Saturday, March 31, 2007

My First Finished Crochet Project in YEARS

I love to crochet, but finishing a project is another matter. My best friend from high school just got married and had her first baby, which motivated me sufficiently to start and FINISH a blanket for baby Leilani!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Since When are Milk and Wheat *HIGH* Protein Foods?

I just about flipped when I read this quote because the sheer ignorance is stunning:
"I have parents who have got their kids on ... these very labor-intensive diets, on vitamins that they believe are ... detoxifying their baby's systems, and they're frightening," said Boston pediatrician Dr. Eileen Costello. "And, you know, some of these kids aren't growing because they're on diets with so little protein. So, there's a lot going on out there that we need to get a handle on."
First, the reason why parents restrict gluten and casein is a theory that states gluten and casein are incompletely digested. For some reason, the body breaks them down into peptides (gluteomorphine and casomorphine), not to amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. If this theory were true, then gluten and casein would not be contributing to the assembly of protein anyway (hint: gluten and casein would not contribute to the growth of children either).

Second, many kids have already narrowed down their food choices to about five foods, high in gluten and casein: milk, cheese, cereal, pasta, and bread, supplemented by French fries and chicken nuggets. Most children who go on this diet (and need this diet) end up expanding their food choices to include fruits, vegetables, and a variety of sources of protein! According to Lisa Lewis and Karen Seroussi at ANDI,
There may be a good reason your child "self-limits" to these foods. Opiates, like opium, are highly addictive. If this "opiate excess" explanation applies to your child, then he is actually addicted to those foods containing the offending proteins. Although it seems as if your child will starve if you take those foods away, many parents report that after an initial "withdrawal" reaction, their children become much more willing to eat other foods. After a few weeks, most children surprise their parents by further broadening their diets.
Third, many of these kids are not growing because their bodies are not properly digesting foods. My daughter Pamela wore the same size clothes for the two years prior to going on the gluten-free, casein-free diet and being treated for yeast problems. The runny, green, voluminous stools disappeared, too. Like the children featured in the Discovery Magazine article, Autism: It's Not Just in Your Head, Pamela stopped grinding her teeth, chewing on her shirts, tantruming excessively, etc. She started sleeping through the night, paying attention to her surroundings, speaking without being prompted, playing with toys, and using the toilet (because her bladder was no longer numb from the morphine).

"Got Milk?" types may cry, but what about calcium? According to the food pyramid genies, "Calcium-fortified foods and beverages such as soy beverages or orange juice may provide calcium, but may not provide the other nutrients found in milk and milk products." If these nutrients are only found in milk products, explain to me how the people of Thailand managed to survive and build a culture on cuisine completely free of gluten and casein.

No, Eileen, what really frightens me is . . .

* Why the naysayers ignore chronically inflamed white matter in the brains of autistic people and inflammation of the neuroglia, brain cells important in the brain’s immune response.

* The risk of autism doubles in a common variant of the MET gene modulates the gut, immune system, and nervous system.

* Autistic children produce only a small amount of glutathione because they have impaired methylation, which can lead to oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic inflammation.

* That doctors like this one think parents ought to accept digestive problems and infections and focus on therapies that ignore the gut-immune-brain triangle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An Old Dog Learning New Tricks

Note: Put rhymes with foot, so putter does NOT rhyme with shutter.

You can teach old dogs new tricks, and I am living proof!

On Saturday, I decided to invite Pamela to help me assemble Guess Who?, a game that she received on her birthday. I had a hard time weaving the cards into the slots myself, so I did all that on my own. I invited Pamela to join me at the table. I handed her one piece with the card already inserted, and she snapped it into place. The key to giver-putter is to practice skills you are targeting, so I worked on referencing:

* I waited for her to reference me before I released the piece into her hand.
* If it took too long for her to reference me, I cleared my throat.
* I nodded, smiled, high-fived, etc. after she snapped in several pieces.
* I made declarative comments as she worked like, "That piece snapped right away. This one is hard. I can help you with it."

Then, I read on my email list (Aut-2B-Home) that this is a giver-putter activity. I may be an old dog, but I can recognize a useful trick when I see it. I recalled how beautifully this worked when decorating her cake on Friday: I peeled off the Cake Mate letters, and she put them on her cake.

