Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 in review

I got this from a new blog I'm reading: MOM-Not Otherwise Specified . (I love the title of her blog... referencing the diagnosis of PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified, which happens to be Reece's diagnosis.) As a way to review this past year, I'm going to copy the first line of the first post of each month:

January 2006 - Our founder, Captain Jack Sparrow, has come to live at the Black Pearl Academy!

February 2006 - I got this off Laney's blog!

March 2006 - It's March 1st, and today it is sunny and a beautiful 72 degrees!

April 2006 - New Spreadsheets: 1. List of books and other materials I want to purchase at convention next month, their list prices, and the prices at my favorite discount retailers.

May 2006 - Autism Awareness month is over officially, but I have found a few links that I still think are wonderful!

June 2006 - 10 simple pleasures I got tagged by Lisa.

July 2006 - After tithing off the bonus, and getting Russ some great shirts on clearance at The Gap, the amount left of the bonus was exactly what I needed to pay for My Father's World Adventures! :)

August 2006 - Our first day of school is tomorrow!

September 2006 - Fun Friday... the kids have been looking forward to it all week!

October 2006 - Aren't those a cute group of little birdies?!

November 2006 - Here is Reece's picture from preschool!

December 2006 - Wow, cannot believe it's December 1st already! :)

That was sort of fun!! What did your year look like in the blogosphere?

The last day of 2006

I cannot say that I'm sad to see 2006 end. I have great hopes for many changes in 2007, mostly within myself! :)

Happy New Year's Eve, friends!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Eve kids

I know, I know! I haven't posted since before Christmas! We had a very nice day! The kids enjoyed all of their presents, and have been playing nicely with them since Christmas Day! We enjoyed having my parents visit, and we're all enjoying the down time from school! :) Especially mom! LOL!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Baking

We had plans to do our Christmas baking this evening and we got it all done! Here is Austin working on his cookies on the kitchen counter.

We ended up inviting Riley's friend A over to make cookies with us! She said she had never done this before! I'm not sure if that's true or not, but I'm glad we invited her anyway! It was alot of fun for Riley!
Here is the result of all of our hard work! From left to right you'll find White Madness, behind it is Peppermint Bark, then the cake for Jesus, and little star shaped cakes (found those tins at the dollar store!), then the Tiger Butter, and lastly the sugar cookies. We will do the frosting on the cake and cookies tomorrow, to give the kids something to keep them busy!
I almost took a pic of the mess to call it "The Dark Side of Christmas Cooking" (esp. since we haven't had a working dishwasher in 18 months! LOL), but decided to just get busy cleaning the kitchen! :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reece's favorite song

Studies in different cultures?

Here at the Black Pearl Academy, we strive to not only study different cultures, but to try to put our studies into practice! See below how we are sitting in a traditional Japanese style:

Ok, Ok, before I offend any Japanese readers, I'd better stop! Here's the real deal: last week after supper, Riley cried out that the kitchen table was falling over. We bought it used, sight unseen, from a yard sale earlier this year. It has never been sturdy, but my dad and my dh have worked hard to reinforce it whenever it got too wobbly. I assumed when Riley called out, she meant it was really wobbly. Nope! She meant what she said... the table was falling! The wood at the base of the pedestals had splintered, and the table was falling. It's a heavy table, so I'm glad Riley wasn't hurt. However, replacing said table a week before Christmas isn't so much fun! My friends encouraged me to blog about it, since we moved the coffee table into the kitchen for the kids at least to eat from! One day, I'm sure, I will laugh about all of this! ;)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mini book review: Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books

I was able to finish this book on the ride to my MILs house yesterday. I was definitely worth the time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I would love to try to implement this approach while teaching Reece to read! The main thing that concerns me is that it's a very intuitive program. It does have certain steps that are laid out as part of the program, and even includes masters for copying for record-keeping and planning purposes. But during each lesson you really have to be able to work on the fly! Also, it would require placing a good bit of trust in myself, which is something that I'm not altogether good at doing! But I think it might be worth considering some more, since I do have time until I would start with Reece. And there are alot of suggestions for things to do before the formal lessons would begin, that I do fully intend to start implementing after Christmas!

