Hello! This blog is about my daughter Hailey (currently 12 years old) and her experiences living with auditory processing disorder. Auditory Processing Disorder is Hailey's primary issue, however she has also been given the labels Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Visual Processing Disorder, Mixed Expressive Receptive Language Disorder and Phonology Disorder at various points in her life.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

We Need to Educate ALL Children About Learning Disabilities and Other Differences

Girl 1:  "Jimmy chews erasers at school, ewwweee."

Adult:  "Really?"

Girl 1:  "Yeah, he's the weird kid in the corner."

Girl 2:  "He has a quiet corner away from everyone else.  And he wears big headphones."

Girl 1:  "He also has a special blanket and mat thingy.  He's really weird."

Adult:  "Do the other kids play with him?"

Girl 1: "No......(she becomes lost in thought).....There is this one girl in school who is a real bully."

And then the topic went on to bullying.  This conversation I had with some school age girls I know was enlightening for me.  I realized that my daughter could have been "the weird kid in the corner" had she went to elementary school.  Certainly at ages five to seven, she got stressed easily, needed sensory input, liked to chew on things - even non-edible things, would have needed noise cancelling headphones, and probably would have spaced out a lot.  It broke my heart really.

So, me being me, I let them tell me about the bully at their school and we discussed why people bully and what they can do about it.  Then we segued back to the boy in the corner.  We talked about how he might be feeling stressed and needed the headphones, blanket, and mat to help him feel better. My daughter told them about her headphones and briefly about her Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia.

Hopefully it helped.  I think it did to some extent, however I am sure they are not going to rush over and befriend the "weird boy in the corner" anytime soon.  Maybe though, they will at least have some compassion for him and stick up for him sometime.


We need to educate all children about learning disabilities and disorders.  There is a real need for books for kids about processing disorders and learning disabilities.  Other children need to understand that kids aren't "weird" to annoy them or be made fun of or take the teacher's attention inordinately.  What a difference it would make for all the children!

Loraine Alderman and Yvonne Capitelli wrote a book for children about a child with Auditory Processing Disorder.  It is the first book about APD written for children and I hope it helps many children understand this disorder/learning disability better. Here is a link to the book if you are interested: I Get It!  I Get It! How John Figures It Out

(I've also added an Amazon widget on the right sidebar with some books about children with learning disabilities or other disabilities/differences.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

No Mean Girls Here! My Daughter's Successful Party

The party began with nine girls sitting around the kitchen table, cutting fondant with cookie cutters, painting with colored frosting, and designing their own personality onto cupcakes as their moms chatted quietly standing around the edges.

This was the first party my daughter had thrown in over three years.  She invited many of her homeschooled friends that live in this area.  Luckily, almost all of them were able to make it to the party.  Some of them knew each other, but none of them except my daughter knew all of them - although a few she didn’t know very well.

The girls were all engaged in their work and seemed content, but would they connect with each other?   Would they enjoy each other’s company? 

As the party continued, the moms sauntered into the living room or out into the backyard.  Some moms stayed in the kitchen to help themselves to cupcake designing while the girls moved on to other projects. (Some moms were quite talented at it too!) Mostly, the moms tried to stay out of the girls’ way so they could mingle and connect in their own ways.

Some girls danced to the Xbox Kinect game in the living room; some chose to sing karaoke in my daughter’s bedroom; and some went to jump on the trampoline in the backyard.  At first I was worried these groups would become static and the girls would not move outside of their social comfort zones, but I need not have worried.  Soon the girls were moving among the groups and getting to know each other more.

It was a success!  My sweet girl, who just a little over a year ago felt she had so very few friends, threw a party and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Her friends all got along with each other, were kind and engaging, and my daughter felt the joy of being with a group of friendly girls.

(My daughter suggested the title "No Mean Girls Here" because she wanted to reference the difference between this group of friends and the one she had almost three years ago where they ended up being unkind to her.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tips for Homeschooling a Child with Auditory Processing Disorder


No matter what style of homeschooling you choose, the best tip I have to offer is to remember that you have time!  Do not compare your child’s current skills to where he or she “should” be according to the standards of traditional schooling, because you are not doing traditional schooling. (The only exception to this is if you are planning on putting your child into traditional school at some point.)  If you plan on continuing to homeschool, you have as long as it takes for your child to learn what he or she needs to learn to function as an adult, go to college, get a job, or anything else that is to come in the future.

To ease your parent mind on making sure your child eventually learns everything you think he or she needs to know (or to meet the requirements of your government), you can do research on curriculum by using the internet, buying a curriculum planner, getting information from your local school district, or if you work with an umbrella school by asking them.  This curriculum can be used as your internal guide of what overall is to be learned, but I would recommend not worrying about the timelines they have established; your child might learn some things slower and some things faster and all of that works just fine in homeschooling.  Also, use their suggestions of activities or methods as you desire, but remember that there are multiple ways to accomplish the same goals and multi-sensory is the best approach for your child with Auditory Processing Disorder.


