Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

History Smiles

We've had a double dose of history delights!  First, the Dawes Plan? Where America basically sent money to Germany so Germany could send it to Britain and France so Britain and France could send it back to America... well, my kiddo was listening to me read The Great Brain last night. The Great Brain rigs this plan where the allowance money is going in a circle so that he gets all his money back and doesn't have to do the chores. My kiddo declared that The Great Brain was like Germany and this was the Dawes Plan of Adenville, Utah! How's that for learning from history! Yay for History at Our house

Then, we did long division! Oh, what a morning of giggles! He decided to make it more interesting by describing attacks of numbers early on in the division as pyrrhic victories as he continued down the seven digit number!  Enjoy the video and smiles of a kid who really loves to show off his knowledge :)

This is the video description I posted: We've been integrating all my eight year old's math knowledge by having him do everything from fractions with finding a common denominator to exponents (we just started talking in more depth about decimals throughout arithmetic, so that's a newer skill) and then, the goal was proper ordering of the results from lowest to highest (including negative numbers).  Here he chooses to make long division more exciting by turning it into a battle!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Catching Up

I think this start to my last update says it all and... explains why I can finally return to this blog!  I'll also catch up on the cute antics :)

"Hip hip, hooray!!!  We have internet!!!  On Fathers Day, we took our parents on FaceTime tours around the house and had video chats too!  It's so glorious to have all the glories of internet at home!!!  Cameron can do the online typing programs and Kahn academy!  I can do my classes next year!  Andrew has the option to work from home!  We are so thrilled to have that huge challenge addressed :)"

It was very cool to watch the tree climber go over 100 feet up to scale one of the redwoods, but he wound up needing to put the receiver on a neighbor's property.  

Cute antics:
• when Andrew did something loud, Cameron said, "That made me feel meek and week!"  I said, "I don't believe it, there's nothing meek about you." [Pause]  Cameron reply, "I know."
• replying when I handed him his flosser, "You are very thanked for your slave acting deed." (I think that was meant to acknowledge that I'm not a slave and didn't have to help.)
• hearing him call from afar, "Where are you?  I'm in the attic!"  (?!?!?  He apparently took advantage of the ladder when the internet installer was here.)
• announcing as he walked toward us with a watering can, "I'm feeling very mischievous!" (A few comments on likely consequences convinced him to water the forest.)

• coming in after running up and down the driveway for a half hour sporting his colonial hat, foam shield, and lego pistol with the announcement "I'm changing into military clothes!"  [After rummaging upstairs for five minutes, he changed out of shorts and sweatshirt and returned to declare.]  "Matching colors!"  (He clarified that matching colors, in this case navy shirt and pants, equaled military clothing.)

• asking me to heat up his soup and then complaining,  "I can still smell the hotness!"
• suggesting Andrew kill a particular video-game-bad-guy by saying, "Why don't you pluck him from his life?"

• dinner comment, "My dessert stomach says, 'Sure!  Pile it up!"
• declaring 8:30pm "The Golden Age of the Day!" because that's when he's been playing Civilization with Andrew
• when asked if he had a best friend, he answered "No, my parents are my best friends."
• writing on a class handout, when asked how he solved the problem, "I just saw through it."
• walking out of the house for some pretend play, "I'll patrol the main bridge, see ya!"  Informing me during a pause in that play, "The armory is now the barracks, your highness." (I was appointed queen of the castle that particular day.)
... and one that I just learned about from LB in Sacramento:
"Another antic to add from Lindamood-Bell: Cameron had four different animal stickers that he used as a "rating system" for how well he liked each of his clinicians!  He put stickers on their name tags.  He only told one clinician about the cute!  Lions were his favorites."

• looking at me with streaming wet hair after washing it in the sink and saying, "You look a site."
• indignantly correcting my description of a voice as raspy by saying, "That's not raspy; that's gruff!" (Does it help that he was right?)
• "I'm getting close to frustrated. [Mom comment about introspection]  I'm down to annoyed.  [Few more seconds] I'm back to calm."  (Sometimes it's really not cool that he shares his thinking and sometimes it's awesome!)

