’s room for about a week now. Her room doubles as our guest room and my parents are coming to visit, so it really needed to be done. Grandma said not to worry about it, but really…it needed to be done. There is a pattern developing where we work really hard to clean it up, she maintains it for a while, then “something” (usually sibling related) happens and it starts to get a little messy. If I don’t jump on it then it slowly builds up again until…we have to work really hard to clean it up, and so it goes.

Currently we are in the work really hard to clean it up phase. Having done this so many times I have some good ideas on how to make this work…

• So as not to overwhelm either of us we break the work into several phases. First we pick everything up off the floor, the next day we clean off the desk, the next we clean under the bed, and so on. There is a feeling of accomplishment with each phase, and as the room starts to shape up the satisfaction grows.

• I help her get started and depending on how hard the work is going to be I either stay and support her efforts or go do something else for a while. Cleaning off the floor is pretty straightforward, and she can make her bed herself. Sorting through the piles of beads, rocks, feathers, seeds, sequins, etc. that she has collected and scattered among books, papers, markers, school projects and puzzles pieces on top of her “desk” well…that requires mommy time.

• We bring a garbage can, a recycle bin and a “this goes somewhere else in the house” box into her room. I encourage as much as possible to go into one of these boxes. For what is left (which is a lot)…

• We sort things into piles, and find good containers for all of her little collections. This is the hardest part for me. Most of the things she likes to collect she doesn’t really DO anything with, she just collects them. So it is hard for me to just let them all sit around. Surely she wouldn’t miss this red sequin that was randomly sitting on the corner of her dresser. I’ve learned the hard way, though, that she has a pretty impressive inventory in her head of all of this stuff. She wants to know where it is, and if it gets lost we’re headed to meltdown territory. This is happening less often, I think because I have learned to “respect” her stuff. I try very hard not to toss any of it unless she says she doesn’t want it.
Next up is maintaining, and I’m trying to come up with strategies to extend this phase. I want this to happen not just so I have one less disaster area in the house, but also because these are skills that she will need down the road. I put it out to my facebook friends to ask for ideas of what to try. We came up with four main tools:

• Labels – During the clean up phase this time around I’ve been labeling everything. Each drawer and each shelf has a label. This is for the child’s benefit, but also Daddy’s. There are times when he supervises clean up and if he doesn’t know where things go they end up in some “interesting” places. Hopefully the labels will help.

• Break it down – Some tasks like making the bed and picking up dirty clothes need to happen every day, others like tidying up the desk could be a weekly chore to keep it from becoming too overwhelming. I think a couple of daily tasks and one weekly job each day will be a reasonable starting point.

• Visual aid – Now that it’s clean, I’m going to take some photos of each potential trouble spot in her room and make some kind of chart that shows her what it looks like when it’s clean. This is taking a lesson from social stories in which we emphasize the desired outcome.

• Incentives – Sad but true the child lives for prizes and rewards. I like to use them until the tasks have become a habit and then phase them out. For now she’s working to collect loose change for a little Sunday School fundraiser. I’ve been giving her small coins for chores around the house toward that project. Perhaps for a while if she can complete her daily room clean up there will be a monetary reward.

I’ll also be trying to prevent those “trigger” events that make it all too overwhelming and/or responding to them earlier to keep the clean it up phase shorter. I would love to hear your thoughts on this age old challenge. How do you keep your child’s room clean? Do you involve them in the process? How do you maintain it? What helps keep it all in perspective? Just click on comments below to share your ideas.


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