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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Going to a Concert with APD: Don't Forget the Earplugs!

"My ears felt like they were going numb because of how loud the noise was. Did you feel that too?"  Hailey had been bent over, squeezing her eyes tight and holding her ears with her hands. She looked like someone in pain and I knew I needed to get her out of there quickly.

For weeks Hailey had looked forward to going to a concert with her two closest and dearest friends. As we were going to see the Go-Gos and the B-52s, the girls all bought 1980s prom style clothes and fixed their hair up with 1980s styles (Hailey had a side pony tail.)  Us moms sat behind them in seats close to the stage, so we could all see very well.  However, the NOISE was incredibly loud!

Hailey desperately wanted to be with her friends and enjoy the show together, but she just couldn't handle the noise and mommy over here neglected to bring any earplugs.  So I escorted her from our close-to-the-stage seats to the farthest corner of the lawn, away from the noise as we could get and still be in the amphitheater.  This made the noise at a tolerable level and she felt immediately much better.  However, even there after a time she got to her threshold of bearability and started to melt; tears welled up in her eyes and she needed hugged and cold water and to leave the amphitheater. She missed being with her friends, but just couldn't handle the noise.

Hailey's thoughts:

"I couldn't understand the words.  All I heard was blah, blah, blah."

"I liked eating a turkey leg". (They had them there to purchase.)

"Even though I couldn't hear the words, I could still tell the difference between the Go-Gos and the B-52s by the way the beat sounded.  I liked the beat and the sound of the B-52s better."

"My friends didn't think it was too loud."

"If I ever go to a concert again, I will bring very good ear plugs or something even better than earplugs because even blocking my ears, it was too loud."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How I Freed Myself from Perfectionism (This is my philosophy with my own children - to be freely themselves without comparison.)

"I let go of perfectionism in college and it was the best thing I ever did for myself."

I wrote the above sentence today in response to an article I read, and I realized just how powerful this statement is. You see, I grew up being a straight A, top of the class, "gifted" student who was expected to always be the best, do the best, etc.  When the other kids were learning math in class, the teacher would give me a math textbook and say "Go to town and do whatever you want."  So, I would teach myself math for as long as I wanted and then when I was bored of that, she'd hand me a stack of my peers' work to grade.  When the other kids were reading one novel, I was often given another chosen by her (never chosen by me) to read on my own in order to keep me busy.  I didn't even have my after school time to myself as my father felt sports was an important aspect of every person and so I had to do gymnastics four times a week for four plus hours each day.  Not only that, but when I got to high school, I had to do volunteer work and I had to join clubs like the National Honors Society and French Club, because that was expected of "the brightest of the bright".

And so this went on until I went away to college and I didn't even questions where I would go; why I would go to what was considered the most elite, most difficult to get into, where the "brightest of the bright" in my state go to.  I applied early, got into early admissions, signed up for the classes that went along with the plan I had been going on established by someone else: each year take another English class, another math class, another history class, another science class, another foreign language class, and one elective.  I NEVER EVEN QUESTIONED WHAT I WANTED TO DO!

My first year of college, I was blessed in many ways.  I took a math class that was a weed-out course for the engineering program.  For this reason, it was intended to be very difficult so that only the most talented in math would continue on to the engineering program.  I was getting about a C average and that was something I had never done before.  I went to my professor's office to speak to him about it, and he told me not to worry, that I was doing extremely well for that course and that if I was getting a C then I would probably end up getting a B by the end, which was better than the majority of the students.  Hmmm.... this made no sense to me; why would it be done this way?

So I continued on for a few weeks more in this math class when I started speaking to my college peers and realized that not everyone was even taking a math class.  I realized that in college, people have a lot more flexibility to take classes that interest them and I was asked what I was interested in. Seriously, nobody had ever asked that before of me!  I was always expected to take the hardest classes in every subject and to get straight As; what was this what I am interested in thing?  I had no idea that was the purpose of education.  Who forgot to tell me that!

So I dropped the math class and the next semester I took an introduction to poetry writing class.  My instructor was a generous left-over beatnik from days gone by and he encouraged me to write from my heart and from my passion.  He told me some of the best kept secrets I needed to hear:  if you want to do something great, you have to allow yourself to make mistakes; if you want to learn something new, you have to allow yourself to be a beginner; life is meant to be lived with passion and happiness - do what you want and don't worry about where you compare to others, because it is YOUR LIFE.