After a really rough week, succeeding at lego camp!

Lindamood Bell Experience

Having now finished both an intensive six weeks and a first round of follow up therapy with Lindamood-Bell, I wanted to document that experience and have a place to share for those considering this option.  First, Lindamood Bell (LB) provides several different specialized therapies and my son worked with the Visualizing and Verbalizing curriculum.  In all their tests, which reflected our observations, my son had advanced vocabulary and reading skills. He didn't need help decoding language or using it in a simple manner.  However, as soon as what he was experiencing (or wished to describe) became more detailed, he'd falter. He wasn't painting a vivid picture of what the words he either used or heard meant.  He was painting a quick, fuzzy picture and that had significant consequences for his ability to both understand and speak effectively.  He would picture a potential action in the fuzzy way and not get the "natural" side effects.  He would try to describe what happened in a personal situation and would again picture it in this fuzzy way and communicate it in a disjointed manner that wasn't effective for painting a cohesive picture in someone else's head.  We'd often be totally confused if we hadn't been there.  (It was one of the huge benefits of me helping in his classroom that I could bring a context to his school descriptions.)  So, we saw many ways in which a therapy that helped him first see clearer pictures and then communicate them effectively would benefit him.

Of course, there are lots of bogus therapies and we could certainly acknowledge a wanted result without thinking a certain therapy would get us there.  So, does this therapy work?  I have been on a Hyperlexia parenting list for years and have consistently found their experiences are good guides.  Those on the list who had paid for this therapy had consistently found it a positive choice which is a significant statement considering the huge expense involved (more on that later).  So, I had anecdotal evidence based on a group of highly similar peers. There have been some studies showing physical improvements in the brain and reading improvements in schools using LB.  I bought the Visualizing and Verbalizing book and tried to impelement it myself, but was not very effective (the intensive, 4 hour per day training wasn't feasible and I wasn't trained in their teaching styles either). We took the offer of a discounted evaluation when we were living in Washington.  The tests and evaluators seemed to pinpoint exactly the areas of challenge that we saw which added confidence that could accurately evaluate my son and understand his challenges.  My husband and I first concluded that LB sounded great, but was just too expensive and we'd try to do our best on our own.  We took advantage of the free annual re-evaluations which showed our son progressing but remaining well behind in these visualizing skills.  

So, we remained interested in the therapy, but not finding it worth the financial commitment (about 10k) and time commitment (4-6 weeks of 4hours a day, 5 days a week).  Then we had a change of circumstance which made us reconsider.  When we began the moving process from Washington to California, we had an uncertain period in temporary housing while searching and closing on a new house (where joining a local school would have been disruptive).  My husband also received a sign on bonus that allowed us to reconsider the relative value of LB therapy to us.  We decided to use this as our son's school for a 6 week period.  It offered him stability and one on one attention in a key area of challenge and we hoped it would make a difference.

During intensive therapy, my son mostly enjoyed himself.  He had some minimal behavior issues of getting silly and refusing to participate, but the staff were adept at helping move him into a positive learning frame of mind and they were also responsive to suggestions for increasing his interest.  The reports throughout were a bit difficult to understand, but the staff were always responsive to questions especially during the weekly parent conferences.  I think more detailed written reports at those weekly meetings would have helped me feel more secure that he was gaining value.

Results?  My kiddo is clearly able to visualize language better.  He paints a more detailed picture in his head and is able to more cohesively share that with another person.  He will get jokes more quickly.  He'll listen to an audio book and laugh appropriately instead of his previous delay.  He'll listen to us describe the day's outings and have a cohesive picture of what that means (and be able to quickly visualize proposed changes to that schedule too which helps with flexibility).  He can visualize and respond to questions more precisely / appropriately.  We noticed improvements and his test results definitely soared in all areas regarding verbalizing his visual imagery.  While this was not the night and day kind of experience that some parents report (my kiddo was already fairly high functioning), there were clear gains.  The final test they did was in the area of writing which is a key area where I would like to see this learning applied.  Can he "verbalize" in writing this more cohesive imagery?  The answer was clearly, "Not yet."  They thought that six weeks of brief therapy (2 hours, twice a week) could help him cement this skill.  So, having moved into our new house, we decided to give this a try as an after school program.

