Tag Archives: adhd

A day worth documenting…

I already posted early this morning, but we had such an amazing day that I wanted to document it here.  I am posting a second time today, as a reminder to myself, as a future reminder to Berrik, and mostly because I am so proud of my boy for how hard he works and how much success he achieves in spite of whatever life throws his way.

First thing this morning we did a quick review of sight words.  We typically do sight words by making a trail through the house and jumping over them as we read them, or lining them up in a row and bouncing a ball beside each one as we read them.  The extra movement/activity makes Berrik at least twice as fast at getting through his sight words.  There were a couple of newer words that were stumping Berrik this past week, as well as a couple BRAND new words.  He flew through the words and got them all!  He has many many sight words mastered now… well past 200. We don’t review them all each day.  I usually do all the newest ones, plus about 10 – 20 of the ‘old ones’ and over the course of a couple weeks he ends up reviewing them all.  The newer ones he does daily until they are totally mastered.  Because he is reading so much now, we add words from his books as well, so he is picking up new words at a pretty impressive pace.  Which of course makes his reading that much better.

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After breakfast and getting dressed for the day, we headed off to Sound Connections.  Berrik was focused and worked so hard with Lucy.  He never ceases to amaze me with what he knows how to do, and how he can figure things out.  He impressed both Lucy and I today in several areas, which means he’s moving on to more complex things.  The line to learning for Berrik (and everyone else, I would imagine) is not linear.  He progresses so quickly, then plateaus, sometimes regresses a bit, and then leaps ahead again.  This post is a reminder to me that when he plateaus or regresses that I need to breathe and let him get through things at his pace.  I think those plateaus are when he’s really processing things in his head and by relaxing and staying with him where he’s at, he’s able to create a solid foundation, maintain his confidence, and leap ahead when he’s ready.

After Sound Connections we headed to Phoenix Foundation for Count Day celebrations.  September 30th is the final day for registering with the school board of your choice, and therefore after today, wherever a child is registered is where the government sends their funding, whether it be a homeschool board or public or independent or whatever.  At Phoenix this is a big day with lots of fun activities scheduled.  There was a huge bouncy castle which was a big hit with the boy… and I was so proud as he was extra careful around the littler ones, and even used his own body to shield a toddler from a very rambunctious bigger kid… I love that he is aware – it isn’t always the case, so when it happens, it’s exciting.  Self-regulation doesn’t always come easy to kids like Berrik.  They also had a school photographer there to do school pictures if we so desired.  We so desired.  Berrik sat up there and worked so hard to follow the photographer’s instructions.  It melted my heart to see him trying so hard and doing well.  I think it’ll be a fantastic photo.  At noon, there was a hot dog lunch that consisted of a hotdog, a bag of cheese puffs or Doritos, and either a pink or purple pop of some kind.  (GROSS).  As usual we had packed lunch so Berrik happily ate his veggies, fruit, cheese, crackers and a homemade banana coconut flour muffin.  He doesn’t even notice that the other kids are eating all that other stuff.  There was a bake sale going on as well, so many kids were walking around with candy apples, cupcakes and other sugary treats but again Berrik didn’t even comment.

When we were finished lunch, we rushed into the gym for the Karate demo.  Berrik loves Karate (and was pretty sure the two guys were real ninjas).  When the one guy broke through 2 pieces of wood at one time with his bare hand, Berrik just about lost his mind.  It was awesome.

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Next on the list of activities was Mad Science.  All the kids that had registered in that class were called into the classroom about 10 minutes before it was scheduled to start and asked to sit at tables.  I went in to observe, although most parents did not. Many of the kids (likely hopped up on sugar and chemicals) were bouncing out of their seats, banging on the table, scrapping with each other, and even melting down completely.  Berrik just sat there holding his stress puck (more on that later) and watching the chaos, but not participating in it. Not a very scientific study, but I’d say in the case of  Sugar Lunch v. Healthy Lunch, sugar lunch was the LOSER.

