strategies

It’s Not What You Think…

Like most people at this time of year, our family life is feeling particularly hectic. Christmas concerts, Christmas parties, dance open house, holiday prep including baking, buying, wrapping, decorating, and entertaining….and all of this on top of the regular, day to day stuff that we do year round.  It’s exhausting.  And a bit overwhelming at times.

christmas_tree_covered_with_gift_170128Berrik and I are trying to stay focused, but it seems as though the ‘to do’ list is so long that it keeps interfering with our daily routine.   A friend texted me yesterday that I must be enjoying being a stay at home mom due to all the free time to get ready for Christmas.  The truth is that I’m the least prepared for Christmas that I have ever been. It’s difficult not to be a bit sensitive about the insinuation that staying at home means having lots of free time.  The ‘stay at home’ moms (SAHMs) I know are rarely home.  They may not all be homeschooling, but they are volunteering, supporting family members, driving, fundraising, and doing so many other unpaid jobs.  I’ll admit that I didn’t fully understand this when I was working full time.  I thought it must be easier to be at home.  There are perks for sure.  I like getting up and putting on sweats and starting my day with a coffee while chatting with the kids over breakfast.  When I was working, I didn’t get to do that as I was out the door before the kids were even out of bed most days.  But after the girls leave for the bus at 7:30, Berrik and I are often busy right until the girls arrive back home again at 4…and then the real craziness begins.  There are many days where I know it would be easier to get up early, dress in my work clothes and head into the office for a day talking with adults, going to the washroom SOLO (I truly thought that having the kids join me in the washroom would end after the toddler/preschool years, but I was mistaken.  Even my almost 14 year old knocks on my bathroom door to inquire as to what I am doing!), feeling respected for my knowledge/expertise, and receiving a lovely paycheque every two weeks!

It’s quite fascinating to talk to people…both those I have known for years, and people I have just met. Invariably the question comes up about either how things are going ‘at home’, or in the case of new people, questions about what I do for a living.  It seems many people have some interesting, but not totally accurate, ideas about what I’m getting up to these days. I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel a few myths that I have heard in my short time away from work:

feet-932346_960_7201.MYTH: Homeschooling is easy and you get everything done by noon so you can spend the rest of the day relaxing.  Oh how I wish this was the case. And I only have one to teach.  I know people teaching 3, 4,5,6, even 7 or 8 kids at once.  Or teaching 5 with a toddler and newborn!  I’m teaching one grade only.  And I need to prepare for that.  It may not be the same amount of prep that a teacher with 25 grade two kids would have to do, but it’s still quite a bit.  Especially because doing worksheets is not the way that Berrik learns best, and therefore it is not the way we do school.  And can I add that without Sound Connections and the ability to use their materials, I’d have considerably more work to do. The language and literacy components of Berrik’s homeschooling are almost exclusively using materials and/or techniques we have learned through Sound Connections.

money-case-163495__3402. MYTH: Homeschooling is lucrative.  Ahahahahahahahaha.  Um.  No.  In total I received about $1000 in funding for Berrik this year.  And every dollar must be accounted for, and used for specific education related items.  His funding is pretty much already gone for this year, so anything else we need (and any other classes I want him to attend) are out of pocket.  I once heard someone suggest that a mom chose homeschooling her multiple children because she wanted to ‘give herself a paying job’.  What a joke that is.  Even if we could pretend that the $5000 per year in funding that she receives (for 5 children) is a good salary (obviously it is not, by anyone’s standards), she can’t use any of it for stuff for herself anyways…  we buy curriculum, perhaps some field trips, or a few classes from our homeschool board if offered…. and oops, it’s all gone.  Not lucrative.  This is not something people choose to do for financial gain.

