Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - The Reason for the Season

Hope you had a most blessed Christmas!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Starting a Fire on a Snowday....

....requires small children and an overzealous daddy with a HAND-CRANK flashlight (oooooohhhhh how I have ragged him about that silly flashlight - makes me giggle just thinking 'bout it)!

Starting a Fire on a Snowday.... from DNAC on Vimeo.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Eye Contact - rethinking how we communicate with our kids

I came upon this post recently and it brought to mind some of the things that I've already been thinking about around here with Adam. I haven't had time to share since I don't post often but our little Adam, 4yo, has had speech delays and is in weekly speech therapy for the past 18 months.

When he was younger, I often worried about his lack of eye contact. I would constantly ask him to look at me while I spoke to him and he would constantly glance at me and shift his eyes away. He would look at others but not when he spoke (if he did at all) or when they spoke to him. And with rates of Autism in children increasing so exponentially these days, I was definitely concerned.

It wasn't until our wonderful speech therapist was working with him on a regular basis that she informed me that, especially in children with processing delays or fine motor problems, having to use both their eyes AND their ears to pay attention to us as we speak to them only makes it more difficult for them to process the information that we are giving them!  I was quite surprised  - I mean after all, we are all taught that direct eye contact is a good thing in communication, right?  I had just assumed that this is how we were to teach our kids to speak/listen to others.  This is the point that the post  at 'Beautiful Canvas' makes - our assumption may be wrong!

I felt like as soon as the therapist gave me new info on this, I understood his shifty eye contact right away.  He had tried to obey me but could not take in my instructions with both his ears and eyes at the same time.  And it seems that it is not unusual for both these developing parts of the brain, auditory and visual, to be delayed together - we were already aware of the auditory delays associated with his speech delay. 

Of course, I proceeded to test this out by leaning my head down to his ear and speaking instructions into his ear first, and only then, raising my head to ask that he looked in my eye to say "Ok."  In the bit it took me to raise my eyes to where he could look at them, he had time to process my auditory instructions and his responses improved immediately!! The amazing workings of our Creator God in child development never cease to amaze me and in this case I was immediately grateful for the wisdom He gave dh and I about making eye contact with our kids.

 I wonder, why is it that we think someone isn't hearing us if they aren't looking us directly in the eye?  Why do we expect our young ones, who are still developing their communication skills, to use both auditory processing and visual processing at the same time when 'listening' to us? Because that's what our parents expected!  Try to think about how difficult it can be when you are politely keeping eye contact with someone, but can't seem to remember what they said or process the correct response.  Don't know about you, but this happens to me all the time!

I am thankful to be constantly learning about how to grow my children....even if it means rethinking ideas that I've had engrained in me since my childhood!  I am determined not to remain clueless but to continue to educate myself for the sake of these beautiful kiddos!  Our next step: appt with a dr. specializing in pediatric visual processing to check for proper tracking and peripheral neglect.  And as we learn more, I'll keep you updated!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Fresh Makeover!

I'm totally excited!  Can you just guess about what??  Come've gotta notice the lovely change in scenery around here?  (gringrin!)

You guessed it!  I finally made it onto Darcy's queue at Graphically Designing and made a change for the better here (now that I know I'll be stickin' around cyberspace for awhile....after all, I DO really like it here - ya'll are great)! 

But I was getting soooo tired of my old diggs, ya know?  The one with the BRIGHT orange and blue flat, boxed design?

I mean thanks and all to my hubbs for at least giving me a different title than the one that came from Blogger, but I knew I needed some real designing talent in order to redecorate around here....someone who's designs are always beautiful, functional, and balanced.

Enter Darcy!  You may already know her from her musings on life with 3 young boybarians but did you know that she is an artist as well?  Check out her humor, great cyberbloggy advice, and beautiful photography (not to mention the cuteness of her 3 favorite young subjects) at My 3 Boybarians as well as her other wonderful design work in cyber space over at:

Graphically Designing

And I'm sure that you'll understand why I was so glad to have her give Heritage Academy a lovely new look!

Here are her thoughts on her design:
"Your 4 children are the "cornerstones" of your homeschool. With you and hubby being the center. So I cornerstoned a notch - representing each child who shapes your homeschool. This was the inspiration for the design shape in your header and button. You at the heart - your children each shaping your academy."

So sweet!  Hey.... let me know what you think! 