Children with Auditory Processing Disorder often have problems with short term memory, also called working memory.  Due to this, they often need repetition to learn things.  Just because they understood how to add on Monday, does not mean they will understand it on Wednesday.  However, once that skill/information is transferred to long term memory, the child will have it permanently.  The best way to deal with this is to teach in smaller increments, but with repetition. 

Another great way to help deal with short term memory issues is to use a multi-sensory approach.  The more senses that are involved in learning a task, the more likely the information will be retained.  So do not just sit at a desk and use a pencil and paper to add.  Plan activities that involve visuals, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, taste, touch, music, and basically anything and everything you can think of.

Children with Auditory Processing Disorder often get fatigued easily from having to concentrate on auditory input and output.  Therefore, your child will not do well with long lectures, boring textbooks that drone on in a language based imparting of information, or being forced to memorize passages. These are strong auditory skill based methods that are not for children with weak auditory skills.  Find alternatives to learning things such as hands on methods (re-enactment places, hands on science museums, making things, planting a garden, taking care of bugs, etc), watching movies or documentaries with lots of visuals, and acting out information (like pretending to be a settler on a prairie rather than just reading about one). When you do read things for information, take it in smaller chunks, and stop along the way to make sure the information is being understood.  Most importantly, do not overwhelm your child with too much new information at once; your child with Auditory Processing Disorder processes information differently and needs to digest things slowly in manageable chunks.

As children with APD get fatigued from auditory input and have problems with short term memory, another strategy we have used that works very well is to do a little learning of new information in as multi-sensory a way as possible, and then take a break.  During that break, just relax and have fun doing something that does not require concentration or auditory input, does not impart a skill or knowledge that “must be learned”, and is something your child feels safe, comfortable, and confident doing.  Your child needs that downtime so much more than you can imagine.


As most children with Auditory Processing Disorder are visual/spatial learners, they do well learning larger concepts and overall knowledge that they can then apply the details to.  For this reason, unit studies work well because they can continue on one topic at a time, gathering a broader view of the topic while there is no competing new, unrelated information having to be processed at the same time.

Here is a link to a homeschooling blog that describes how unit studies can work: What is a Unit Study?

For skill such as reading, writing, and mathematics, you can teach the concepts of the skill (why we do it) before you teach how to do it.  A child has no reason to learn how to add if he or she does not understand the purpose for it.  There will be no place to put that information without a place holder for it.  The place holder in the brain is the “why”.  Children live in life just like adults and they can grasp the concept of adding when they say they want one more cookie.  They have this experience of wanting another cookie that is already in their long term memory, so it acts as a foundation for adding the new information called addition.  Using real life skills and experiences works the best for teaching children the concepts of reading, writing, and mathematics.


Many children with Auditory Processing Disorder have other co-existing conditions such as Visual Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Disorder, and many other possibilities.  Therefore, you might have to address these issues in relation to teaching your child as well.  The best advice I have is to become familiar with your child’s strengths and areas of weakness; know the details to the conditions your child has (and remember that even within a label, every child is not exactly the same), and be flexible.  If something doesn’t work, try to figure out why and change it.  Be willing to try new things and see what works well for your child.  Along those lines, remember that each child’s personality and personal interests are also a big part of their learning.


One of the primary symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorders is the inability to filter out background noises.  Therefore, it only makes sense that a child with APD would do best concentrating in a quiet environment.  This is especially important when focusing on skills such as reading.  When my daughter with APD reads or works independently on something like a math worksheet, she wears noise reducing headphones to block out noise.  When her and I are working together to learn something, we try to keep the background noise to a minimum as much as possible (when we are at a location such as an aquarium, we try to stay away from the crowds).

If my daughter with APD is starting to get stressed, she chews gum and/or we light a scented candle.  These help to relax her.  (Other kids might need to get up and move around or use a wiggle seat.)

My daughter tends to get annoyed with visual distractions as well; she also has mild Visual Processing Disorder where she actually tends to focus better on things in her peripheral vision rather than her central vision.  Therefore, we also try to keep her visual environment calm – not too much movement going on around her.  Just like APD, her VPD seems to bother her most under stressful situations like working on something that is very difficult for her.


When my daughter was learning to read, I thought for sure I could teach her.  I am a credentialed teacher who taught first grade for years.  I taught many, many children how to read.  I studied all the methods and thought I knew all I needed to know about teaching her to read.  Despite all my education and experience, I was not successful.  She needed something that I simply did not know.

