Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Dyslexia: Making Spelling easy

  • September 3, 2013 7:48 pm

Maybe you have charge of someone with dyslexia or maybe you know someone who just struggles with spelling. I hope this post eases those struggles a bit or at least sparks some ideas.

The Elder was an early reader, teaching himself at 2.5 years of age. So he masked his dyslexia well through his Superpower Decoding Skills thanks to autism. But when he got to writing age, around 7, it was more apparent. As I studied and learned more about the nature of dyslexia, I saw other indications in his reading and speech patterns. Before this, he didn’t talk to people and didn’t use sentences until after age 4 so anything verbal was celebrated and not necessarily analyzed. So there may have been earlier signs that I just didn’t see. And there are other cases of dyslexia in his family line. So I guess I wasn’t surprised by his diagnosis, but I was definitely very impressed by how well he had adapted to it. His reading comprehension has always amazed me, especially when he read something aloud and butchered it, yet could still answer questions correctly. I mean, Wow! Just Wow!

He was in Second Grade when I decided that he was not “outgrowing” it and I approached the IEP team in earnest. It seemed that everyone was in agreement of the problem but the solution was left open-ended and therefore never addressed at his school. Two years later it had really affected his other subjects and worst of all, his confidence.

“Dyslexic children require direct, systematic, and individualized instruction in reading and spelling. Public schools cannot always provide an adequate level of service. Indeed, some systems are woefully ill-prepared to deal with such children and may even deny, against all scientific evidence, that dyslexia exists.  Homeschooling can provide solid remediation without the burden of travel and can allow the parent to see directly the progress of the child.” (International Dyslexia Association (IDA))

Resource: “Homeschooling with Dyslexia: What to Expect

Last year when I first started schooling him at home, I implemented some curriculum and strategies specific to dyslexia to help him with his writing and with reading aloud. I’ve been doubly impressed at his progress in just one year. However, Spelling is still a struggle for him. While he was still in public school, I had worked with him at home using strategies from the book: Visual-Spatial Learners by Alexandra Golon. This being when his words were much simpler and I apparently had time to be creative and fashion works of art…

fire wire tire, motion question island station information subtraction

These worked. He understands syllables. He understands phonics. BUT put those two together and it’s like a whole new element to him. He has a wonderful memory and can remember spelling rules all day long, but does not recall them in application. He can spell “station” and “question” because he has these visual images in his head from THREE years ago. However last week he spelled “vacation” as “vacashun.”

I found a new curriculum for this year that really is different. It is not written for people with dyslexia per se, but it is geared for older students, say, those who already know that the “b” says “buh” but can’t spell no matter how hard they “sound it out.” It’s a sort of “remedial” course even though it doesn’t call itself that. It’s titled How to Teach Any Child to Spell by Gayle Graham, along with its companion student workbook Tricks of the Trade.

The biggest difference I took away of this approach is teaching him to proofread his own material. I don’t spell things for him anymore, just let him spell it as best he can. Then after letting it “sit” a while (I guess to keep from overwhelming him) I ask him which words he thinks he misspelled – the ones that don’t “look right.” Those are the words we go over. First I pronounce it by syllables the way it is spelled (not necessarily the way it is pronounced in everyday language). Then I come up with a visual way for him to remember it.

Here are some examples from this past week. The Elder misspelled “million” and “thousand” and “hundred.” (Yes, it was his math lesson – so we don’t need to have a separate “spelling” lesson! Yay!)

He spelled “million” as “millon” which is an improvement from “milyun.”  I pronounced it MIL-LEE-ON to distinguish the syllables and then reminded him that each syllable must have a vowel sound. Since he only has 2 vowels in his word, what vowel sound is missing? I keep over-pronouncing it until he gets it. Of course he said “e” but I corrected it to “i” with the plan that if he misspells it again in the future then it will go into his spelling notebook of his own frequently misspelled words. But we never had to enter it because the next 2 days he spelled it correctly.

