Study Tips!

Exam time is upon us! If you have seen Gracie’s video on Facebook about being stressed and you aren’t alone feeling this way, you know it’s a pretty stressful time in our household. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you follow us on Facebook at Well Balanced Life.

Here are a few study tips from Gracie and I:

Make or buy cue cards. Write the word on one side, definition on the other. If your child is a visual learner, write each card in a different colour. They may not only remember the definition but the colour it was written in! (The colour helps them remember).

Take your child’s favourite song and change the lyrics to teach them the topic! You don’t have to be a great singer!

Use bitmojis, favourite characters or whatever they are obsessed or fascinated with and be creative! How can you incorporate the one thing they think about the most into a learning experience?

Practice writing a test. Don’t forget to include, and teach if needed, the different types of questions – multiple choice, matching, short answer and essay questions.

Here are some things to think about and discuss with the teacher:

Does your child need extra time, less questions or a quiet space to write?

Can you chunk the test/exam into shorter “mini tests” and write it over more than one day?

If your child/student gets overwhelmed just by seeing so many questions on one page, can you cut the paper into strips and allow them to do a few at a time, with short breaks in between if needed?

Does your child do better writing their answer, having someone scribe for them or verbally giving the answers?

Can they write with their favourite writing tool whether that is a pen, pencil, markers, technology, crayons, etc?

Can your child have an open book or “cheat sheet” for more difficult tests?

What happens if they fail or do poorly on their test/exam? Can they have a rewrite opportunity?

If your child is creative, can they do an art piece to show what they know?

If your child/student is able to get their knowledge known to you, does it really matter how they present it?

If you are unsure what works best for you child/student, ASK THEM! If they can communicate… ask them! Some kids are great at knowing exactly what they need and how they learn best.

And if the school can’t accommodate them, ask them to create an IEP (Individual Education Plan). If they already have one, go over it and gently remind them what needs to be accommodated or modified.

Wishing you all the best on your studying and exam writing! As Gracie says “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” And as I say “YOU GOT THIS!”

Mel & Grace

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Autism

Websites:

http://www.speakingofspeech.com – This website has many many free visuals! Click on Materials Exchange to access them. There are social stories, cooking recipes, life skills, data sheets, etc. etc.

http://www.autismprthelp.com/books-and-manuals.php – This link will bring you to the Koegel Institute Manuals. They are fantastic!! Pivotal Response Training is probably my favourite way to teach GG. It is all done in her natural environment. Check out the website to learn more. This is what we used to teach her language and I was amazed at how quickly it worked (especially after trying so many other techniques).

http://asperkids.com/– an Ah-mazing woman named Jennifer O’Toole (who was diagnosed with Aspergers, along with her hubby when all 3 of her children got their diagnosis) has put together a webpage, books, and fantastic information all on Asperger Awesomeness!! If you have a daughter with Autism/Aspergers you will love this site too!  It has great information on our girls’ unique characteristics!

http://www.autismontario.com/– This website is for residents of Ontario and from here, you can go directly to your county’s chapter. Here they have information on funding, camps, activities in your area, a list of professionals and ABA providers, etc. We have signed up for their newsletter and have become a member of AO. We receive emails with activities in our area that are either free or at a great price for GG and the family. She attends a Girls On The Spectrum Group (G.O.T.S group) once a month where she hangs out with other girls on the spectrum doing anything from crafts, movies, sewing, bead making, pizza/pj party, wildlife fitness, etc.  We have also attended a weekend camp with other families and it is definitely something to experience. Every single person there is understanding and supportive!

http://www.kerrysplace.org/Public/Supports-and-Services Kerry’s Place was our Saving Grace when GG first got diagnosed. We were new to autism and the symptoms she was showing through us for a loop. A consultant from Kerry’s Place would come to our hometown once a month. We would me with her, discuss our challenges and she would give immediate feedback and suggestions. I don’t know what we would have done without that support!

http://www.abaresources.com – Another free resource site! They have visuals already made for a token board, schedule and choice board, edible reinforcers, chore chart, first/then, visuals for restaurants, places to visit in Toronto, children’s books and much more!

https://www.stanleygreenspan.com/ – Check out the free video for parents. There is a lot of great info. in the free manual and parent course. Dr. Stanley Greenspan created the FLOORTIME METHOD in the 1980’s. I used this with GG and students I work with and it’s worked every time. You basically follow your child’s lead. If your child is spinning or flapping their hands, join in! If she is rocking while watching tv, sit close to her, rock and watch her show. With love and interest. This is how she will let you in.

http://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html – This is an excellent resource for managing feelings! They have a book that comes with a disc to print out booklets that you and your child can fill out together. We use this at home and the schools use it often as well. Having home and school using the same language makes it much easier for our kids.

http://www.templegrandin.com/templehome.html – If you ever get a chance to hear Temple speak, I suggest you do! She is an inspiration. She has written many books and invented the squeeze machine. There is also a movie about her staring Claire Danes.

http://carlysvoice.com/home/faq/ – Carly Fleischmann is another inspiration! She is non-verbal and uses her computer to communicate. I find the best people to learn from are those who actually live with it!

