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Posts Tagged ‘problems and challenges’


I am sure we all have those times when we are too rushed, everything is going wrong, the kids are not those perfect children we swore we would raise, and we start to turn into the Hulk (again). Sometimes “those times” seem to be coming along every day. Well, if you haven’t yet read it, you really must read “Taming the Hulk”, a “life-of-a-mother” short story by Karen Cantwell.  Read it to find out how cheese balls can save the day, and maybe change your lifestyle.

If you enjoy this story and want to read this and more Barbara Marr  Life-of-a-mother along with some mystery shorts, you can get “The Chronicles of Marr-nia Short Stories” to download free for your Kindle right now.

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“My child hates lessons!” “My child can’t write (hates math, can’t read, all of the above)!” “Homeschool is a constant battle.” “I am frustrated and worried to the point of tears.”

I am seeing many posts like this on the e-mail lists I belong to lately. I read them and think, “Yes, been there, done that.” I am so glad that things are changing for us lately. But can I tell these parents how to change things for their student? Maybe not. Each child is different. Yours may or may not have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum or some other learning difference. Each parent/grandparent is different,too. But I can share what is working for us, and I can try to provide some hope. I hope something I say here will at least let you know that you are not a bad parent or a poor homeschooler.

First, I want to make three confessions: 1. It took us a long time to get this far. 2. It may all change for the worse tomorrow. We can only take it a day at a time. 3. Not everyday is a good day. Some days still s…!

Tip number one is that it takes more than a schedule and the right curriculum to turn things around. For my 11 year-old boy it took the right diagnosis and medication at the right dosage to help him control his behavior and thinking ability. It also helps that he has a case manager/ counselor who visits him for an hour once a week. We also use the Total Transformation approach with him (it works). Sometimes there are therapies or therapeutic programs you can use that will help your child.

Next, my boy needs activities in and outside the home, including play dates at least once a week, when possible. Occasional classes and field trips provide variety, enrich his learning, spark interests, and give him a chance to interact with others outside the home, both authority figures and peers.

 Exercise does a lot to help him with self-discipline and focus, as well as being good for his health. In warm weather he loves swimming and he has year-round karate classes twice weekly, with daily practice. He is very proud that he is so close to attaining his junior black belt. Karate also teaches him many positive attitudes like respect, responsibility, self-control, and confidence.

Consistency in discipline, schedule, and expectations is the hardest for me to provide. But I am getting better at it. Some days I feel lazy, too. Having him help make what few rules we have, helps, too.

Readiness and interest are very crucial to learning and willingness to learn! Probably my boy’s change in attitude and effort on lessons is due in large part to changes he is going through naturally as he approaches adolescence. Focusing on and valuing what he truly wants to learn about is also very important. Another blogger quotes, “Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” ~ Katrina Gutleben

Finally, finding out how he learns best (learning style) and which materials really work for him took a long time, but I think we are there! The curriculum that I outlined in my blog post titled “Our New Year” seems to be a good match for him – at last! We are still following it and haven’t dropped a thing, so far. We are getting ready to add back in lessons on programming in Visual Basic. I am very pleased with the materials we are using because he likes them and is learning willingly (for the most part), but as they say, “Your mileage may vary.”. For details see “Our New Year,” If you are an unschooler, and it is working, ignore this. We definitely do not do “school at home,” though, and he still likes for me to be beside him or working with him.

Schedule:  We spend from 2 to 3 hours daily, mostly 5 days a week on lessons or learning activities. Because we are both natural night owls, we start late, and sometimes wait until afternoon, when he seems to do better. I also remind him to practice karate daily. He is asked to help with a few basic chores or lend a hand now and then. Otherwise, he is free to play Roblox, Algodoo, etc., build with Lego robotics, mess around with electronics, or whatever he is currently interested in. He also watches a few cartoons on TV and plays games on his 3DS. Since many of these activities are also educational and he especially loves them, we have no real limits on them, except to get to bed reasonably on time, where I still read to him nightly.

As you can see, I take what Tracey on the “All Kinds of Learners” list calls a bottom-up approach. In other words, there are fundamental needs that must be addressed first before curriculum matters at all. If they are not, even the best materials will not work, the child will not learn and no one will be happy. I believe in working with the whole child as an individual with individual needs. I don’t care what the schools or even the psychologists/psychiatrists say, the child is the only expert on him/herself.

