Tag Archives: kids

Let’s KISS

Keep it simple, stupid.  Having had a child who felt he was ‘stupid’ based on his school experience, I tend to dislike the word.  I still feel an emotional response to hearing it, because it takes me back to 8 months ago when Berrik told me he was too stupid for school and that the kids didn’t like him because he was stupid.  I worry that the word will always be a trigger for him, like it now is for me.  In spite of that, I have always loved the KISS principle.  I like the simplicity of the statement and how much applicability it has to pretty much everything.

KISS is an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid” as a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960.[1][2] The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

That said, I am pretty darned terrible about applying it.  In fact, I would say I have a tendency to overcomplicate most things in my life.  This past year with Berrik’s diet changes, supplements, and schoolwork, I have ventured down the path of overcomplication a few times, but I am happy to say that I am slowly getting better at keeping it simple.  It is my tendency to start out with a simple plan, and then I will find myself complicating the situation, and then I pull back and reset.  Again.  I suspect I will do this over and over for the rest of my life.  The key for me is recognizing it sooner and resetting more quickly.

Some key areas where I (attempt to) apply the KISS principle in our family life are as follows:

fruit-1095331__340

  1. Food.  While Berrik’s diet may sound complicated, it’s actually incredibly simple.  Is it real food in it’s original form?  Great, he can eat it.  It’s really that simple.  In pretty much every restaurant (less so in fast food, but we avoid those place for many reasons and always have) will have the option to order a protein and vegetables.  It won’t likely be on the menu, but ask for a grilled chicken breast and some steamed or raw veggies, and almost everyone will accommodate, no questions asked.  When I do this, I usually get a chef or manager coming out to ask about allergies.  I confess that I don’t outright lie, but I do let assumptions work in my favor.  “Exposure to gluten or refined sugar will make him very unwell.”  This is 100% truth, however, the assumption is often that these things would be life threatening or that he has Celiac disease.  I feel ok with that if it means that Berrik can have a regular piece of meat without any breading or unknown additions.  More importantly, at home, this way of eating is very, very simple.  Once you get into the swing of things, you start to change your ideas about what convenience food is as well.  For me, convenience food is making enough dinner to have a day or two of leftovers in the fridge for lunches so I’m not scrambling or feeling like I have to resort to something processed because there is nothing else and I don’t have time to prepare real food.  Having a lot of fresh produce in the house at all times requires a bit of planning, but is also very convenient.  As are nuts and seeds.  We use SPUD.ca for produce delivery every week, so I know that even if I can’t get out to the store, we will still have produce (as well as many other items from SPUD.ca). I know not everyone is into baking like I am, but I find it convenient to make a large volume of ‘treats’ like coconut balls or ‘fat bombs’, and keeping them in the freezer.  Last minute play date where the kids are having cookies?  No problem.  I pull out a couple frozen treats and send them with Berrik.  It can be quite simple.  It should be simple.  All kids are better off with this simplicity in my opinion.  Not to say there should be no ‘treats’ ever, but I do think we can redefine what ‘treat’ means, and I feel like many of us misuse or misunderstand the term moderation.  Everything in moderation is a common adage these days.  The problem is that most of us take every category of ‘treat’ and have a moderate amount of each of those treats regularly.  Moderate consumption of each of bagged snack food (chips), fast food, processed foods, and sugar on a regular basis is no longer moderation.  Let’s say we have 3-4 things from each of the above mentioned categories on a weekly basis (and I would venture to guess that most of us eat more than that), we are eating up to 16 servings of ‘treats’ each week. The reality is, in my opinion, that we need to combine all ‘treats’ into one category and choose 3-4 per week.  Would it take some planning and a major lifestyle change?  Of course.  Would it be just too expensive?  Nope…it’s actually not that expensive to eat only real food.  Processed foods and eating out are more expensive in the long run.  We would all feel better and many of the diet related issues that plague North Americans would be minimized.pexels-photo-199093
  2. Schedule.  Oh how I struggle keeping a simple schedule.  Our family calendar is a gong show.  But where I implement ‘simple’ is we use one digital iCal. Anyone with iCloud can access it.  This means everyone in the family has access to it.  Kevin isn’t an apple user, but he can log into the calendar through iCloud in his browser, and see exactly who is doing what, where and when.  He and I both add all of our activities in it as well, so when we are planning something, we can instantly see what is happening on that date and decide if we can add another item or not.  This keeps things relatively simple, and we rarely forget to take ourselves or one of the kids to where they need to go.  Our day to day lives are not simple.  McKenna dances pretty much every day.  Avi has choir, basketball and sewing club every week.  Berrik has Cub Scouts, karate and of course his school activities every week, plus skiing and skating when there is time. Super complicated.  However, it is all in the calendar so we have a relatively simple system that works for us.  We carpool where we can which further simplifies life.   Simple doesn’t always have to mean doing less.  In this context, simple is just finding the most efficient way to manage our crazy lives, simplifying wherever we possibly can.image