3. MYTH: I COULD NOT homeschool my kids.  I would go crazy!  Admittedly, these words have come from my mouth. And not all that long ago either.   The truth is that homeschooling is not as crazy-making as I would have thought.  In fact, I quite enjoy it most of the time.  It’s busy.  It’s not easy.  It takes some discipline and some preparation. But overall, the rewards are daily, and limitless.  There are so many benefits to being able to spend time on areas that require additional support and speed ahead in areas of strength, to explore areas of interest further, and move more quickly through topics that are less interesting.  The benefit that I didn’t anticipate is the bond with all of my kids getting stronger as a result of my being more available to them.  My daughters confide in me, they know they can depend on me, and I now know their friends better because I get a chance to drive them all to the mall, or to a sleepover.  Berrik and I are closer than ever. And I know him so much better now.  I know how he likes to learn, what he is interested in, how he feels about his friends.  These are the priceless benefits that I didn’t expect but that I so enjoy.  All this to say, if you feel it would be the best choice for your family, but are hesitating because you feel like you COULD NOT DO IT, then call me.  I’ll explain why you totally CAN do it, if that is what you want.

stretching-498256_960_7204. MYTH: Stay at home moms have time for the gym, lunches out with other SAHMs, and watching soaps.  Sadly, I go to the gym less frequently now than when I was working, I almost NEVER go out for lunch, unless you count feeding Berrik in the car while driving from Sound Connections to a school class or function, and I haven’t watched soaps for 20 years or more.  As I said above, SAHMs are busy doing many of the unpaid tasks and roles that the working moms can’t do.  I was (and am) always thankful to the moms (and dads) who volunteer at the school or for other organizations as we all benefit from their hard work and commitment.  When I was working full time, I didn’t have time to do those things, much as I would have liked to, and my kids fully benefited from the work of those moms who were willing and able to sacrifice their precious time.

5. MYTH: Working moms have it better.  SAHMs have it better. This is a ‘grass is always greener’ style myth.  There are pros and cons to both.  I liked working.  I like being at home.  One is not easier than the other.  One is not more fun than the other.  One is not more time consuming than the other.  They are just different.  Completely and totally different.  One pays better in terms of cash.  The other pays out in other less tangible ways.  Every family is different.  And it changes. What worked this year may not work next year etc. etc.  Having been raised by a working mom, I know that working moms can raise successful and relatively well adjusted people.  (I’m mostly speaking about my brother here… ;-))  Having known many people raised by SAHMs, I know that staying at home produces some pretty cool adults as well.  The fact that we, as women and mothers, (and dads!) have a choice to have one or the other or a combination of both is what we should be celebrating.  That is all.

 

Executive Function – It’s not a VP luncheon!

The first time I heard the term Executive Function, I immediately envisioned the executive team where I worked attending a luncheon. Which didn’t make much sense considering I was in a conversation about Berrik.

Executive function (and self-regulation) is defined by the Center of the Developing Child at Harvard as:

…the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.

This requires three key components:

  1. Working Memory
  2. Mental Flexibility
  3. Self Control

Children are not born with these skills.  They are learned, and continue to develop into early adulthood.  Many kids will pick these up through lived experiences combined with direct instruction that they will be exposed to as part of playing, school, interactions with family and friends, and just about all life experiences.  For many kids, it is relatively seamless over the developmental years.  Three and four year olds learn about turn taking and are able to grasp and apply the concept, either through learning at preschool, interactions (read: squabbles) with friends at play dates or with siblings.  As kids’ brains develop, their working memory, mental flexibility and self control, typically develop as well.  For some kids, the development of executive function isn’t quite so seamless, for a variety of different reasons.

We are working on executive function skills with Berrik all the time.  Some of the potential reasons why he hasn’t had a seamless development of these skills is likely due at least in part to receptive and expressive speech delay.  When you don’t totally understand what is being said, and you aren’t able to express yourself in those early developmental years, it’s easy to understand why a kid may not ‘intuitively’ develop these skills from play and life experiences.  It’s difficult to relate outcomes to what is going on, when  you aren’t quite sure what just happened or why.  For this reason, Berrik and I work on building his capacity with these skills.  The wonderful thing about brains and neuroplasticity is that it is possible to improve capacity in these areas, and I see the evidence in Berrik consistently.  Because of the challenges he faces with receptive and expressive speech, I assume that he will always require strategies to support his executive functioning skills.  (If I’m wrong and he catches up to his peers, then all the better, but in the mean time, he needs strategies now, so that is what we work on).

