Sunday, August 31, 2008

Teddy Bear Recitation

Last March, my parents gave Pamela, a stuffed animal lover, this cute teddy bear. She figured out really quickly that the bear will recite prayers and poems if you press its paws. Pamela loved the added bonus of the bear that had verbal stims like her! LOL! I noticed that she learned these poems and prayers and, when she recites, she sounds exactly like the bear. The same voice. The same cadence. The same pitch! Here are comparisons of the bear and Pamela reciting the same poem:

Teddy Bear


When I first got into Charlotte Mason homeschooling, all efforts to teach Pamela to recite poems failed. Two years ago, I figured out that blending copywork and studied dictation with recitaiton enabled her to recite poems correctly! We worked through lots of poetry by A. A. Milne and other beloved poets. We started school on August 18 and I decided to see if she could handle recitating without the scaffolding of visual and written work. I picked a poem called Singing Time by Rose Fyleman (a lover of all things faerie) from the book Poems and Prayers for the Very Young. I deliberately choose a very easy poem from a very easy book to build a sense of confidence in Pamela.
Singing Time
I wake in the morning early
And always, the very first thing,
I poke out my head and I sit up in bed
And I sing and I sing and I sing.
Here is how I scaffolded this:
  • I had Pamela read it aloud a few times each session.
  • We backchained the learning of this poem by starting off with the last two lines.
  • I said the end and then she said the end. We went back and forth a few times every session.
  • Sometimes we practiced while rocking so that she can learn to feel the rhythm of poetry.
In the following clip is the very first time we practiced going back and forth with the poem on August 18. Then you see us ten days later doing a rocking session and Pamela's final recitation. At the end, all I did was smile and you can see how she reads my face at the end and then smiles brightly too!

First Day/Rockin' Recitation
Ten Days Later

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Panda Puzzle!

We are praying for Pamela's grandma and grandpa, who live in Lousiana and are facing Gustav (as well as other members of the family who live there and in Mississippi). They gave this beautiful 500-piece panda puzzle to Pamela for Christmas, and she just finished it this week! The puzzle was quite a challenge (for both of us) because it only had three basic colors: white, black, and green and combinations of them. I had to scaffold puzzle building in the early stages! If you look at where we started with puzzles back in March 2007, you might think I am excited about how far Pamela has come in this ability. You see, she finished the puzzle while I was cooking dinner. The last fourteen pieces were black and could only be placed by shape and the number of knobs and holes. Being able to do this shows how far she has come because, when we first started, she did not even know the difference between a corner, edge, or inner piece, much less what to do with them.

But, improvement in this static, procedural skill is NOT why I am so excited! I have always loved to build puzzles: my grandmother from Germany always bought me the most beautiful and intricate jigsaw puzzles for Christmas. I remember buying one of those round single color puzzles with my babysitting money. I imagined passing on this love of puzzles to my children, envisioning sitting around a table set aside for puzzles and chatting while we worked on a puzzle. Because Pamela had no interest in them because she had no clue how to put them together, I let go of that vision! But, here we were this week finishing up a very complicated one!

I try to keep relationship in mind by spotlighting working together and refining my ability to guide and her ability to relate to me. In this process, she has learned to borrow my perspective on how to build puzzles. Sometimes, we come up with fun creative ways to build a puzzle. And, even when I am not there when she finishes one, she Snoopy dances to see me and shares her joy with me! This morning, two days after finishing the panda, Pamela was looking at it and said to me, "It's so beautiful."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pickles and Olives and Broth, Oh My!

What does this seemingly unrelated odd collection of objects have in common? You'll see. . .

Our RDI consultant wanted to get to know Pamela better, so they spent two and a half hours together, out and about town. They had lots of fun and laughs. Our consultant thinks Pamela is hilarious, sweet, and gentle. How wonderful that a professional likes Pamela and enjoys her company!

First, they drove to a lake. Pamela became the iPod navigator in the car and found nothing she recognized. She turned it off because it seems our taste in music is different from that of our consultant. Pamela did not want to go walking, so she told our consultant that it's "not a very good idea," "a bad idea," and "too danger." They sat in the car and negotiated for a bit.