  3. School.  Homeschooling is simple.  Or it can be.  I have overcomplicated it a few times in our short homeschooling career, but I know that we both fare significantly better if we KISS school.  We have developed a routine and a rhythm that works for both of us and is proving to be highly effective.  The three R’s of my childhood (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic – Um, who determined this was the three R’s???) make the foundation of what we do on a daily basis.  While the details of each may seem complicated, they really aren’t as they all are areas of learning that have a foundation from which you continually build in increments.  Quite simple once you wrap your head around it.  Science, social studies, art, phys.ed, music, all can stem from the three R’s.  Reading and writing about social studies topics, music is very mathematical, art and science can include all sorts of information about scale, measurements, estimation, and pretty much every other foundational math skill that exists. I have learned that it is not necessary to do a separate ‘class’ for each subject.  We integrate the three R’s into all subjects and so everything we do has some math, some writing and some reading.  We learn about scientific process, making inferences, geography, community, culture, art, physical activity, music etc., throughout our days in different ways, using those basic skills.  The huge benefit of homeschool is the ability to make it simple in the way that works best for Berrik.  He needs considerably more time spent on reading and writing than on math, so we integrate that into more of our activities on a daily basis.  It works for us and he is thriving.image
  4. Family time.  This is also simple.  It did not used to be, but because we decided it was a priority, it has become more simple.  We eat together almost every day at dinnertime.  No technology is allowed and we catch up with everyone about their day. All other family time is scheduled in a different way – daddy time with Berrik or the girls or just one of the girls whenever there is a window of opportunity.  Bedtime chats with the girls most nights (individually), so they can tell me about what is going on in their heads, in their relationships, in their lives.  It’s such a short amount of time.  Sometimes only 5 minutes.  But it’s frequent and almost always available to them, so it works. Trying to schedule whole family outings is nearly impossible. So I stopped trying to do it beyond our dinnertime.  No need to complicate it.  And as we see that one or more of the kids (or Kevin and I) need more time together, we find the time in the schedule and we do it.  I will say that being home this year has facilitated this, but even if I was working, it’s more the commitment to it and doing it no matter what that keeps it simple.  “Can I go to a friends after school?”  “Not tonight honey, I want you home for dinner.”  It’s really that simple.  I hoard and protect that time because it’s my only guaranteed time.image
  5. Relationships.  I am fortunate to have a pretty large circle of pretty cool friends.  Some I see regularly thanks to dance or other kids activities that we both have kids involved in.  Some I see regularly because of a shared activity that we (the adults) participate in.  Some I see only once or twice a year, and a few even less than that.  The beauty is that all of my friends seem to look at our relationship in a similar way.  We don’t complain or berate each other when we haven’t seen each other for  weeks or months. We just take our opportunities where we can, and enjoy the time we have when we have it.  Not to say we passively await a perfect storm of opportunity, we sometimes make considerable effort to find a time that works, commit to it, and make it happen.  But on the same token, I never feel pressure.  I know we would all like more time together, but we are each prioritizing our lives in a way that makes sense for our families or ourselves, and I rarely feel that anyone is frustrated or upset about time span between visits.  I guess the KISS principle application is that you need to surround with friends who share your outlook, who love you no matter how much they see you (and vice versa), who are there when you need them (and vice versa), and who can pick up where you left off no matter if it’s been 2 days or 2 years. Make a simple list of the most important qualities you want in a friend, and if anyone doesn’t meet the criteria, (hint: if they don’t meet yours, you likely don’t meet theirs either) then keep them at acquaintance level and move on.

Every time I write a blog post like this one, I read and reread, and often feel like whatever I’m writing about sounds way easier than it is.  This post is no exception. My philosophy is really that everything is a journey and that we can only do what we can do.  Some people are the masters of simplification, right down to having only a handful of outfits and just rotating through them…or like Mr. Facebook himself, wearing the same thing every single day to remove the need to make a fashion decision on a daily basis. Or having limited ‘stuff’ in their house, or even limiting activities or friends!  Simple is relative.  Simplify where you can, in baby steps. And because you’re human, things will likely get complicated, so when they do, step back and figure out where you can simplify again.  Keeping it simple is anything but simple.  Ironically, it can start out quite complicated!  Do what makes sense for you and forget the rest.  It’s that simple ;-).