Working Memory – Berrik can be challenged to keep information in his head long enough to manipulate that information.  As a result, we work on building his capacity to do so through practice using a variety of different games and activities, as well as through modelling and practicing strategies to support this.  Things like visualization, repeating things back, taking notes or drawing pictures are all helpful.  This is something that we practice as part of all subjects (and all parts of life, actually).  It’s pretty easy to incorporate.  There is always something to ‘remember’ as we do schoolwork, so I will often help him use his strategies to keep the information in his head, and then ask questions or ask him to do something that requires him to manipulate the information in some way.  For example, if we are doing a science experiment, we will go through a few steps that we will  need to take to complete the experiment (or a portion of it).  Then I may ask him to skip a step and come back to it.  Initially we will do this using visuals, so he can physically move the skipped step and put it in the new order.  Depending on the topic (it’s easier when the material is familiar), I will have him do this only in his head, using visualization, and repeating.  As he gets good at doing this, I up the ante and add more steps, or make the manipulation more challenging.  I see this as a two-fold exercise.  First, I am helping him work his brain and develop new neural pathways.  You can read about Neuroplasticity here.  Second, I am helping him develop strategies that he can use throughout his life in the likely case that this is always a challenge for him.

Another great game for working memory is the game of ‘Memory’  (Go figure). The game is also called ‘Concentration.’   We use it with sight words (thank you Sound Connections for that idea!), and also with facts in science, social studies and we are just starting to use it in math.  In science we recently did a unit on the Earth’s water cycle.  In the Memory game, I created cards for different parts of the cycle – words on one card, pictures on the other set – and Berrik had to not only match them up, but remember where each card was as we flipped them over.  We started first with matching only, with all cards visible.  Then we moved to the actual Memory game, where all cards are face down, you flip two and find the matches.  Memory, reading practice, and learning about science all in one activity. In Math, I will use two different depictions of the same numbers (as we work with base 10 blocks), and Berrik has to identify which ones represent the same number and then match them.  I am currently building a game where the cards are addition and subtraction problems and he has to find the two that have the same answer.  The key is to make sure he is pretty strong on all the cards first, and then use them in the Memory game.  It then doubles as a working memory exercise and a review of whatever subject we are working on.  It’s quite effective, and it can be used for pretty much anything.

Mental Flexibility – This comes into play when something unpredictable or unexpected happens and Berrik needs to be able to adapt and adjust to the new situation and respond appropriately.  This is fun to work on, as it’s almost like you can see the wheels turning inside Berrik’s head as he tries to figure out how to apply old rules to new situations.  We play games and then I will switch up the rules.  This helps with working memory as well, as he now has to remember the new rules as well as apply them.  Starting simple and then scaffolding is the key.  Build on skills rather than trying to jump ahead.  For a kid who had a rough grade 1 year, confidence is something that is coming along, but still needs work.  When you develop the base skills and then build on those, you are setting up for success.  Success means confidence.  Confidence means willingness to take some risks.  Taking risks means increased learning opportunities.  It’s a process.   And when he takes some risks, we really celebrate the effort as opposed to the outcome.  Outcomes will vary throughout life – for all of us – but those of us who aren’t afraid to make the effort and take a chance will see more success in life, in my opinion.  I know this from my experience in both learning, and in people management.  It rings true over and over.

