Healthy Summer Living With a Capital Letter Syndrome

This week on The Whole House podcast, Lori and Kathleen talked about Healthy Summer living with a capital letter syndrome. Whether you’re an adult with a capital letter syndrome or have a child with one, summer means change. To help prepare, we wanted to look at some healthy ways to cope with the changes summer brings:

  1. Keep a schedule.
  2. Harness the power of habit.
  3. Prioritize S.A.F.E. activities.

“The brain needs safety and involvement for positive learning experiences. If little children are not motivated to learn, check how safe they feel.” – James M. Healy, Ph.D., author, and educator

Remember that kids need to feel safe to enjoy learning and play. In the acronym above, “SAFE” stands for “Sensory-motor, Appropriate, Fun, and Easy.” Here’s what that means:

S: Sensory-motor

“Kids who are out of sync may have difficulty making the sensory-motor connection. Because their best attempts are often inadequate and unsatisfactory, these children may give up trying or simply lose interest. They may opt for sensory activities that require negligible motor response, such as watching television, listening to music, or reading. The gap between sensory input and motor output widens because the less they do, the less they may be able to do.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

It’s important not to fall into the trap of doing whatever the child wants to do simply because it’s easier or because he balks at going outdoors. The more sensory activity a child has, the better prepared he will be to function in real life.

When a child becomes conditioned to perfection or comfort in his environment air conditioning, a comfy chair, a screen to entertain him he will be less flexible and unable to adapt when circumstances aren’t just right. That’s a recipe for disaster.

People with capital letter syndromes are less flexible naturally, so why not take some time and work on flexibility when you have the opportunity to? We’ve all heard the complaints: It’s too hot. I’m bored. Can we go in yet? In response, you can alleviate a bit of the discomfort, set a time frame for how long you’ll stay outside, or provide a game (water games are great for hot days).

A: Appropriate

Sensory seekers will go for daredevil experiences, while sensory avoiders will shun activity. It’s important to find appropriate activities for both. I raised one of each of these. The challenge is keeping the sensory seeker safe and the sensory avoider playing with the rest of the kiddos instead of standing on the sidelines.

“So when a sensory seeker clambers to the diving board although he can’t swim, we must rechannel his out of sync behavior.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

We must give the sensory-avoider a chance to practice new activities privately so she doesn’t just stand on the sidelines watching.

At our family camp, the kids were jumping rope and playing while my daughter stood with her eyes downcast and shoulders slumped. She was afraid to try after tripping on the rope one time. I took her to the other side of the house, and we practiced alone until she could manage jumping successfully. She joined the cousins with a smile on her face and jumped rope with them.

You’re doing your sensory-avoiding child a disservice if you don’t find ways to help them participate in sensory activities and feel successful.

F: Fun (Functional and Family Builders)

“When the child experiences challenges to which he can respond effectively, he has ‘fun’.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

While a child is having fun, he is experiencing sensory integration. This is functional activity that will provide skills for adulthood.

We all want our kids to play, cooperate, and get along — but are we modeling that for them? Are we showing instead of telling? It’s fun and simple to show. Have a squirt gun battle with your kids and be prepared to get wet. Play “Mother May I?” and don’t cry when you have to go back to the beginning. Play hide and seek. Have a crab-walk race, a sack race, or a human wheelbarrow race. These are all functional, family bonding activities!

E: Easy (Economical, Environmentally Friendly, and Emotionally Satisfying)

Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! You can create loads of fun for your family in your own backyard or in a creek, stream, or lake. Check your area for trails to hike or bike. Look around for access to a creek. Go creek walking. Skip stones. There is something so emotionally satisfying about skipping stones! I am not great at it, but my kids are!

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is emotionally satisfying. I would put that at the top of the list.

“The activities should be easy enough for your child to taste success. When they are too challenging, your child may resist doing them. Think of how frustrating it is to be a child who wants to have fun, wants to please you — and can’t.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

Also, make sure you take the time to discern the child’s fear level. If it is high and you know he would really enjoy the activity and have success, gently push. By gently, I mean comfort and coax with a calm voice. Don’t yell, “You’re going to do this or else!” Say, “Let’s just try this for a couple of minutes. I’ll hold your hand. See, you’re doing it.” Some parents struggle with being sweet when they just want the kid to JUST DO IT!

