Once a week I receive an email from a free service that tells me how many visitors have taken a peek at this site. I am continuously surprised that there are people coming to a blog that hasn't been updated in 7 weeks. Such a long drop in time is a record, but not a record to be proud of...
It sounds weird to apologize but I do feel bad to myself and to others. I don't know quite what to say except that as usual, I'm a wreck. I haven't had much direction these days. I am not quite sure if I ever did. As usual, there is a lot going on. Whenever there is nothing going on, I frequently take deeper breaths because peace is so foreign sometimes that it almost makes me a little nervous.
What I am learning these days is that I see myself in my children more and more as they grow. I see their behavior and recognize it because I used to have similar fears and strange tendencies. We may not manifest all of our feelings in the same way but many of the things that bother them, bothered me too when I was young. Heck, they still sort of bother me now.
I should fess up as to why I haven't written much lately but why bore you? I have been doing good work these days and I hope to organize those thoughts and write about them but since all of us are getting coupons come down on us from internet clouds above, why not take the time to talk about how to spend your money this season, belated as it is... the sales are still around and we all know that we shop more for ourselves and our immediate family after the 25th.
So here is my list of cool things:
1. Whisperphone: I love this crazy little invention. I had been having a hard time with Logan on reading. When he is not focused, getting him to clean his room is easier than getting him to read. However, I found that once he directed his energy into his voice, he really heard himself read out loud and I could tell that he was helping himself focus by hearing himself read. I've been told in the past that when you read, you are not supposed to read the words out loud in your head but I have always done that. That is my speed. This whisperphone allows Logan to hear himself more clearly when he reads. I also make him wear them when his voice is too loud. He basically ends up screaming into his own ear. He doesn't like that very much. Okay, it might be a little cruel but I don't use it all the time but it does help. I think I paid $7.99 for it. Cool factor: Cooler than a weighted vest for sure! Click here for Whisperphone's homework activities and tips.
2. Ryan's Room Dollhouse - Some people got annoyed with me because I bought my son a dollhouse but I am so glad I got it. Spencer loves pretend play and the house allows him to do it and practice good speech at the same time. It is also seems like it can capture the very core of play therapy. Once Spencer enacted a scene at which he had one doll tell another doll not to be afraid of the washing machine and the other doll said that he would just like to look at it for a while (he is afraid of the washing machine in our building). I was floored when I saw that. A few days later, he finally went to the washing machine area with me! The house was not cheap but it was worth every penny. I only wish the Asian family that fits with the house was not clothed in Asian garb. I mean hello?!? We are not in China and even if we were, I think the moms would be sporting a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and not a silk dress! Luckily these dolls are small. I am going to make the mom a pair of khakis. I am not so good with the needles so she may look kinda homeless but still....
3. Books with Little to No Words- I have gotten really into these books lately. My ADHDer is smart but he can't tell a story for his life. These wordless books are very cool, creative, and makes my kids want to comment and narrate to me. They really need
to improve these skills and I'm learning now that it really hinders Logan's reading comprehension and writing skills which is frustrating for him because the reading part of reading class is easy for him so he checks out and ends up fumbling later. My favorite books so far are: Art and Max, Chalk, The Red Book, Flotsam, and The Lion and the Mouse.
4. Wooden Subway Cars - If you have a boy, especially one with special needs, it is very likely that you have a wooden train track set at home. With these toys, they seem to dance around the border between stimming and playing appropriately. I didn't realize this but to collect the trains of the New York City subway system is actually not as expensive as collecting trains from Thomas the Tank Engine. What is also great is that if your kid loves maps, the trains represent the actual lines of the New York City subway system and so your child can get a map and look at his trains and dream up a million travel scenarios in his head. (Hey, I just got an idea for a speech exercise!) The map is free and available for pick-up at any station booth. Spencer is in love with them so much that I think I will find a way to use them to entice him to poop in the potty. He is being extremely slow in that department. I will start after I give him this book of cut-out subway trains. I got a very nice copy that was advertised as "used" but it was brand new and super cheap.
5. Snap Circuits Jr. - A couple of months ago, Logan took apart a cheap plastic toy jeep that ran on batteries. He cracked it open to see how it worked. When I saw that, I immediately started balking at him. What if he hurt himself? But I knew what he wanted and so I got him this kit even though he is not 8 yet. What I've learned so far is that I must watch him to make sure he doesn't give up when it starts to get a little challenging, eg. a word problem. Each experiment comes with a checkbox which I love. It helps Logan to remember to not skip to #101 (the last one) when he didn't even get past #19. I also told him some basic rules about what not to do to prevent shortcircuiting (as described in the instructions) and so far he has been very careful about that. Anxiety can be a friend in this situation.