It turns out that along with her APD, she also has Dyslexia.  Her particular combination of APD and Dyslexia made it impossible for her to distinguish the different sounds in phonemes.  She cannot hear the difference between sounds like /sh/ and /ch/ or /wh/ and /h/ and so many more.   She needed to learn a very different way of identifying those sounds.  This way for her was a program called the Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program (LiPS).  We hired a reading specialist who knew this program and used it, along with a strong Orton Gillingham approach, to teach our daughter how to read.  I sat in on all the lessons and learned how to work with her at home.

This was also the time we found out she also had a Visual Processing Disorder and we utilized a specialist to do some vision therapy with her as well.


Your child needs to feel successful.  Above all else, make sure you find ways for your child to feel success.  Like Rick Lavoie, educator, author, motivational speaker, says in his presentation When the Chips are Down, if your child is great at screwing things in, make sure you loosen all the screws in your house so he can do something he feels successful at.


I hope some of this information is helpful to you in some way.  If you have more specific questions, I will do my best to answer them.   I am not an authority on teaching children with Auditory Processing Disorder, but I am a mother who has been doing just that for many years now.

Here are a few links to other posts I have written specifically about reading and mathematics and one to our overview of homeschooling in general.

Why Auditory Processing Disorder Makes Reading Difficult  (A guest post written by Bonnie Landau)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Processing Differences and Learning Disabilities Can Run In Families

When you have one child with a processing disorder or learning disability, you might see similar things in another of your children.  For example, our daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder at two years old.  We learned how to give her a sensory diet and to predict her needs based on her sensory difficulties.  So when her twin brother had issues with clothing not feeling right or food not having the right texture, we just accommodated as we would with her.  We knew it was sensory related, but we did not feel the need to rush out and get him diagnosed with anything; his issues seemed so incredibly minor compared to hers and we knew what to do to help.

Growing up, we have also noticed that our son is not very coordinated.  He is the child who somehow manages to run into walls, trip going upstairs, has had stitches three times due to running or falling into something, and needs a lot of physical movement like swinging, pacing, jumping, etc.  We weren’t concerned by these things and just gave him access to lots and lots of physical opportunities.  We even put him in various gym classes, swimming, and martial arts. 

He is also the child with fine motor issues.  He hated coloring and drawing and rarely did it.   He had the hardest time learning to hold a pencil and write.  So we played games and did activities to boost his fine motor skills.  However, despite what we did, he never has gotten very good at fine motor skills.  He holds his pencil correctly, he forms his letters correctly, but he finds it so extremely difficult and tiresome and frustrating no matter how much he practices.

Because we homeschool, our son’s motor skills difficulties have not interfered with his learning nor has he been teased by his peers.  We have simply accommodated his needs; he dictates stories to me or he uses a keyboard to write anything more than a couple sentences.  When he draws, he draws stick figures to get his idea across and if he wants them more elaborate, his twin sister, who absolutely loves to draw and does extremely well, offers to draw them for him from his stick drawings.  He has also used some computer programs to do some basic drawings that he finds satisfying. Shoelaces still give him some frustration, but he can tie them – it just takes him longer.

As for gross motor skills, he still does all the physical activities that he wants.  It took him a rather longish time to learn to ride a bike, but he did.  He has walked all over the railings on the back deck and fallen a few times with no major damage, but he has enjoyed it and improved his balance to some extent (the railings are not far off the ground).  He jumps on the trampoline, shoots arrows at targets fairly well, plays laser tag well (his hand/eye coordination does not seem to be affected), swims well, and loves to do things like pull-ups, sit-ups, and the like.  

When I look up his issues online, I realize that he might have Dyspraxia and/or Dysgraphia; in fact, we have realized that for years and have simply done the things he would have done at occupational therapy and made accommodations for him as needed.  Therefore, we decided that we do not need to spend the money to get an official diagnosis of anything at this point in time.  When he goes to college, if he needs some sort of special accommodations, we will have to get him tested and diagnosed at that time.  He is aware that he most likely has Dysgraphia and that is why he has so much difficulty with writing, drawing, tying his shoes, and playing console games like Xbox (it requires quite a bit of fine motor skills); we have spoken to him about this because he felt so horrible about himself for his difficulties and we needed to help him learn to deal with this.

We have learned that these processing difficulties and learning disabilities like Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, Auditory Processing Disorder, Visual Processing Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and others probably have some sort of genetic link; they often run in families to some extent.  When I look back over my own biological family, I know of Dyslexia for sure, speech issues for sure, and others of the older generations who were never officially diagnosed with anything, but probably had a learning disability or processing disorder of some sort.  It is also suggested that premature birth may have some contribution to these issues and the twins were born prematurely. 

Whatever the reason our twins have some processing difficulty/difference, they are amazing kids!  They are incredibly intelligent, wonderfully kind, introspective, creative people.  They have perseverance, courage, and a unique perspective, not to mention our son has a great memory which might not be that great if it were easier for him to just write things down.  These traits, perhaps, are also enhanced by their processing differences.  I like to think so.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Attempt at an Introduction to Homeschooling

(((WARNING:  THIS IS VERY LONG!  I'm sorry, I just didn't know how else to get it out there.)))