Some examples of ways to do this:  In the Snakes and Ladders game, play it the normal way and then play it where you must go up the slides and down the ladders.  Play basketball, and instead of dribbling the ball, you have to toss it up and down in the air instead (this is great for all kinds of brain and coordination work).  Or if you have enough people, only allow passing, no dribbling.  Or only shoot backwards.  Anything that changes the rules, will work.  Simon Says is another good game to play for mental flexibility, working memory AND self control.  It’s also easily adaptable for kids Berrik’s age depending on interest.  When we play, Simon will often say “kick like a ninja” or “turn into the blue power ranger” etc., as that is what Berrik is interested in.  The sillier ‘Simon’ is, the more fun Berrik has with it.  I also let him be ‘Simon’ as this is great for his planning and language skills.

Self Control – In terms of impulsiveness, Berrik is fine.  The ability to set priorities is likely behind what most 8 year olds are able to do.  We work on this every single day as we plan our days.  We will talk about what is important to get done, what we would prefer to do, and how we should set up our day to get these things accomplished.  We look at the week ahead, and the months ahead as well.  Even on individual tasks we will set priorities.  What I have found is that sometimes Berrik’s priorities will be ‘out of order’ but when I ask him to explain his rationale, he has a very rational reason (rational reason for an 8 year old!).  It occurred to me after one of his explanations that if I asked my neurotypical daughters to prioritize their day for me, I suspect theirs would be ‘out of order’ as well! Sometimes I need to be reminded that it is completely typical for kids’ priorities to not match parents.  Duh.

In the photo below, Berrik and I created this camel by looking at a photo and building it, step by step.  So much planning and prioritizing with these types of activities. And if you get it wrong, it just doesn’t work.  Berrik is actually very strong in this type of planning.  If he loses patience with the activity, I’ll just do the building and have him correct me.  I will do something wrong to let him catch me. (Full disclosure, I only ‘accidentally’ mix it up some of the time.  Often I mess it up without realizing.  This type of detailed planning is not my strength.)  Variations on the game Red Light Green Light are great for self control as well.  When we play this, I usually do bear crawls or crab walks or hopping/jumping.  When physical exertion is part of the game, it requires more concentration to listen and stay focused.

image

As you can tell, we do things here with as much efficiency as possible, with the most possible gain.  It would be overwhelming if I tried to individually teach or facilitate each area that Berrik needs to work on.  Combining activities and outcomes is not only more efficient, it’s actually more effective as it almost certain to require a multisensory approach.  Additionally, it’s more similar to real life in that you don’t ever just get to use one skill in whatever tasks you’re working on from day to day.  You need to be able to access it all, at the same time, in varying levels.  What is exciting, is that I can consistently see progress in all areas, and even though I may have been focusing more on one area than another, I will see the benefit show up in unexpected places.  That application of knowledge and skills in different contexts is really the key outcome for me.  It tells me that what we are doing is working.

If you’re looking for more information on executive function, or on child development in general, the Centre for the Developing Child at Harvard site is excellent.

Word of the Day: Potential

Word of the day.  Word of the year.  Word of a lifetime.  On Friday we received some assessment results for Berrik.  I believe I have waxed on about these assessments and how I feel about them, but they are a means to an end in terms of accessing resources, and perhaps (kinda, sorta, not really) even offering a few ideas of things to work on.  Even though intellectually, I can (and usually do) reconcile these assessments as more a reflection of Berrik’s ability to be tested, rather than his ACTUAL abilities, it is still difficult to hear that your child struggles ‘severely’ in some areas.  Severe is such a severe word.  It connotes negativity and extremism.  It makes my heart sink, and my stomach turn, and takes my hope and optimism and slams it into the ground, stomps on it, grinds a stiletto heel into it and then spits on it.  These are the moments I feel overwhelmed.  I think to myself, oh my goodness (except considerably more x-rated), what will ever become of this boy?  How will he manage junior high, high school, adolescence, getting a job, meeting a girl who will love him for all his most amazing qualities, raising his own children etc. etc.   These panicked (and let’s face it, totally irrational) thoughts race in circles inside my head like trick ‘r treaters hopped up on candy at bedtime, screaming and bouncing off the walls and each other until I want to crawl under the covers with that go-cup of wine and grind my teeth into powder.