So I continued to take poetry writing classes with this wonderful old beatnik and I learned about myself.  I learned what I liked, what I didn't like, who I wanted to be, to try new things if they interested me without care of whether or not I would be "the best".  Yes, my parents wondered what the heck I would ever do with all these poetry classes and wondered why I wasn't pursuing something that would "meet my potential" such as being a lawyer or doctor or corporate executive. I just learned to smile and say it was my life and I would do what spoke to my heart and my soul.

So that is how I learned to let go of the very limiting world of perfectionism.  I learned to be happy just to be happy, not related to being "the best" at anything.  I learned to be myself. And one of the most fantastic after effects is that I can not only be happy being me, but I can also be happy for others being them.   I don't need to be "the best" which meant comparing myself to others or comparing myself to some standard set by someone else. It truly is a wonderful world when you are free to be yourself.

And that is why I encourage my children to be themselves; to not compare themselves to others because we are all wonderfully our own unique selves with our own passions, interests, talents, and areas that we just don't seem to be very good at; and to honor everyone else for being themselves without jealousy or the need to compete.  Life is not a competition to excel at; Life is YOUR LIFE. Find what brings you enjoyment and be yourself for all that you wonderfully are.

Thank you for letting me ramble here with a little about myself in order to showcase a belief I have in raising my children.  I hope it brings some comfort and hope to others.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Our iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android (Educational) App Reviews - What Hailey Really Likes!

Hailey has an iPhone and hopes to have an iPad by her birthday in December.She is loving many of the apps and has actually learned quite a lot from many of them.  So we decided to write some reviews here on our blog and we can update this post as she finds more apps that she really likes. This is supposed to be about "educational" apps, but as we were writing it, we found it hard to distinguish what is truly educational and what is not; we find everything can have some "educational" aspect to it.

Stack the States

Hailey:  "You learn where the capital cities are, what the states looks like, where they are, and how to read their names (mom helps with that).  Also, the states are like little people with eyes on them that are cute; you can make them move their eyes around."

Mom:  Hailey has played this game for a few days now and she is really getting to where she remembers the states by their shape, where they are on the map, the capital cities and even some of the landmarks.  I'm kind of shocked at how quickly she is memorizing this information.  I catch her playing it all the time.

Dragon Box

Hailey:  "Dragon Box is a math game with easy questions to learn the first levels of algebra.  I liked knowing math that was a little higher than my grade was.  My mom wrote down some math on paper without the little people boxes like in the game and I could do the easy algebra on it."

Mom:  Hailey really did learn how to do basic algebraic equations via this program.  She was playing it and asked me to play.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on as I really didn't understand the object of the game.  She showed me and I realized that it is algebra and how simple this game made it all.  So I started writing down some algebraic equations on paper for her to do. She could do them easily.

Magic Piano

Hailey:  "It helps with hand skills and probably is good for people with dysgraphia (her brother has dysgraphia).  I like making the music.  I don't know if it is a learning game, but it is fun."

Mom:  This is another favorite of her's.  It makes me think of a music box with the little raised bumps that mark out the tune.  You have to hit the little colored circles at the right time to play the music.  I agree with Hailey that it should help with fine motor skills to some extent and perhaps helps with some visual processing and maybe even some auditory timing skills as it sounds "off" when you don't play it right.

What's That Tune?

Hailey:  "This is kind of a memory game but it is only for songs.  I like it because it helps you with memory."

Mom:  Hailey and her brothers are way better than me at this game as the songs are all more modern than what I typically listen to.  You hear a snippet of a song and have to pick what the name of the song is from a list of possible titles.  I imagine this does help with auditory memory.

Draw Something

Hailey: "You draw with friends and you socialize with your friends.  I learn some spelling and get to draw.  I think when I get my iPad it will be better because I can draw better on a bigger space than the iPhone.  It's fun to see how my friends draw things."

Mom:  I like how she enjoys playing this with her friends and how she has to practice spelling words and learning new words sometimes.


Hailey: "You type in a word or sentence, you pick a language, and it tells you what it is in that language.  I use mostly French. People can use this if they go to another country and need help communicating."