Yesterday, we unloaded the dishwasher in full giver-putter mode. I pulled grouped objects out of the dishwasher and handed them to Pamela after she referenced me. I find this way of doing chores more rewarding than simply teaching her to do chores for her to fly solo some day. We are able to bond and relate to each other when the goal is emotion sharing, not teaching her how to do manual labor.

When we did one of the RDI "lab time" activities that involved putting together a puzzle, I assumed the role of giver and she of putter. I read that it can help to introduce variation by handing objects from different positions. That was no problem for Pamela, and she easily repaired the situation. Then, I physically turned my back on her to see what she would do. Pamela tried to get my attention verbally, and I ignored her. I reached back and grabbed her hand to demonstrate how to tap someone on the shoulder. I turned my back several times in a row, and she tapped me on the shoulder each time! After that, I randomly turned my back, and she continued to tap whenever I ignored her. On the last piece, I pretended to fall asleep at the table and tapping did not work. Pamela said, "Hey! Wake up! Wake up!" and tapped very insistently. She was awesome!

Pamela is going a bit overboard with this referencing thing. In our pre-RDI days, if a certain person (name omitted to protect the guilty) ignored Pamela because the said person was distracted by the computer, she would repeat herself, growing louder and louder, and say loudly, "Answer me!" Thanks to RDI, she now pops her head between the computer screen and the distracted person to make her comment.

That is what I call referencing!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Pamela!

Yesterday, we celebrated Pamela's eighteenth birthday by taking the day off from school. Pamela has never done much in the kitchen, mainly because I have not encouraged her. Today, she helped me bake a cake, make the frosting, and decorate her birthday cake. She has never tried an electric mixer before and took to it like she was a natural in the kitchen. I tried to use many of the RDI habits we have been developing, and we had a great time!

I never have to plan "productive uncertainty" because calamities abound in my presence. While making the cake, a pan drying fell and crashed into the sink, and Pamela referenced me wonderfully. We both laughed and she asked if it was magic and I told her that it was gravity. Her brother, the cameraman, said the mixture looked like mud, and she laughed. I asked, “Mud?” She shook her head no. Then when I asked, “Is it batter?” She nodded like a champ. Then I had operator error on my part with setting the timer on the microwave! At one point in making the frosting, I wanted to indirectly hint to her that we needed sugar. I exclaimed, "It's bitter" and tasted the frosting. She thought I made a mistake, and then she tried it and make an awful face. She immediately went for the bag of powdered sugar!

To scaffold decorating the cake, I bought the Cake Mate Candy Decorations, which are gluten-free, casein-free. Her cake turned out beautiful, and it tasted delicious. My dad will usually say something if an ingredient is not just right. This gluten-free, casein-free cake was so good, he could not tell the difference. I will blog my recipes and scaffolded cake decorating ideas in another post.

Her cake turned out absolutely beautiful and much better than my first cake. I forgot the flour, so it boiled in the oven. My family called it the boi-oing cake! Perhaps, that early trauma in the kitchen has caused me to resist teaching Pamela to cook and bake.

We had a small family party and Pamela loved her presents and cake and ice cream. Even though she sat far from her cake, she blew out all eighteen candles in one shot! You would never guess that she could not blow out candles when she was four years old. She looks a bit overstimulated here and does not reference like she has been because of the intense joy she is feeling. You can see her smile very sweetly at the end of the clip.

Pamela loved her gifts so much that, after opening the last one, she had to make a victory lap through the house. She sprints to release excitement (hint: never tell Pamela great news in a parking lot).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Potluck Post

**RDI** Last night, Steve was impressed when Pamela started shaking and nodding her head appropriately in a conversation they were having about our plans for Saturday. He had never seen her do that and was not aware I was emphasizing that skill. That tells me she is generalizing well!

An interesting thing happened during our hot potato game between David, Pamela, and I. David, being our random thinker, is the productive uncertainty generator of the family. Here are one mom's thoughts on productive uncertainty:

Begin to think about the concept of productive uncertainty, which really means, acting in unexpected ways from time to time, doing the silly or goofy or 'wrong' thing to create moments of pleasant surprise and an opportunity for facial gazing, a self directed desire to look at someone’s face to share pleasure or to get more information. You can have an OOPS! moment or a OH! SILLY MOMMY moment or Uh Oh! that's not what I meant! moment together.