I highly recommend this book, even if you have already taught all of your crew to read! It was excellent information!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas pictures

Here are our new Christmas pictures!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A reading list of a different sort

This post will be about MY reading list, and the first entry on it is a book that I heard about on Lisa's homeschooling blog (link to be added after I get permission), Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books. I had to get this book in Interlibrary Loan, so I've been waiting a little while for it.

I am only 2 chapters in, and I already suspect that a copy of this book will be making it's home in the Language Arts section of the Black Pearl Academy's library. This bullet point from Chapter 2 especially strikes me, since I am reading this book in particular interest for teaching Reece to read:

"Phonics programs overlook the fact that knowledge gained by rote memory does not readily apply to the complexities of actual reading."

I am learning more and more about the nature of autism spectrum disorders, and I have seen readily that this is true with my children especially. They are excellent rote learners, but when it comes time to apply that knowledge, to put it into practice, they struggle. It does not generalize.

I have taught 2 children to read, so far. Austin struggled through phonics programs (3 different ones). He is doing much better with his reading this year, but it's just from the years of practice. He much prefers for me to read aloud to him. Riley was around 3 when we started homeschooling, and she immediately started begging me to teach her to read. Finally, when she was just over 4, I sat her down and showed her how to blend words. Then I had to get back to teaching Austin to read because he, after all, was 6 and in Kindergarten! ;) A few weeks later, when Riley was 4 and 3 months, she read the first of the Bob Books. I guess, long story short, she taught herself to read. When I tried to sit her down and do phonics with her again when she was 5, I found out that she could already read fluently.

*** Ok, funny story here! I had purchased at a used booksale, the phonics primer from Abeka. I wanted to use it for Riley because Austin was still working through Phonics Pathways. So I sit her down, and hand her the primer, and she proceeds to read off the cover: "Abeka Reading Program A Handbook for Reading". Very well, phonics lessons are complete! LOL ***

I have posted some of the "learning to read" experiences I've had with Reece this last year of teaching her to read. She has picked up the sounds very quickly (Thank you Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD!), and she even figured out blending quite easily, too. But she just gets no meaning from it. And without meaning, I do not see a point. Part of her RDI program is that she communicates (uses language) for meaning, not just for the sake of using language. Reading should be no different. I have backed off, because I want to get a love of being read to instilled in her. Unfortunately, since she's the tail end of the homeschool, she hasn't had alot of 'snuggle and read a picture book' time. She's mostly had 'sit here and hush so I can read this chapter book/history book/science book' to your siblings. Not that that is bad, but I don't think it gives her a love of books as quickly as picture books might, especially considering her developmental level.

OK, I'm getting all rambly here. I'm going to continue to read this book, and see what other information strikes me. For the record, he does not advocate abandoning phonics, but rather utilizing phonics within a context of children's books. On a first glance, it reminds me a bit of Ruth Beechick's 3 Rs book on Reading, mixed in with a little bit of Calvert's approach in their Kindergarten program. Regardless, it's got my interest. Will keep posting as I read more!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Support group meetings

Tonight was our county's autism support group meeting, and Riley's first sibling support group. This was my 3rd time to attend this support group, and I have to say that the 3rd time might be the charm! It was a holiday social, and I sat and spoke with 3 of the nicest people. We briefly went through our 'stories' and chuckled at similar experiences! There was information presented about the summer camps offered by the group, and I would like to sign Austin up for one or more of them. They showed a DVD from last summer's camps and they looked like alot of fun! I'm not sure Reece would be ready for something like that, but they don't register until March, so I have time to decide.

Riley attended her first sibling support group meeting, and they had a holiday party as well! She was the only girl, which was frustrating because the lady I spoke to about the meetings said it was mostly girls! Oh well, Riley still enjoyed herself! She even won the 'Star' Cupcake for being so well-behaved and helpful! The college student who facilitates the group has a brother with autism, and I think that makes such a big difference. Also, the teenage girl who helps out also has a brother with autism. This is exactly what I was looking for for Riley! Riley wants to go back next month! :)

I signed Austin and Reece up for a sort of mini-camp beginning in January, which is basically fun, age-appropriate activities during the monthly support group meeting. It was $20 per child for the remaining 3 months the support group meets. (The fee is to pay for the trained staff.)This will also free up Russ to attend the support group with me, if he desires. Riley will continue to attend the sibling group.