Finally Mad Science started and the teacher went over a few ground rules and then started her presentation.  She asked the kids what electricity was for.  Berrik’s hand shot up and she called on him.  He said, “Electricity is what powers everything we use like computers and electronics.  Electronics… electricity…see?” (emphasis on the ELECT) After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I almost cried.  Berrik didn’t have the opportunity to participate in class in this way when he was in school.  Twenty seven kids in a class, and being slower to process information due to expressive and receptive speech delays meant the chances of Berrik being able to answer a question in class were slim. I think he even surprised himself!  What a kid.

 

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At Count Day there was also an opportunity to buy resources from KidsSource (I think that’s who it was).  I bought Berrik a stress puck (one of those squeeze toys shown in the photo) as he focuses better in class if his hands are kept quietly busy.  The one he chose was black (it was the only color left).  He held it up to me and said, “Mom, what if this was red?”  And I was like, “Um, ya.  What if?”  And he persisted, “Mom, if this was red it would be just like those little things that float around in our blood.”  Again, jaw drop.  “Um, you mean red blood cells?”  “Ya, ya, red blood cells…  it totally looks like a red blood cell.”  Indeed it does my little smarty pants.  Indeed it does.

Berrik does amazing things every day. But today was one of those days where he just rocked it out the whole darned day.

He’s the teacher. I’m the student.

My life is a constant series of ups and downs.  It’s sometimes hourly, but more often it’s daily or every other day.  And then there are few higher level things that are every month or even every 6 months.  Does everyone feel like this?  I imagine so.

Berrik has good days and bad days.  The girls have good days and bad days.  I have good hours and some really crappy hours… and Kevin….well, same deal.  I wish I could say my good hours stretched out to good days or good weeks frequently….  Now I know this sounds like I’m perhaps depressed, or struggling.  I’m not.  I actually feel pretty good most of the time, even on the ‘downs’.  This is a skill Berrik has taught me.

Since he was a 2 year old, we’ve had many ups and downs.  He was very late to speak so those initial years of navigating the world of speech therapy had us riding a roller coaster of emotions that ran the whole gamut; fear, joy, hope, defeat, excitement, sadness, disappointment, guilt, and contentment.

This roller coaster has continued although in different forms, and not just with Berrik.  It’s part of parenting, part of living, part of loving and being connected to people.  Unavoidable as a human, as far as I can tell.  What makes the difference is how you ride the roller coaster.  What I have learned to do over the years, is when I’m speeding down the hill and my stomach is in my throat, I remind myself that I may spiral upside down next, but eventually will be back on the slow, steady uphill climb.  I try not to focus on the fact that this roller coaster ain’t ending until I reach my ‘final destination’ if you catch my morbid drift.  I don’t always keep my crap together when I’m upside down or speeding down a hill, but I am fortunate to have parents, a husband, siblings and some really wonderful friends to talk me down if I get too freaked out.

All this to say, we are currently going up and down like a bunch of maniacs.  Berrik had some test results come back recently that showed that the yeast overgrowth in his poor little gut came back.  I was not surprised as I could see the symptoms in him.  But it was disheartening because this kid has completely avoided sugar and yeast since January 2016, and the only ‘sugar-like’ substances in his diet have been fruit, potatoes, and the odd gluten free bun or pancake. However, when I went to discuss all the test results with the doc, she was quite pleased with everything that she’s seeing, and we created a plan to address the yeast and a few other things…. so while I was feeling like we were going down, we are actually doing ok.

Berrik’s school is going really well overall. But some hours don’t go well (which is usually because I’ve chosen a method of learning that doesn’t suit him in that moment).  And while I sincerely believe that it is my responsibility to figure out how he learns best and support him to learn in that way, it doesn’t mean that I feel all zen when he refuses to engage.  The yeast symptoms exacerbate this little phenomenon.  Yay me.  Poor Berrik.  These things are completely out of his control.  These are not the symptoms of an undisciplined kid who just needs to get in line and do what I say (wouldn’t life be easier if my kids would just do what I say?).  So when I am feeling particularly un-zen-like and am ready to put my head through the drywall, I remind myself that Berrik is also not having much fun in this moment, for reasons he understands, but cannot do anything about.

