Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Creating a Daily Schedule

Disclaimer - First and formost - I am just a mom trying out ideas on how to best help my child, and sharing what I am learning with others.  What I share should NEVER be taken as any form of medical advice.  Remember that Chase's sensory needs are going to be different from your child's.  What works to calm him down, get him through the day might not be what your child needs. 
I called the school today to find out what the Kindergarten schedule would look like for Chase.  Taking what I learned from the principal (she took nearly an hour talking with me, answering questions it was lovely) I have put down a preliminary schedule for us to follow.  Obviously it is still summer time, we have our Wednesday free summer movie series that get us out of the house, and our season passes to the local amusement park, so we shall see how those work with this new schedule.  It might be interesting!!!!

Anyway, here it is:

7am Eat Breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed
8:00am  free time before the bus comes
8:15am School bus arrives
8:55am School begins with calendar time - discuss what they plan on eating and what the day "looks like".  (The teachers will use a picture calendar so the kids see what is planned.  I really like this idea.)
Morning - Reading, Writing block time.
1050-11:20am  Lunch
11:20-Reading, Writing, Free choice
Early Afternoon - Specials
Afternoon - Math
3:30pm Schools dismisses
4pm arrives at home/snack
4:15pm Free time
5:00pm Dinner
6:00pm One on One work with mom reviewing weekly skills,
7:00pm Free time
8:00pm Night time routine - bath, brush teeth, PJ's, read a book, snuggle with mom/dad
8:30pm Bed

It wasn't as hard as I imagined it would be.  A few years ago his preschool teacher sent home some laminated pictures that could be used in creating a daily schedule.  I need to find those and use them.  There is a really great website they recommended called Do2learn.  For an annual fee of $99 you get access to their make-a-schedule full colored picture cards.  I haven't done that yet - I find their black and white ones semi-sufficient.

Here is a what our schedule looks like tomorrow morning.

Pictures downloaded from Do2learn
What Chase will do is after he accomplishes each task he will put the picture in a box.  When we are done with the last item I will put the next part of our daily schedule up and he will continue the process all the way to snuggle time with Momma before bed!

Homework Assignment:
  1. Okay, now you have the schedule created.  What next?  Well, I know for us it will be looking at the schedule and seeing when the difficult parts will be.   Make a note by the times that your child struggles with - whether it be getting up in the morning, reading time at school, going to bed at night or all of the above.   By noting when those difficult times might be for Chase I can prepare ahead of time and also create a list of activities to help aide in that.  
  2. Keep a journal to capture different moments with your child.   I'm looking forward to this assignment for myself.  Not only will I write the moments that stress Chase out, but those glowing moments that 20 years from now I can look back and hold those memories close to my heart.  I kept a journal when I served my mission and there are so many precious moments that would have been forgotten if I hadn't!  I know, because of the last time I read my journal I thought to myself over and over "I forgot about that!  Yeah, that was a cool moment!  Geez, I sure did learn from that experience!"

In This Series

Creating A Sensory Diet - Intro
Creating a Daily Schedule
We Have a Schedule, Now What?
Finding The Trouble Zones

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Creating a Sensory Diet - Intro

Disclaimer - First and formost - I am just a mom trying out ideas on how to best help my child, and sharing what I am learning with others.  What I share should NEVER be taken as any form of medical advice.  Remember that Chase's sensory needs are going to be different from your child's.  What works to calm him down, get him through the day might not be what your child needs. 

I've been wanting to create a sensory diet for Chase since I first discovered he had SPD.  I started pouring through books, talking to the OT at school, made an appointment for OT over the summer - as of yet we don't really have one set up.  One of my biggest trials in life happens to be patience.  I'm not very patient, and I find that Heavenly Father has often given me opportunities to improve.  I believe this is one of those instances!!!