While playing hot potato, David casually tossed his ball cap to me, and I put it on my head. Pamela laughed, and the game continued. I tossed the cap to her, and she put it on her head, backwards. What I found odd was that she had trouble keeping focused on the game and spaced out a bit until she removed the hat and threw it back to David. Neither one of them knew it, but I had hatched my own moment of uncertainty. I had tucked two packs of cards into my back pants pockets and, in the middle of an intense ball toss, suddenly launched the cards at both of them, simultaneously. David thought it was hilarious, and Pamela laughed, but started to worry, "What a mess! Pick up the cards!" We managed to play ball with the cards sprawled on the floor. Pamela had a hard time resisting the urge to gather up cards during pauses in the ball game (like when David or I missed a catch).

Pamela seemed to be vying for sympathy today. She has never fussed about being hurt; in fact, she avoids admitting physical setbacks of any kind until the truth of a cold is undeniable. She had a miniscule cut on her finger (at first, I thought she was pretending). She told me she was getting a bandage and, during the day, I made a special effort to kiss her boo-boo. Later, she walked around with a dishtowel on her eye and told me she had a rash. I told her I was sorry and gave her sympathy for that too, but did not see one hint of a rash.

I ought to mention I am continuing on RDI habits like declarative language, nonverbal communication, exaggerated facial expressions, unexpected sounds to get her to reference me, etc. I deliberately walk into the room where she watches television, just to encourage her to shift her attention from the show to me. Then, I tell her what I am doing or make some kind of statement. She is doing much better at referencing me now, even with the one-eyed monster competing against me. Today, Pamela helped me fold sheets, towels, and napkins and put away the dishes.

**Math** I have struggled with teaching Pamela proportions for two weeks. I grabbed the Math-U-See blocks from David's algebra program and made up some problems in Excel. On the second day, she started solving for the missing number in one proportion, given another, without blocks! Yahoo! When in doubt, go concrete.

**Language** I had to take one more step to nail the difference between in front of and behind from a side view. I am not sure why, but this simplified illustration I used on Tuesday did the trick. She was finally able to whip through a busy page like the one below, flawlessly. Yesterday and today, we went back to Garth Williams illustrations to generalize side views.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Pamela loves this RDI exercise we do to help her reference my face for information. I have twenty-seven cards with one of three shapes (heart, triangle, circle) that are one of three different colors (red, yellow, blue) that are also one of three different sizes. I think of a criterion for each turn for her to match: same color, same shape, or same shape. I give her a card and think of a criterion (same color), and then she must point to a card. If it is the same color, I will smile; if not, I will frown. Once she finds a matching card, I shift my criteria and she has to find the next card by reading my face. She thinks my frowns are hilarious and giggles away. At the end of this clip, she even imitates my frowns! We both have much fun with this game!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Scaffolding and Differentiating First versus Last

Here is an example of how I taught Pamela to differentiate first versus last from a side view. Pamela has a difficult time deciding which animal is first or last and basically guesses! I tried demonstrating how the animal with its nose on the outside is first and its tail on the outside is last, but Pamela was still confused when I mixed up the animals and/or flipped them in the other direction.

At this point, I began thinking about how to scaffold this by simplifying the elements. I pushed together all the animals to make the penguin's beak and the beaver's tail more prominent. But, Pamela continued to be confused with successive trials.

My final step worked! I covered up all the animals with a placemat, leaving only the penguin's beak and the beaver's tail uncovered. The mat made it so obvious that Pamela had no trouble picking first and last. We did some trials with the placemat and she picked correct animals for first and last every time. Then, I tried some trials without the placement, and she clearly understood! I plan to spend one more week on this because I want to make sure she remembers this from day to day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Babysteps in RDI Habits

Warning: I am a neophyte at RDI. All I have are the books with great ideas from fellow bloggers, Aut-2B-Home friends, and the RDI website. So, I could be off base on some things, being such an infant in all this, but I hope to outline some of the habits we are forming.

Declarative Language - I have always made enthusiastic and supportive remarks to Pamela. I hardly ever make predictions and do self-narratives. I am trying to be more intentional in telling Pamela what I am doing, "Pamela, I'm going to take my shower now" or "I'm putting my dirty clothes in the hamper." She really does not need to know these things, but these are opportunities for face-to-face contact and shifting attention from what she is doing and back to it. I still catch myself being imperative, but I am getting better.