We have had some major ‘successes’ since June…some that were so incremental that I didn’t really notice until a few months had gone by and then it hit me how far he has come.  Others, like last week at school, are big all at once, when he is focused all day, excited about what he’s learning, telling me all about it, and grasping concepts that were foreign to him the week before.  And there have been some things that I was sure he had mastered, and then I realize we aren’t quite there yet.  Up and down.  Up and down.  I may be Berrik’s teacher when it comes to schoolwork.  But he is setting the example for how to ride the roller coaster. He seems to just take everything as it comes.  Sure he has his moments where he is annoyed that we are getting in the car to drive his sisters somewhere, again, and we are counting by 2s and 5s or playing rhyming games.  Or when he is tired of putting his food into an increasingly complex pattern before eating it, “not EVERYTHING has to be about learning MOM!!!!”  But considering all he’s been through, and what he has ahead, he is not the one who loses sleep or worries over the future.  He’s going to be a ninja and an astronaut when he grows up.  An astronaut because he wants to travel to space, and a ninja in case he encounters evil when he gets there.  He dreams big because he believes that if you work hard, anything is possible.  He knows this because he has already lived that experience many times in many ways in his nearly 8 years.   He’s the teacher.  I’m the student.

Labels are for Mabel

Labels are often deemed necessary.  Some would say they are needed in order to help promote shared understanding. I believe this is true to some degree, at least in theory.  The problem with labels, is that we often forget that the person behind the label is more than their label.  A lot more.  I think it’s human nature to label people.  We label people in both positive and negative ways….  You call a young boy a math whiz and suddenly we forget that he has numerous other strengths and talents.  How many times as a nurse have I heard someone say, “Can you go check on the head injury in room 2?” or some version of that where the person ceases to be a person and becomes their diagnosis.  “She’s the pretty one…”  Ugh.  We ALL do it.  Repeatedly.  Often with very good intentions.  (And less often, with nasty intention – think Trump for an unlimited list of examples).

Besides the obvious issue with pigeon-holing people by one aspect of their humanness, it also  can create less understanding than more.  Take any label you can think of and think about how that ‘label’ manifests in one person you know.  And then think of another person you know that might qualify for the same label.  How similar are those two humans as a whole?  NOT SIMILAR AT ALL, is my guess.  Take a complex label like cancer.  What that label means and how it manifests is completely unique to each person who has been diagnosed with cancer.   It sounds ridiculous when I type this, but what if we treated all people with cancer in exactly the same way?   Makes no sense.  While there may be similarities to how we treat individuals with cancer – we use chemotherapeutic medications often (although in unique doses and combinations and schedules), radiation, stem cell transplants, surgery – there is never one course of treatment and patient response that looks exactly like another course of treatment and response because each person having treatment is completely unique.  Again, this all seems so obvious.

Learning disabilities and learning styles are incredibly complex and completely unique.  Look up the definition of dyslexia and you will see a long list of possible ‘symptoms’, and if you read further you will see that what dyslexia looks like in one person may be very different from another person with the same label. Ditto for ADHD.  Or processing disorders.  Or autism. Speech delay. PDD.   <Ya ya, Chandra, we get it.  Labels are high level and don’t reflect the individual.  Move on.>

My point is that in my opinion, when it comes to learning, the labels are not relevant.  You may need them to help get support, and that is where the value is.  But when you start to look at what specific support your child will need, forget about the labels and look at the child. Where is the child at today? Which way does he or she learn best?  Does that change depending on the topic, time of day, or activity?  What strategies work best for your child. How does diet, or activity , or sleep, or routine impact his or her learning? How can your child achieve meaningful success?  Having a label doesn’t answer those questions, and sometimes results in not asking the question at all….  Have you ever heard, “Oh he has ADHD, he’ll never sit through this.” ?  I have.  It’s not about whether or not he will sit through an activity.  The question should be “How do we adapt this activity, our approach, his environment, etc. etc., so he can be successful?”

