Sunday, June 20, 2010

Aha Moments

***WARNING: Long, boring post which most of you will find pointless, but someone out there somewhere may be as desperate as we have been and I want to share what we have just discovered. Sorry if this is not of interest to you!*******

After our 24 hour blitz run to Denver to check out the homeschool conference and curriculum fair, we are home, settled and enjoying a restful afternoon as Dominick snores on the couch next to me. He is taking full advantage of Father's Day to rest after what was a whirlwind end of the week for him, including a late night working at pressure washing a store front for it's grand re-opening, and working a street fair to try and drum up business. All of that followed with a 5 hour to Denver and our running while there was enough to knock him out cold this afternoon!

But what can I say about our trip? about it may have been the single wisest use of 24 hours ever!!

I was going looking for some specific things, including wanting to investigate various writing curriculums for Matthew, and hoping to explore the Critical Thinking Company's products which we are sorely in need of around here to help develop Kenny, Angela and Olesya's reasoning and logic which was never encouraged. We found some terrific items for all the kids, including some challenging things for Matthew as well so needless to say I spent a bit more there than I should have but didn't experience any buyers remorse after walking away.

But one key reason I wanted to go was to speak with one educational specialist in particular, Dianne Craft who has extensive experience working with learning disabled kids and guiding parents to find successful remediation at home. Dominick and I were standing at her booth when we were asked if we were planning to go hear her lecture which was in 5 minutes. So off I ran while Dominick kept the kids occupied.

40 minutes into the hour long presentation, I got up and walked out...I didn't need to hear another word to know this woman was speaking about Kenny...and Olesya...and surprise, surprise, Matthew as well.

Can I tell you what a relief it was to FINALLY hear someone speaking about the challenges our kids face and not look at us blankly when we describe what we are encountering with them?? As she was speaking, she could have simply inserted the words "Kenny LaJoy" as she was describing him to a "T", even down to stating "These are kids who, no matter how much you work at it, can't recall the months of year in order or remember all of them." and talking about how they misunderstand verbal directions most of the time, sub-vocalize when they read and seemingly are unable NOT to read without doing so, forgets words over and over again that he has just sounded out...even in the next sentence, and can not "hold on" to information that appears to be fairly simple and straight forward.

It is a matter of getting the left brain and right brain working together so information can transfer easily from one side to the other. This begins to develop in infancy when children start to crawl, and are using alternating left/right patterns which develops the brain's ability to function properly. Sound silly to you? Crawling can effect reading??? Come on...!!

That is until you ask any other parent of an infant adopted from Central Asia and learn that their children were NOT allowed to be on the ground, and you were reprimanded sharply by caregivers if you allowed your child to crawl while there on visitation.

It also makes total sense when we see how uncoordinated Kenny is in so many ways, so "bull in a China closet" like and unaware of place and location. It is one of the reasons he does not care for sports with balls, he gets hit all the time because that part of his brain doesn't track well and then is not able to move his body appropriately. It is why it took Angela and Olesya 1 day to learn how to ride a bike, but it took Kenny a year and a half and he STILL doesn't have the solid feel on it that the girls do, even after a year and a half of riding.

Interestingly, as Dianne was talking about another area aside from the causes of auditory processing signs, I easily saw Matthew in her description of visual/motor processing issues. Matthew struggles to line things up on paper, even when taking great care with his work. His math problems are all over the page and I am constantly asking him to be neater and take his time. He keeps insisting he IS doing his best, and often if I ask him to rewrite it, it just gets worse. He has very poor spacing in his sentences, and we are always bugging him to lift his head up instead of having his nose almost touching his pencil and being face down in his work. This is so bad that we even were worried about serious vision problems a few years back but determined he is seeing fine, and thought it was just a quirk of his. We also have worked and worked with him on copying his math problems, and I feel badly now in telling him he just wasn't payihng attention...he gets problems wrong at least 2 or 3 times an assignment simply because he copied the problem wrong. Not always backwards, but always wrong. When this happens over and over again, you beging to wonder why it is so hard to simply transfer information from one page to another. He also struggles often with spelling words when writing them, but when doing them orally gets them correct which has puzzled me.