Last night, at dinner, Pamela suddenly stood up and left the table to walk through the house to release excitement. When she came back to the kitchen, I said, "Pamela, I am so thirsty. I sure could use a glass of water" and I looked at the faucet. She went right to the cabinet and grabbed two glasses, one for herself. The other day, I stepped on a piece of dry dog food, laughed, and said, "Look! I stepped on dog food!" I looked down, and she did, too. I am finding she knows to do things without me telling her, and my habit of prompting her is not necessary. When it is, I am trying to be more declarative about it like, after her shower, I might say, "Dirty clothes belong in the hamper." Sometimes, she gets the hint and sometimes she does not. Eventually, the clothes make it to where they belong!

Fewer and Slower Sentences - Because of the association method, I have been speaking in simpler sentences. During our conversations, I try to maintain the syntax she has already learned. This means my sentences are simpler. So, I am working on slowing down my pace and letting meaning sink in before forging ahead. My dear son will have the hardest time with this; even his peers have a hard time keeping up with his pace. Fortunately, my dear husband will have no problems. Being bilingual and dealing with different Latin American nationalities with different speech rhythms, he is adept at adjusting his communication style.

Unexpected Sounds and Actions - We have practiced this for years. RDI attempts to help autistic people adapt to changing worlds as opposed to the sameness they attempt to create to keep from becoming overwhelmed. Dr. Gutstein calls this static versus dynamic systems. From the time Pamela was little, I resisted being boxed into a routine. I would still go to the two same stores, but in a different order. I would write the schedule down in pencil because schedules might change and notify her in advance of a change. With her vocal stims, we have always modified them to broaden her vocabulary in a fun, give-and-take exchange. Right now, her favorite is, "You must be 18 or older to order." She will say, "You must be. . ." and I will say, "29 to order" or "an elephant to order" or "18 to eat lunch."

I did not realize it, but I have been spotlighting for a long time, changing my voice by raising the pitch before making an alteration in the stim or pausing for dramatic effect. From the time she was a little girl, we have a family gag of imitating Dr. Tongue's Evil House of Pancakes. "Pamela, would you care for some catsup?" and looming the bottle of catsup to and from her, imitating the faux scary music. Now, I can rest easy knowing we are not weird, we are spotlighting!

In fact, one of the reasons RDI intrigues me is that the programs features I have used for years, but with purpose and focus! RDI also fills in some of the gaps I have been missing.

I Can't See Your Words - The book Solving the Relationship Puzzle suggests this declarative language for when a child turns away while speaking. I have been saying this from time to time, and twice, Pamela has said to me, "Where are the words?" or "I can't see it" when I did not look at her face-to-face. Of course, there are plenty of times where she does not notice, but it is a start!

Non-Verbal Communication - The RDI material has made me aware of how little Pamela communicates non-verbally. She does understand gestures, but does not tune into facial communications. Several times a day, I make a concerted effort to rely primarily on non-verbal communications. When we are reading, Pamela will tell me the book she wants and I purposely give her the wrong book or a different object to encourage her to nod her head or shake her head to let me know if I am right or wrong. Nodding is very awkward for her! Or, she will ask me a question and I will purposely give her the wrong answer and courage her to respond with head movement. I have been finding activities to do around the house in which I communicate non-verbally to show her how to help: unloading the dishwasher, folding napkins and towels, putting clothes in the dryer, etc.

Framing - In a nutshell, framing is setting up activities that support your objectives. Right now, our objectives include improving the ability to shift attention, referencing our faces for information, and paying attention to non-verbal communication. When Pamela and I set up the game "Shark Attack" with rugs, she helps me lay out the rugs in the room. I try to communicate non-verbally, except for counting. I try to vary the tempo of counting and cue her when I am going to say the next number by forming the first sound with my lips (until that point I keep my face flat). She has to study my face to figure out when to count with me. During the shark attack, I rapidly shift her attention by pointing to the imaginary predator and pointing to an island of safety (rug) to which we can leap. At some point in the activity, I lose my words, and she has to figure out when I'm pointing to the shark and to the safe island. What seems like Pamela giggling her way through fun and games also targets objectives to improve her relational skills.

