Sunday, December 13, 2009

Getting Our Priorities Straight

I recently had parent teacher conferences at Logan's school. I guess this is sort of my first real one since he's in kindergarten now. It feels a little weird. You sit in a room and someone is there to tell you about your child and you find yourself surprised and you realize that now you don't know everything about him anymore. He has a whole new life complete with complexities and details and relationships.

I actually went online right before the conference and looked up how to make the most of out of a parent-teacher conference. Yes, I'm a geek. Luckily, at Logan's school, they were so well-prepared that I barely had any questions to ask. I guess they are good at anticipating parents' questions. Maybe all parents ask the same questions. What are my child's strengths? How does he get along with the other children? What can I do at home to reinforce what he's learning at school?

However, I didn't expect answers to that last question to throw me off but they really did. I met with four people: teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and psychologist. They all had suggestions for Logan that surprised me and I realized that I was going in the wrong direction on a lot of things at home. Ugh. I felt so stupid especially because I've been trying so hard at doing all the wrong things.

There I go again.... making this all about me. I wonder what would happen if we could take vanity/self-consciousness out of parenting. For me, I'm sure that it would take my skills as a mom to never-seen-before heights.

Every night I have been working with Logan doing "homework." I had been feeling guilty that I was only doing the assigned homework from school but no academic enrichment at home. So I bought some workbooks and made Logan do them with me every night. It would take at least an hour. The subjects included math and phonics, of course. We also did puzzles and some workbooks that asked him to find things hidden in the page. I thought this might help him from frequently getting overwhelmed when he sees too much on a page.

However, after my conferences, I found out that he was working one grade above in reading and math. Thus I've been working on areas where he is already ahead and ignoring the areas where he is challenged. I'm a genius, aren't I? I thought I was cultivating his strengths and giving him a chance to practice sitting and working but now I feel like this was not the smartest way to spend our time.

After talking to his speech therapist, I found out that although Logan is quite verbal, he is not good at telling stories and that he is sometimes very jumbled when he talks. He has trouble organizing his thoughts. He also changes topics frequently. I suppose this is not news to me but I don't think I ever tried to do anything about it. I was too busy with math and phonics because that's all I know.

She also said that he had trouble making inferences (reading between the lines). This makes sense since he's always seeing things in black and white. "But you said...," he'll frequently quote back to me. Obviously he heard me and understood the words I said but didn't get the whole meaning.

The speech therapist told me that I could do something to help him in these areas. There are cards I could buy to help with his inferencing skills and his skills in prediction. I also got a set for helping him to practice sequencing and storytelling.** I wonder if these sequencing exercises will help him not get overwhelmed when he has to clean up a big mess or see a lot of food on his plate. If he can figure out what he should do first and then next and then last.... maybe he won't get so frustrated???? I can only hope.

My conference with Logan's OT also gave me the ammo I needed to buy a gym donut for Logan. Kai thinks I buy too much therapy stuff. I frequently do have to hold myself back. Anyway, the donut is like a donut-like ball chair and I ordered it from the Abilitations catalog ($18.59) but for some reason, I can't find the link online to show you so if you want to see something similar click here. I think this donut might help with his seating to do work and also, I think it will act as another trampoline in the house. Maybe if I get this, he'll bounce on it and stop running all over my couch. I only bought one for now. I hope the boys don't fight over it.

His OT also told me to have him do more puzzles, dot-to-dots, mazes, and to even play a game called Perfection. I love this idea because it also encourages him to work independently which is another goal for us. When he plays independently and quietly, my stress meter goes way down and since they are brain exercises, I don't feel so guilty that he's by himself like I do when he's playing a computer game (even though those are supposed to be educational too). Right now, his favorite puzzle is Rush Hour Traffic Jam Jr. (it's a little easy for him though)

I know I named a lot of things to buy but Logan's therapists did come up with some interesting low-cost solutions. To practice predictions, Logan's therapist suggested that you take a cover of a book at ask your child what they think will happen in the book. She also said you can photocopy a book without the words and let your child explain to you what is happening. Another great suggestion was for the parent to take pictures of a weekend activity and have the child explain what happened. My OT also gave me some exercises to do and you know, those are always free but those wheel barrows kill me.

With this new information, I feel like "homework" is going to be more fun for us but it weird how I need to interact with him through the practice of homework. It's hard for me to just sit down and play with him. I guess I'm no different from Logan in that I need structure and need to be task-oriented too.

Photo 1: Logan is looking forward to getting the "Big boys" version of Rush Hour Traffic Jam. I just love how it makes him so proud of himself and he's sooooo quiet when he plays.

Photo 2: We have thrown our our homework checklist and are now using a picture schedule. I like it because it is more versatile and Logan loves the visuals. As you can see we have a lot up there but I really do have to learn how to just relax and just sit down and play with him too.

** DRL is offering free shipping until Dec. 16, 2009 (JOY09)


Hartley said...

I hate to say this Jen, but I disagree with your therapists--at least in part.
One of the biggest challenges our children face is the fact that their education is centered around their weaknesses.

Children in speical eduation are given so much extra support on what they are lacking in, that we forget to support their strengths--their areas of confidence--their areas of enjoyment.

I say you are doing the RIGHT thing by encouraging and supporting his strenghts. You are right on the money there. Don't stop that.

Imagine if all you ever did was work on what he was bad at? How frustrating for both of you. That would require more than a glass of homework wine, that would require the whole damn bottle!

The reality is that we want our children to be well rounded. But for my son, he isn't ever going to "get" social sitations. But he will learn to cope. I will help him with that. However, he LOVES science! I think he could have a future in that subject, so that is where we focus our out of school time (in addtion to basics of course!). Mad Science camps, books, museums, library, videos and google searches to satisfy his curiosity.

Your job, as I see it, as a mom is to take care of Logan for the person he IS and WILL BE. The school, with their best of intentions, is still only there to support him until what--5th grade? Then he moves on to middle school? I just see our roles and goals very different than the schools.

To sum this up: You are doing a great job and KEEP doing it!


Jenn said...

You are awesome. You always bring me down to earth. I think you've got some real points there so I going to definitely remember what you said when I think of activities to do for him at home. Anyway, my therapists never said I was going in the wrong direction but I realized that there was a lot more things that they were doing that I wanted to do too. I think the most interesting part of this discovery is how I prefer to work with my son rather than just play with him. I don't know why I don't do that more often. Anyway, thanks for the advice.