Disclaimer: I speak as a grandmother raising one particular child with mild Aspergers. I have learned from many other homeschoolers and have researched, read and tried many things. This is where I am now, but my advice might be different a year from now (or even next week!). Who knows? If what I say helps you, that is great. If it doesn’t, feel free to ignore it or leave contradictory comments. One of the best things about being homeschoolers is that we are constantly learning, expanding our understanding, reshaping our philosophy, and changing our behavior. And remember, children are fortunately quite resilient! Challenging and exciting, isn’t it?

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Like many homeschoolers, I am tired of the old “socialization” issue coming up. Recently, it has been coming from Dana’s counselor and child psychiatrist wo are trying to help him deal with anxiety, behavioral issues and Asperger’s Syndrome in general. Because he often does not want to talk or interact much with them, they tend to assume that he is always like that, despite what I tell them.

I won’t go into the many excellent arguments and discussions concerning what “socialization” really means and the pros and cons of learning social skills in brick and mortar school versus in homeschool. There are many blogs and websites that cover this quite well. I am just going to share a recent page I made for his scrapbook/portfolio so that I have something to show them as proof that, yes, he does interact with kids his age, as well as adults, and yes, he gets along just fine with them, thank you, and even has a small circle of special long-time friends.

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 “Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, interviews his mother, Sarah. Joshua’s unique questions and Sarah’s loving, unguarded answers reveal a beautiful relationship that reminds us of the best—and the most challenging—parts of being a parent.”

View this cute and moving short video with excellent animation to a real-life mother-son conversation at : http://vimeo.com/11305685

Don’t forget to return after you view the video.

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                       After too much of the first picture, even the melting snow seems happy to see temps in the 50s at last!

Cabin fever had Dana running back and forth, bouncing on the sofas and finally giving himself a haircut while hiding in my walk-in closet. It has a mirror, but I don’t think he used it. His hair was cut down to the scalp in some places and sticking up in clumps in others! He said his hair was “bugging” him and he doesn’t like the sound of the clippers (due to his Aspie sensitivities), so he used the scissors and did it himself. After cleaning the pile of hair from the corner, off the floor, and the carpet in my bedroom. I marched him upstairs to get a buzz cut. There are still some bare spots, but it looks a lot more even. He didn’t even complain because he was still trying to figure out just how much trouble he was in and when I was going to let him know. I guess he figured that if I was taking the trouble to cut his hair, I must be going to let him live.

Well, that was yesterday. Today was good. The sun was shining, he did his math and spelling with very little grumbling and practiced his karate moves. Then it was off to karate class and testing for his yellow belt. Later, at bedtime, we read more from “Castle Diary” as part of our study of the Middle Ages.

Karate is so great for Aspies! It has helped him learn to tolerate sudden loud noise when the class yells, “Yes, Sir!” without running away and crouching against the wall in a fetal position. It has taught him to perform the moves in front of the whole class without freezing in place. It even has taught him to say, “Yes, ma’am” to me once in a while, to treat everyone with “black belt respect,” to show self discipline by cleaning his room and doing other chores without being told (sometimes, anyway), and doing his “black belt best.”

So he did his best and got his yellow belt today. Congratulations, Dana! You’ve come a long way already.

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Dana has started taking Kenpo Karate lessons once a week. The instructor and his school were recommended by several people in our community, including his counselor. But why Karate?

Many authorities on parenting and teaching children on the autism spectrum highly recommend martial arts as beneficial in many ways. The classes help fill the needs of these children in three areas: meeting the preferred style and method of instruction; teaching social skills and character development; and providing beneficial exercise that promotes improved coordination.

 The structured regimen and clear moves learned by imitation of visual repetition, along with clear class behavior expectations are ideal for them. Tangible and visual recognition of achievement is provided through the levels of colored belts. Self control/self discipline is emphasized and expected.

According to William Stillman, in “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children With Asperger’s Syndrome,” martial arts instruction “promotes making slow, deliberate, and methodical brain-body connections in order to be conscious of how all parts of one’s body move and relate to one another.”