Scaffolding - I have "scaffolded" for years, but never knew the hundred dollar word for it. Basically, scaffolding is providing enough support to enable the child to complete a task and feel successful. You walk a fine line between providing enough support without going overboard by making it too easy. In the case of these puzzles, I picked a hundred-piece puzzle, which was too challenging. So, I did most of the puzzle in advance and put it on a white opaque plastic lid to block out the busy background of the tablecloth. I am back chaining by leaving the last twenty pieces out. I framed it by taking turns putting in pieces, intentionally placing them incorrectly to invite head shakes and nods from Pamela, working on nonverbal communication.

Lab Time - Since Monday, we have been doing two lab time sessions a day (thirty-five minutes, which I time with a kitchen timer). I have not modified the environment because Pamela is not distracted by it. Rather than going out and purchasing six to eight beanbags, I have been substituting things I find around the house: pillows (for dodging), rugs (for island hopping), chairs (for forts), cups (for hiding objects), etc. I made a sheet in Excel to keep track of what we accomplished and make notes on how I can improve the next session: better framing, better scaffolding, better pacing, etc. Pamela enjoys many of the activities, and sometimes it sounds like we are having way too much fun to call it homeschooling!

Videotaping - While I feel almost embarrassed to see myself on tape acting like a seven-year-old, I find that seeing how our lab time goes is quite instructive. We do not have a "real camcorder", but use our digital camera to film three minute segments. David, my NT teen and cameraman, films one activity per lab time. I see little moments missed when I am in the moment, thinking through my actions and reactions and monitoring how well Pamela is responding and regulating her actions.

Being the king of concrete random thinkers, David is a ball of productive uncertainty. Half of the time, he is itching to join in on all the fun. During one of the ball games Pamela and I were playing, he remarked casually, "Mom, you forgot one!" and tossed me a grape. Pamela reacted wonderfully. I said, "You want to catch the ball?" and she laughed and said, "No! Eat it!" (Questions are not imperative if the child is allowed to respond in the negative.) When Pamela is comfortable with an activity, I let David take my place. He is very imaginative and loves living in the moment, so playing games with his sister is fun for him.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Side View of a Line of Animals

Today, I figured out the problem with side views. Pamela cannot tell which is in front when seen from the side. Using animals, I spent about ten minutes drilling this. I focused her attention on two things: the animal with its nose facing out is the first animal; the animal with its tail facing out is last. She finally got the nose/tail concept, and she built up some confidence with our DTT work once she understood. We shall see what she remembers tomorrow. I will definitely have to seek pictures with side views for quite awhile to make sure she maintains this concept!

Here is a funny RDI story: in one activity, you are to sneak up on the child and do something mildly bothersome. The objective is to teach shifting attention and productive uncertainty (handling things gone awry with composure). I was making math problems with stamp markers, and I reached over and stamped Pamela's arm. She looked surprised and gave me her half-smile (it means she is intrigued). I made several attempts at random intervals for about ten minutes, and she left the table with four stamps on her arm. She did become more vigilant and would tell me in the most typical annoyed tone, "Cut it out!"

Who needs to sneak up from behind when sneaking from the front works just as well?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Incredible Before and After RDI Video Clips

Almost two months ago, I shared a video clip of Pamela reciting A. A. Milne's "The End". Today, I learned about Google Video, which allows you to restrict public searches in their listing. I uploaded the original unedited footage of the poem and a clip I filmed today of Pamela reciting the Lord's Prayer. In both cases, I did not coach her to look at the camera or smile. In the birthday clip, I had to prompt her to say, "Happy Birthday, Grandpa!" She came up with "Surprise!" on her own. Below is the clip from two months ago!

Pamela finished learning the words to the Lord's Prayer, which have eluded her for years. She could say some of it, but she was very unsure of many and skipped most of the closing sentence before she began to study it through copywork and studied dictation in preparation to learn it for recitation. She is so excited about being able to recite this in church with confidence. But, more than that, this clip demonstrates how quickly she is generalizing the social referencing activities I have been doing with her. I did not ask her to look in the camera or coach her as to her mannerisms! I counted to three and started filming!

I am stunned! We have been making RDI lifestyle changes for less than a week. The changes in her ability to reference me socially (without any prompting, pointing, reminders) is absolutely incredible!