The suggestion of the Dollar Tree triggered another "not a great idea" semi-automatic response until Pamela realized it was a store, not a tree. Pamela picked out a really cool bright pink and blue sensory bracelet for herself. She could not find a gift for David. LOL.

They headed to Wally World, and our consultant told Pamela she would be happy to buy her a toy. Pamela suggested DVD but that was out for many reasons. They checked out the DVD’s and moved onto the toys. One surprising toy that caught her eye was a cupcake baker, probably because all of the baking we do. Pamela then insisted it was time for me to get food and helped pick up item's our consultant's grocery list. To my surprise, Pamela became a food Nazi and would not let her buy Lucky Charms, even though we buy gluten, casein, and junk-laced cereal at home! She explained that Lucky Charms would make you sick. One thing was clear to the consultant: Pamela's got referencing skills nailed!

Pamela finally picked out her momentos from our consultant in her favorite grocery aisle.

Was it candy? NOPE!

Was it soy ice cream? NOPE, not even chocolate soy ice cream.

What about potato chips or tortilla chips? NOPE!

She went down the condiment aisle! She probably picked the oddest things of all the kids our consultant has seen . . .
  • pickles
  • green olives
  • beef broth (she even pointed out the "gluten-free" description on the label to convince her it was okay).
After Wal-Mart, they had lunch. Our consultant already knew about the gf/cf thing and ordered the burger without then bun. I told her about the drink with no ice, but I forgot to mention the extra small fries. So, when Pamela saw only two fries, she kept saying, "There's a mistake." Our consultant could not figure out what, so Pamela did what we always do. I usually take a couple of fries and give her mine to avoid starting Chernobyl. Since our consultant did not know about my sacrificial tendencies, Pamela kept "stealing" her fries and our consultant would laugh and say, "You're a French Fry thief!" Pamela thought that was hilarious. That weird-looking, big-headed Star Wars bobble-head was the toy from her kid's meal. I guess Pamela got a toy after all!

When our consultant told Pamela they were going back, Pamela said, "We are at the end of our tape." When our consultant said, "Our date," she insisted, "No! Our cassette tape . . . Comedy!" and cracked up at her joke. Her great smile made it clear that Pamela was deliberately telling a joke.

There are two things I appreciated from this visit:

(1) Our consultant sees my description of Pamela as accurate sketches of her character: "Pamela is really easy to be around, and a very funny girl. We had some honest moments of connection that were invaluable to me. . . I think your descriptions are right on, and I really like your kid."

(2) Our consultant sees that Pamela is ready to move onto more gestures because she has the whole listening posture down! I am doing another language assessment on how she expresses not wanting to do something to see if we can expand her phrases and body gestures for this.

In fact, here is an excerpt of our last submission to the consultant and I have to "catch" Pamela at not listening. In 34 minutes of film, she has only three lapses in listening posture! At the end, I tacked on a blip of Pamela and her budding interest in comedy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Focus on Chipmunks

We are wrapping up the end of our first official week of school, and I have to say Pamela is awesome. I made up a schedule in Excel (by the way, if you do not already have it, homeschoolers and other educators and students can buy the home and student edition of Microsoft Office for a great price--I enjoy thinking in Excel and find it indispensible for planning! Like her daddy, Pamela loves accomplishing and swiping things of her to-do list. We have accomplished nearly everything on the plan, and what is not done is due to things I need to figure out! She even adjusted it for me when we got behind in the association method because I got too ambition one day this week and we got a day behind!

The highlight of the week for me was one of Pamela's ideas. Throughout the summer, Pamela has been dropping little hints about what she would like to do differently. She requested that we read her beloved Getting to Know Nature's Children series of books. I do not believe these books are truly living books, they are not dry like encyclopedia articles either. I thought she might enjoy making entries in her nature notebook and writing her narrations there. As you can see, we started off with chipmunks.

Even though the soil in our area is too swampy and full of clay for chipmunks, we know them very well from our time in Colorado. We fed and watched the ground squirrels and Western chipmunks in our backyard. The baby chipmunks were so adorable, and Pamela enjoyed watching them scamper about. David spent hours trying to tame those things and could not contain his joy when one touched his shoe. One day, he ran into the house bawling, "Loa [our dog] broke a rule! She ate a chipmunk!" Yes, that day our dear dog shattered David's innocence, but he forgave her anyway.