Books:

Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration by Ellen Yack, Shirley Sutton and Paula Aquilla – This book is full of strategies for sensory issues! It has creative suggestions for muscle tone, hyper/hyposensitivity, eating issues, managing behaviours and so much more.

Relationship Development Intervention  by Steven Gutstein and Rachelle K Sheely – Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is a technique used to teach relationships. Most interventions including this one suggest using their strategy only but we felt we would read books and go to workshops and take what we learned and what felt right and go with it. So we used Pivotal Response Training (PRT) for speech and toileting and more, RDI for building relationships and the Floortime method for teaching her play skills. The RDI is an intervention where you hire trained therapists and parents get trained as well. We bought the book and took ideas from it. Did it help her the way a full intervention would have? Probably not. But it did help. 

http://www.tasksgalore.com/  –  These books have GREAT ideas for all sorts of skills. Check out their website and go to ‘Products’ then hover over one of the titles and click on ‘Preview’.  You can purchase these books from Parent Books as well.
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Holiday Hangover!

Wowzers!! Our GG has a major meltdown after every holiday or special occasion. We call it the “Holiday Hangover”. It never fails. Each and every time. After Christmas and her birthday are the biggest ones. Screaming, crying, laughing to screaming again. Scratching herself and bending joints. After 13 years, this is the FIRST time ever that she hasn’t had a meltdown! Now it’s only January 1st today, but we usually have it on the 26th of December. Fingers crossed we’ve passed the timeline! 🙂

Every year I wish there was something we could do to prevent it. But for us, the reality is, we gotta let her have it! She has to get it all out in order to feel normal again. I think with all of the excitement, sensory overload, sugar rush and disappointment that it has all come to an end (especially her best friend & elf, Sparkle, heading back to the North Pole for the year) is just too much for her to handle.

So for now, we let her have at it for a while in her room, then we hold her if she will let us safely to provide some deep pressure. I’ve put her between the mattress and box spring when she requires more pressure than a hug can give. It can last an hour or more. It’s hard to watch and hard to listen to but it has to come out. It is literally like a volcano has exploded. We don’t discuss it for at least two to three hours later. We then talk about some strategies she can try next time and discuss her feelings if she is able to express them. If not, we move on with our day.

If you have other children in the house check out my post on Sibling Sanity. There are some ideas on what your other children can do while the house is filled with cries and screams!

If you have any tips to help us out, please share!!

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Surviving the Holidays

Christmas is GG’s favourite time of the year! She would talk about it all year round if we let her! But it can also be extremely stressful. She is filled with excitement and wonder and worries and questions! OMG the questions and comments about Christmas are never ending!

She worries about being on the nice list, she worries her elf will have lost her magic, she worries about how she will control herself around all of the food and she is stressed because we are so out of her regular routine, we don’t know what we are doing from day to day.

Here are some things we do to enjoy the holidays…

Schedule for the Day/Facing the Unknown: We try to keep as much consistency as possible. We keep to her scheduled eating (breakfast at 9:00, snack at 10:30, lunch at noon, snack at 2:30, dinner – when it’s ready). But over the holidays when we are visiting friends and family we let her eat 3 small treats or 1 large one if there is a display of food. We are fortunate that she will follow these rules even if she doesn’t like them.

We will write down a schedule for the week on a piece of paper and/or a whiteboard in her room. If we don’t know what we are doing we still make up a schedule but it just says “Stay at home”.   Some children (and adults) will benefit from a stay at home schedule that includes ideas of different activities they can do while at home. Such as 9:00 Painting, 10:00 iPad, 11:00 outside play, etc.

Change of Plans: If you have already told your child you will be doing one thing but then plans change unexpectantly, you can make up some little cards to help. The trick is to have these cards and bags handy. Store some in the glove box, your purse, by the door, etc.

Here is an example:

Change It Up!

Take Your Pick:

-Chew a piece of gum

-Choose a toy from the bag

-Take 5 deep breaths

-Suck on a candy

Hand your child the card when telling them about the change of plans. (Always introduce and teach a new strategy – such as this card – before needing to use it. Role playing works great)!

Getting a toy, piece of gum or candy distracted GG enough to get over the change in plans. She never chose the deep breaths! Lol The bag is just a small bag with a drawstring from the $ store filled with some characters, stickers, lego pieces etc. (also from the $ store). You can use pictures taken from google images instead of words if your child doesn’t read (or is too upset about the change to read).