Cuz I'm just totally excited!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Adam's Speech Progress

I don't think I've really posted much about Adam's speech therapy in this last year. So (I use the word 'so' a million times per post, I swear), I wanted to get some info down here for me to refer back to if I need to.

I just met with his preschool teacher, IU13 (PA governmt Child Development & Early Learning) service coordinator, and current speech therapist this past Wedns. to update his goals for this year's Individualized Education Program (IEP). So (there it is again - acckk!), here is a bit of his history:

*He didn't use his left leg properly when learning to crawl and sit

*He didn't walk, due to his strange leg use, until 18 months

*He didn't say more than 5 words (and those were not complete words with ending consonants) by the time he was 20 months old

* We kept hoping that new words will just pop up, but by 24 months we started looking for speech therapy

* His 1st evaluation with the IU13 showed more than enough delay to warrant speech therapy but we were not given OT/PT even though he showed delay in his motor skill development as well. At this point, I was still clueless about IU13 and the process for getting him services, as well as not quite ready to accept the fact that he had delays. I did not push further for OT.

*His 1st speech therapist came and "played" with him once each week at our house. He got to love her and look forward to her sessions, while she managed (miraculously in my opinion) to coax new sounds out of him. I was shocked to hear him call me "Bobby" for the first time, instead of using the hand sign. By the time she had worked with him for 9 months, he could say "I ub you, Bobby" as well as other 2-word sentences. I was amazed!

*He got a new therapist when he turned 3. She turned out to be even more amazing at her job! Through play, modeling, reading, and use of cues, she has been able to break him out of his quiet little shell and into the world of verbal communication in just 1 year!

I wish I could explain truly how much this has meant to our family, as we only had a few hand signs and much whining/fussing with which to 'talk' to him. Not speaking had locked him out of relating to other kids his age also. Since this was my primary concern at the time, I didn't focus much on his motor delays. Ms. Dria (his speech therapist), however, was skilled enough to give us many tools and clues to his speech AND motor behavior over the past year. She has explained to us how his low muscle tone (discovered by us when we were trying to figure out what was wrong with his leg) affects his speech and motor skills as well as just delaying his walking. She thinks he displays 'peripheral neglect' - a visual processing issue. Her observation is that his motor skills have not caught up to where the average 4year old should be, and she is helping us to try to get him OT. She has truly become an advocate for him and his development and we value her highly.

So where are we now? We continue with his speech therapy with some updated word usage & social goals from this year's IEP:

#1) "In order to communicate his ideas, experiences, and feelings for a variety of purposes, Adam will speak clearly enough to be understood by most listeners by using accurate sounds and all syllables expected in his words." [This goal has to do with actual physical usage of words & language rather than social communication]

Using -> auditory discrimination activities; repeated practice & modeling; reinforcing activities (playdough, crafts, motor movement games, puzzles); verbal prompts & touch cues; reading

Outcome -> measured by consistent use of target sounds in connected speech when given less than 2 cues.

#2) " In order to communicate his ideas, experiences, and feelings for a variety of purposes, Adam will use verbal and nonverbal language to interact and communicate for a variety of purposes" [This goal has to do with his new reluctance to use the words he's learning in social situations but rather resorting to fussing and not interacting with his peers]

Using ->reinforced activities [at preschool & home]; providing him with short models of things he can say to his 'peers';expanding his contribution [at preschool] to predictable routines; allowing him to respond with gestures or single words [at preschool & home] in order to reduce social demand stress

Outcome ->measured by his communication skills (questioning, responding, commenting, interacting) with his peers and family.

I really don't get how they try to quantify such things as speech and lack of communication, (although I understand that they must). But if I read it all slowly (and I talk through it with Ms. Dria), I can understand where we are headed with Adam. Although his progress in the last year has been huge, he still has trouble with quite a few sounds and cannot always be understood by other adults or peers. His teacher at preschool will help us to move him away from his 'demand' stress (refuses to communicate when directly questioned or 'put on the spot', even with grandparents). As far as getting his some OT, I've filled out my evaluation of his skills and his preschool teacher gave her opinion. Now we just have to wait to see if that, along with Ms. Dria's experience with his motor skills, is enough to earn him an OT evaluation.

Hopefully, another year of speech therapy (and OT?) will bring Adam along far enough for us to begin Kindergarten on track! Until then, we keep working one session at a time... And any advice from others on these therapies or your journeys with them would be welcomed as well!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

4 year old gets a Thankgiving feast for his birthday!