Here’s a good self-check: ask yourself how you would want to be treated in this situation. Even if you are an adventure-seeker who is afraid of nothing, do you enjoy put-downs, yelling, or belittling?

Here’s a good example. My niece was visiting, and we took her creek walking. This was her first time. She was about 7 years old and was used to city living. Creek walking is a Guire tradition. It’s super simple and free. You just put on old tennis shoes or rubber boots and walk in the creek. You can catch craw-dads or just enjoy the walk.

This was all new to my niece. She was afraid — understandably so. You may be reading this, thinking, That’s just a weird thing to do. She thought so. I asked her to try for a few minutes and held her hand. After those few minutes, she let go of my hand and thoroughly enjoyed the day. After fifteen minutes, she took the lead!

I’m not saying every child will obtain this level of competence, but every child can have an emotionally rewarding experience. Some kids may need you to hold their hand the whole time. That’s okay. Meet the child at their level.

One final thought: Don’t take resistance as a “no.” There are many interpretations of resistance. It may mean, I’m afraid, I don’t think I can do this, or I have never done this before. Some of the activities my kids resisted as young children are their fondest memories as adults.

So what are you waiting for? Get outside!

For more help, check out this video: A Sensory World Preview.

 

* The S.A.F.E. Acronym is from The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun. This is a great resource book full of fun stuff to do with any child!

Episode 73

 

 

A Capital Letter Syndrome Doesn’t Make a Child Less Than

Marching to the beat of his own drum.

I knew.  I knew from early on that my son marched to the beat of his own drum.  I tried to to make him march with the other kids.  I didn’t want him to think something was wrong with him.  I tried all the parenting advice and discipline techniques.  Nothing seemed to matter.  I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

A Capital Letter Syndrome Doesn't Make a Child Less Than

The school nightmare

School was a nightmare.  He’d burn up all his energy on trying to “be good” only to fail and fall short of the teacher’s expectations.  He never brought home that coveted green smiley on his behavioral chart that said it was a good day.  I could see it in his eyes, he felt less than.  Less than the other kids his age, less than good, less than what people want.  It broke my heart.  I hated that stinking behavioral chart.  I hated that people refused to try and understand my sweet boy.

Soon we realized that traditional public school made things worse.  When he was in third grade, my husband and I made the choice to homeschool all our children.  I will never forget the day early in our journey that he leaned against my shoulder and said “Thank you for homeschooling me, Mommy.  I felt so stupid in school”  I cried that day and still remember it so vividly.  I replay that memory when we’re having a rough day.

Being your Child’s Advocate

I knew that I was going to have to be my son’s biggest advocate.  From the time we got his SPD diagnosis in first grade until just recently, I’ve had to explain everything it means and what it doesn’t.  I’ve had to undo society’s idea of what perfect children should look like.  My son was perfect.  Exactly the way God made him.  Just because he doesn’t do everything like the masses doesn’t make him somehow less than.  I am actually proud that he doesn’t.  And now, even at 14 years old, I will still fight anyone that tries to force that square peg into that round hole….or lovingly point out how mistaken they are.  It’s a toss-up, really.  😉

Want to hear more of what Lori has to say on the subject? Listen to this week’s podcast episode:

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Lori Shaffer

Special Needs (Capital Letter Syndromes) and Homeschooling Director

Lori Shaffer is married to her childhood best friend, Jacob.  She is a stay at home missionary and homeschool mom to their three children.  She is passionate about advocating for teen moms and women and children that have been abused and giving them hope and encouragement.  Most days she can be found drinking coffee, working out with Kathleen, or hanging out with her family.

