Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘Learning

10 Things

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!0 ThingsPudding is about to start first grade in her mainstream school.  She is returning after completing kindergarten, so many things will remain the same, but there are new challenges for her to face.  Most importantly, a new teacher.  She asked me to tell her about Pudding, so here I will try…

1. She is always trying her best

Always.  It may not seem like it.  Especially at 3 am, it can be hard to see it, but she is aways trying her best.  She isn’t lazy, or naughty, or clumsy.  She makes every effort.  Praise her efforts.  Rejoice in her successes.  Never punish her if the results don’t match her peers.  She is trying her best.  Always.

2. Make her comfortable

Sometimes you can’t tell she is trying her best, because she is trying to get comfortable.  Getting comfortable for her could be a lot different for her than it is for you and I.  Comfort needs to be on her terms, and you might have to try a few things out before you both figure that out.  Does she need to be away from the bright light coming in from the windows?  Does she need to be seated close so it is easier for her to hear you amongst the classroom noise?  Is somebody doing garden work with loud equipment?  Does she need to get up and move?  Perhaps a stint in the sensory room.  Try and make sure her every sense is satisfied, and you’ll have a much more comfortable learner.  You’ll even find she tolerates more if you allow her to be in control.

3. Ease her anxiety

This one is easier said than done, I know.  Let her be your guide.  We’ve read the social story all through the break, and she is familiar with the school, but there will be changes to her routine that take her out of her comfort zone.  She knows when she has had enough.  Respect that, and know that if she trusts you, that is already half the battle won.  When she gains confidence, she is bold and resilient.  If she is pushed into doing something, she is scared and stubborn.  Let her be your guide, and she will push herself harder than you could imagine.

4. Speak her language

There are no shortcuts here, I can’t really give you a phrasebook in Pudding.  Communication will be a struggle until you figure out the idiosyncrasies of her language.  You’ll get to know her quirks.  She may reply ‘no’ if you ask if she is okay, and ‘yes’ if you ask if she is fine.  If she is struggling to process something verbally, try a different way.  Always respect her no.

5. Listen to your own language

What you say in the heat of the moment will echo in her heart.  I’m working right now on assuring her that her writing isn’t ‘ugly’ and that she isn’t ‘clumsy.’  Thoughtless expressions like this resonate with her.  She’ll repeat them to me, but worse than that, she’ll repeat them to herself for even longer.  Let your lasting testimony be words that build her up, rather than knock her down.

6. Give her time

I mean this both literally and figuratively.  Remember that she is taking in a lot of other information at the same time as your words, and these need to be decoded before she can respond.  Give her a few extra seconds to process a question or verbal command.  Better still, provide visual cues to assist her interpretation.  If she doesn’t seem to pick something up, try another approach until you get the right one.  You will.

7. Presume competence

Believe in her, and she’ll show you how right you are.  Do otherwise, and you’re both doomed to failure.

8. Help her to belong

She is an amazing, fascinating, beautiful, kind, brave, multi-faceted little girl.  She wants nothing more than to belong in her classroom.  Help other classmates to understand her value, and interact with her in a positive way.  Not just for Pudding’s sake, but for their own too.  Sooner or later, all of us will feel that we don’t belong.  Teach them that everybody does.

9. Embrace the special interests

Yes, you’re going to have to learn to love Hello Kitty.  Special interests can be a weapon or a tool, depending on your approach.  See Hello Kitty as a way of cutting through other distractions and helping her to focus.  You can count the Hello Kitties, write stories about them, paint pictures…the list goes on and on.

10. We’re here

We aren’t going to tell you how to teach, but we can tell you how to help her learn.  The most important thing is that the two of you develop your own relationship, and you learn from each other.  Trust me, I’m still learning from my girl, and I’m constantly amazed at all she has to teach us.

Happy learning!

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

Big Little Concepts

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When Pudding was first diagnosed and we met Pudding’s first speech therapist, she asked how many concepts Pudding understood, such as big/little, high/low, up/down.  All of them, I assured her.  After all, this kid labelled a green hexagon at 20 months old, of course she knew that basic stuff.  Of course, she didn’t.  I didn’t understand the extent of her language difficulties at the time, I was duped by how much she knew, and didn’t think to question how much of it she actually understood.