As I sit and start to write about homeschooling, I feel overwhelmed with all the information I would like to impart and the daunting task of trying to make it understandable.  You see, there are so many, many different options when it comes to homeschooling your child.

Schools are designed with a particular curriculum that forces what exactly should be learned, how long it should take to learn it, when it should be introduced, when it should be mastered, how it should be presented, how it should be tested, etc.  When you homeschool, you get to make these decisions for your child. 

If you start reading about the philosophy of education, the history of education, child psychology and child development, you will find that there are really so many different opinions and attitudes on educating children.  Therefore, there are also a multitude of methods.  As a parent, you have so many options, you have to try to figure out what you think fits your philosophy, your style, and of course, the needs and style of learning for your child.

That being said, I have listed some links to various common homeschooling approaches at the bottom of this article for you to peruse at your leisure.  But remember, you can choose to do one in entirety, to pick and choose what you like from each, or to do something completely different altogether.  Governments do have requirements and they differ depending on where you live, but most homeschoolers have found it possible to do what they believe is best while still meeting the requirements of their particular government.


For my family, we have taken an eclectic approach (that relies heavily on unschooling) with me encouraging learning different topics by showing an interest in them myself and providing the materials for study.  For example, when I wanted to explore the solar system, I started with a video on the solar system.  I invited my children to watch it with me and they did.  As we watched it, I expressed my enthusiasm, asked questions, and listened to them.  Then we went to the library and checked out some books on the solar system.  We looked through the pictures and read some of the books.   We acted out scenarios of what it would be like if someday people moved to a new planet in space. We made lego spaceships, my daughter painted a mural of a spaceship, my youngest son used his allowance to buy some little astronauts to play with.  We talked about what people used to believe when they believed the Earth was the center of the Universe and even when they thought it was flat!  A few days later, we went to our local science museum and watched a movie about some kids exploring the solar system in a cardboard box.  Then we went to the planetarium and saw the stars.  Eventually, I came home with Styrofoam balls, wire, and paints.  I had bought specific size balls to match the various sizes of the planets and so we had to look up in our books which ball should be which planets.  Then we looked at pictures of the planets and painted them appropriately.  Then we labeled them and even put some of the moons around them on toothpicks.  Finally, we created a giant solar system in the order from our sun and hung it from the ceiling in my sons’ room.  None of this was coerced or forced on the children in any way.  They could either participate or not, and like most children, they all eventually participated in every activity.  In fact, they loved it!  As a family, we were all essentially playing and learning together.  Now my children look back through our scrapbook of that time period and recall with pleasure the time we studied the solar system.

So this way of learning about things can be used for almost anything.  We’ve studied so many, many different things this way like Ancient Rome – which was tons of fun – and bugs, one that I as Momma did not enjoy as much because I personally do not care for holding and caring for bugs, but my children found immensely enjoyable.

As the children have gotten older, they have also discovered their own particular interests to study such as my boys’ love of weaponry and war strategy throughout the ages and my daughter’s desire to study origami and life drawing.  As Mom, I help them by helping them find resources such as books, documentaries, museums, classes, specialists, etc. I also listen to them which is a greatly overlooked tool for encouraging learning!  I listen to them tell me about all they have learned and all they are interested in.  I ask them questions and show interest in their interests.  You would be amazed at how much this simple task of truly listening to them helps them to express their interest, knowledge, questions, excitement, etc. about any topic. And of course I still play with them, make art with them, and let them teach me things they have learned how to do.


So if you are unfamiliar with the concept labeled unschooling, you are probably wondering by now about the “hard academics” like reading, writing, and mathematics.  Well, these for us have strayed between unschooling, eclectic schooling, Waldorf and Montessori thinking, and traditional methods.  Being a public school teacher in my past, I was completely familiar with the “how tos” of teaching reading, writing, and mathematics.  So I have used those methods, but incorporated the non-coercion of unschooling, the wait for readiness of Waldorf and Montessori, and the be creative and flexible of eclectic.

(I fully plan on going into detail on teaching reading, writing, and mathematics to my child with auditory processing disorder in another post, but I wanted to introduce these basic concepts of  our homeschooling first.)


My children have all learned to read, write, and do mathematics at their own pace and schedule.  For instance, my oldest son learned how to read basic three letter words and easy reader type reading about age 7.  He didn’t care to learn more than that at that time and really relied a lot on sight reading as he had a fantastic memory.  However, by age 9 he realized that he needed help, because he couldn’t memorize every word and he wanted to read harder materials.  So, he spent one summer learning phonics in intensity.  I used phonetic based readers that built upon one another and phonics workbooks to teach him all those little rules to letter combinations such as vowel digraphs and syllabication.  He learned it easily and quickly, becoming an expert reader (i.e. what would be considered “grade level”) by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, during the time period he was not a strong reader himself, I read to him.  We would cuddle together and I would read whatever books he wanted me to read to him.  Sometimes, he would memorize a book just from listening to it and be able to read it back to me, even though he wasn’t truly reading – just repeating a familiar story.  This is okay, though, because it builds pre-reading skills such as book knowledge, story structure familiarity, grammar and language usage, and most importantly, develops a love of books and reading. 
(I still read to them sometimes and they read to me sometimes.  It is a nice way to connect with each other and have some one-on-one time.)