I have been thinking a lot about learning disabilities and learning styles lately for obvious reasons.  When I think about homeschooling Berrik, this is my philosophy:

I don’t worry about labels because they aren’t really relevant to what I am going to do. It’s not up to me or a label to pre-determine what Berrik can or cannot achieve.  On any given day, I just start where he is at and progress with him at his pace.  If he is not progressing on any topic or in any moment, I believe it is my responsibility to figure out how my child learns and adapt my approach.  Kids all progress at different rates.  They all learn in different ways.  And that can change from day to day, sometimes from minute to minute.  I’m here to help Berrik navigate his learning journey, not dictate it.  

And this is what I tell myself every day.  Navigate, don’t dictate.  I’m a dictator by nature.  Some  (or maybe many!!!) might label me ‘bossy’.  I have absolutely been called a ‘know it all’.  I’m terrible at meditation and yoga, but I have a mantra…  Navigate, don’t dictate.  Navigate, don’t dictate.  One more time.  NAVIGATE, don’t dictate.

As an aside, I’d like to get better at yoga and meditation. To meditate I’d have to stop talking, and I think many of you know that may be a bit of a stretch goal, so perhaps I’ll start with yoga…  (See what I did there?  Stretch goal…yoga…) <mic drop>

 

Homeschool Math (aka baking muffins)

After my earlier post with the muffin recipe, Berrik and I set off to make the muffins.  It turned into a major math lesson, with Berrik none the wiser about doing school work!  Here’s some of what we did:

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Preheating the oven.  In Math this morning Berrik was learning about number placement on ‘decimal’ street, including 100s, 10s, and 1s.  We used that learning to preheat the oven to 350F.  Simple stuff, but nice reinforcement of what we were doing earlier.

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Preparing the pan.  I asked Berrik to estimate how much coconut oil he would need in order to grease all 12 muffin holes, and then had him spoon the amount he though he would need into the little glass bowl.  When he was done greasing the pan, he realized he had overestimated the amount and said he would use less next time.  We talked about whether he thought he had used 1/2 the amount of coconut oil, or less than that.

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Measuring the ingredients.  The bananas allowed for a review of simple addition and subtraction.  We did both, which I think is so good to promote understanding that addition is just the opposite of subtraction.  This was easy for him, but always a good review.  After I quizzed him on a couple, he was then supplying the equations and answering them himself.

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The rest of the ingredients.  Talking about the difference between 1/2 cup and 1 cup and physically being able to see that 1 cup is double the amount of 1/2 cup is a great way to promote understanding of fractions.  Measured with teaspoons as well, and then estimated the right amount of cinnamon.  More addition and subtraction with the eggs, but generally decided that learning how to crack the egg was more important than the math.  Egg cracking is a life skill.  Everyone should know how to crack an egg.  🙂

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Chocolate chips:  Berrik identified the pattern he wanted to use and wrote it on a sheet of paper to help him remember it.  Then he followed through and created the pattern 3 times.  I had him figure out how many times the pattern would repeat before he started, and while it took him a little bit to figure it out, he was able to get the answer.   When he finished he confirmed that his pattern repeat guess was correct (and sounded pretty surprised that it was correct, which was funny).  He also informed me that he would eat the 5 and 4 chocolate chip muffins and McKenna and Avi were welcome to the 3 & 2 chocolate chip muffins.  Definitely my kid!img_6775

We put the muffins in the oven and set the timer.  I made him read to figure out which button said ‘kitchen timer’ and then punch in the amount of time.  His concept of time isn’t great, but he thought that 25 minutes seemed like a perfect amount of time to play outside to ‘get a good appetite for eating muffins’.  I’d love to spend some time inside his brain.  It’s so funny and busy in there.

And finally once the muffins were baked, we discussed more math using word problems. If Berrik ate 2 and mom ate 1, how many would be left for McKenna and Avi?  What if McKenna and Avi each had 1, how many would be left when Dad gets home for dinner?  If Berrik ate all the 4 & 5 chocolate chip muffins, how many would he have eaten?  I had to repeat these a few times (processing word problems is a real challenge for Berrik), but we used the muffins as manipulatives and he was able to figure out the answers.

#learningbydoing is still trending in our house….