During the week, Pamela read through page 11 and recorded her thoughts on graphic organizers posted below.

When it came time to write her narrations today, I put away her graphic organizers and she wrote from memory. I enjoyed seeing what she took away from her reading and what she found important. I loved her illustrations, too!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Neighborhood Shoe Thief

This morning I was working in the kitchen when Pamela burst into the house from the back porch.

She said, "Somebody stole it. Wicked thief!"

I asked, "What did they steal?"

Pamela said, "The shoe! I searched everywhere."

I walked to the porch with her and, sure enough, her shoe was missing. Only one shoe of the myriad of shoes sitting on our porch had disappeared! Of course, it was Pamela's favorite well-worn shoe.

I turned to her and said, "A human would steal two shoes."

Pamela did not follow my thought process, so I added, "I think it was an animal."

She still did not understand, so I said, "I think it was a dog."

I went back in the kitchen, and Pamela burst back into the house. "I found it!"

I joined her on the porch, and she pointed to a spot behind the car. We walked together to retrieve the missing shoe and were relieved to see no teeth marks.

The funniest thing happened on our walk to the playground where she pretends to be a superhero on the climbing equipment. Around the corner from our house, we both spotted someone else's lone shoe. I gasped and pointed and said, "A shoe!"

Pamela laughed and said, "Comedy!" Then she pointed to her shoe and said, "Just like this one!"

Then, I added, "The shoe thief is a dog!"

It was one of those sweet moments I will always cherish! Why? Because she has come a long way from screaming meltdowns when things went wrong.

P.S. Now, if only I could solve the mystery of the pumpkin pie thief. Pamela and I baked one yesterday; I left the house for a few hours and someone inhaled it. Steve was out of town for the night. I do not think I can pin it on the dogs because they are unable to jump on the stove. Somehow, I have a feeling the thief (or thieves) walk upright . . .

Monday, August 18, 2008

Musings on the Association Method and RDI

I love interacting with other people online because they give me wonderful insights. A few months ago, some parents and professionals interested in RDI, whether are not they have or are consultants. For one reason or another, RDI is out of reach for some families, and this list, called Autism Remediation for Our Children, is a place where people can connect and learn relational ways of remediating autism from each other.

This week, we were talking about verbal behavior (VB), a form of speech therapy that is based on the principles of ABA, and I know very little about VB. I did share what is working very well with Pamela, the association method, which can dovetail nicely with RDI, depending upon how you implement it. One person pointed out that verbal behavior focuses on imperative language (right or wrong questions, commands, prompts). RDI, which focuses on declarative language (sharing what you experience), does not mesh well with VB because of the kind of language taught. That comment inspired me to think about the association method in a new light!

Of the he first six sentences and questions taught, five are declarative and only one is imperative.

This is a/an _______. What is this?
I see a/an ______. What do you see?
I have a/an ______. What do you have?
I want a/an _______. What do you want?
______ has a/an _______. What does _______ have?
This is ________. Who is this?

I never thought of this, but much of what the association method teaches is for children to describe what they see in the form of stories, stories about animals, inanimate objects, people, rooms, etc. Slowly, you add on to the basic structure with adjectives, prepositions, other articles, etc. Then, you introduce past tense and future tense to work on experience stories. EXPERIENCE STORIES! That sure sounds like opportunities for experience sharing to me!

We did get back to the Yellow Books (syntax-controlled readers) which we are using to supplement what we do with the association method. I will share more later about our first day of school (I have to edit and process the footage first). Pamela was fabulous as always and enjoyed eating a sandwich (made with gf/cf cheese and bread), soy pudding, and fresh berries from her lunch box. She is so sweet and hard-working!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Baking David's GF/CF Birthday Cake from Scratch

Yesterday, David turned sixteen! Saturday, we are taking David, three of his friends, and Pamela to Carowinds. He requested a carrot cake, which I plan to bake today. Pamela wanted to bake a cake for him, and we went gf/cf so that we can keep a piece for her for Saturday's celebration. She pulled out a gf/cf baking mix and pointed to a chocolate cake recipe for us to make from scratch! The baking mix we used includes fava and garbanzo bean flours, and even my picky Dad scarfed it down with gusto! We slightly adjusted the recipe:

GF/CF Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose GF Baking Flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthum gum (a little bit goes a long way)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 stick Buttery Sticks
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two round cake pans. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer. Pour into the cake pans and bake for 30 minutes (or until the toothpick inserted in the cake's center comes out clean). Servings: 12.