This same approach to teaching reading can also be used for writing.  My children write when they are interested in writing and I help them learn spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. as they have a need for it.  I also encourage writing by modeling it and sharing my writing with them or asking them if they would like to write a story with me.  I have also scribed for them many, many times before they could write well themselves.  By scribing for them (writing what they dictate to me), they get to concentrate on the creativity or message of their writing while I worry about those details like spelling and punctuation.  I do not correct their grammar as I encourage them to do that when we read back through what they have written and decide together if something sounds right or not.  As their spelling and writing skills have developed more, they start writing their own things without the need for me to scribe.  (Longer pieces I still scribe if they desire me to.)

Of course, I know a lot about writing.  So I utilize all that I know to help them as they are interested and as they are ready for the new information or skill.  For example, they may scribe/write a story.  Then we may read over it together and decide if it sounds good or not: does it make sense, is their some conflict to be resolved, does it get resolved, is the setting clearly present, do the characters seem real, do they change in the story, etc.  This is all done age appropriately and according to that child’s level of understanding making sure to not be overwhelming.  It should express my interest in their story and be something they want to discuss and develop, not a chore or me being critical in any way.  Sometimes the child will want to “make better” parts of the story and sometimes not.  I am always flexible and regard the story as their creative work and therefore they get to make all decisions on it.


We have played with numbers and mathematical concepts always.  We play games that encourage mathematical skills such as “Shut the Box”, “Yahtzee”, “Chess”, “Spectrangle”, “Dominoes”, and “Sorry”.  We played with tangrams, unifix cubes, geoboards, geo-solids, fraction bars, pattern blocks, scales, tape measurers, and every other kind of math manipulative we could get our hands on or create.  We read books about mathematical concepts like “Measuring Penny”, “Math Curse”, “The Doorbell Rang”, Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter”.  We watched television shows that incorporate mathematics like “Cyberchase”.  There are even some documentaries on mathematics and the history of numbers such as “The Story of 1".

We also use math workbooks.  Each of my children has asked to “do math” like their school friends do from time to time. (My daughter actually really loves to work in math workbooks and does it all the time.)  During these times, I teach them the specifics of doing mathematical computations on paper.  Because they already have the concepts due to our games and playtimes and movies and talks and real life experiences with mathematics, the paper and pencil computations are about the specifics of how to do it on paper.  This makes it much easier to do them as the concepts are already understood.

One example of how this works is the fact that my son wants to be a doctor, or at least he thinks he does at this point in his life.  He learned that doctors need to be good at math and science so he decided he needed to “do more math”.  So he and I spent time working in math workbooks.  He found the work easy to do and mastered multiple digit multiplication, adding and subtracting fractions, and comparing decimals in two weeks.  (He already knew the concepts and could multiply and divide in his head, as well as had done addition, subtraction, basic multiplication, identifying fractions, and comparing numerals, among other things, previously in workbooks.)  Then he decided to take a break and didn’t do any mathematical computations on paper for a few months, although he continued to do them in his head to play games and figure things out he needed.


Reading, writing, and mathematics skills are learned and practiced through everyday living on top of being explicitly taught in our household.

My children spend time every day reading books, magazines, computer games, emails, etc.  They also build reading skills by watching movies; movies have similar concepts to written stories like characters, settings, plot development, conflict and resolution, protagonists, antagonists, etc.  We can watch movies and practice skills such as making predictions, analyzing characters, making connections to our own lives and other stories whether they be written in books or portrayed on a screen.  We have discussions and conversations to practice our use of language, build our vocabulary, develop skills in persuasion, compare and contrast, analogies, etc.  These everyday things all assist in developing their reading and writing skills. They also write e-mails and to chat in their on-line games as well.  (As they have gotten older, they have also become quite adept at researching on the internet.)

Mathematics is used in cooking, baking, planning, shopping, reading a calendar, reading a clock, predicting time, playing strategy games, reading maps, building things with wood or legos or anything else, making art, keeping a bank account ledger (yes they have their own notebooks to keep track of their allowance and expenditures), calculating tips, comparing prices, understanding interest on their personal loans from Mom, etc. (When we need paper and pencil to help figure out problems or to visualize them, I teach that skill at the time it is needed as well.)