Mom:  I was wondering how she kept coming up to me saying phrases in French and then she showed me her app.  She doesn't get the pronunciation right usually, but I can then help her with that as I know some French from taking it in highschool and college.  This encouraged us to check out a book on learning French from the library and we've been going through it.

The Simpsons Tapped Out

Hailey: "You design the city and you can't get rid of things so you have to plan it well.  The people will be mad if you don't do things right.  You're like the mayor."

Mom:  I know she really likes this game and I imagine it helps with planning and maybe some geometry aspects as you have to place buildings in locations to be easy for the people to get to and so you don't use up all your space haphazardly.  She also really loves The Simpsons and has watched every episode and read every comic book about them.

* Hailey doesn't want to sound snotty by having and iPhone and wanting an iPad, so she said maybe we should say something about her wanting an iPad because it is bigger and she wants to be able to read books on it.

If you have any suggestions for apps your child likes, please let us know.  We always like to hear of new ones we might like.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Some Reading Comprehension Strategies I Have Found Useful

Reading comprehension can be a problem for many children and adults, not just those with specific learning disabilities.  The process of reading written words and making meaning out of them is not something that just comes easily for everybody.  However, there are things that you as a parent or teacher can do to help your child, your student, or even yourself be a better comprehending reader.

The study of reading comprehension is complex and involves many areas of expertise.  There are beginning strategies and advanced strategies depending on the type of reading one is doing.  So for this post, which I’d like to keep simple, I’m just going to share some basic ideas and use the terms “your child” which you can substitute as your student or yourself as fits.

  • Model reading comprehension to your child:  Regardless of what age your child is, read aloud something together.  As you read, stop to show your child your cognitive processes while reading. 

Example 1:
You read:  “Johnny ran down to the beach to retrieve the towel he left there.  On his way, he stumbled over a large rock and fell in the sand.  His wet body felt scratchy covered with the harsh sand.”

You stop and say aloud: “Oh poor Johnny.  That must have hurt.  Do you remember when we went to the beach and you fell in the sand?”  Allow for a small discussion if necessary, but not too long that you lose focus on the story.  The purpose of this dialogue is to show your child how you have pictured yourself in that situation and empathized with Johnny.  You asked the child to recall an instance from his/her past to help your child empathize with the character.  This is all you want and then direct the child back to reading the story by saying something like, “I wonder what Johnny is going to do now” and start reading again.

Example 2:
You read: “The thirty children were divided into three equal teams and told to work together on their scavenger hunt.  Maya found it difficult to concentrate on what her team speaker was saying to find as the other children were being too noisy.  She wished she could have been on a smaller team.”

You stop and say aloud: “Hmm, if there were thirty children divided into three teams, that meant Maya’s team had ten children on it. Wow!  That is a lot of children on one team.  What do you think?  Would you like to be on a scavenger hunt team with nine other children?” Then you can briefly discuss what some of the problems of being on such a large team might be.  This way you are showing how you are processing what you read, asking questions to yourself about what it means and what it would feel like, and predicting what might happen next by thinking about Maya’s dilemma. Again, keep it brief and move back to the reading as soon as possible so as not to lose focus on the reading itself.  You could segue back by saying something like, “Let’s see if Maya has some of those problems with her big team.”

(As you can see, it helps if you have read the book ahead of time too so you can better help your child focus on the issues of that particular book, but it is okay if you don’t and you make mistakes such as focusing on something – like maybe Maya’s big team problem – and then finding out that really wasn’t that important in the story.  This just shows your child how these things happen and it is okay; you model how you refocus as the story shifts.)

Example 3:
Make mistakes and show your child how you correct them.  Read something too fast and then stop saying something like, “Wait a minute.  I just read that so fast that I don’t know what I read.  Let me slow down and read that again.” 

Read something and then stop and say, “I’m confused.  I thought Margaret and Dinah didn’t like each other but here they are being friends.  What just happened?” If your child knows the answer, let him/her tell you.  If not, suggest that you go back and reread the last paragraph or sentence or as much as you think you need to find the answer.  Show your child how you do this.

