Archive for the ‘sensory integration dysfunction’ Category

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “J.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter J ….is for Joy

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy
in creative expression and knowledge.
~~ Albert Einstein ~~

As I look at pictures of homeschooling, joy is a word that comes to mind. It is most often expressed when we’re doing hands-on activities and bringing to life what we learn through reading about different subjects. 

Sometimes, joy comes from the girls making connections on their own.  For example, Sophia was having fun building a snowman and making a pinecone heart near it one day during the winter.  She was so happy with how both turned out. 

She put birdseed in the snowman’s hat so the birds had another feeder to visit. She left carrots on the ground for the rabbits or deer.

Sophia with Snowman Bird Feeder and Pinecone Heart
Sophia with the snowman and pinecone heart she made
inspired by the book Stranger in the Woods.

She told me after she made the snowman that she was thinking about the book, Stranger in the Woods as she was making the snowman. It’s interesting to see how Sophia and Olivia both are inspired by books that I read to them as part of homeschooling, and how that translates into their play and learning.

I also see joy in the girls’ faces when they are doing something they love to do and at which they feel skilled.  Olivia has always enjoyed coloring and could spend the majority of her days coloring (that…or coloring and doing puzzles). 

Olivia with Egyptian Pyramid
Olivia showing jewelry she colored
and was wearing as part of the Egyptian unit study.

In the photo above, Olivia is holding a paper pyramid that has facts about pyramids on each side. She also is wearing paper jewelry she colored.  These weren’t projects that were displayed in the house or worn after multiple times.  Rather, she put them on and wanted to show what she did – and she radiated joy. 

After she was done, she took off the jewelry and carefully put it in her Egypt 3-ring binder in a protective sheet holder.  In that way, every time she looks at it, it can remind her of how much she enjoyed coloring at that point in her life.

Another time that the girls are joyful is when we spend time cooking and baking together…and then sampling what we made. 

Tea Party with Hungarian Treats
Having a tea party with food made
as part of the geography unit study about Hungary.
The girls and I have made foods that we enjoyed (like cookies and coffeecake as shown in the picture above).  Likewise, we’ve also made some food that none of us would like to eat again (Ukrainian sauerkraut and Welsh Oatcakes).  

Whether or not we enjoyed the food, the experience of cooking together brought us all a lot of joy and happpiness.  We were sharing time and creating special memories that we all can enjoy looking back upon.

Having opportunities to play and creatively express oneself are important parts of homeschooling as well.  Playing, pretending, and dramatic expression all foster creativity and being able to think independently…rather than having someone tell you what to do and when to do it. 

Sophia Ready to Start Beekeeping
Sophia was pretending to be a beekeeper after
learning about bees, beekeeping, and honey
during a home economics lesson.
Being able to exercise together and be outdoors always makes us happy.  Joy is often shown with huge smiles and laughter, especially when we’re riding bikes; playing badminton or croquet in the backyard; or walking the dogs or horses.

Olivia Riding Behind Me
Olivia riding her bike on a beautiful spring day.
Her bike is actually attached to mine (a tag-a-long bike),
thus the odd angle of this photo.

Living in the country on a small hobby farm means the wheelbarrow is used at least once each week…if not more often.  Many times, Sophia gives Olivia rides in the wheelbarrow.  No matter where you are here, you can hear Olivia laughing as she’s bumped and jostled on the rides.

In addition to having fun, the wheelbarrow rides are good for their bodies.  Both girls have sensory integration dysfunction (aka sensory processing disorder), so pushing a heavy load (for Sophia) and getting input from the ride (for Olivia) help address some of the needs that their bodies have because of SID.

Having Fun in the Wheelbarrow
The girls having fun in the backyard.

Since the girls were infants, they have enjoyed swinging.  When they were under a year old, they would be pushed and would fall asleep while the wind blew, birds sang, and sun gently warmed them.  They were so content and at peace while swinging…a more quiet form of joy.

Olivia Swinging
Olivia in a moment of pure joy
while swinging!
Swinging each day when it’s not raining or well below zero with bone-chilling winds, is both relaxing and exhilarating for the girls…often at the same time.  When they have too much energy and can’t focus on learning, taking some time to go on the swings helps get some of the energy out.  In the process, they are laughing and joking, and having a wonderful time.  They come in awhile later ready to begin homeschooling again.

Homeschooling is about joy.  And when I think about joy — about happiness — I think of spending time together; creating memories; and learning about new things and gaining new skills. 