Wow, I have written so very little and yet I am over 2000 words!  I haven’t even spoken about social skills, life skills, physical education, character development as in my children’s character, dealing with life, keeping a positive self-esteem and outlook on life, using co-operatives and homeschooling social groups, and more.  I believe that homeschooling is something that one can always learn more about, develop into one’s own path and art form, change and alter, and continually build upon.  It is something simple and complex all at the same time.  I hope I have not scared anyone away and in fact have inspired you to think it is a wonderful new world you are excited to learn more about.

(Those details on specifically teaching to my daughter with auditory processing disorder will come soon, I promise.  Being that she does have some special needs for learning, there are things we have done and do that are extremely helpful.)

Here are some links on some different homeschooling styles:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homeschooling Our Child with Auditory Processing Disorder

Homeschooling has been the best decision we made for our daughter with Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, mild Sensory Processing Disorder, and mild Visual Processing Disorder. 

When she was the age to start kindergarten, the special education program at the school district she was in decided they wanted to drop her from their program; she would no longer qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and would be mainstreamed with absolutely no support or additional services such as speech therapy, which she still desperately needed.   Having been a first grade teacher myself for years and having taught kindergarten for student teaching as well as some substitute teaching, I knew the environment my child would be going into.  I also knew that she would not be likely to even tolerate it well.

She already came home from the special education preschool having meltdowns from her stressful half-day.  She already was not able to do the pre-academic work of the preschool, so how would she be able to do the kindergarten work.  She was still having problems with social interactions; her speech was not clear; and whenever I went to spy on her through the window in the door of her preschool classroom, she would be staring into space, completely tuned out to her surroundings.

There was no way I was going to subject my little girl to five days a week, seven hours a day of a classroom full of 20 children and one teacher with no support.  That was when we decided to homeschool our children. (When you teach one at home, we figured, you might as well teach the others.)

At home, I am fortunate enough to be able to work with each of my children one-on-one.  My daughter gets a completely individualized education plan; she works at her own pace, learns in the style that best fits her needs, takes breaks when she needs them, and when she needs the help of a specialist, we find her one.  (We paid for private speech therapy, listening therapy, a social skills group, vision therapy, and reading intervention.  My spouse is very fortunate to work for IBM, a company that has a program for children with special needs and reimburses its employees for 80% of the cost of services.)

In another post, I will tell of some of the strategies we have used for teaching her.  Suffice it to say that she is doing well academically at 11 years of age, has a relatively healthy self-esteem and awareness of her strengths and needs, has friends, and is growing into a young woman with good coping skills.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Accommodations for Chewing Gum and Other Sensory Needs Kids Have

Chewing gum and other things that help people lower their anxiety and process information better are finally getting recognized!

Remember when everyone in school was supposed to sit still and be quiet?  Well some teachers and schools are starting to realize that this does not work for all children.  Some need to move to think.  Some perform better with classical music playing in the background.  Some need to chew gum to lower their anxiety levels.

I am a homeschooling momma and I know that each of my three children are very different in their needs:
  •  My daughter uses gum to lower her anxiety and focus better. She also requires absolute silence to read, do math, or basically anything that requires a lot of concentration. Noise is a horrible distraction for her and it raises her anxiety level tremendously. (Sit still and be quiet would be fantastic as long as she could chew her gum and fully understand the directions.)
  • Her twin brother likes to pace as he processes and recalls information.  He says his brain just works better when he moves.  Making him sit still causes his brain to just freeze up; he’ll actually sit and stare at you while his body tenses-up in frustration.  (He would have been one miserable child in the classrooms of sit still and be quiet.)
  •  My youngest child is so full of energy that he needs to be able to jump around, be loud, and move a lot during the day or else he explodes – like that extra energy is just boiling inside of him and needing a way out.  (If in school, I would say he would benefit from extra recess as his body needs that time of physical activity and being loud.)

wiggle seat

If your child needs something different than what your school is providing, talk to them.*  See if you can get a permit for your child to chew gum, move (walking or using a wiggle seat), have some sort of extra physical time (maybe a 3 minute break to run around), listen to classical music in head phones while working, use noise cancelling headphones for more quiet, have a visual blocker of some sort if he/she is visually distracted, or whatever else you think would be of benefit.

*There are parents whom have been successful in getting their schools or teachers to permit their child to have accommodations that make sense for that child.  These are usually granted with an IEP or 504 plan, but sometimes they will accommodate even without one of these.  For instance, neither of my boys would qualify for a 504 plan, but they still could use these accommodations if they were in a classroom environment.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don’t Make Judgments about Things You Don’t Understand

There has been some talk among parents of children with Auditory Processing Disorder about the lack of tact that other adults exhibit sometimes.  It seems that there is a good amount of people who express judgments about APD without thinking about how their words are impacting the people around them.