Follow Lori on Social Media:

Facebook- Lori Shaffer

Instagram –@browneyedmomof3

Instagram joint fitness account (Kathleen and Lori)-

@2girlsnotrunning

An Overview of SPD

In episode 43 of The Whole House podcast, Kathleen and I discuss what exactly is Sensory Processing Disorder.  The book, The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A. defines SPD this way:

“Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is the inability to use information received through the senses in order to function smoothly in daily life.”

In short, that means a child (or adult since it’s not something that is grown out of), cannot process all his/her sensory input and has the wrong reaction to many things that “regular” people have no problem with.  Sensory issues become a disorder when the person has an inability to function normally in day to day life.

Sensory issues become a disorder when the person has an inability to function normally in day to day life..png

If you suspect your child (or yourself) might have SPD, the STAR Institute is a great place to start to try and understand this disorder.  It includes great information, including this checklist.  Another great source of information is The Out-of-Sync Child.  It is split into two parts, the first being how to recognize SPD, and the second on how to cope with SPD.  One thing this book suggests is to document your child’s behavior.  This helps to recognize patterns.  Sometimes diet or phases of the moon (I kid you not) can affect the intensity of the symptoms.  The book also makes suggestions on how to better get your child to focus.  Occupational therapy is so helpful.  An occupational therapist can not only properly diagnose your child, but also give you ways to help your child regulate.  I have mentioned many times that my son regularly does his school work in a spinning chair or on the trampoline.  He focuses so much better this way.

Most importantly, we ladies at The Whole House want you to know that we are here for you.  The amount of information out there can be dizzying and overwhelming.  The first step is to get a proper diagnosis.  The second is to connect with someone that can come along beside you and say “I know exactly how you feel”.  If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, contact us.

*Post by Lori Shaffer*

During and After the Diagnosis of a Capital Letter Syndrome

This week on the podcast, Lori and I talk about diagnosing a capital letter syndrome. It’s pretty scary territory. Sometimes there is an invisible stigma attached to stepping out and finding some help. Not sure why, maybe we just feel guilty. Mom guilt is real. Even if you adopted, you know you aren’t immune to Mom guilt. We Moms have some weird knack for feeling guilty that things that we didn’t have anything to do with. Raise your hand if you agree.

Episode 41

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Another issue we parents deal with when searching for answers for our kids’ struggles is the “Just do this…” people. You know what I mean, those people who have all the answers for your child based on spending sixty seconds with them. It’s irritating. Right? Our advice, don’t share with them. Limit your time with those “Just do this..” people as much as possible. Don’t take it personally. Just move on.

During and after the diagnosis

*this portion was written by Rachel Eubanks

Be prepared that it will hurt even if you are expecting it.  You will take it personally and you have to be ready to push back against that.  You can’t effectively advocate for your child if you are too busy attacking yourself.

Act professionally at the appointment, keep it together (especially if your child is with you).  This isn’t a death sentence, it’s just a tool for you to help your child.  It’s okay to fall apart later, but keep it together at first.

Talk about it with a few people you trust.  Yes, your child’s diagnosis is their story and you shouldn’t broadcast it without their permission, but it’s your story too.  You know what friends and family who will keep your confidence and not judge, talk to them.

Your child isn’t sick or weird, they are just missing a piece to their puzzle and as their parent it’s your job to find it.

Do any of your children have a capital letter syndrome? Share your story with us! We’d love to hear it.

Do you suspect that one of your kiddos has a capital letter syndrome? Did this episode help? Let us know!

Homeschooling Special Needs Children

*This is condensed from a talk I shared at the THESIS Mom’s Tea.

 

Special Needs-In the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.

Special needs impairs the child’s ability to function in day to day activities at home and school. I call them capital letter syndromes. ADD, ADHD, SPD, Asperger’s, Autism, Attachment Disorders.

special-needs

Should you homeschool your special needs child?

“Objective studies demonstrate that parents are providing a superior form of education for their special needs children by teaching them at home. Contrary to the claims of the education elite, parents do not have to be specially certified or have special qualifications to teach their handicapped children at home.