And then I take a breath. Or maybe 10 breaths.  My apple watch tells me to breathe and then actually coaches me through a full minute of deep breathing. It congratulates me on taking a ‘breather’ each time I do it, and if I forget, it reminds me.  A few deep breaths  (thank you apple watch) and a conversation with someone who knows what she’s talking about are all I need to get it back into perspective.  “The test results are what they are, but they say nothing about his POTENTIAL.”  Sigh.  Of course!  I know this.  Why is it that I panic from time to time?  Berrik has progressed dramatically since June.  He continues to surprise me regularly with how much he is absorbing and is able to apply.  He’s reading like a rock star.  He’s loving science.  He’s doing well in math.  He’s on the cusp of story writing.  These are things I witness daily, and yet still can get pulled into panic mode by a test result.

The great thing about potential is that everyone has it.  And it’s always a goal; something in the future; the result of hard work and determination.  We often use the expression ‘reaching one’s full potential’ but I believe this doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We never reach our full potential…we always have more potential right up until the last breaths leave our lungs and our hearts contract for the final time.  Potential is what you make of it.  Potential is relative.  And one always has potential.

This panicked little 15 minutes happened for me on Friday afternoon.  And then true to form Berrik showed me in about a dozen different ways why I have nothing to worry about, anymore than either of my other children, anymore than any parent anywhere.  His potential is unlimited.  I’m starting to think that his ability to teach me about life might help me keep reaching for MY full potential.

 

Labels are just labels. But what does it mean for us?

Graphic credit toClick here for reference

I am always searching for more information, more ways to teach, more literature to help me understand what Berrik faces on a day to day basis, in hopes that I can help him manage the challenges, and build on the strengths.  One of the things I find difficult is trying to explain what is going on with Berrik to family or friends, who understandably do not really get it.  And how could they?  Most days I don’t feel like I totally ‘get it’ either.  I will admit that from time to time I feel defensive; and I find myself using defensive language to explain what we are doing or what is going on with Berrik.  On good days, I don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks, as I can see the progress and the potential in my child (all my children, for that matter). On bad days, I will feel defensive and protective and incredibly annoyed by the ‘sympathetic’ comments, or what I perceive to be falsely encouraging responses from people who have asked me about how Berrik is doing.  I hate feeling defensive, mostly because I know there is nothing to ‘defend’, which invariably leads to feeling guilty, since I can intellectualize that these defensive feelings I have are likely rooted in my own doubts and fears.  But let me be clear…. I have doubts and fears about the girls as well.  I think this is a normal parenting response….I assume all parents have moments where they worry about the future for their children.   That said, the girls are thus far on a ‘typical’ trajectory, and therefore it is easier for me to visualize what the future will bring (as naive as that is considering how young they are and all the chance and deliberate occurrences that can alter one’s path, repeatedly).

I came across an internet article that fairly effectively describes Berrik’s ‘labels’, DCD and Associated Disorders.

Understanding what, is helpful.  But the meat of the situation is the ‘so what?’.  How do these comorbid conditions impact Berrik?

Where to begin?  Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) – for Berrik, this manifests the most challenges in printing.  He was a bit late learning to dress himself, zip zippers, button buttons, brush teeth, feed himself with utensils, etc.  But he has all that figured out and manages very well in that regard.  He’s a bit awkward with gross motor skills at times, but generally can function well enough.  Definitely some challenges on the playground with some kids that are super athletic and appear to be part gorilla, part cheetah for how they can run and swing around the park, but generally speaking, Berrik holds his own.