Hosting Thanksgiving this year was bound to happen. I managed to get out of it for the past 11 years of my marriage. But when my mother gave me a huge counter top roaster this past summer, I knew I could avoid the TURKEY task no longer.

And so we invited everyone in our family without realizing how few we could actually fit at our dining table. And amazingly, almost everyone from both sides of the family were able to join us! Accckk! So we had to buy a new folding table, extra dishes, 3 sets of silverware, new glasses, and some more fall decor. Times like that make me glad that I'm a list person, even if everyone else makes fun of me for it! ;-)

So, since most the fam would be here for the holiday, we also decided to just have Adam's 4th birthday party that day instead of the next weekend. Two birds, one very, very large stone (actually only ONE bird - lol)! In addition to the fall decor, there were balloons to be blown up & hung, gifts to buy & wrap, and cake to bake & frost. And with Jefferson's school schedule, there was no way I was going to be able to get more than one day of lessons in with Reagan.

But at least we could do a few fun Thanksgiving crafties around here. Adam made a turkey out of feathers & play dough, while Jefferson & Reagan colored in turkey place mats (the small size of my laminator disappointed them, however) and we all added leaves to our "Thankful" tree.
Jefferson memorized Psalm 100 and sang it to the tune of a hymn for our guests. And a new tradition this year (started & planned by my sil) was to light a votive candle for each person at the table while offering up something for which that person was thankful. By the time we'd all gone around the table and parents had spoken for each of their kids, we had a beautifully lit dining environment!

But I must share the "turkey" story since my dear husband cracks me up in the way he tackles his 'projects.' He insisted that he would take care of the turkey, as long as I had a roaster for it. After pouring over the instructions that came with the roaster (for what seemed like hours although I'm sure it was only minutes - lol!), he calls to order the turkey and spends an hour on the phone with the meat department trying to figure out what size turkey would fit in the roaster or if we needed to use two smaller ones. At one point he had the person measure both the 24lb and the 12lb turkeys!! I was just doing my best not to let my 'chuckle' out through my nose while he was on the phone! His next step in this engineering process (or I could call it a 'Fogoros' process, after my mil's way of researching) was to take the roaster pan with him to the grocery and get into hours of debate with the meat ladies as to the best way to feed 12 adults and 9 kids most efficiently. Had I been there to see that,I would NOT have been able to contain myself as they squished and squashed different size and combos of turkey into the pan in as many different configurations as possible!

You see, as my un-detail oriented mother before me, I would have seen that the roaster called for a max of 18 lbs and would have ordered a 22 pounder and just crossed my fingers! LOL! Thankfully, however, I was blessed with such a man as this. He, after ordering a 24 pounder, whipped out his calculator to figure out how many hours of slow cooking this fowl beast would require. SLOW cooking, people. He wanted tender meat. So - after 17 1/2 hours at 250 degrees, we cautiously cut open the lid (it had to be tied in due to it's size!) and prayed that his brainwork had paid off. And as you can see in the photos, this bird turned out WONDERFULLY! Cooking it upside down helped keep the white meat from drying out but made it quite a task to slice since it practically fell apart when moved.
Add the perfect bird to the huge amounts of sides that everyone helped with and we were solidly stuffed in no time! Well worth the hungry wait through the afternoon!

What a wonderful day to be with family! We decided to let Adam 'rip' into his birthday gifts before the meal since we knew we'd all still be conscious and that he could hardly wait another minute. He had been touching and re-arranging them since they started arriving at 10am - just oogling over them! But then he could hardly get through opening them since he was so interested in playing with each as he opened them. After our meal (and a bit of a break to make room for the sweet stuff!) we finally sang to him and let him have a go at the candle. I find it amusing how I grabbed his neck to shove him closer to the burning candle! But it wasn't until he saw the video that he realized that Mommy "helped" him with the candle - lol!

Our 4 year old! Ka-CHOW! from DNAC on Vimeo.

The time with family couldn't have been any better! The cousins enjoyed playing and got to have cake & ice cream also. The adults caught up with each other while trying to keep the turkey fom putting us to sleep and the aroma of hot spiced apple cider filled the house with warmth.


Our dinner verse before the meal:

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;

hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things."
Psalm 107:1-9