I used the same frosting recipe as before, except we used Buttery Sticks instead of coconut milk.

One thing that struck me about watching these video clips is how much more comfortable Pamela is in the kitchen. When we first started baking in March 2007, I scaffolded by getting all the ingredients and utensils out. Now, she finds the ingredients on her own and searches the drawers for utensils. She can crack an egg with one hand! She can put a pan into a hot oven (although I am still pulling them out for her). She knows how to turn on the oven and set either timer (the oven or microwave). She is even starting to read the recipes and decide the next step to take!

Here is what I wrote about the cake baking clip:

Objective: To spotlight when I am not listening and when I am listening so Pamela learns to spot the differences in my body language.

What Worked: I was much more subtle today in my non-listening spells. Pamela did very well. She responded well when I complained about her jabs. She has had a lighter touch since then.

What Frustrated Pamela: I had to be careful to reassure Pamela when she got frustrated at glitches: a mom who doesn't listen, a pesky can opener, a mixer that spewed, etc. She did recover without melting down and finished all of the steps in baking a cake. I have to walk a fine line of working on the objective without pushing her off the cliff.

Comment: I loved when she cracked an egg one handed and make a pun on the word can. Her confidence in the kitchen is soaring!

We had a minor glitch between making the cake and the frosting. Pamela and her consultant were going to spend three hours doing things together like eating lunch, browsing at Wal-Mart or the store, and playing at the park. Something came up and our consultant had to postpone their visit by a week. Pamela cried and talked about being broken-hearted. I soothed her with stim phrases to help change her thoughts, rubbed her arm, and spoke to her gently. I also promised a trip to the health food store in Columbia today to make up for it.

As you can see in the clip, she is back to normal. Last night, we all went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. While I was telling Steve about the altered plans, I mentioned that Pamela was broken-hearted. She said loudly, "I'm not broken-hearted." So, her heart is healed! :-)

Another interesting thing was that Steve was being silly and nearly knocked over the salsa. Pamela laughed loudly and laughed with us. Then, she said, "Comedy!"

My objective was again to demonstrate non-listening body language, more subtly. This time I gave different reasons for it. Pamela does recognize when I am not listening, so I think I will start pointing out when "I can't tell if you're listening."

Finally, we have the birthday boy being serenaded. We took him out to eat at the local Mexican restaurant and threatened to alert the waiters about his birthday, so they could pull out the silly sombrero and serenade him. But, we did not. Why he is embarrassed at our singing, I cannot fathom. But, he recovered sufficiently to blow out all the candles in one breath.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Washing Cars: Give Her Time

Last month, Pamela and Steve washed the car so Steve could try his hand at guided participation. They did this before Steve's week-long trip to Santiago and other busy-ness. The point of making videos is to watch them so that you can learn more about your relationship dynamics. This week, I pinned him down long enough to watch the two clips and make observations! We first read over the Powerpoint presentation about making videos that our consultant emailed last week. It is important to focus on the objective and make sure you edit it down to less than five minutes of all of the key points in the interaction. I tend to go over five minutes being the long-winded person I am!

Steve is your typical, type A, complete-everything-on-my-to-do-list guy. He runs circles around everyone and my dad calls him Whirlwind. He loves running so much that he even finishes marathons! So, when our consultant tells him to slow down to Pamela's pace, it requires a monumental effort.

Steve's Phrase: "Give her time!"

His Objective: I need to slow down in an activity that she could follow me successfully.

Overall Impression: Pamela is a great follower! She did really well.

Mastery: I did slow down more than usual. I could have been more nonverbal. I spent too much time describing. I need to say what the problem is and not tell her what to do. Rather than say, "Get more soap," I could say, "Your rag isn't very soapy anymore."

What Worked: I found ways to help her be more successful in the moment (switching hoses, giving her rags to carry instead of the bucket, etc.). The water fight was great!

What did not work: I am better about avoiding questions and prompts. But, I need to work on the commands.