In fact, in one of the most thorough studies performed thus far on the subject, Dr. Steven Duvall conducted a year-long study involving eight elementary and two junior high students with learning disabilities. He compared one group of five students that received instruction at home with a group of five students who attended public schools. He was careful to match the public school students to the homeschool students according to grade level, sex, IQ, and area of disability. Using a laptop computer, Dr. Duvall sat in on teaching sessions and took an observation every 20 seconds, creating tens of thousands of data points that were then fed into a statistical analysis package. Normally his research included a second observer who double-checked Dr. Duvall’s readings.

Dr. Duvall recorded and analyzed academically engaged time by students during instructional periods. He also administered standardized achievement tests to them to measure gains in reading, math and written language. His results show that the homeschooled, special needs students were academically engaged about two-and-one-half times as often as public school special needs students! He found the children in the public school special education classrooms spent 74.9 percent of their time with no academic responses, while the homeschool children only spent 40.7 percent of their time with no academic responses. He also found that homeschools have children and teachers sitting side-by-side or face-to-face 43 percent of the time, while public education classrooms had such an arrangement for special needs children only 6 percent of the time. This was a tremendous advantage for the homeschoolers.

His study further demonstrated that the homeschool students averaged six months’ gain in reading compared to only a one-half month gain by the special public school students. Furthermore, the homeschool special needs students during the year gained eight months in written language skills compared to the public school counterparts who gained only two-and-one-half months.”

Dr. Duvall summarized, “… This study clearly shows that home schooling is beneficial for special needs students.” 1 (All info gleaned from HSLDA.org)

Four points about homeschooling special needs children.

  1. Go with your gut and don’t let outside opinion bully you into doing something that isn’t right for your child. You know best. You probably were the first one to have an inkling that something wasn’t quite right. Mom’s have the insight into their children that no one else has. If someone else says, “oh, my kid does that.” and you know that what they are talking about is an occasional meltdown and your kid can’t make it through two minutes of a certain environment without melting down ten times, trust your gut, not the lady you met at the playground for five minutes. Find someone who empathizes and talk to her. Look for info and follow the trail of research for your child. You are his advocate. It's not about

2.  Homeschooling special needs children is tough. Make sure you take time for fun for both you and your family. It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence to keep going. It’s about what you have under your belt, not what you don’t. It’s about grace in the journey, educating your child and enjoying the trip.

3. Find what works for your child and don’t be harassed by “What your Child Needs to Know books” or academic texts. Teach at their pace and level for best results.  If you set the bar too high, you will both always be frustrated or at war. Comparing kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf.  It drains the life blood right out of you. Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates.  Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays.  Get help for your special needs child if you need to.  Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him.  I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children.  I want my children to reach their potential.  I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.

If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare.  CELEBRATE!

If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid.  CELEBRATE!

If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered. CELEBRATE!

4. Social/emotional education is just as valid and necessary. If you have an Aspie, three grades ahead in math doesn’t mean they’re doing that well in every area– it’s okay to work on other things. Role playing, social books, practicing outside the moment (training) helps. Before I took my kids to the library for the first time, we practiced at home. We used our schoolroom/dining room/ library for the library. We practiced whispering and finding books. Our tiny local library had a system for the kids. There was a tub of wooden rulers on the table and each time a child took a book off the shelf to look at it, he marked it with a ruler so he could return it later. I think we practiced that part a little too much, because after mere minutes in the library the shelves were full of rulers and the kids had huge stacks of books, none of which they really wanted! Be careful what you emphasize in practice. For the kids who need help practicing social skills or who can’t handle too much stimulation in public, lights, sounds, etc., it is better to talk them through exactly what is going to happen.

All of these are great practices for any of your children. Those who have special needs may need them more, but every child needs an advocate, someone who will take the time to practice outside the moment, someone to cheer them on and celebrate with them. It doesn’t hurt to help all of your children to sort out what is socially acceptable.

Don’t forget Mom and Dad, that you are the parent. Take the reigns. If you think homeschooling is best for your special needs child, then the evidence is for you not against you. Find a support group or a homeschool co-op that offers what your child needs.