Auditory Processing Disorder is very much an invisible disability. It is not something that people can see by looking at the person with APD, and with adequate coping skills, people with APD can appear to not be having any difficulties due to their APD. When they do have difficulties, non-understanding individuals sometimes attribute it to a lack of trying.

Most school districts are completely oblivious to Auditory Processing Disorder.  Many psychologists link APD to Attention Deficit Disorder and want to treat it as such.  Family and friends may think it is nothing other than the child being lazy or willfully not listening.  Others cannot see the disability and so treat it as if it is not there, which is good psychologically by not emphasizing the disability but rather the person, but not good when not providing understanding and adequate modifications when necessary.

These opinions and lack of understanding hurt the child with the disability and the parents of that child too.  When someone says things like “He’s just lazy”, “You let him get away with too much”, “Why doesn’t she try harder”, it is hurtful because it does not respect the person with APD’s hard work or the parent’s good parenting. 

When people say things like “It’s no big deal” it is also hurtful.  This statement does not respect the real struggles that people with Auditory Processing Disorder have to work through.

Conversely people who go to the other extreme and express pity and “I could never deal with that” attitudes also hurt.  Auditory Processing Disorder is not a death sentence and it doesn’t mean people with APD cannot live happy, successful lives.

Of course I cannot speak for all people, but my daughter with Auditory Processing Disorder (and Dyslexia) wishes to be treated as a “normal” girl who has a disability that sometimes interferes with her ability to process language.  She wants understanding and not pity.  She wants people to understand that she is smart, capable, works hard, and just needs some more time or different ways to get things done sometimes.  Other times, she can do things exactly like anyone else.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How Mathematics are More Difficult For My Child with Dyslexia, APD, and VPD

It may be obvious how reading would be more difficult for a child with Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder but have you ever thought about mathematics?  There are four areas of difficulty when doing mathematics that my child has to pay extra special attention to. 
  1. Word problems:  The most obvious way Dyslexia, APD, and VPD trip up a child when doing mathematics is in the word problems.  Whether they are written or spoken problems, the child has to read or listen to them correctly and understand them correctly in order to know what to do. 
  2. Reading the numbers:  People don’t think about the fact that written numerals are a language in which specific notations represent a specific number.  A child with Dyslexia, APD, and VPD can read the numerals incorrectly; 26 may appear as 62 or 56.  If a number is read incorrectly, how can the correct answer be found?  Also, if a number in a sequence is skipped, again the answer will be wrong.
  3. Writing the numbers:  Just like reading the numbers, the Dyslexic, APD, and VPD child may write the numeral incorrectly; 26 may be written as 62 or 56. (This one is a common difficulty for my child and she has to pay extra attention to whether or not she is writing the correct numerals in the correct place.) If the wrong number is written or written in the wrong place, the answer will not be correct.
  4. Remembering how to compute correctly:  The child who has short term memory problems (common to Auditory Processing Disorder) will have difficulty remembering how to do something until it is finally stored in the long term memory. This is especially true for multi-step processes that are common in mathematics.  Therefore if how to multiply multiple digits was taught yesterday, and even though the child managed to do it correctly yesterday, does not mean the child will remember how to do it today.

Knowing that these four aspects to mathematics may be a problem for a child with Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder, what can be done?

  1. Give more time:  The biggest help for a child with APD, VPD and Dyslexia in doing mathematics is to have more time to do each problem.  With more time, the child can carefully reread problems and numbers to make sure he or she is reading, interpreting, and writing correctly.
  2. Reteach concepts and practice consistently:  Do not assume just because the skill was mastered yesterday that it will even be remembered today.  Reteach the skill without condemning the child for not remembering.  Reteach the skill until the child does not need to be retaught anymore.  It will happen; the skill will eventually reach the long term memory and the child will be able to do it without help and reteaching one day.  Be patient.
  3. Use visuals and/or kinesthetics when teaching mathematical concepts and skills: Children with Auditory Processing Disorder have poorer auditory processing skills and are usually much stronger with visuals and kinesthetics. (My dauthter's VPD is very mild and pretty much limited to letters and numerals.  We have used a lot of drawings, hands on work with objects, Cuisenaire rods, place value blocks, and movement when she was younger for things like basic addition.)
  4.  Teach in small chunks:  Smaller pieces of information will be better retained by the short term/working memory and thereby be more usable to the child.  Too much information will simply be overwhelming.  

Given the right circumstances and the time to learn mathematics, my daughter has proven that she is very capable of doing well.  She can grasp the concepts, memorize the processes over time, and use mathematics in her every day life.

* For more information on how to help children with short term memory difficulties, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities: http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/executive-function-disorders/how-to-help-child-with-weak-working-memory
* Here is an article by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity about Math Struggles:  http://dyslexia.yale.edu/math.html
* Here is a really inclusive article about dyslexia and mathematics from Dyslexia Scotland via Oban High School:: http://www.obanhigh.argyll-bute.sch.uk/Websites/SchSecObanHigh/UserFiles/File/dyslexia%20materials/3_9_19HelpWithMaths.pdf

Personal Notes and Feelings About this Piece:

Since I cannot pinpoint exactly which one of her diagnoses (APD, Dyslexia, or VPD) is the culprit of these problems, I have decided to include them all.