Joy is present each day we homeschool.  I know that because I hear it through laughter; and see it through smiles and love shown to one another.

Nez Perce - Beaded Necklace
Sophia wearing a beaded necklace she made
during a unit study about the Nez Perce during the 1700s.
Hearing joy expressed through laughter
is what homeschooling represents.

Your success and happiness lies in you.
Resolve to keep happy; and
your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
~~ Helen Keller ~~

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Outside my window…it’s dark, but I can hear the frogs chirping loudly in the pond.  They emerged from their hiberation a couple of days ago.

I am thinking…about my mom who was just taken to the hospital at 8:45 p.m. on Sunday night.  She was unable to stand and was feeling light-headed.  Her blood sugar was high, but not at an unreasonable level (she has diabetes).

I am thankful for…being able to live in the country where it is peaceful and quiet.

From the kitchen…took a break from cooking today since I cooked and baked for most of Saturday. 

I am wearing…pajamas (since it’s 9:20 p.m.).

I am creating…several window stars for customers tomorrow.  Had several orders come in over the weekend which was nice!

I am going…to the homeschool conference in less than two weeks now, and am very excited about attending the workshops and getting curricula for next year.

I am reading…a book called “Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder.”

I am hoping…that after tomorrow’s rain and snow that there will be no more precipitation for awhile.  The pastures are flooded in many areas, and it’s challenging for the horses.

I am hearing…the frogs still chirping away. I enjoy hearing that sound each spring…there’s something relaxing and comforting about the “music” that nature makes.

Around the house…I’m continuing to clean and organize different areas.  Worked on my desk today and am so happy with how clean it is now!

One of my favorite things…is the show “Secret Millionaire.”  I don’t watch much television, but this is one show that I make the time for.  It’s so inspiring seeing people give away large sums of money to those helping people in need and/or individuals who are facing a challenge.

A few plans for the rest of the week….teaching the girls; attending a dance performance at the Ordway (for students during the day); setting goals for the girls’ 2011-12 school year and determining what I want them to learn; preparing for the homeschool conference by determining what I already have and don’t need to purchase and what I do need to purchase for next year; plan the vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens; and continue working on cleaning the home.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…

Apple Blossom - Close Up

This is an apple blossom that was on one of the trees last year.  It’s hard to believe that in about a month or so, the trees will be covered again with pretty flowers like this one!
Hop on over to the Simple Womans Daybook  and join in!

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This week I took a departure from reading historical fiction and autobiographies as part of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge to read a book that is relevant to what is currently happening in my life.  It is called A Special Mother – Getting Through the Early Days of  Child’s Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities and Related Disorders

This book, written by Anne Ford, presents a guide for mothers whose child is diagnosed with a Learning Disability (LD). The book is written in a conversational tone and there are many sections that feel like the reader is joining a group of women (all of whom have a child with a LD).

The book begins by discussing mothers’ intituition and their feelings that “something’s not quite right with my child.”  A Special Mother continues through the stages of denying that anything is seriously wrong, the eventual diagnosis, and advocacy.

For me, I could identify with many of the mothers who shared their experiences with knowing something wasn’t quite right with her child, but not being able to pinpoint the cause.  Olivia, who was adopted as a ten-month old infant from China, was diagnosed with a host of medical problems and developmental delays when she had her initial evaluation at the University of Minnesota’s International Clinic. (The referral said she was a healthy baby with no medical problems.)

By the age of three years old, at my request, she was evaluated by several teachers and therapists in the local school district who helped identified some special needs and a plan for reaching developmental, cognitive, and speech goals. 

For about two years, she worked with this team of professionals who provided guidance and therapy to help her reach her goals in combination with therapy and learning activities that they asked that I would do at home with Olivia.

Olivia Playing with Oodles of Ooze
Olivia playing with Oodles of Ooze
that I made for her.  It was meant to
strengthen her hands and
get her comfortable with different textures.

Concurrently, Olivia was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (a.k.a. Sensory Integration Dysfunction) and went through an intense ten-day, full-day program at Special Children Center in Hudson, Wisconsin.  She had many follow-up sessions to help address on-going issues that were too great for the district to handle.

Olivia on Blackie
Olivia doing therapeutic horseback riding in 2007.
She was 4 years old in this picture.

Olivia also began therapeutic horseback riding at age three through Courage Riders and later participated in River Valley Riders’ program as well.  These two programs provided physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, speech therapy, and body/muscle strengthening…not to mention a love for horses and horseback riding. 

