My Babies

My Babies
"For success in science and art a dash of autism is essential." --Hans Asperger

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Home Sensory Tharapy

Over the years, we have gotten really creative when it comes to meeting the sensory needs of our kiddos. Let's face it OT is expensive even with insurance, and when you have four kids with sensory issues and a limited budget, sometimes you have to DIY it just a bit. Here are some of the tricks we use on a regular basis to make sure our kids get the input they need to function.

The first is kind of a no brainier....THE PARK! I know it seems redundant to even list it, but the park is really the best place to get all the climbing, swinging, jumping, rolling, hanging upside down, etc. plus bonus, it's FREE!

Next tip, find a local children's museum and buy a membership or ask for one from grandparents for Christmas. One year we pooled all the kids' Christmas money to pay for it and it was totally worth it. Most children's museums, have tons of sensory play opportunities that really aren't available elsewhere. Think giant water tables, climbing structures, life sized stuffed animals, tractors to climb in, etc. It's perfect for rainy or cold days when the park just isn't an option. 

Okay now for a few DIY at home ideas. We have dandelion blowing in the summer. It's very tactile and calming for kids with anxiety.

My youngest loves his Squishy Bin. Pretty much it's blankets and pillows in a large toy tote. I put a pillow in the bottom, sit him in and squish others around him. He absolutely loves sitting in it.

The next current favorite is tea party. The boys like to use real cereal and water to play tea party. There ends up being a lot of water play involved. 

Tower smashing might be discouraged in some houses, but if it keeps my boys from toppling other thing just to make noise, I am cool with it!

Massive batches of scented play dough are a good way to get the smelly squishy input. 

Recipe: 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of flour, one cup of water, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 2 packets of unsweetened drink mix like Koolaid.....mix all ingredients in a bowl.

This recipe does dry out over time, but it is easily freshened by adding a bit of water and kneading. This batch is still useable two weeks after being made. The picture shows three batches that I made to use with eight preschoolers in our co-op. One batch makes enough for three kids to play comfortably.

Some other ideas that I have yet to get pictures of are: pool noodles cut up in the bath tub, writing letters in a shallow bin of corn meal, kids yoga poses, Wii Fit (excellent for older kiddos with balance issues), letting them jump on the bed, letting them sit upside down on the couch or chair, shaving cream car washes outside, sand and water table, bins of rice, Magformers, Legos, Legos in the bathtub, painting in the bathtub, playing in mud puddles, playing with food. Notice most of these are pretty impromptu and don't require a lot of prep. I am not one of those moms that has hours to set up a play activity. Lol

Animal habitats

Part of homeschooling kids with any kind of learning difference is adapting to the kids' learning styles. With autism, we have to try our best to reinforce concepts in multiple ways. Our co-op is focussing on animal habitats, so we have been reading books at home too, and of course we have also been exploring our environment. We happened to find a toad habitat purely on accident in our rock garden, one of our large rocks had a crevasse that made the perfect toad cave at the bottom. The little boys have really been enjoying hunting for more toads arround our campsite, and it has really reinforced what we have been working on.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Campground Homeschool Classroom

The best thing about homeschooling.....being able to go where we want when we want. We have a camper at a permanent campsite, and there is nothing better than loading the kids in the car books and all and spending a week relaxing. The kids can do their bookwork on the deck, and when they are finished they get their fill of outdoor time aka free sensory therapy. There is a playground where they can spin, swing, run, and jump as much as they darn well please. We also have a water table and rock pit for extra sensory input. They can also go hiking or biking as much as they want, and on the weekends there is built in social time with all the campground kids. I have to say my kids sleep the best after a long day in the great outdoors.

Really what better classroom is there? We don't really have a homeschool room, because our house is barely big enough for the six of us, but we have outside. The kids get to explore with plants, see animals up close, and just interact with the wonderful world God created. In the spring, we had the chance to watch some robins hatch and grow. My youngest was highly amused by the bunnies that hopped away every time he tried to get near. We couldn't ask for a better classroom to learn and grow in.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Autism and Hooked on Phonics

My eldest son has Asperger's and was hyperlexic meaning he learned to read on his own really early around age three with no instruction from anyone. I didn't have to teach him to read at all. We did have to work on reading comprehension at the appropriate age, and we still work on that quite a bit.