I wonder how many other parents of kids adopted internationally have witnessed such things in their kids and thought nothing about it...just as we did with Matthew...because they are performing well in so many ways we just think "Well, they can't be good at everything!". I also wonder how many other parents out there have kids like Kenny and Olesya who are frustated beyond belief knowing SOMETHING is wrong with their children but NO ONE seems to understand what it is.

When one looks at the early deprivation of post-institutionalized children, if one has visited an orphanage from the former Soviet Union (and things have improved in some of them), if one witnessed the early malnutrition first hand, you might be able to better understand the possibility that this impacted these kids enormously in ways we are only now beginning to better understand.

Kenny's academic issues are impossible to ignore, Matthew's are more subtle, and yet as I walk behind him and see his gently misshapen shins and hear him cry in pain after playing soccer I know the possibility exists that there was more damage done by his 11 months spent in the orphanage than just the effects of rickets. When I comb his hair and feel the flat spot on the back of his head, it is a reminder than he was most often left laying flat on his back in a crib staring up at a ceiling, and that he didn't get the constant nurturing, carrying around, and stimulation that a home-grown baby here normally gets.

When I was sitting through the session yesterday, I recalled reading an article years and years ago, long before I ever became a parent, about a mom who had to put her older child through "patterning excercises" to fully develop his brain because he had totally skipped the crawling phase and moved on to walking. Now, will this always result in learning issues or pathways to the brain not being opened up? I am sure not, as there are many ways to stimulate a child as we naturally and easily play with them, run cars across the floor, play with their legs back and forth as we change diapers and make choo choo train noises, etc. But for a child who has NOT had that sort of constant interaction and movement, and then has the opportunity to crawl removed as well, it can be hugely detrimental to brain development. Seeing it in 3 of our kids, all of whom have similarly stimulation deprived backgrounds, well you simply can not discount the obvious.

So what do we do from here? Now that we have likely found a firm diagnosis and cause that fits perfectly, how do we correct these issues? That is the exciting thing, Dianne Craft has a series of daily and weekly developmental excercises to help retrain the brain and rewire what should have been correctly wired in infancy. I have a lot of material to go through, several videos to watch, and an entire large handbook to read through, but there is a game plan which, if done daily for a period of about a year, has proven successful in the vast majority of children who truly have auditory processing disorders. There is also a different way of presenting phonics which is visually based, embedding letters within associative shapes or pictures. When correcting a mistake while reading, instead of saying "No, listen..." and then saying the sound correctly, you quickly find the picture and hold that up as a reminder instead, moving from verbal instructions and reminders to visual, as the auditory does not "stick". With the little bit of work we did last week at home, I can attest to how true that is and what a difference it made to present things more visually.

While standing at the booth making our purchase, a woman standing next to me said "That will be the best money you have ever works." Man, I sure hope so. With the show discount it was $300 for all the instructional materials and teaching manuals, so if you are interested in it you will not find that it is inexpensive. However, evaluations by educational specialists run well over $650 so it might be a bargain. I was hesitant but Dominick beat me to the booth to get in line, he said "We can't NOT try it! We may just have hit a home run here, and besides, do you have any other ideas where to start with him? We have to get it!". Wouldn't it be incredible if something could actually help Kenny realize his full potential and stop struggling with every day tasks? It would be SO nice to talk to Kenny and know that what I have said is "sticking". It would be enough to bring tears to my eyes to see him reading fluently and easily, to remember how to spell sight words he has worked on for 3 solid years, to simply not have everything be so stinking hard all the time for him. In fact, it would be worth a heck of a lot more than $300 if we could find success with this. Please pray that we have finally found an answer. This poor kid has been through so much and still has such an amazing, bright attitude.