When she first began riding, she could barely sit up straight (she was hypotonic which basically means she had no muscle tone in her hips or upper arms/shoulder area) and couldn’t put more than one word together. Her language was at a standstill for a long time, and most of it was being done through American Sign Language. 

Within the first six-week session of therapeutic horseback riding, she put her first two words together!  It was huge breakthrough.  Now, five years later she can sit straight up on a horse and can compose multi-word sentences.  In fact, she is almost always talking.  She even still remembers some of the ASL signs she used as a toddler and young child. 

Exercising While Riding
Olivia exercising while horseback riding

For the past five years (from age 3-8 years old), Olivia has been seeing an opthamologist on a quarterly basis since she is legally blind in both eyes (without glasses).  Her left eye is substantially worse than her right eye, so it was recommended that she wear a patch on her right eye so that her brain would be forced to use her left eye.  In this way, it would strengthen her vision and prevent a complete loss of vision in her weaker eye. 

She also was receiving nightly medicine in her eyes so her lashes wouldn’t scratch her corneas.  About eight months ago, her lashes began moving away from her corneas and no longer were scratching them.  This medicine has been stopped which has been nice.

Olivia Sewing a Wool Felt Pencil Case
I had Olivia work on a variety of projects while she wore
her patch so it would even further help use the eye.
Here she is doing embroidery and
making a wool felt pencil case

Which brings her to second grade where I was noticing persistent challenges with speech/communication issues.  So, in Fall 2010, I approached the school district and requested an evaluation of her speech skills.  She qualified for services and has been going to speech therapy once a week since November 2010. 

Each week, her speech therapist (Laurie) gives Olivia several books to read at home.  She started at a very basic level since I had intentionally waited to have her begin reading. (I was following the Waldorf philosophy in terms of reading as I had done with my older daughter, Sophia who waited until the end of first grade/beginning of 2nd grade to read. She is now in 4th grade and reads at the late-5th grade level and has a comprehension level of an early-7th grader.)

Homeschooling Outside
Olivia trying her best with Explore the Code
part of her reading/language arts lessons

At this point, I wasn’t noticing anything much different from Sophia’s start in reading.  Reading was difficult for both of them, but they forged ahead with their reading assignments.  However, within a few weeks, Olivia’s ability to recall simple words that she read in previous weeks was not strong.  She would get highly frustrated with reading – almost to the point of tears.  This was very unlike Sophia’s reading experience.  I expressed concern to Laurie.

Laurie and I agreed to wait a bit longer to see if reading became any easier for Olivia.  It did not.  At that time, I requested testing for both reading and math (since she must use manipulatives in order to arrive at the right answer). 

I met with a group of eight women who made up the special education team/school administration.  I had to make a presentation about Olivia’s skills, concerns I had, and provide samples of her work. 

Olivia Doing Math with Shells
Olivia doing math with manipulatives.
She’s using shells on this day, but also uses sticks,
rocks, and other natural items.

After reviewing the materials and listening to my concerns, the team decided to move forward with testing while doing concurrent at-home interventions and testing for six weeks.  Although they didn’t anticipate the interventions/testing to improve during the six weeks, it is a necessary step in the paperwork they need to file with the state.

Olivia now has gone through a battery of tests by a special education teacher, an occupational therapist, speech therapist, and psychologist.  I’ve completed quite a few questionnaires and checklists that provide a different view of Olivia (from both a parent and teacher perspective). 

At this stage, it looks like she will qualify to receive services under the “learning disability” label.  I’ll know more specifically what her challenges are next week, but at this stage I do know that one thing she is definitely struggling with is short-term auditory memory and a bit of perceptual reasoning.  The tests that the different professionals did all will reveal more specific problems and areas with which she will need assistance.

So, going back to the book I read this week, A Special Mother, it was with interest that I read about the evaluation/assessment process, the written report, evalutation meeting, and IEP (Individualized Education Program).  The latter three items are forthcoming during the first two weeks of April, so it was valuable to get an overview of what to expect, read about a child’s educational rights, and see the wealth of resources available for parents of children with LD, autism, and other developmental learning disorders. 

Even though I’ve been through the process when Olivia was much younger, it is a bit different now that she’s moved from the “developmental delays” label and into the “learning disabilities” label.  The former, to me, is more transitory and something that can be worked through whereas the latter is, as it notes in A Special Mother, “…a neurological disorder.

“In other words, it results from a difference in the way a person’s brain is ‘wired.’ A learning disability means that a person of at least average intelligence will have difficulty acquiring basic academic skills that are essential for success at school and for coping with life in general.”