Allow Downtime: We also allow more down time than usual. Spending time with other children is very difficult for her. As much as we try and encourage her to play when other children are visiting, we don’t bug her too much during this time of year if there are large crowds. For us, the holidays are not a time to teach play skills because it is too overwhelming for her to retain anything.

Every child is different and I’m sure each one of you has a challenge that occurs year after year. So instead of making this post too long, write a comment or send me an email with some of your difficulties and I’ll try to get back to you with some specific strategies. (The best I can without visiting and seeing you and your child in person). You can reach me at  wellbalancedlife@rogers.com

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Sibling Sanity

Having a sibling with special needs can be very rewarding but it also comes with it’s own set of challenges.

The first part of this post is really me bragging about my kids but it’s also to give you hope that things will be ok! Feel free to scroll down to the strategies section if you’re short on time. 🙂

Starting with the great benefits, our children are extremely accepting, patient, supportive and kind. (Maybe not always with their sibling, but when necessary, they will always defend them)!

They are always making friends with other peers in their school/class/team/etc. with and without needs.

When my daughter was young, she always invited the children who normally don’t get invited anywhere to her birthday parties or out to a movie. Not because she felt bad for them but because she could see beyond what others may be intimidated by and genuinely liked the friendship they built together. Whether that friend had autism or was just quirky or was socially “different”.  She always sees the good in people.

GG’s brother has a heart of gold too. He is sensitive and kind and extremely thoughtful when it comes to others. If he does do something he shouldn’t to fit in he has major regret. Together we come up with a way to make things right. But if he sees someone with special abilities being treated unfairly, you bet he will step in.

I believe growing up in a family with special needs has opened their eyes to the challenges, heartaches and struggles that any child or adult may go through. They know that everyone has their own story and their own struggles and to not judge anyone because of that. Seeing their sister grow up to be a young girl who wants nothing more than to be accepted has shaped a part of who they are. We couldn’t be more proud of all 3 of them.

Here are some strategies to try out during those difficult moments:

The Screaming Meltdowns: This sucks! No other way to put it. When someone is screaming for hours, you just want to cry yourself sometimes. It is loud, annoying, sad and just plain awful.

If you have another adult or the kids are old enough to go out on their own, send them outside. Give them a few dollars to walk to the store for a treat (make sure they eat it all before coming back)! Walk to the park, go for a drive, wherever you can go.

If they can’t leave the house or are young, try setting up an area in the house they can go to when the crying is happening. Have a few pillows, a bean bag chair, iPod, iPad, headphones, books, lollipops (you can get some healthier ones at Homesense, Marshalls or Winners). Basically a hang out spot where they can go to chill out. A little tent for smaller bodies to sit in would be fun too!

If your children are older and/or have to get their homework done, a space in their room for this helps out. If you have room, set up a desk area. If space is tight, get one of those lap pillows with the hard top they can write on. Have headphones with an iPod or some other music source or try out some noise reduction headphones! They work great!! It doesn’t block out the noise completely but does a pretty good job. Just google or check out amazon.ca. Look up EAR PROTECTION headphones. You can get a pair for about $30.

Time Consumed by Needs: Let’s face it. Our child with needs takes up a lot of our time. And that’s ok! We are happy to help her! But you have to remember to make time for the others. Kids AND hubby or wife.

We have what we call “Special Time” with each other. That is 1 on 1 or 2 on 1 time with each child. As often as we can, we schedule time on the calendar for both their dad and I (or just one of us) to do something with one of the kids. It’s called Special Time because we are together. It doesn’t matter what you do. It could be going to the park, out for dinner, skating, sledding, visiting the library, even hanging out at home watching a movie on our iPad snuggled up in bed. We even have “Talk Time” where we hang out in our room just talking about stuff.  Once a year we schedule a bigger outing. We would head out to the city and go to a Disney on Ice show, or Monster Trucks. My husband and daughter have been going to see the Nutcracker Ballet for 11 years now! It might be an overnighter at a hotel where we swim, jump on the beds and get room service. It’s great quality time together that is all about them. Not their siblings. Just them. And it’s precious.

Make sure to schedule time with your partner as well. We try to plan a date night once a month. It might be a dinner, movie or even lunch during our lunch break from work. It’s hard but we try not to talk about the kids. Although I don’t think we’ve ever been successful with that! Lol Make sure to schedule this on the calendar. Even a walk after dinner.

If you need someone to watch your children find another family who you trust that you can take turns watching their children also. Or a young teenager who has experience (maybe a sibling) is a great choice too. A teacher or educational assistant that works with your child at school is another great option.

Click here for some respite support services you can tap in to for Ontario residents. I’m sure no matter where you live, there are supports in place. A quick google search should help. If you still need assistance, send me an email and I’ll see what I can find out for you.

Hopefully this helps but if you need more help with something specific, send me an email. We’ll figure something out together!

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