Model a distraction and how to deal with it.  While reading if some noise is made nearby or the dog comes and jumps in your lap, or anything that might be a distraction happens, keep reading and then stop and say, “You know, I was reading the words but I really wasn’t paying attention.  When Fido came and jumped up in my lap, my brain started to think about Fido and even though I was reading, I didn’t really pay attention to what I was reading.  Does that ever happen to you?” Then you show how you go back and reread what you didn’t pay attention to.

  • Show your child how to use visualizing techniques while reading.  This can be picturing in your head the scene or event you are reading.  It can be drawing the scene or event. It can be acting out the scene or event.

Example 1:
You read a story about a little brown dog who got lost and then saw his family across the street but had to get across the street safely to get to them.   You and your child draw a picture of the street with the little brown dog on one side and his family on the other side.

Example 2:
You read the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf who blows their houses down.  You and your child take turns pretending to be the pig or the wolf and act out the drama.

Example 3:
You are reading a history textbook about a civil war battle.  You tell your child to stop and imagine what that might have been like.  You tell your child to close his/her eyes and you describe the scene: “Imagine you are in a field with your friends beside you.  There is so much smoke in the air from the guns firing that it is hard to see in front of you.  You hear someone crying, but you don’t know who it is.  What would that be like?  Tell me what you see? What you feel?  What you hear?”  Try to get your child to imagine and describe a scene to you.

Example 4:
If you are reading a story that has a movie to go with it, watch the movie first.  Most teachers do it the opposite way and watch the movie only after reading the story (which has its own value as the student can use more of his/her own imagination in picturing the events if she/he hasn’t watched the movie first) but for a child with comprehension issues, watching the story first can help give a frame of reference to the reading and make it more comprehensible.  Then while reading, have your child recall back to the movie what they remember seeing during that event.

  • Show your child how to summarize and put into his/her own words what has been read. This can be either oral or written, depending on the needs or style of your child.  If memory recall is an issue, writing or recording the summary is important to have it to return to later when the recall is needed.

Your child is reading a chapter book.  Your child can comprehend a paragraph pretty well, but has trouble synthesizing the paragraphs in a chapter to form a complete summary or cannot recall the information gleaned from the earlier paragraphs by the time she/he has reached the end of the chapter.

After each paragraph read in the chapter, have your child say, dictate, or write one sentence summarizing what the paragraph is about:  Was a new character introduced? Did something happen to a character? Did it describe the scene? Was a solution to a problem found?  Was a new problem introduced? Etc. 

Then after the child has gotten to the end of the chapter, the child can look back over the sentences he/she has created for each of the paragraphs to remember what was important about each paragraph.  This should give a general outline of the important events of that chapter and the child can use that to write a short paragraph to summarize that entire chapter.

After each chapter read, the child can look back at the previous summaries of each chapter she/he has created before reading the next chapter to remember what has happened so far, recall important events and facts, make predictions of what might happen in the upcoming chapter, etc.

(If your child cannot summarize a paragraph, then go back to the sentence level.  Read one sentence and have the child put into his/her own words what that sentence was about.  I wouldn’t have the child write for each sentence as that will get frustrating, so just paraphrase it orally and write a sentence at the end of the paragraph.)

(If your child finds every paragraph to be too much writing and doesn’t need that for recall, just paraphrase and write at the end of each chapter.  If your child needs that for memory recall but can’t handle the writing, then let him/her dictate to you or record it.)

So as I look back over what I wrote here and how really long this post has become, I at the same time realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of strategies for reading comprehension.  There are so many more and some that are very good and specific to different genres of writing such as the structure of poems, the form of an argumentative article, the plot of a fictional story.  Still, they are a start and hopefully offer some help to others struggling with reading comprehension.

Also, one very important thing I want to add is that these strategies can be used for comprehending movies too.  This can be especially helpful for a child who really has anxiety about reading, as the comprehension of the movie can be a start to using those same strategies with reading too.

Oh and the big, number one, best thing to do ever is: Make it fun to read! Enjoy reading with your child and spread that enthusiasm to your child. (And from my own personal experience with my kids, I've found that my oldest son prefers non-fiction or  creepy stories and my youngest son prefers fiction - especially involving animals.  My daughter likes graphic novels best, and then anything with romance and happy endings.  So find what your child enjoys to read.)

If you are really interested in learning more about reading comprehension, here are some books you might be interested in: