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.

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.