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, January 22, 2013

Empathy, Bullying, and Recalling Emotions

“I just feel what she must have felt.  It’s too sad.  I understand why she killed herself.  I felt that sad before too, when I was bullied……But I just knew I wanted to live; she didn’t!”

Wow, I was struck dumb by my sweet twelve year old girl, tears streaming down her face, her body tense with anxiety, as she said that to me.

We were watching a movie called “The Hours” about three women in different time periods.  The first woman was Virginia Woolf, the author of many books including Mrs. Dalloway.  The movie parts about her were based on her true story as known from the detailed diaries she kept.  Virginia Woolf had a history of depression and possibly was bipolar; she ended her own life by putting stones in her pockets and walking into a river, to drown herself.

We were barely into the movie when my sweet girl had this horrible episode of extreme empathy.   At her request, we turned off the movie and talked for a just a little bit before finding something fun and uplifting to watch instead.

It really hit me then how much the bullying really affected her.  It was over three years ago now, but she can recall the emotions so vividly.  She was sad, she felt lower than low, and she thought about death as an option.  Luckily, she had a strong desire to live!

We spent a lot of time working through those feelings years ago when they happened.  We focused on building her self-esteem up again and she is such a happy girl now.  I guess it shocked me to recall those feelings with her.

Now my sweet girl Hailey says she knows that “Even when life gets sad and you feel like you will never be happy again, you just have to believe that you will.  Because you will get happy again – I did!  Now I’m like this really happy person. Don’t you think Mom?”

“Yes, Hailey!  Yes I think you are a happy person and your ability to empathize with others is a precious gift you will learn to manage in time.  You can use it in your art whether it be drawing, painting, writing, baking, or even the artistry of living your life.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Phonemic Awareness for my Child with Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia

I wanted to touch on reading skills again and the immense troubles Hailey had learning how to read.  You see, I was a first grade teacher for years before I decided to stay home with my own children and I had been trained in teaching children phonemic awareness, phonics, and various approaches to reading and comprehension skills.  I used these same techniques on my own children from the beginning as I was reading to them as infants.

The trouble for Hailey started very young.  When she was just a toddler, she would get angry at me for reading to her.  She wanted to look at the pictures, but when I read the words, she would get mad and put her hand on my mouth to let me know she wanted me to be quiet.

As for phonemic awareness, she could not understand what I was asking her to do at all.  We played with sounds like identifying the beginning sounds of word: bananas, babies, bottles, etc.  I had toys to go with them; I had plastic letters; we played scavenger hunt games for them; and much more, but she just could NEVER do it.  Her twin brother loved it and picked it up like it was second nature.

No matter what I tried, Hailey just had no phonemic awareness.  To her, many letter sounds sounded all the same.  She could not tell the difference between sounds like /b/, /p/, /d/, /t/.  I was dumbfounded and had no idea what to do.  

I managed to locate a reading specialist about 40 minutes drive from our house who was a retired reading specialist from the public school system and now was offering private tutoring.  I made an appointment for her to see Hailey and give her some testing.  She had been trained in using The Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing® (LiPS®) Program for Reading, Spelling, and Speech and believed it would be the best solution for Hailey.

So Hailey and I started going to her once a week for an hour long lesson.  She would send home homework for us to do during the week.  The real key to this program which made everything finally make sense to Hailey was the way she taught Hailey to identify letter sounds by their oral motor sensations and the visual look when seeing someone make those sounds.  She could identify /p/ by the way the lips go together and a breath is formed at the front of the mouth and blown through the lips.  /b/ on the other hand, has a sound created in the throat that goes through closed lips and /t/ has the sound formed in the front of the mouth like /p/ but it goes through the teeth and the tongue goes up behind the teeth in front.  It sounds complicated, but for Hailey this made absolute sense and she picked it up incredibly quick.

This way of identifying sounds by their oral motor sensations and the way they look on others when being made brought Hailey the phonemic awareness she needed.  She finally could identify the different phonemes in words, rhyme words, and read words!

Not every child  with Auditory Processing Disorder has this same problem with phonemic awareness or the inability to hear the distinct letter sounds.  But if your child cannot rhyme, identify the beginning sound in words, or otherwise seems to think you are crazy when trying to teach them these things, it might be worth looking into.

-----I just wanted to add a link to the reading specialist we used in case anyone lives in the Detroit Metropolitan Area: Macomb Tutoring, LLC.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Larger, Darker Font Makes Reading with Visual Processing Disorder Easier

Good News!  

Hailey has discovered the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and is devouring them as fast as she did the graphic novels.  She said the letters don't jump around on the pages and it's interesting and fun to read.  I think the fact that the letters are of a darker and larger font on slightly yellowed paper makes a big difference for her visual processing.

(The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney are in the fifth grade reading level range.  So the fact that she is a sixth grader reading them fluently - yes she is reading them at a fluent speed and not slightly slower - is wonderful!)

UPDATE: I was told the Kindle Fire enables you to change the font size and color of the text as well as the background "paper" color.  I want to find out more about people's results with using this feature, especially if you have a visual processing disorder or dyslexia.  So if you can tell me anything that might help, I'm ready to listen!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pictures Of Hailey: Premature Twin to 12 Year Old Girl

I thought I'd share a couple photos of my daughter whom you have been reading about:

Premature Twin shown here at 13 days old: (She's the one on top.)

And now, a healthy 12 year old girl: (Her twin brother is in the background.)