Comments: I can see how watching the video reveals more detail than I recall from the interaction.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to School!

Pamela's greater interest in people has spilled over into launching our homeschool program this year. About three weeks ago, she picked out a pink lunch bag with the Disney princesses and told me it was for school. Two weeks ago, she put in special requests for our homeschooling program like using Eric Carle books for studied dictation and Nature's Children books for science. Then, she told me we should not start up on August 4 (my plan) because school starts on August 18 for the public schooled children in the area.

I decided to combine her fascination with being like other kids going back to school with working on my RDI objective of Pamela learning to recognize listening body language. I bought typical school supplies like a pink zippered notebook, Disney princess spiral notebooks, all kinds of school goodies, etc. Then, without Pamela noticing, I set up a book bag (Barbie collection book club one that she got ten years ago) with her books, put papers and goodies in the notebook, etc. I filmed us going through all of the school stuff--she just loved it!

To frame this activity around my objective, I told Pamela that I would sometimes pretend I was not listening. At first, I was really obvious with my unlistening body language but I got more subtle as we went along. She found her finger quite effective in letting me know to straighten up and pay attention to her. Once I caught her in the act of not listening!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Crocheting and Knitting Kick!

Where have I been, you ask?

I took a sabbatical from blogging to catch up in needlework projects for friends and family with precious ones one the way. Last month, Jamberry gave birth to short boy #3, and I had nothing to show for it! I bought a one-pound cone cone of pure cotton yarn in a shaded denim ombre colors and whipped out one project after another until I had just enough left for baby doll clothes. I decided to concentrate crocheted items since Jamberry, not a crocheter, knitted many projects for her wee one. I made a hat, booties, burp cloth, and bib plus a lovable pair of baby socks made out of Baroque Crochet Cotton white thread that proved irresistible to me. Aren't you amazed at how much you can squeeze out of 787 yards of yarn (not including the baby doll clothes to follow)?

Last month, Pamela's Tia Patty bought her a baby wearing a pink bath robe, whom Pamela insisted was a boy named Baby David! Since the poor babe has been touring South Carolina with nothing but a diaper, I decided to clothe him in some proper boy clothes. I could not find any baby doll patterns that I liked, so I picked out ones for premies and used a hook two sizes too small: a going-home outfit (which I slightly adapted) and booties.

As you can see, the shirt and pants turned out adorable and so easy to crochet! The booties were a bit trickier. I made one bootie from a pattern. The result was too large, even with a much smaller hook, so I unraveled it and invented my own pattern, very loosely based on the one already tried. With a bit of tinkering, the first bootie turned out great.

However, I did not know how many rows I could spare to make the cuff for there was very little yard left. So, I pulled the yarn off the cone and made a ball with the center near the end of the first bootie (not cut yet since I might have enough yarn for a row or two of cuff). You can see the end of the cone trailing the ball. In essence, I made the first bootie from one end of the yarn and the second bootie from the other end of the yarn. That way I could keep lengthening the cuffs of each bootie until I ran out of thread. Pretty cool, huh?

As you can imagine, I have been getting burnt out with crocheting, so I chose to knit a dress for another cyber friend whose baby was born a couple of months ago. She does not know I am doing this, but, as (a) she has many children, (b) she has a newborn, and (c) she homeschools, she is probably too exhausted to read my blog. So, I know my secret is safe with you! I picked up a cone in the color shaded pastels ombre. Anyway, I found this adorable Cotton Candy dress that I am knitting in I have finished the skirt and am working on the right back. The back, front, and sleeves should go fairly quickly. The first ten rows were a nightmare--I relished the challenge of making the row of triangles, but I felt like I did when I was trying to get through the first level of Crash Bandicoot and kept dying and starting from scratch! Honestly, it took me a week to get through the triangle obstacle course! Apparently, I'm not the only one who has trouble with counting on this dress, LOL . . .

Finally, I just started a baby blanket using the same stitch as the blanket I made for baby Leilani last year. Steve's parents are going to be great- grandparents for the first time, so I have until November--when Steve's niece in Guatemala is due--to work on a gift. I picked up four cones of daisy ombre cotton yarn, which I think will yield a 40 inch by 48 inch blanket plus doll clothes and potholders.