P.S. Both were done in ONE TAKE, the VERY FIRST TAKE!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

That RDI Thing

I have been hearing about RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) here and there, and what I read at Sonya's page during my masterly inactivity binge three weeks ago intrigued me. The chart about the developmental affects of autism caught my abstract sequential mind, and several things Sonya described made an impression upon me. In particular,
After several fun times like those, I noticed a significant increase in Hannah’s looking at the faces of those around her. We then took the skill one step further to introduce referencing, or reading, faces: we changed our excited verbal cues to excited, but silent, facial cues.
Pamela is doing well in many ways: she is much more flexible than a typical autistic person, she enjoys verbal games (we substitute the "wrong" words in her self-stim phrases and she thinks it is hilarious), she has a great imagination. However, she does not give much eye contact, nor, more importantly, try to read faces to decipher meaning. I remembered Mary's post about referencing and body language, which I did not understand at the time, and remembered that she was trying RDI with her teenager, too! I ordered two books by Steve Gutstein, Solving the Relationship Puzzle and Relationship Development Intervention with Children, Adolescents and Adults and have been reading them, supplemented by Internet searches (instead of, *ahem* blogging).

Now, remember, I am a born skeptic and statistician. I am not going to run out and change my lifestyle because some autism guru and a bunch of groupies (no offense to Mary and Sonya!) rave about a fairly new autism approach. I loved the fact that both Dr. Gutstein and Charlotte Mason started off with the very same habit in Stage 1, attention! I also liked the emphasis on changing habits (any CM homeschooler will think "Habits is Ten Natures" when that word is flung), lifestyle changes, and the goal of improving quality of life. What worried me was the cost!

I decided to do the closest thing I could to a "blind" study (Stephen Edelson describes how to do this in greater detail). As you recall, I mentioned in an earlier post the idea of Mom and Dad doing a "blind" study on food where one parent gives a child a potentially questionable food without the other knowing. Starting last Wednesday, I started making small changes in my communication habits with Pamela while my husband Steve was at work: (1) declarative language as opposed to imperative language, (2) making my words important by slowing down and speaking fewer words ala the "My Words are Important" and "Unexpected Sounds and Actions" exercises from the manual, and (3) trying some lifestyle activities in which I nearly cut out words and exaggerate my facial expressions as depicted in video clips. Using gestures and facial expressions, I did things like have Pamela help me bake brownies (after she requested them), put salad fixings in the refrigerator, get out her shampoo and put it away when I washed her hair at the sink, etc. I did not give Steve one single clue about our activities, nor did I fish for compliments. I made sure to treat Pamela as usual in his presence.

My goal was to start some of the formal lab activities next Tuesday through Sunday while my dear husband was on a business trip. I remember reading somewhere that some children can make some dramatic progress in as little as thirty hours of implementing RDI activities. If Steve noticed a difference in Pamela, then I would have the green light to fork out $150 for the DVD with the "new" RDI operating system.

Well, Steve blew my plans! Today, while we were eating lunch, he remarked nonchalantly, "You know what Pamela has been doing lately? She's been looking at me a lot!" I exchanged glances with Pamela's brother, who promised to keep our doings an absolute secret because he is home all day and knew something was odd. Between our smirking and stifled laughs, Steve had to know what was so funny, so I told him about my little test.

So, now the goal is to keep it a secret from our friends at church and family to see if they start to notice any differences. Since they do not read my blog, I can safely post my intentions.

In terms of me being impressed, RDI moved up a couple of notches today!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Glitch with "In Front Of" and "Behind": Week Six of Prepositions

This week I reviewed two prepositions Pamela already knows and introduced "How" questions like, "How is Almanzo?" followed by, "Almanzo is panicky." I also introduced using ", too" at the end of sentences. I thought Pamela understood "in front of" and "behind" very well, but uncovered a glitch. She recognizes it from a front-on perspective but gets confused when a few or all are side-to-side or from the back, such as in the bottom three pictures from the book, Farmer Boy. Rather than moving ahead in my review of prepositions, I plan to work on photographs of Beanie Babies from a side-to-side perspective and then from the back. Pamela needs to learn that the perspective is that of the character, not the viewer. It will be interesting to see if this is a theory of mind issue.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Presenting Prepositions: Week Five

I did not introduce any new syntax this week, but wanted to measure how well Pamela understands prepositions. I embedded her interests by taking pictures of Beanie Babies. With prepositional phrases, one can word several questions for the same sentence. For example, with the sentence, "The snail is on the lion," the following three questions can prompt it:

"Where is the snail?"
"On what is the snail?"
"What is on the lion?"