With more than three million children in the United States having been diagnosed with a learning disability, having books and resources for parents is invaluable.  It’s even more meaningful when the book was written by a parent whose child has a LD.  In Anne Ford’s case, her daughter Allegra has severe learning disabilities; and it provided the motivation to become an advocate for children with LD.

Reading about the experiences of Anne – as well as many other mothers profiled in the book – helps mothers realize that they are not alone…and that they can help their child to thrive.  I would highly recommend this book.

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On a recent afternoon, I was organizing my wool.  I had not done much needlefelting recently, so I thought it would be fun to take a little break, pick up the barbed needles, and start creating some natural toys for children.  Ended up making a dozen of the wool felt balls.  It was a very relaxing and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

These felt balls (to the right) are needle-felted from beautifully soft, 100% wool roving. They are colorful, safe, and fun to play with indoors. They are the perfect size for small hands, and easy to catch and throw.

Felt balls also:
– make great cat toys
– can be easily juggled
– make a light-weight bowling ball
– teach children about the colors of the rainbow
– are natural and safe to play with (no risk of lead!)

Each felt ball is approximately 3 1/2″ (8.5 cm) in diameter; and 10 1/2″ (26.5 cm) in circumference. The core is clean roving that was from one of the sheep I raised at Harvest Moon’s organic farm. The outer layer is wool roving that has been hand-dyed with natural dyes.

Some of the wool balls are a single color…while others use roving that have a lovely blend of shades and specks of vibrant colors.

If you’re interested in purchasing a felt ball (or a whole collection of them), please visit Harvest Moon by Hand.

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Went to a miniature horse gathering over the weekend. There was such a wide range in the size/shape of the miniature horses – some being quite tiny and petite while others were more stocky.

All the miniatures were hooked up to carts and were pulling 1-2 people. Here the cart drivers are getting instructions for the first activity.

What are the benefits of cart driving for the horse?

Ponies and miniature horses are often ideal for driving as many breeds and bloodlines have been bred for that purpose. Even a miniature horse can pull an adult in a cart. Driving can also be a great second career for a pony or small horse that has been outgrown by his young rider.

Driving is an option for horse and pony owners who are unable to ride or those who prefer not to. Driving provides training and exercise for a horse and gives owners quality time with their equines without ever having to put a foot in the stirrup.

What are the benefits of cart driving for the driver?
Both Sophia and Olivia have done therapeutic horseback riding, and now are interested in cart driving (as well as continuing with horseback riding). I wanted to find out what the benefits are to cart drivers, and found that the benefits are very similar to therapeutic horseback riding:

– Increases self-confidence and awareness
– Normalizes high or low muscle tone
– Develops pre-ambulation skills and strength
– Improves balance, posture, coordination
– Motivates learning and self-discipline
– Helps in the development of interpersonal relationships

The Next Step

Clearly, it would be a great benefit to both the girls. It would be ideal if there was someone who no longer wanted their driving equipment and wanted to pass it along. I wonder if there’s someone out there who wants to do this….

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This was made for the monthly Journal Quilt project I’ve been doing since January. For the swap on Swap-Bot, I send a color copy and a description of the meaning behind the quilt to two partners.

The quilt size is 9″ x 12″ and includes hand-embroidery, machine sewing, and machine quilting.

Here’s a brief summary of what the quilt symbolizes and how it relates to the month:

Doing a major de-cluttering and organization of the house – From the end of August through September 6th, we all worked on eliminating items we no longer needed/wanted; that were broken or damaged; or did not enhance our lives. We all worked together – and it took many hours and many hands to do the job. Thus, there is an image of a hand on the quilt.

In cleaning the closet in Olivia’s room, I found some fabric that I made in Charlotte (NC) when I lived there between 1989-91. The arts organization that I worked for had a wonderful array of classes; and I took a batik class from an artist. I learned how to do batik and made the green fabric that serves as the background for this quilt.

Also found a shirt I no longer wear that had the hand and person with bird picture appliquéd onto it (both of these images are on the quilt). I purchased the shirt many years ago when my sister and I took a short vacation to Carmel (CA). We found a great little shop that had funky clothes and accessories. When I was going through my clothes in the de-cluttering process, I came across this one that I hadn’t worn in ages. It had a stain on it, so I stopped wearing it, but didn’t want to get rid of it because it reminded me of the trip I took with my sister. Figured it was time to get rid of the stained shirt, but keep the appliquéd parts – in that way, remembering my sister and the fun we had on that trip.