While the quality of staff and focus on visualizing before writing was still there, this was clearly not LB's area of expertise.  They helped him practice the skills of summarizing and they also helped him do some creative writing (while the therapist typed his dictation and asked clarifying questions).  He improved some in his writing abilities, but I didn't see them doing anything that I couldn't easily do at home.  So, this wasn't a good trade of value because their expertise in writing instruction was not greater than my own.

My final evaluation is that Lindamood Bell can offer a powerful teaching stimulus with its intensive Visualizing and Verbalizing program.  I think we were correct to wait for therapy until it was the right financial choice and I think it also gave my son the ability to better grow (because he had a more extensive experience / vocabulary from which to pull in therapy).  The warmth of the staff at all three centers we used was a huge positive in making the learning environment feel welcoming.  I think their follow up that focuses on their areas of expertise could by highly valuable for students that need refreshers, but I would pass on those areas that are not their focus.  The huge value of one on one attention to address the areas that are challenging for a particular child cannot be under emphasized.  Lindamood bell combines their intense therapy curriculum with skilled providers and they focus on bringing the best of that combination together for each student they teach.

Graduation-day, celebratory sundae!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sitting at whole Foods!

I have my desk top iMac set up in front of Whole Foods, but at least I'm able to sync this machine for the first time in awhile.  We're still hoping to get internet set soon, but I figured sharing some cute antics would be fun :)

• "I don't want to put his head back.  I like his squishy brain."  (It's an anatomy model that Cameron seems to want to keep disassembled indefinitely.)
• "That last look doesn't count!" (when insisting he'd hid something from his dads glance).
• calling his dad cunctator for putting off game playing!  He remembered that as the nickname for the Roman leader who refused to fight Hannibal and was nicknamed "the delayer".
  • barefoot, shirtless, balancing on the curb, he walked up and down the driveway for a good half hour at dusk (50-60F)

• this note from his teacher which so reminds me of his dad!  "I had to keep a sharp eye on Cameron at PE today. The kids were doing soccer skills. He was wandering off to the dug out and trying to climb a tree."

• when I talked about efforts to engage his mind at school he told me, "Engaging my mind is usually dodge ball."
• stating, "I I think it's a fallacy that kids need twelve years of school."  (This kid is not eight!)

• yelling up when Andrew and I over slept, "The early bird gets the worm.  You haven't got the worm yet ! [Long pause.] I got the early bird!
You didn't." 
• as we were walking by the school classrooms, he commented "Is that my class?  By golly it is!" 
• when playing the game of feature's he has from me or Andrew, he stopped the conversation early by saying he resembled … Godzilla.
• taking my dad's idea of different stomachs for dessert and main course to declare, "Mom, I'm full but my dessert stomach is begging."
• swinging this hard plastic angled thing, he came into the office to watch Andrew playing video games and informed us, "Charles is coming too!  [Pause as he settles.]  That's his nick name.  His real name is fool-snake.  [Before he picked it up in the woods, he thought it was a snake.  He settled down and then started to croon,]  Do you like Civilization, Charles?"

• suggesting sternly that I make sure to bring him a strawberry milk shake (He loves the Starbuck's strawberry frappuccinos as a cool, sweet on days when we drive straight from school to Lindamood Bell.)

• giving me an architectural tour of two lego forts he built (They tend to mix swords, guns, light sabers, cannons, and jet-propelled guns, but that's just my battle loving kid.)
• finding the pony licking my arm to be absolutely hysterical
• when he put the boots on the wrong feet, crossing his legs to consider riding cross legged (making the correct boot on the correct side of the horse while still on the wrong foot)
• enjoying listening to me read him "The Great Brain" and pondering the scenes for hours afterwards 

Creating one of his mazes!
Andrew holding up Charles :)