Now we are to my six year old who has an "official" diagnosis of PDD-NOS (atypical Autism) and Expressive Receptive Language Disorder. We started working on reading last year in Kindergarten since that is what we felt we were "supposed" to do. Can you tell I am a little jaded on this whole grade level thing? Anyways, he has known most of his letter sounds for some time now just for the countless hours spent in speech therapy and working with flash cards in therapy just learning to make those sounds, so I had hoped reading would just be the next natural step. Unfortunately that has now been the case. We tried using Starfall.com which is wonderful by the way. This is what we used to help my daughter who is now nine learn to read. However, it moved to quickly it seemed and frustrated him. We then tried Hooked on Phonics for the IPad since he likes using his speech therapy apps on the iPad, but he just ended up tapping and guessing instead of focusing   on what he was doing. Another iPad app called Reading Raven was helpful, but everything still wasn't clicking, and he was resisting even playing the apps. Needless to say, we were both quite frustrated and didn't look at anything meant to teach him to read all summer. We took a much needed break.

Here we are at the start of first grade, and we are back at it. A good friend gave me an older version of the Hooked on Phonics books. We started on those and for some reason it has started clicking at least slowly. It seems the apps and games are too much of a distraction. Both the Hooked on Phonics app and hard copy highly focuses  on word families specifically 'at' and 'an' in the first lesson, but he didn't seem to understand the concept until we used the books with no distractions and a simple chalk board switching out the first letter in the words. It did take him a full two weeks of school to get the idea, but we are finally finished with the first lesson and seem to be on our way to reading.

I do think using multiple methods to reinforce has really made the most difference. Using the black and white books helped eliminate distractions, but he really enjoyed going back over the lesson in the app when we were done. He was so proud when he read his first little story. It melted my heart! He also really enjoyed doing the word families on the chalkboard, so he could switch out the letters to change the words. I will definitely be updating as we journey through the year.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Homeschooling with Minecraft

My older three kids ages 11, 8, and 6 are seriously obsessed with Minecraft, and honestly I don't mind. It is the one video game that they can spend hours literally creating whole worlds. Last year we signed up for an online class with projects on minecraft for school. Honestly the kids weren't all that impressed. They kind of just rushed through it so they could build what they wanted. Of course I was kicking myself for spending money on it when it just didn't work out for us. This year, I am letting them do whatever they want, but I am encouraging them to build on what we are learning in school. They are awesome at figuring out what to work on by themselves. Overall that is a better skill anyway. Why do we want to tell them what to create? We want them to think for themselves as adults, so why not start now?

However, sometimes even kids can use a little inspiration. These are some ideas to get started on:

  • Build a farm:  learning about farm animals, farming, crop rotation etc.

  •  Build a rocket:  learning about space travel

  •  Build ships:  learning about Columbus, Vikings, Pirates, etc.

  •  Build ancient city: learning about Rome, Greece, etc.

  •  Build a Pyramid

  •  Build a Longhouse: learning about Native American cultures

  •  Build simple machines

  •  Instead of a book report, build the setting to the book

  •  Build the Great Wall of China or any other famous landmark

Other projects can be strait out of your curriculum if you use one. I have used Minecraft with my kids in place of building dioramas, making models of cells, and so much more. If you can build it in real life, you can build it on minecraft. Sometimes we like to build on minecraft and turn arround and model similar projects with Legos for some more concrete fun. Pretty much we try to keep it fun. We don't do very much building to scale or including specific things. We keep it light, creative and fun. I don't want to spoil their game for them, and the actual class we tried seemed to spoil all the fun.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back to the Future....I mean Blogging

I know I haven't posted in forever!! Let's just say, having a fourth kiddo was way more challenging than I anticipated. Especially since he ended up having some special issues of his own. Mostly sensory issues and a speech delay. All this means I am now homeschooling four kiddos with special needs! Crazy cannot even cut it when describing our household anymore. I have to say we have switched curriculums more times than I can count. We are relaxed homeschoolers. We like to get our core curriculum finished in just a couple of hours so we can move on to just being creative and having fun. Of course when we have meltdowns or trouble focussing, sometimes the whole curriculum goes out the window for the day anyway.  

Anhow, what has brought me back to blogger is my kids of course. The older two, my eldest son who is 11 and my daughter who is 9, have expressed interest in Blogging. They also want YouTube accounts, but one thing at a time here. I set them up accounts and we are doing a private school blog just with each other. They are so excited and have both made their first entries. Of course their "own" accounts are just accounts under my name and closely monitored, but it should be a learning experience for all of us.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

Well, my baby boy is now one year old and we had a blast with his party! We had it at a local children's museum. I made his birthday outfit myself, did the classic Hungry Caterpillar Cupcake Cake (Ignore the antennae!), and the party favors are caterpillars made out of green sixlets with fruit candy. Anyways, we had an awesome time!
We bought him the Y-bike Pewi, which is seriously the best designed ride on toy walker combo on the market.
He absolutely loves it! My mom made him a Hungry Caterpillar quilt which turned out super cute.
He smashed into the head of his Caterpillar Cake!
Of course they loved all the stuff to play with at the museum.
Happy Birthday Little Dude!