He spelled “thousand” as “thousound.” I broke it into syllables and showed him the word “sound” in his spelling and how that would read THOU-SOUND instead of THOU-SAND. How do you spell “sand?” Of course he knew, so he fixed it. The next day he mispelled it again as “thosand.” He got “sand” right but not the first syllable. This is the visual I made for him to remember that the first syllable has the “ou” sound:


“Ouch! Thousand needs a band-aid.”

(Hey, there’s a grammar lesson there too! Interjections…for excitement…or emotion… yeah, I’ll be singing that all day now)

Notice that it’s not as fancy as before… Just a simple visual on a scrap piece of paper is all he needed.

He spelled “hundred” as “hunderd.” Classic dyslexia error, right? He knows how to pronounce it, and I’m sure he knows how to spell it too. That his fingers just didn’t get the memo on time. So I didn’t spend too much time on this one. I was going to get a “red” pencil to color the “red” in hundred, but he got it right away without needing a color cue. We made up the story “Hundred’s favorite color is red.” Did the trick.

The way I am doing it is not exactly Graham’s method but sort of a mixture of what I learned from her and Golon. There’s still a lot of Graham’s strategies that I want to implement. I do recommend that you read both books because it was eye opening to understand the difference between “good spellers” and “not as good spellers” and what it means to be a “visual-spatial leaner.”

Please share any successful tips and tricks you have for teaching your child how to spell!

about Communication: sharing the diagnosis with your child

  • August 31, 2012 4:42 pm

I went by the library to pickup a few books I had on hold. One for The Younger: How to Talk to an Autistic Kid, and this one for The Elder: The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents).

I thumbed through it and was really excited about it. The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders Then I had the worry…What if he doesn’t want to read it? I mean, I think this is something that he would want, and I think this is something he would need. But he has never asked me anything about autism. And if I approached him he responded with the annoyed tone of a teenager. My best strategies so far have been to set something up and just do it. Find videos, make him watch it. Find books, make him read them. Find games, make him play them. He does that with no issues. But have a conversation about this? Forget about it. How do you communicate about a communication disorder??

This book seems different than the books I’ve seen in the past. It is a survival guide geared for ages 8-13. It’s more like a textbook with real-life stories for examples, instead of social stories of how to act in certain situations – but it also includes solutions such as these. The first 7 chapters cover “What is ASD?” in a very kid-friendly presentation. A whole chapter is dedicated to Sensory issues. If I was THe Elder, I would think it was really cool, thus the reason I checked it out!

After School Convo:
M: Hey E, I wanna show you the book I got for you at the library today.
E: Hold on! (impatient tone – making me nervous) OK, I’m coming (happy bouncy tone – nervousness gone)
M: (Showing him the cover and just letting him read the title) I got this for us to read together.
E: (no response)
M: (Flipping through the pages so he can see all the pretty colors and pictures)  I think it will help answer a lot of the questions you might have about autism (assuming he had them, of course)
E: (no response)
M: (wondering if this was a bust and glad I got it from the library before purchasing) I thought maybe we could go through one chapter at a time.
E: (he gets up quietly and walks back down the hallway as he responds) Well, I have run out of books to read at night.
(Note to self: pick up more chapter books from the library)
M: (yelling after him down the hall) And if you like it and think you can use it for the rest of your life, we can get your very own copy!
E: Sure.

Yes!! My foot is in the door! Now I just need to get to Chapter 6 “Think About it, Talk About it” which clearly states “Ask Questions.” Because you know if it is a rule in the Survival Guide, then he must follow the rules! I think he will thank me for it…

More later as we begin the journey…

How do you communicate with your child about his/her diagnosis?

about Moods (part 2): natural relief is simple

  • August 22, 2012 2:51 pm

Finding relief from my moods naturally has been very simple. However, Simple is hard to do in an overly complex world. Simple is also much slower than I’d like, especially in today’s “microwave” world where we can’t go/do/think/talk/play/eat fast enough. Simple is really more like a crock-pot: Get your stuff together, have Patience, reap your reward with something that brings great Pleasure. I think the difference in the processes is that the former has Pleasure in mind first – before I’ve had time to Get my Stuff Together. And forget about Patience! Make me to wait for my Pleasure and I might have to give you a piece of my mood – despite the fact that “you” might be an inanimate object. Sound familiar? (please say yes.)