I find myself a bit anxious as the first day of Kindergarten looms ahead of me.  Chase it truly excited - and when I talk to him about school I make sure to stay positive - but inside I am a quivering mess. 
I'm going to share something with you all.  It isn't any big secret if you know me, especially since I share it with most people anyways.  I suffer from anxiety.  This sometimes causes me to worry about things that I have no control over.  It reminds me a lot of my son - hmmmm, wonder if Mommy has anything to do with some of his anxiety (probably).   

I admit right now that I am stressed out about how Chase is going to do in a classroom of 25+ students.  I worry that he will fall between the cracks.  I stress that he will be a lonely child like his father and mother were as children (we were both introverts - not necessarily by choice).  

In the last couple of days I have had my mother, one of my best friends, and Chase's case manager tell me that everything is going to be fine.  

"Remember how you struggled with learning to read?  Look at you now, you have your Masters Degree in reading!"  
"Your brother struggled with similar behavior issues and look at him now - he is a successful nurse (he has his BS in nursing - and works with critical care patients).

My Friend - When I told her his school case manager (different from the state's case manager) was a lady I worked with in the high school four years ago she said "See, no worries".  Shen then gave me some great advice about being relaxed about school starting and how to approach his teacher (which I will share with on a different post all together).  

His Case Manager from the state - "You never know - HE JUST MIGHT SURPRISE YOU!"

With that in mind - it is still important to have ideas in place to make his transition to Kindergarten easier for him (okay, AND for Mommy!).  This is why I am setting up a sensory diet!!!!I have found some great sites that give suggestions - and I have decided to note our "Sensational Journey" into the school year.  The first step is to work out a schedule, find activities that give proper sensory input, and experiment.  Hop on board as we begin the first leg of our trip!

I came across a great article on Ehow.com  How To Create A Sensory Diet.  One of the first things the article reminded me is that although Chase struggles most in proprioceptive and vestibular input there are days when his other senses are affected as well!  Not only that, but one day an activity will work like a miracle and I think to myself, "Cool, I can do that every time he starts bouncing on the walls."  The next day I try it and it makes him bounce off the walls even more, or he has a meltdown.  SIGH!!!!

There is an answer:  Just as in any diet if you eat the same thing every day you get bored, and start to become resistant.  Case in point:

I'm the one in the front row with the blue checked dress
When I lived in Brazil as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I ate rice and beans and some sort of meat (normally chicken) at every lunch date we had.  After my first month in Ceara, Brazil we had a special luncheon at the Mission President's House.  The Mission President is the one in charge of our spiritual, emotional, and physical well being while we are out in the field for the year and a half to two years we are away from our families.  My companion (we are always paired with another missionary or two -  2 Cor. 13:1 In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.) told me that the meal at the Mission Home would be the best food our entire mission.  I was utterly excited!  I don't remember what I imagined what the meal would be like, but my mouth salivated.  I was so tired of rice and beans, I was ready for something delicious.

I quivered in anticipation as the first dish was placed on the table: RICE.  My heart sank to the pit of my stomach as the second dish was placed on the table: BEANS.  I began to sob - yes, literally SOB when the third dish was placed on the table: SOME SORT OF MEAT (I think it was chicken!).  I don't think I stopped crying for about an hour.  My Mission President and his wife were at a loss because they couldn't understand what I was saying.  They were from Sao Paulo Brazil and although they spoke pretty good English they couldn't quite understand the garbled words coming from this weeping young woman.  My companion happened to be an American, and she attempted to talk to me - but I was too much in shock.  The thought hit me that I had another year and a half of rice and beans for every, and I mean EVERY meal.  SIGH! The good news, not every meal was rice and beans.  There was pasta every once in a while (no spaghetti sauce, just pasta with oil - maybe some cilantro if we were lucky), and some of the best beet and potato salad you can imagine!  By the time I went home I had lost quite a few pounds, and I did gain a love of rice and beans (although NOT every day).

The moral to this story - it is important to find a variety of activities that can both stimulate and calm down the senses to best help Chase.  Not only that, but it is imperative that we get an idea of what happens during a typical day - so that we can prepare and implement some of the activities.

Our first assignment:
Chase Starts Kindergarten in 2 and a half weeks.  He has had a bit of an unstructured summer, which has been interesting and often frustrating.  It has been hard to juggle five different people  let me tell you.  The next couple of weeks we begin to create a bit more structure to prepare him for what he will be facing in the classroom.  I will contact the school and find out what time to expect the school bus, when class starts, when he will eat lunch, when his special classes (gym, library, art, music) will be, when will he be pulled out for Speech, OT, etc.  I will set up our day to kind of mimic these activities - which will be fun for Chase and Emma - they love to "play" school.  The weekends have pretty much been the same for 5 years - so that will continue to be the same.

By noting what his daily schedule is we can then begin to put the pieces together as to what causes meltdown, curb some of the excess energy, help him focus, and everything else his little body needs.

In This Series

Creating A Sensory Diet - Intro
Creating a Daily Schedule
We Have a Schedule, Now What?
Finding The Trouble Zones

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Alphabet Play With Stickers

The other day as I walked through the school supply section (this time of year I do it each time I'm at the store just hoping to find another treasure) I came across some alphabet stickers.  I knew I would find a treasure!!  I had several ideas in mind to use theses stickers - but the one I chose for Chase was the following:

Historically Speaking

Historically, reading instruction followed three main theories on literacy instruction.  There is phonic instruction, Whole-language instruction, and the balanced approach.  It is actually fascinating to go back and read where all these approaches came from, how proponents for each one argue about how they are the best!  For me, I think use them all until you find a good fit for the particular child - because children are different. 

Phonics Instruction:

  1. Teaching children alphabetic principle is key.  Learning the alphabet doesn't come by just looking at words.  I know when I learned both Spanish and Portuguese until I learned their alphabet the letters on the books I purchased didn't make sense, not even when I tried.  I mean try saying the word tabom.  You probably pronounced it ta-bomb (unless you speak Portuguese).  It is actually pronounced ta-bong (the g being only slightly said.)   If you look back at earilier colonial america reading instruction started off with hornbooks you will notice the alphabet with a syllabary printed on each of these little paddles.  I found a neat website that not only has pictures of a hornbook - but instructions on how to make one for my kids.  I see a project in my future.  Teaching the alphabetic principle was so important to Noah Webster in the early 1800's that he developed spellers which included alphabetic instruction as well as sentences and literature.  His greatest contribution to the world of literacy is of course the Websters Dictionary (Elias, 2009).
  2. Learning to read sight words quickly and accurately is integral to learning how to read
  3. One thing that I don't agree with phonic instruction is that "context is not the primary factor in beginning word recognition" (Sousa, 2003, p.65).  If children aren't able to put the word into context in their every day life then the word is just foreign.  When I learned Portuguese I learned best when the teacher drew pictures up on the board next to the word.  I had context.  I was able to learn.


Whole language came about as a backlash to the sight method (basically children learned large amounts of texts through rote memorization).  The only thing good that I see that came of the sight method was the importance of comprehension questions after memorizing text.  Whole language includes the following bits and pieces:
  1. Whole language"integrated aspects of the phonics method in basal readers.  Teachers began to use charts to hold words, phrases and sentences so that students had a more hands on experience" (Elias, 2009, pg. 4-5). 
  2. Reading material that the student finds interesting is key to motivation and to learning (Monaghan and Barry, 1999).  
  3. Children use meaning, the rules of grammar, and phonemes - which are the smallest unit of sound that is sed to create meaningful words to learn to read.
  4. As they begin to decode words and find meaning through context clues they begin the road to fluency. 
  5. Phonics instruction is important but should be put on the back-burner of learning how to read.  

Balanced Approach

In the late 90's early 2000 several reports came out from the National Research Council (Snow et al., 1998) and the National Reading Panel (NPR, 2000).  I will have to devote an entire post to these great studies at another time.  What they basically came up with is that no two children learn the same and that you should take the good aspects of both phonics and whole-language instruction!  Imagine that.  David A. Sousa (2003) does a great job of describing the balanced approach
  1. Don't stick with one reading program because children are not cookie cutter gingerbread kids.  They have different needs, different ways of learning.  Mix it up.
  2. Phonemic awareness is CRUCIAL!!!!!
  3. Children need to learn the alphabetic principle - learn the alphabet and the sounds, and the relationship between letters and phonemes (the smallest unit of sound that is used to create meaningful words).
  4. Learn strategies for decoding words (phonics)
  5. Read for meaning
  6. Read good, good, very good literature - not just the regular stuff - "enriched literature"


Elias, G.E. (2009).  Reading Instruction Timeline. 

Managhan, E.J., & Barry, A.L. (1999). Writing the Past: Teaching Reading in Colonial America
and the United States 1640-1940. San Diego: International Reading Association. 

Sousa, D. A. (2005). How the brain learns to read. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Araminta Spookie - My Haunted House

I went to the library two weeks ago and looked at a couple of books for my nine year old to read.  I then decided to go ahead and read it out loud to him and Chase (well, Chase just snuggles and gets little bits and pieces while I am reading).  As I read to my boys I would reach the end of the chapter and would be met with a chorus of, "another chapter please!!"  How could I deny them.   We finished the book in three days time!  The book was perfect for DD, but a bit beyond Chase's understanding.  Chase got out of the book snuggle time , and the soothing voice of Momma.  DD, however gained the love of a book!

Have you ever picked up a book and started reading to your child, only to find that the book is totally inappropriate?  What about the time you read to your child and they totally wouldn't stop wriggling and interrupting because it was way above their interest and developmental level?  How do we know that the book will be the right fit for our child?  Part of our job as a parent is to analyze and evaluate the literature our children read before we read to them.    As parents and educators take the time to make appropriate selections for their children and students they will be rewarded.  There are a few things to look at when choosing a book for your child: genre, developmental stages, plot, major themes.  It is also good to know the conflict, climax and resolution.  Finally, preparing activities that your child can do to relate back to the book is important.  When a child can connect an activity to a book the lessons learned are many fold.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bouquet of Newly Sharpened Pencils

As a child my mother would take us kids to visit our Great Uncle Walt after we went to Hoggle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He always gave each of us a legal notepad and a black ballpoint pen. To this day I have a love affair with yellow legal notepads and black ballpoint pens.  Every time I go by office supplies I run my hand over the crisp paper and remember my Uncle fondly.  Last year for Christmas my husband brought me to tears when I opened up a package of yellow paper and black ballpoint pens.  It is not surprising then, that fall is one of my favorite time of the year!

Maybe my memories of my Uncle are behind my fascination with school supplies.  Growing up I loved when the stores set up their school supply displays.  I would stand in these sections and look at every pen, folder, notebook that was within my gleaming eyes.  When I went off to college the first time I didn't buy the refrigerator and matching bed set with chairs.  I bought TONS of school supplies.  Even after my first year was over I still had school supplies left over.

One of my favorite movies of all time is the movie "You've Got Mail"  Joe Fox types to Kathleen how he loves New York in the Fall.  "It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."  I totally fell in love with the movie the moment he said this.  And then when she picks up the package of scotch tape and smells it - HEAVEN!!!!!

Yesterday on my way home from somewhere I stopped by Walmart to get some much needed groceries.  The first thing to meet my gleaming eyes were the school supplies as you walk into the front sliding glass doors.  In front of the crayons, pencils, paper, etc. were lists of what each school wanted the kids to bring the first day of school.  I practically dragged Chase and Emma over as I searched for our School District.  My hopes plummeted when it wasn't there.  Today I went to another Walmart - looking for THE LIST.  Nope - not yet.  I went online to the school website.

Woohoo - They have it there.  Chase and I are going to have a Mommy/Chase date soon and we are going to go buy the following items:

Backpack Without Wheels (Large enough to carry a pocket folder)
2 - Boxes of Crayons (24 count)
2 - Boxes of Sharpened Pencils (not Dixon brand)
12 - Glue Sticks
1 - Small Elmer’s Glue (liquid)
3 - Two Pocket Folders with Fasteners
1 - Pair of Metal Scissors – Blunt Tip
1 - Highlighter
1 - Box of Washable Markers – Classic Colors
1 - Large Eraser
2 - Composition Notebook
1 – Kindergarten Rest Mat (or towel)
1 - Paint Shirt (Adult size, long-sleeved shirt, used)
Baby Wipes
1 – Spiral Notebook
 Supply Box

Donations (Not Required)
Ziploc bags – assorted sizes Paper towels
Paper plates
Dry erase markers
 I like that there is a section of donations - Most of the lists I have read in the past two days have been about twice this size, and dry erase markers were a required purchase in all of them.   

Who knows, maybe as my children grow older they too will browse the office supplies and have good memories of school shopping with mom.  I know I still do.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's Only Noon? I Thought it Was Bedtime????

Chase is a light sleeper and often wakes up several times at night.  Today he woke up at 5:30am, when I took him into the living room I hear this sweet voice say,

 "Mommy, I waked up."

Sigh.  I sit down with the two of them and about shoot out of my chair when I hear,

"Is Daddy home yet?"

In the dark corner of the living room is my nine year old too.  Seriously?  Does anyone sleep around here????  I put on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and attempt to lie down on the couch - I'm NOT a morning person.  Chase comes and joins me - not an easy feat.  He is little but I'm a pretty good sized woman.  Emma decides that she wants to snuggle with Mommy too.  All three of us on the couch and they decide

 "I was here first."

 "No, I wath here firtht."

 No Mommy was here first - but that doesn't matter!  No one listens to Mommy.

By 7am I realize that I am up for the day - and my kids need to stop watching Disney Junior.  By nine am Donovan completed his summer bridge activities from Clever Dragons - a website that teaches and quizes math skills, grammar, typing, geography (in 2 days he has almost memorized all US states and is working on Europe), and so much more. He earns gold to spend on pets and his castle. He has always fought me on learning activities - and today he spent two hours learning.  I had to tell him it was time to get off, and he whined!!! . He doesn't complain about doing his work anymore.

Chase and I played his own computer learning game - school zone beginning sounds.   Afterward I did flashcards with the first five words I discussed on my previous post.  He did really well pointing to the words, but struggled with verbalizing - which goes back to his expressive and receptive language disorder.  After the first five words he looked at me and said, 

"I'm done, Mommy."

When Chase says he is done, he means it.  He wanted to write letters, so he worked on his handwriting.  I love what he did.   Emma made a chain with dominoes, until she started throwing a fit about something and I knew it was time for a nap.

While she took a nap I took the boys to the Library.  Last week we started reading the Araminta Spookie series by Angie Sage.  We finished reading My Haunted House (Review soon to follow) and we had to get another book in the series - Vampire Brat.   Got home and had some guests and while the adults chatted the kids painted lovely artwork all by 11:30am.  I remember thinking to myself after we cleaned up that it felt like we had a full day, and it was time for bed, not lunch!!!!  

I do have to say that my favorite part of the day had to be opening up Vampire Brat with Chase snuggled up on my lap and DD curled up on the bean bag.  I would come to the end of the chapter and both boys would ask for another chapter.  Chase finally fell asleep as I reached page 68  (partly due to the long day and running around at the amusement park). DD is not a fan of reading on his own, but I have learned that it is OKAY to read to him.  By reading to him he will get hooked on books and there will come a point where he won't want to wait until bedtime to pick up a good book.  Not only that but as he gets older he will remember spending the summer reading The Araminta Spookie series with his stepsmom and how it started off a lifelong love of reading.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What is Occupational Therapy?