Also, according to one source, there is evidence that a workout that builds up a sweat can help their ability to stay organized and focused for the rest of the day. This can also be attained (as can many of the benefits listed above) through other non competitive activities, including swimming, which is a favorite with my boy. Swimming or playing in the water also provides sensations of buoyancy, overall pressure and solitude.

Dana is already beginning to improve his ability to focus attention, show respect, maintain self control, and have self confidence. It is also helping him develop better balance, muscular control and how to focus his energy. Most importantly, he likes it and is very proud of himself. After one difficult day of homeschooling, I reminded him how extremely well he had done on the day of his karate lesson. He said, “Well, if I had karate every day, I would have great days every day.”

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Do you know or suspect that your child is highly talented in some area but in someone’s opinion (hopefully not yours) is  “not performing up to his potential” and therefore must not be gifted? There is a great article that has apparently been around for a while about the danger of  identifying a gifted child only by his achievements, and what schools should do with and for gifted students. Since the author encourages wide dissemination of it, I am including it here. Is It a Cheetah ? I am also reminded of the old story about THE ANIMAL SCHOOL by George Reavis.

Those of us who homeschool often face this dilemma, also. We need to “learn the attributes of unusual intelligence and observe closely enough to see those attributes in individual children,” and ” recognize not only that highly gifted children can do many things other children cannot, but that there are tasks other children can do that the highly gifted cannot…a child’s greatest gifts could be outside the academic world’s definition of achievement and so go unrecognized altogether.”

As some of us deal with “twice-exceptional” kids we need to remember that it is important to emphasize the strengths and feed the passions. It is not OK to focus on the “weaknesses” to the neglect of the child’s special gifts. Even more, perhaps, than “once exceptional” gifted children, ours need down time and self-directed activity (or apparent non-activity). I have learned that my boy needs “digestion time” for things he has learned. Then one day he will come out with some new related idea or application. He can only handle traditional learning for so long. Then he rebels. No matter how hard I try to make it fun or hands-on, he eventually says, “No more! I want to do some other things.”

Fortunately, he does not require lots of repetition to learn something. He is often like a sponge, getting it the first time through. So we often take a day or two off from studies. Today was one of those days. In the first place, I needed to go someplace without him. Rather than give him assignments to complete in my absence, I told him to sleep late and relax and we might or might not do some studying when I got home.

Like any 9-year-old boy, he chose to stay in (my) bed and watch TV. But once he got up, he built an AirBlox “den” in his room and brought in a portable DVD player. In order to make room for his new setup, he had to clean his room and find a new storage spot for some things. The movies he then chose to watch were “Magic Schoolbus” science ones. I would say that was a day well spent, and he never would have done any of it if I had “assigned” it.

Recently we finished our Biology text (Real Science 4 Kids: Biology I) and I started him on human biology. One day about two chapters in, he announced that he was bored with biology and wanted to study electronics. After a discussion, I convinced him to start with some (more) basic physics to get ready for the concentrated study of electronics. We are now well into “Real Science 4 Kids: Physics I” and moving right along with experiments. His Christmas gifts will include some books and kits to enhance his electronics study later on and he is happy as a clam. These just happen to be the areas he is passionate about.

I do  believe he is gifted in the areas of reading and science. His abilities in these subjects are a natural part of him. These motivate him to learn other things that, by his nature, he has trouble learning. He just this evening announced to me that he had to learn how to spell better if he wanted to type or write big words for science. Just telling me that he wanted to type or write any words was thrilling. Saying he wants to improve his spelling made it more thrilling! By my encouraging his passions and building on his gifts, which are normal for him, his need for learning in his weaker academic areas becomes apparent to him.

However, twice-exceptional children, with or without a diagnosis, often have non-academic areas that need emphasis. For Aspies and others those areas often include behaviors and emotions that must be dealt with. We spend some time on anger management and self-control, as well as providing appropriate sensory stimulation and reassuring his anxieties. This kind of asynchronous development is often pronounced in children like him.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, I find that he has less difficulty with emotions and behavior when he is allowed and encouraged to spend plenty of time pursuing  his areas of greatest interest. Perhaps much of his frustration comes from not being allowed to single-mindedly pursue his strengths.

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