Going on a trip to Grand Marais with my Mom, Dad, Sophia, and Olivia – From September 7th-10th, I drove my mom, dad, Sophia, and Olivia up to Grand Marais.

The hand on the quilt also represents the girls feeding “Mr. Chippy” – a very friendly chipmunk who we spotted on the steps of Bearskin Lodge. Mr. Chippy was quite bold in that he came within 6 inches of the girls as they fed him Pik-Nik Stix (crunchy potato sticks). With stuffed cheeks, he was all-too-eager to befriend them. I’m thankful I didn’t have a cage or small leash in the back of the van, otherwise the girls would have tried to persuade me to take Mr. Chippy home with us. That would have made for an exciting and memorable experience.

The bottom square of fabric on the quilt (with the image of rocks) represents the fun time that Sophia and Olivia had playing on the shores of Lake Superior at Illahee. They enjoyed “Puzzle Cove” which they named because the rocks seemed to fit together like a puzzle. It represents the stone sculptures they made alongside the hundreds that were made by other people at Artist’s Point. It reminds me of looking for heart-shaped rocks to add to my collection. And, it reminds me of the nice walk that my dad and I took along the stone pathway at Illahee that led to the beach, and us two just sitting on the rocks enjoying the breeze and the calming beauty of the waves.

Taking the girls to Special Kids Day at Crystal Ball Dairy Farm which included a train ride – An organic farm about 15 minutes from here does an event each year for children with special needs. Both Olivia and Sophia have special needs, and were excited about going to this event. They got to ride horses; see/pet farm animals (barn cats, chickens, ducks, goats, foals, and pigs); play in a soybean pit (an area filled with soybeans that they could sit in, fill buckets of soybeans with, bury one another in, or slide into); tour the calf barn and see a one-week old calf; go on a hayride; have lunch; play on a huge swing set; listen to live music; bounce in a “bouncy house”; and go on a train ride (there’s an historic train that’s nearby that offers 45-minute rides).

We had such a wonderful time – with such a variety of activities. I think we laughed more that afternoon than we had in a long time.

The crazy-looking person on the quilt to me represents fun and someone who is carefree and happy. Behind the photo is the person’s body which is in the shape of a heart. I think of how crazy some days can get with caregiving/parenting plus homeschooling both girls. But the core of who I am and why I enjoy what I do – is love. I can’t imagine my life without my daughters…and feel incredibly blessed that both are in my life.

Even with the craziness of day-to-day life, I think it is so important to remember to have fun, to laugh, and to love.

There are two quotes that I like about laughter and love:

“Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live.”
(Author Unknown)

“All you need in the world is love and laughter. That’s all anybody needs.
To have love in one hand and laughter in the other.”
(August Wilson)

Going to the UU church – Living in a rural area, there aren’t a lot of options available for spiritual growth or churches. Consequently, when I moved here 15 years ago, I picked a church that was about 10 minutes from here. At the time, it was an okay fit. Not perfect…but I enjoyed the adult education classes, special annual services, and the people.

For my own spiritual growth, I needed to find someplace more aligned with my beliefs. About 30 miles away, there’s a UU church which I went to on September 19th. It was an inspiring service with thought-provoking readings, prayers, and sermon. The music was performed by a jazz quartet of well-trained youth musicians who played trombone, saxophone, piano, and drums. Between the songs they played and the songs that the congregation sang, it was such an uplifting experience.

In the quilt, I represented this experience and my faith with the random quilting throughout the background. It overlaps and intersects itself…but it is one constant line. A web, so to speak. (This reflects what Unitarian Universalism is – a liberal religious faith which values a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity and compassion in human relations; and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.)

Becoming an aunt to Austin who was born on September 2nd – My brother (Jim) and Melissa had their fourth child, Austin. After he was born, he spit up blood within the first day. After testing the blood, it was determined that it was his (not his mom’s blood), and that he had an issue with his stomach. He ended up being in the hospital 4 days, and has since been released and is doing much better. It was definitely a rocky start, and one that upset my brother. He said he was grateful that Austin’s condition wasn’t worse after seeing other newborns in the neo-natal unit at the hospital. Austin’s difficult start (a rocky start) is represented by the square on the quilt that has rocks on it.

Attending the girls’ first 4-H meeting of the year – The new 4-H year began on September 20th. Green is the color of 4-H, so the background fabric and the backing are both done in green.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
Albert Einstein

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Soybean Pit

{this moment} – A Friday ritual (inspired by soulemama). A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments.

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!

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