6. Cardboard Sheets - Recently, my building installed new windows into each unit so they left a ton of cardboard pieces (heavy duty) in the garbage every night. Naturally, I picked up a stack and took it home and with another existing box (big), my two boys and I built a "house" or "elevator" whatever... I gave them stickers to decorate and made some windows. Logan taped pieces of his K'nex toys to symbolize buttons in his home. I remember playing with cardboard boxes when I was little. They are the best toys and it is free. Husband annoyance factor: med-high (he is tired of seeing the boys' stuff taking over the whole apartment)
7. Digital piano- I can't help it. I know things are hard for my kids but I really want them to learn how to play piano. The trouble was to find something affordable. I found one for a good value but there were too many bells and whistles on this thing. I really dislike extra buttons. You are only asking for yet another reason to yell at them. So I got something that doesn't have too many buttons and also had weighted keys to give the feel of a real piano. I also love the way I can turn off the sound in an instant while teaching them how to play. It helps them slow down and pay attention instead of impulsively banging on the keys. I absolutely love my piano. I can play music with headphones at night while everyone is asleep. It is better than a real piano in so many ways. Guitar center gives you a great warranty. Even if you break it or spill water on it, they will fix it or replace it. I haven't tested the warranty out yet but that is what they promised. But my kids have been really good so far. I put up a sign on the first day that says "The Piano Only Makes Music" and they've stuck to the rules so well that I don't have to hide the plug anymore.
8. Handyman/Carpentry services - I really wanted to make a hideaway space for Logan. Tents are great but they end up getting broken and it is a pain to fold out and fold back for storage. However, I found these curtains at Ikea and I figured out that I can hang them around their bunk bed so that each kid could have the private enclosed feeling of a tent without needing extra space. The curtain would be retractable too so that the "tent" could easily disappear and reappear when wanted. I have already purchased the curtains but have not put them up yet, I am doubting when I will actually do it. I am not a handyman in anyway but Kai doesn't like this idea so there is no chance he'll put it up. Anyway, what my point is that we need to look at handyman services as something that we should be willing to purchase, just as much as we are willing to purchase a Nintendo DS. While our children may not have any physical disabilities, if they did, I am sure we would be more willing to pay for alterations made in our home. We should give our neurologically-challenged kids the same consideration and be grateful that such alterations and additions could possibly make a big impact on them.
I should mention that my dear husband did follow the recent advice of our doctor and created a work closet for Logan. We will present it to him at Christmas time or on his birthday which is coming up soon. The workstation will allow him to tinker, build, or do whatever without his mess disturbing others or causing a hazardous condition for his little brother. It will also help him to not lose things and the fact that he's practically inside a closet will help him to focus. When Logan's doctor suggested this idea, I realized how important it was for Logan to have this space. I also had to admit that it was time to teach Logan how to really make good use of screwdrivers and other tools since I want to teach him how to use them safely. Kai resisted at first but the next thing you know, he was using his day off to saw and hammer and make a beautiful space for Logan, complete with music speakers for his new iPod Shuffle (for Christmas)! You would never think it was possible in our small urban space but so far, it looks fantastic. My kids don't really use their closet anyway since these hyper little guys would rarely ever be seen in clothes that need to be hung on a hanger. Total cost: only $40.00 sans tools and storage shelves.
9. Classes for Twice-Exceptional Children - There is a recreational-educational center called The Quad Manhattan in New York City that opened earlier this year for kids who are very bright but also have significant special needs. I signed Logan up for a mini-session and I wish I could put him there more often but travel time and finances are always issues for us. Understandably these classes are not as inexpensive as a no-frills karate class in the neighborhood but then again, the way things are taught and the type of subjects they teach to kids are just perfect for my twice-exceptional kid. Thus, in essence it can't be too inexpensive, just like all other special needs classes. The difference is that these classes fit my kid's interests and intellectual abilities while at the same time meeting his needs for a small class size and knowledgeable (about their needs) instructors. I don't know where I could find a class that would teach a 7-year-old things like filmmaking, electronics, rock climbing, website building and even photoshop! Actually, when you think about the kind of classes they are offering, the tuition is quite reasonable. This is what I explained to my husband and he was finally able to understand it that way.
10. Choiceworks- I have said enough about this already but I finally coughed up the extra cash and bought myself the CD with extra images and also some extra stickers and magnets. Boy, was that a good move. Now, when I put the "choice time" magnet on their schedules, I can refer to an already placed row of magnets that actually show what their choices are. Honestly, if I don't tell them what their choices are, they will likely pick electronics and I think that gets old for even them. I realized just how hard it is for my kids to make choices and stick with them so not only is the schedule good for them but they really need to learn how to think about what they like and want. I think the Choiceworks helps them with that a lot. The only trouble is to stay consistent as the parent. I need to start out small so that not only they can get used to it but also I need to get used to it. We have all used it many times but incorporating any behavior modification technique on a daily basis isn't easy.
OOOH, last tip of the day: convince your child's teacher to make an Amazon wish list. Parents can know what she needs in the classroom and can donate them throughout the school year. She can put things that are not offered by Amazon as well and of course, if you happen to have the item at home, you can donate it and reserve the item on the list so that no one else will buy it. It's a very private way to donate too since only the teacher will know who bought what. I like that.
And that is all folks. I will post again hopefully very soon. I wish everyone a very happy holiday season. Thank you to all who have dropped by and thanks to my kindred spirits who have lent me a hand whenever I needed help.
photo 1: Logan uses his Whisperphone. He has been doing homework on his own these days. It is a miracle. Sometimes I take pictures of him doing good work to then show him later so that he has a visual picture of what he looks like when he is calm and productive.
photo 2: Spencer at work. We must tackle those sensory issues. He is still so defensive with his hands. He's been making some progress though. He's got a very good OT.
photo 3: Oops, I did it again. Last year, around this time, I broke my finger and had to get surgery. This year, I managed to not get surgery but rather give myself a nice 2nd degree burn on my writing hand. I have been spared dishwashing duties for the past two weeks but otherwise, this hand gets no brake.