Pamela did a fantastic job this week! She answered all three variations correctly most of the time and could ask these kinds of questions too. Today, I gave her an extremely busy picture with twelve animals and accurately answered my questions nearly every time. Even better, she followed my lead and pulled out her stuffed animals when composing her own stories during the written narration.

We are lucky because Pamela has a huge vocabulary. Her main issue is not learning what words mean, but how to string them together with correct syntax. In talking to the folks over at Dubard, I gather that children take a long time to master prepositions because they must learn to read and pronounce the words, what they mean, different kinds of questions, and proper syntax. She only needs to work on the latter two of these four issues. Pamela has understood prepositions for years, and now she can use them in simple sentences and questions.

Mary's comment inspired me to outline the next six weeks of preposition work. And, after that, Pamela will get her first exposure to present tense verbs and then present progressive verbs, the final piece of syntax in Unit Two!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Today is a day to celebrate! Pamela finished reading the final chapter of the final book, The First Four Years, from the Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. When I first read aloud to her Little House in the Big Woods back in 1999 when we lived in Pennsylvania, we were also beginning our journey as Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Pamela was ten years old and could sight-read nothing more than picture books with only a few sentences per page. Our recent attempt at phonics through the Spalding method (The Writing Road to Reading) had failed because, while Pamela could memorize the rules, she did not understand when to apply them. Oddly enough, David had no interest in memorizing any rules; he did not see the point of phonics since he could already read well beyond his grade level. Still odder, like the association method (what we do for speech therapy), the Spalding method is an accredited multisensory structured language program.

We moved almost as often as the Ingalls family while reading this series. While we lived in Colorado, I read Little House on the Prairie to the children. After Lynn Bushnell raved about a reading method that worked for her severely dyslexic daughter, we decided to give At Last! A Reading Method for Every Child a whirl. We struck gold because both of my diverse learners mastered phonics thanks to this book! During the next two years, which included a move to Alaska, Pamela made the leap to longer picture books and easy chapter books. During our stint in the Aleutians, the kids enjoyed hearing me read Farmer Boy.

Coincidentally, we moved to Minnesota at the same time we started On the Banks of Plum Creek. One highlight of our stay in Minnesota was a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin, to see a replica of the cabin in the Big Woods. When Laura headed off to South Dakota, we lingered in Minnesota to read By the Shores of Silver Lake and The Long Winter, a book with which we could truly empathize having suffered frigid winters ourselves. We headed to the Carolinas for Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. By this time, both kids had grown up as had Laura: David silently read all three of these books, while Pamela read aloud to me the first and read silently the latter two.

The title for this blog post comes from God's perfect timing. Pamela is memorizing the Lord's Prayer for recitation through the process of copywork and studied dictation. Although she has heard this prayer nearly every Sunday for the past umpteen weeks of her life, Pamela's recitation of the Lord's Prayer was still garbled in a few spots and missing a few phrases, but much better than I expected. We have not worked on memorizing this prayer in years because I thought recitations was beyond her reach until last fall. A few weeks ago, Pamela began the task. To my delight, Pamela mastered the line, "Give us this day our daily bread," yesterday, and today we learned of the fate of Laura's plate bearing those same words. What a beautiful way to finish this series!

Presenting Prepositions: Weeks Three and Four

I thought Pamela loved the highway stories as an introduction to prepositions, but she flipped when I wrote stories about characters in There's a Wocket in My Pocket. I snapped pictures of pages from the book and put the digitized images in her speech therapy stories. In Week Three, I introduced the article the in both the subject and a prepositional phrase of a sentence. The following week, Pamela learned where the can go in questions. I sharpened our focus upon several prepositions: in, on, under, near, around, and between.

These stories pleased her so much, Pamela could hardly look at the pages until she recovered from her excitement. Doing speech therapy was easy because she was eager to practice syntax revolving around another favorite topic. Switching topics from one interest to another allowed her to generalize the syntax of prepositions. The spoonful of sugar approach is one of the secret ingredients to her success!