I also have to put in a caveat here that my daughter does have short term memory problems for things like language and mathematics yet her short term memory for things like pictures, feelings, physical movements, and events is incredibly strong.  She has also grown very strong at quickly memorizing the spellings of words via her understanding of phonics and utilization of chunking common spelling patterns.   I suppose all this tells me is that each child is unique and the definitions cannot apply straight across the board and/or she has learned compensatory strategies for some things.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why Auditory Processing Disorder Makes Reading Difficult

Guest post by Bonnie Landau

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is not an issue with hearing sounds, but an issue with how the brain interprets the sounds that are heard. The challenges most often arise with spoken speech since the differences between sounds can be subtle and therefore more difficult for an individual with APD to detect. The presence of background noise can make this even more difficult.

But even without background noise, people with APD are often have difficulty distinguishing differences between similar parts of speech.  For example, you can say “Please go to your room and get your red coat,” and the person may hear “Please go on your broom and get your bed note.”

Research has shown that APD effects the ability to distinguish specific sounds, or phonemes, within speech. This causes speech to be perceived as “muddied” or “blending all together.”  As a result, when children with APD begin to read, they have difficulty learning the distinct sounds that are used to make words.

Muddied sounds makes for inconsistent learning
When a child is learning to read, the first part of that process is teaching the sounds (phonemes), and how they relate to the letters (graphemes). This is known as the alphabetic principal. In addition, the child must master phonologic awareness, or the ability to break words apart (decoding) into their phonemes and put them together (blending) to make the word.

Since children with APD often perceive similar sounds as the same, this can make it very difficult for them to learn the specific phoneme pronunciations. As a result it is very difficult for them to learn how to decode the sounds in a word.

Environment contributes to the inconsistency
Because environment effects how a child with APD interprets sounds, the classroom environment can further hamper the learning process. What they learn one day with a quiet room can sound very different the next day when the air conditioning has been turned on. When you read to your child at home it sounds very different than in a classroom of 30 kids all rustling and making noise. This inconsistenct input makes learning a struggle.

A child without APD is presented with phonics and reading exercises which are the same day-to-day. A child with APD is faced with exercises that can sound very different day-to-day. This clearly causes confusion, frustration and an extreme slowing of the learning process.

Kids with APD compensate with sight reading
Kids with APD are often very bright, and to bypass this inconsistent learning situation, they will often rely on their visual strengths to help them learn to read. As a result, they will not bother with the breaking apart (or decoding) of the words, but instead learn the word in its entirety, like memorizing a picture. The child may still struggle to hear the different words, but there is less confusion than breaking the word into specific phonemes.

At first this technique is an effective coping strategy, but as the volume of words turns into 1,000’s of words, reading becomes cumbersome and slow as they continually have to access this visual memory bank. In addition, when faced when an unknown word, the child has no tools for deciphering the word and must rely on others to teach new words.

Around a third of children try to read by sight recognition of the words and we call that pattern Optilexia. Some of them have auditory weaknesses, like APD, while others just have great visual memories and so memorizing words seems the easiest way to deal with inconsistent English spelling.

57% of kids with APD have reading difficulties
A lot of research has been done to identify causes of reading difficulties in children. Recent studies have identified a causal relationship between APD and problems learning to read (Sharma et al., 2009; Watson et al., 1993; Wright et al., 2000). In 2009 Sharma et al. did a study of 68 children diagnosed with APD. 57% of these children were found to have a reading disorder. 47% of these children were found to have a language disorder in addition to the reading difficulties.

Helping a child with APD learn to read
Clearly the auditory-only approach taken by most schools is not the optimum learning environment for a child with APD. It is best to supplement their reading instruction with a modality that engages the visual and/or kinesthetic approaches in order to expand ways the child can learn phonemes and decoding. By engaging the other senses the child has a way to verify decoding, and they can progress more rapidly in learning to read.

It is important to not use reading programs that involve a lot of language or word-structure rules which require even more auditory memory for the children. For example, having to remember a silent ‘e’ at the end of the word makes the vowel say its name.  Modalities that layer language rules on top of reading rules requires more short-term memory processing,  which children with APD often struggle with.

It would be optimum to understand the child’s strongest learning style, and choose a program that fits this strength. Then the child can have a structure that will be engaging as well as assisting in learning to read.

Bonnie is a mom to 2 boys, one of whom was diagnosed with APD. She manages the USA office for the Easyread System, a new approach to providing reading help and spelling help for children who have dyslexia, reading problems or are visual learners.