Printing legibly is very difficult for Berrik, but he has come a tremendously long way.  His printing is actually quite neat now. He strongly dislikes printing (truthfully he HATES it, but I am encouraging him not to say ‘hate’…haha).  We practice daily.  Every single day.  In any way I can find to motivate him.  We write cards to his best friends next door, or fill in the blanks on an order form for an app or website he would like to join (I print the screen where you are asked to fill out your name etc., and make him fill in the blanks on paper, and then I transfer to the screen).  Another example of a situation this morning, “Mom, can I have a banana?”  “Sure, but this is a restaurant and you have to write down your food order on a paper.”  “Sigh.  You make everything difficult.  I think you like to do that to me.”  “Yes, sweets, that’s my job.” <insert eye roll from Berrik here>.  “Fine.  I’ll write it down.  Are you happy?”  “Yep.  I feel such joy in this moment.”  <another eye roll and audible sigh>

So…when you’re slow at printing, it’s easy to imagine how that impacts everything you do in school.  Slow to write the answers on a test, even if you know the answers…  makes it tough to demonstrate your knowledge.  Slow to write a story in Language Arts… so slow that it feels pointless to even try, as you are on your first sentence when other kids are done the whole assignment.  Homeschooling makes this a lot easier as we can take all the time we want.  And if we are assessing scientific process and critical thinking, I scribe for him.  Ditto for if the focus of the lesson is on telling a story with a beginning, middle and end.  I’ve been told by some teachers not to do this as he needs to be able to print.  I disagree with this philosophy.  We are working on printing, and he has/will have the ability to print.  He may never be fast at it.  And it will likely be a non-issue in the future.  The only time I EVER use a pen these days is when I’m working with Berrik.  I type or text or voice type everything.  He will too.  But he ABSOLUTELY needs to have the ability to process information, tell stories, think critically, understand concepts etc.  So if I have to do the writing so that he can achieve these goals, then that is what I will do.  (I almost went back to rewrite that last bit, since I can see how defensive I sound…. but I decided to leave it in there for demonstration purposes…)

ADHD, LD and SLI – these impact every aspect of life.  Berrik is better with attention than he was pre-diet change etc., but he still is challenged to hold his focus for long periods of time.  This manifests in reduced ability to follow multi-step directions (also impacted by speech and language issues), because he either doesn’t hear all the directions, so has no idea what he is supposed to do after step 1 & 2, or he did hear them, but gets distracted half way through whatever is supposed to be doing and ends up doing something completely different. Add to this the fact that he doesn’t always understand the meaning of some of the words in the directions, and now he’s both confused and distracted…  Think about when someone is talking to you and you have no idea what they are talking about (say, for example, your husband is an engineer and is talking about HVAC and electrical set up in a skyscraper… that is just a random hypothetical example, of course).  It is so difficult to stay focused and engaged.  That is a big challenge for Berrik.  As soon as he no longer understands what the conversation is about, he tunes out completely.  Most of the time I can’t tell whether it’s the SLI, ADHD, or a LD that is the root cause, and most probably it is a combination of all of the above.

I am constantly on the look out for strategies to single out and/or address the issues individually to see what will improve the outcomes.  Having Berrik repeat instructions back to me as I say them helps with short term memory, and focus.  If he can tell me what he’s supposed to do by repeating my words, but still isn’t sure what to do, then I can tell it’s likely a receptive language issue.  If he’s fidgeting and not engaged with me, then I can see it’s an attention thing.  Of course it’s never so simple as being one issue vs. another.  And to be clear, it’s not like this is an issue with every thing we do all day long… it just comes up in certain situations.  (Thank goodness, because it’s exhausting).