I'm really glad we went, in spite of this frigid weather that blew in today!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Austin's follow-up appointment

Austin saw his autism doctor today for a 6 month follow-up! It's sort of hard to believe that it's been 6 months since he received his diagnosis!

The appt. went very well, I think. We all went (all meaning the girls and daddy, too!) and actually it went very nicely. I love that the doctor's private practice is in a home, since it helps all of my kids to relax. The big issues I wanted to discuss with him were Austin's increased anxiety, his lack of sleep now that we had to stop the melatonin for the side effects, and the RDI program.

As far as the anxiety is concerned, we were offered a medication that Dr. R said would help with both the anxiety and the sleep issue. It is given only at night. I am really not wanting to jump into a medication, so we'll research this more, try a few other 'natural' non-medicinal approaches, and then we'll decide later. Austin needs to sleep again, badly. Dr. R noted a big growth spurt in the last 6 months and mentioned that we needed to be prepared for puberty. WHAT? Puberty?!?! ACK! I think I'll just stick my head back in the sand on that one! LOL (Actually, Dr. R wanted us to know that the increased anxiety could be related to the beginnings of puberty.... esp. since we've had the BO problem going on for a year, and now a growth spurt that coincided with the anxiety going up. So I'll keep that in mind, but still keep my head in the sand!)

Regarding RDI, Dr. R encouraged us to not rush into it. The plan right now is for me to go to the workshop in March, and then discuss it more at our next appt. with Dr. R in mid-March for Reece. Because it costs so much money to implement an RDI program with a consultant, and we have to multiply that times 2 kids, we just want to make sure that we're using our resources wisely. Dr. R said that, in his experience, progress is less dependent on the methodology of the program and the particulars of how to go about the program, and more dependent upon the time spent individually engaging with the child. So it's less about exactly what sort of activities you are using, and more about the fact that you are doing something organized and deliberate to work with the child.

One thing that I was grateful to hear was when he encouraged us to not drive ourselves mad and broke trying to find the next 'big' treatment or cure. In fact, he told us to make sure that we allow ourselves time and money to take a family vacation (this is where he won over Russ for sure! LOL), and not to put all of our resources into autism. He suggested that, instead of the expensive social skills groups, Austin could get as much out of taking karate, which would also provide him with the physical exertion that he needs as part of his sensory diet.

I wish I could express more clearly the impressions I got from Dr. R today. But it was a really good appointment, and I feel like I have some goals for the next 6 months for Austin, and for ourselves. He does want to see Austin again in 6 months (wants to keep a close eye on him as he approaches puberty which can be rather difficult for kids with Aspergers). We go back in 3 months for Reece's one year follow-up, when she'll be five!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fun Friday 12/1

Wow, cannot believe it's December 1st already! :)

Today we put the FUN in Fun Friday! Our plans to go to the zoo got scrapped by the icky weather and the fact that Riley has a sleepover party to go to tonight. I had intended for us to go to an indoor inflatable place, but decided this morning to find something different than the one we go to at the mall. I located a place I thought would be good, printed off a coupon for said location, and we loaded up.

Arrived at the inflatable place only to find out it wasn't opening for another 90 minutes due to an emergency. But my kids did not freak out! I was so proud of them, I offered to take them to lunch! :) So we did a quick lunch (not too heavy as to interfere with bouncing), and then we went to Walmart to kill some time.

This inflatable place was fantastic!! We had the place to ourselves, except for one mom and a toddler! :) The kids had a blast playing with the little guy, and I talked to him mom for awhile. It turns out that her pediatrician had just mentioned to her recently that her little guy might have some form of autism. Some of what she described to me did sound somewhat familiar. I encouraged her to contact Babies Can't Wait and get him evaluated. It's free, and if there is nothing going on, then she will know and can move on. If there is something going on, early intervention is a great thing! She asked for my email address to keep in contact with me, and she also wanted to have my kids play with her little boy again at the inflatable place! LOL She commented that my kids were some of the nicest bigger kids she has ever come across! :)

I'll try to post some pictures later on that I took of the kids bouncing and sliding!