And for all my friends who I haven’t seen in awhile (assuming any of you actually read my blog!), I can’t wait to see you again.  Call me, or I’ll call you.  Soon.  (TG, stay by your phone.  We are due).

Don’t wish it all away…

 

At 4am today Berrik came and woke me up because he had had a nightmare.  I took him back down to his room and tucked him in.  He asked if I would crawl in with him for a little while, so I did.  He fell back to sleep quickly and so I headed back to my own bed.  I couldn’t get back to sleep and I was laying there feeling frustrated knowing that today would be a long day of feeling exhausted.  But as I was laying there, I was thinking about how neither McKenna or Avi had ‘needed’ me in the middle of the night in years.  It occurred to me that it won’t be long before Berrik also stops coming to me in the night for comfort.  And while I enjoy full nights of sleep, I realized in that moment that I will be so sad when my baby no longer needs me as much.  My kids are growing up so fast.  This was a reminder for me to not wish it all away.

img_7985

I remember when the kids were babies, and thinking I couldn’t wait until they would sleep through the night, talk, walk, go to the potty on their own, etc. etc.  Time moved more slowly then, and I sometimes felt overwhelmed by the amount of energy it took to care for 3 little kids.  Now my oldest is 14, and I’m realizing that there are only 4 more years until we are preparing to send her off into the world.  Four years until she is expected to take care of herself, make big life decisions, start her life independent from me.  While this is exciting, it is also frightening and makes me want to press pause on everything.  It reminds me to not wish it all away.  The sleepless nights, the driving to activities, the money spent, the worry, the tears….these are all gifts.

My middle baby is a talker.  She wants to discuss EVERYTHING.  For hours.  And if she doesn’t have anything pressing to talk about, she’ll talk about any other topic she can think of. Sometimes I think that I would like her to just stop talking for a bit…to give me some peace.  But today I am reminded that I should be grateful that she tells me everything that crosses her mind.  Every little thing!  I need to stop wishing it all away, as one day soon she will leave the house and I won’t get to hear every thought that crosses her busy brain.  I know I will miss it.

The next 10 years will be so milestone filled that it makes me feel ill.  First time driving, first boyfriends/girlfriends, graduations, heartbreaks, major successes, major failures, university, maybe even weddings and grandchildren (WHAT?!?).  Today I am tired.  So tired that my eyes hurt.  But today I get to spend the entire day learning with my brilliant son.  His confidence is soaring and he is excelling at school for the first year in his short school career.  We met with his homeschool teacher/supervisor yesterday, and despite taking grade 1 Math and LA this year (grade 2 for all other subjects), she feels he will be ready to enroll in grade 3 Math and LA in September because he has progressed so far in such a short time.  I’m going to enjoy every minute with him because I am so fortunate to be able to share in this with him.  After school I am going to listen to every word my chatty Kathy has to say, because one day she won’t be in my house every day to tell me about the minute details of her life.  I’m going to watch my biggest girl at dance tonight because even though she’s 14, she still likes to have her parents watch her rehearse.  These moments are all so fleeting.

I hope I can remember to take advantage of every opportunity to spend time with and connect with my kids, regardless if it means less sleep for me, or sacrificing some alone time.  Not to say moms don’t deserve a break from kids and shouldn’t take these breaks with zero guilt, but just to say that I want to remember to enjoy the moments, good and bad, because one day all too soon we will enter a different stage of life.  I want to look back and know that I enjoyed the previous stage for all it’s ups and downs, and am then ready to move on to whatever comes next.

img_8017

Don’t wish it all away.  Just don’t.  Every phase of raising kids has brought new challenges and new joys.  There will always be things that I do not miss about each stage (um…potty training?!?), but there are also many things that I would give anything to have back, even just for a minute (baby snuggles, toddler chub, first words, first steps, first days of school, preschool-aged humor, the devotion and awe of little kids who believe their parents know EVERYTHING…).  I am guilty of wishing things away.  Today I am going to try to stop doing that.  I want to be present.  I will appreciate the moments. And if you hear me complaining, please remind me to stop wishing it all away.

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.