In our math studies, the SLI causes us much grief.  With the help of the ever amazing Sound Connections people, we realized that Berrik doesn’t understand the meaning of some critical math language.  What makes it more interesting and a bigger challenge, is that he understands words in some contexts but not others and the only way to determine where the deficits are is to go through each word in many contexts to tease out the areas for improvement and then work on them, one by one.  For example.  In one activity Berrik was asked to identify a row with ‘more’ of something in it.  It was a multi step problem that likely contributed to the issue, but in that context he didn’t understand what he was supposed to do.  Once he was shown what to do, he had no problem replicating it in different contexts.  So that tells us that the issue was the understanding of the words, not the actual computation of the math skill.  But on the same day, he was able to articulate and demonstrate the concept of more in a few different ways, and this occurred quite randomly in the context of some other activities we were doing.  This was a big clue that we needed to break down every ‘math’ concept word and identify exactly what didn’t connect for him, and then work with him to make those connections.  If this had not been pointed out to me, I would have never realized what was going on.  I would have assumed he understood the concept of the term ‘more’ because he does understand it in many contexts.  More, less, most, least, except, either, neither, add, subtract, plus, minus, multiply, divide, double, triple, ahead, behind, above, below, first, second, middle, last, high, low…..  these are just a few of the words that we will work through one by one.  The beauty is that some he will have no problems with, and the more foundational words he understands, the easier future ones will be to explain, as we can use the previous words to help explain the future ones.  And through all of this experimenting, his foundational math skills are being worked on, so we are accomplishing many goals with this exercise.  This both overwhelms me and gives me such hope.  All of these foundational skills will be critical to his future, and had I not stayed home with him this year, and had my wonderful friend Barbie not mentioned Sound Connections to me, we likely would have never realized these issues existed, and maybe, we would have eventually started to believe the teachers that Berrik just isn’t that smart. (Even typing that makes me tear up.  Oh the struggles this kid has endured).  I always feel like I need to put in a caveat in defense of teachers when I am writing about Berrik.  I don’t blame teachers for thinking Berrik wasn’t very smart.  I strongly believe teachers are under resourced.  Even as his mom, spending hours every day one on one with him, I find it hard to understand what is going on at any given time.  He is progressing so well this year, but it’s because I have time to spend several hours per day one on one with him, adapting and adjusting based on his specific needs on any given day.  Teachers obviously do not have this luxury.  So if anyone interprets my blog posts as teacher blaming or shaming, you are misinterpreting.

Berrik is reading SO well these days.  Particularly in comparison to where he was 6 months ago.  He isn’t caught up to grade level, but he is progressing at a fantastic pace.  I have zero doubt about his ability to read, and I am happy to see his comprehension of what he is reading also keeping pace.  Sound Connections works on phonological awareness, and through this he is learning to spell, to print, to decode words phonologically and for meaning, and eventually he will write sentences and stories through this process.  He is at different levels in different subsections of language and literacy, so we just keep moving along in all areas working harder on some than others.  For example, he is reading at a higher level than he’s at with more advanced sound blends like ‘th ‘(loud, like in ‘they’, and whispered, like in ‘think’) or ‘sh’.  The cool thing is that as we add the sound blends, he is already able to read many of the words that use those sounds, so he is able to quickly relate the sounds to words he knows, and then from there decode other words that he doesn’t know.  Because of how well he’s reading, his sight word acquisition is rather dramatically quick…  for whatever reason, if he learns a new word in a book, he is easily able to remember it for future, so we just add it to his sight words pile.  The pile is unwieldy now, but because of the reading, he no longer needs to review the earlier words as he reads them so frequently that they are solidly in his brain storage and easily accessed.  He will still from time to time read a word from back to front – meaning he starts decoding using the last sound as the first sound in the word, or confusing ‘b’ and ‘d’, or reading ‘on’ as ‘no’ or vice versa… These are typical dyslexic things, further impacted by focus or attention issues, but he manages quite well overall.  He is getting good at self correcting when he does this, which tells me he understands that the word he is saying either isn’t a word, or just makes no sense within the context of the sentence or story.  This is huge in the world of language and literacy, learning disabilities, and speech.

Hopefully this has been helpful to those wondering exactly what the heck is going on with Berrik, and how we are working through it all.  I am learning as much as Berrik is, if not more, and as an aside, thanks to his social studies curriculum, I am getting pretty informed on some Canadian culture.  Ask me about the Inuit, or the Acadians…. or about weather patterns in Iqaluit vs. Saskatoon.  And can I just brag that Berrik saw the word Iqaluit and told me it was spelled wrong , “Because every time you write a ‘q’ you always have to write a ‘u’.”  Welcome to the multitude of exceptions in the english language my boy.  Welcome.