In the latter process, the Pleasure or Joy truly is a reward because even though we know how yummy and tender a crock-pot meal will be when we set out to make it, we still beam with Excitement when we cut into the meat and it falls apart, we moan with Joy when that first bite just melts in our mouths. The Patience part can still be hard for some of us who are tempted by the aroma, but we know that it will be worth the wait once it’s ready (plus it’s still uncooked – gross).

Mood relief has definitely been a crock-pot process – much longer for me, so my hope is that I can shorten the process time for others. But it does take time. I was on the “culprit” medication for 3 years. I am giving myself 3 years to be off of it for me to expect to be back to “normal” (after that I just might lose my Patience!). I have about 8 months to go!! But I already feel more and more like my old self every day for the last 6 months! I speak in terms of detoxing off a prescription, but the fact to remember is that my moods began before meds (thus the “need” for meds). But with the research I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had, I’m confident that I’m on the right path to healing and have put The Brothers on the right path to health. I still learn something new everyday, but everything seems to be flowing in the same directions and I can’t wait to slow-cook these bad moods right out of my life!

So let me just tell you the answer first, and then backup and detail the solutions that might also work for you like they have worked for us.

Consider the following cycle:

Mood Cycle

(That’s an original Google Drawing right there, folks. Be impressed. I might copyright it, so don’t go stealing it without sharing my blog with 10 people. Or buying 10 copies of my future book that I promise to write one day.)

This is truly a cycle and it can be either positive or negative. And depending on circumstances can be a downward spiral. Bad Day –> Bad Choices –> Bad Food –> Bad Mood –> Impulsive Choices –> Impulsive Eating –> Impulsive Beliefs (Fear) –> Wimpy Feeling –> keep–> spiraling –> down –> ward –> until –> you –> burn –> out.

It’s hard to pinpoint where on this cycle we enter. The tricky part is that “Choices” can involve both mental AND physical. First you think it, then you do it. But “Choices” can also involve neither. For instance, you don’t have an opinion on a topic, therefore you might be complacent. And “Choices” can also just involve one of the two. Like, you don’t think before you act. Or, you think about it all the time, and never make a move. I believe it really depends on our Habits because our Habits are like our masters that we blindly obey. Mental Habits are automatic thoughts/associations (like I think YUM when I hear the word “chocolate”) while Physical Habits are automatic actions (like I put my keys on my desk when I come home (in theory)).

Instinctively, I want to jump from “Choices” directly to “Mood/Attitudes/Beliefs” (perhaps a bad Habit?). I tell myself, “I just need to get over it. God has given me so many blessings, why can’t I just buck up and appreciate them? From now on, I CHOOSE to be happy/joyful/thankful/fill-in-the-blank. And to celebrate my new great attitude, I think I’ll sit on the couch and eat some of this comfort food over here so it won’t be so painful.”  Sound familiar? (please say yes.) Wrong direction, Jen! Derailing! Back it up!

What doesn’t seem intuitive me, but I’m quickly learning to be true, is that if I direct my Good Choices in the direction of what I do for my Body, my Mind follows suit, naturally. And something about the natural flow of that soothes my Soul. Bottom line, we must take better care to nourish our bodies. Maybe even, I daresay, make it a higher priority than nourishing our minds. Because when we nourish our bodies, we give life to our minds. It’s hard to nourish a dead mind…in my opinion, at least.

The good news is that we can make a U turn at Choices whenever we want (and as often as we need to) and get going in the proper direction. Good Choices –> Good Food –> Good Mood –> Better Choices –> Healthier Body –> Healthier Mind –> Healthier Spirit –> Stronger Person!!

In upcoming posts, while I’m sharing some strategies that are working for us, I’d also like to debunk some myths about nourishment. I know from our experience, nourishment is not hard to find and it doesn’t break our budget – two common concerns I hear from others. I’d like to share how we find our food and how we afford it. What are some other myths or obstacles that hold you back from taking better care of your body? Please share your comments and feedback!