So when Pudding’s therapist asked for the big doll, I was shocked when she gave her both the big and little doll in her hands.  And so began months of unraveling my daughter’s words to see how many concepts she had figured out, and what we still needed to work on.  Helping her second language become her mother tongue.  And months have turned into years of offering a big or little choice, of trying to explain these relative concepts in almost every exchange.  At some point, she understood.  She would identify correctly, but I wasn’t convinced she truly got it.

Now I’m sure she finally gets it.  The last couple of weeks, Pudding has been very demanding assertive about her breakfast choices.  Typically she demands that Daddy makes biscuits at the weekends, and I make pancakes in the week.  It doesn’t always happen, because I’m not the best morning person (some of my family members just choked on that last statement), but when I cave and make her a batch of pancakes, she decides who gets which ones. 

Big ones for Pudding, and little ones for Cubby, in her sweet sing-song voice.

A couple of times I’ve deliberately switched up her orders, and she has turned them back to the kitchen.  She only wants the BIG ones.  Well, at least until she has exhausted her supply, and then her brother’s little ones become very tempting once again.

And it isn’t just restricted to food items.  She correctly identifies various items relative to each other.  Yesterday I asked if her brother was big or little.  Little, of course.  How about Mummy?  Big.  Sigh, she is right on that one too…moving stress is bringing on some serious sensory cravings of wine and chocolate.  I preferred it when she called me pretty!

The girl has it down.  Another little concept that feels pretty big to me.  Little step by little step, we’ll make some big progress.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

June 13, 2011 at 6:18 am

Wordless Wednesday 11 May 11

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Funprint book + washable ink

Pudding provides the thumbprints

I add the details

And write the word next to it.

Pudding learns to spell the word.

We see if she can write the word the next time.

Look at all these lovely feelings!

Using Pudding’s love of art (and a visual/tactile/proprioceptive method) to help her to learn.

Happy Wordless Wednesday everybody!

B is for bee

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Bee of Halictus genus, possible Halictus scabiosae

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a dilemma for you: when trying to teach new experiences, do you use the strengths to your advantage, or put in extra effort to mitigate the weaknesses?

I know you, smart reader, you’d say it would depend on what you were trying to teach.  See, I know you now.  Okay.  Pudding will be 4 in December.  At this age, she is not expected to be able to read.  The “average child” (does anybody know one?) is expected to know the alphabet, know that letters make sounds, and letters together make words. She can do all of that, albeit in her own way (I think one day Pudding will record a cover version of Sinatra’s “My Way“- that is how she lives).

Pudding has an advantage with some pre-reading skills, I believe due to her autism.  Some call these “splinter skills” but I hate that term as it doesn’t recognize them for the superpowers I know them to be.  Instead, I call them spectrummy skills.  She has an amazing memory, and she is a visual learner, finding it easy to see patterns.  As a result, without trying, she has learned a few words just by seeing them often.  Words like her name, “hot”, “up”, “stop”, you get the idea.  One method for learning how to read is by using “Dolch” words, also known as sight words.  The idea being that the child would memorize a set of the most frequently occurring words in the English language, enabling him or her to read by rote.

One of the sensory difficulties that Pudding has is dysfunction with auditory processing.  As far as we can tell, her brain doesn’t seem to filter out extraneous sounds, and all the background noise that I can filter out comes at her all at once.  Her defense against this assault is to tune out.  This is why I frequently fail to get her attention just by using my voice, and sometimes I have to touch her to make her listen.  When sounds do reach her ear, they seem to be garbled.  Her brain has to decode the strange sounds and turn them into words, which is why it takes her some time to respond, especially in a noisy environment.  That is why I implore you to give Pudding and others like her ample time to process your words.

Many children learn to read by associating sounds with letters, and groups of  letters, and putting them together.  C-a-t spells cat.  Here Pudding is at a distinct disadvantage.  So many of the sounds are so similar to her ear that a phonic approach is problematic.  This is how the majority of children learn to read in schools though.  A thorough understanding of phonics enables a child to read several words they’ve never encountered before, incrementally raising their vocabulary every time they read a new book.

So here is the thing.  Do I opt for the sight word approach which will come more naturally to her, or do I begin the phonics approach, because I know it will be more difficult, and require more practice?  Do I work with her strengths, or against her weaknesses?  I’m thinking of this, because the following is a conversation she and I had this morning:

Pudding: What letter does bed start with?

Me: You tell me, what letter does bed start with?

Pudding: “B” is for bed!

Me: That’s right.  Now, can you tell me what sound a “B” makes?

Pudding: buzz

Yeah, you got me there, kid.  You do it your way.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 23, 2010 at 5:00 am