I had a conversation this week with someone who was curious about Chase and his unique way of looking at things.  I told them about being excited about his upcoming Occupational Therapy visit.  He looked at me and said, "Occupational Therapy, isn't that for your husband?"  Obviously he was just as in the dark about the world of OT as I was up until a few years ago.

What is Occupational Therapy?

In a way it does have to do with occupations - it provides those with disabilities the skills needed for their most important job - that of life and living.  They provide life skills (learning how to eat, use buttons, write, ect), and for Chase it is working on building his independence, and his sensory issues.

What Does A Therapy Session Look Like?

I'm still not quite sure, to be honest.  One of the first things that the therapist stated when we sat down, was that she did not specialize in sensory integration as part of OT, however she did have a son with PDD-NOS and understood the path we were traveling.  We talked about how Chase would begin Kindergarten this year - and she recommended homeschooling (which I thought was interesting). 

She asked about what were his stimming  behaviors - his repetitive motions.  I told her about how Chase likes to become a train; how he lines up blocks, cars, etc.; wanting to watch the same types of programs.  She expressed the importance of blocking the stimming behavior.  When we are at the grocery store Chase "HAS" to be a train.  It is almost a necessity.  For the past several years I allowed it.  What harm does it do?  Well, it interferes with socialization, learning activities, and okay I'll say it - everyday living!  I've allowed it because stopping it causes meltdowns.  The therapist shared how often she would leave her shopping cart full in an aisle and walk out with her child.  even right now thinking about doing that causes me all sorts of anxiety.  Anxiety for causing him discomfort (even though it could be the best thing for him), anxiety for being embarrassed for carrying out a screaming child.  And others that I can't think of right now - but that is how I feel.  She recommended removing everything surrounding the stimming behavior.  That would mean getting rid of all blocks, trains, cars, and well, when you think about it Chase has an amazing ability of making EVERYTHING into a train - even cans, pieces of paper, pencils.  I totally see her point - I'm just wondering how to implement such a thing. She told me the best way to undertake this kind of venture was to replace the undesired behavior with new learning activities. 

She then did something AMAZING with Chase.  She had four pictures: San Diego Bridge, Tower of London, Eiffel Tower, and St. Louis Arch.  She showed him the pictures and named them off for him.  Shuffled the cards and named them again.  She repeated this process about five times, then placed the pictures in front of him.  She asked him what each one was, and I was amazed at how fast he came back with the correct answer. 

She then repeated the process with words - however they were a bit more complex and she suggested that we start off with easier words.  Perfect!!  I was planning on making flashcards with the Dolch Word List - and I can work with both kids on this.  What a wonderful way to mix OT and literacy!  Here is the first set of words I will be working on with both Chase and Emma:


Hmmmmm, when you look at those words you see how they can be made into little books!  I am going to totally do flashcards, create some little books to go along with them, and we are just going to go to town.

The last "learning" activity we covered was a number one.  She showed him 2-4 numbers on a card, she read the numbers off, put the card away and asked Chase to repeat the numbers.  She then would just name up to 4 numbers and having him retell the sequence.  He was AWESOME.  I loved how he would repeat each number after her under his breath and then just ramble them off.  Sigh!!!  How smart my boy is!

At the end she asked me to notice his eyes - these activities stimulated the visual sense - making his eyes focus and work together with his brain.

She then showed me how to do joint compresses to calm him when he has to sit quietly, they did the wheelbarrow, swung on a swing, went down the slide, and lay on a peanut shaped exercise ball.  She talked about the importance of these activities for aiding in proprioceptive input.

Hopes For Future Sessions

I had hoped for more of a sensory diet to help plan a schedule to help throughout the day - I plan on trying another OT to see if it is a better fit for what I am searching for.