Besides, as he has reminded me more than once..."Mommy, you promised me that by the end of high school I would be able to read and write well. I know you can do it.". I don't want that wide eyed trust to be misplaced, and will do EVERYTHING within my power to keep that promise. This may just be the first step...or mis-step. But we have to start somewhere.

While there, not only did we maybe find a solution for Kenny, but I also had the great pleasure of unexpectedly meeting one of our blog readers and regular commenters, Theresa. She was working at the conference and what a surprise and blessing it was to meet her in person. I realized later that in my excitement of being there and learning so much I totally blew the opportunity to thank her face to face for her prayers and care for our family all this time. There are so many of you out there that I don't have that chance with, and wish I could. I also think we could have yacked for 4 or 5 hours if we had the chance! Hopefully, in a future trip over, we will be able to do so without the distracting backdrop of the conference interfering.

Now we are home, workbooks, curriculum, and a brand new beatiful atlas in hand (Lordy, I am SUCH a book geek! But I found the PERFECT one!!! hahaha!). I suddenly have a lot more on my plate in learning not only about these techniques to work on with the kids, but Matt's writing curriculum is a complicated one requiring a lot of teacher understanding of presentation and the viewing of 6 DVD's along with a manual. Glad I actually like learning new things myself or I would be a coooked goose! But I am hopeful now, I feel like we have some answers and maybe I will actually be able to help my son learn at the level I know he is capable of. He is certainly worth the effort. We will be incorporating some special techniques for Matthew as well and will see how that works, and we might just have everyone work on the excercises together, as it won't hurt anyone and might help in ways I can't yet see.

The work continues, but there is hope that maybe there will be results eventually!


Hilary Marquis said...

That sounds absolutely perfect for you guys! You are such a good teachers, Cindy. I have no doubt that you will be able to keep your promise to Kenny, and then some :)

Mom to 2 Angels said...

I am excited to see how you think these training exercises work. I have read on several blogs about using those crawling and creeping techniques with kiddos who have RAD or SPD, but not with kiddos who don't necessarily have those issues. But, your description of the clumsiness and some of Kenny's other issues sound so much like our Charlie. We have nicknamed him Kramer (lovingly) b/c he seems to just fall into a room instead of walk in :) like Kramer on Seinfeld.

Tammy said...

I hope these techniques are as helpful as they seem. There is nothing in the world like feeling understood!

Anonymous said...

It was so great to meet you at last! Even though it was so short, I could tell we would chat up a storm (enough to drive our husbands crazy). We really do have to meet up again and get the kids together. Praying that all your resources work miracles!
Teresa F.

Anonymous said...

How exciting! Not just for you and yours but for all the others that attend to this blog and are seeking answers to similar challenges with their children. Your mad dash may effect many more families than you will ever know. Please consider letting some of your friends study the curriculum and be teacher's aides.

Love from a volunteer TA,

P.S. I never doubted that you could not keep your promise to Kenny.

Janet said...


thanks for all the good information. I must look at this woman's techniques for teaching. My dd is showing some of the learning inconsistencies that you describe with Kenny, Oleysa etc.....but so far I think she seems to be doing better than I expected. The theory about not being allowed to crawl is an interesting one, my dd was not in the orphanage prior to age 4, but was neglected at home, so I'm pretty certain was allowed to crawl everywhere in dirt or not. Wierd to think that maybe her being 'neglected' and allowed to roam the floor at will might actually have helped her brain develop. Thanks for that little piece of encouragement.

Nancy said...

Hi Cindy,
I found this info very interesting. I wish there was a way to get the info out to the Directors of ALL the orphanages.

I am very interested to hear how your kids progress throughout the year. You can do it, you have the determination!

Kelly said...

Very interesting. I thought the theory that a child must crawl to help reading was long ago proved false. My bio child never crawled - and does not have learning issues. My 2 children adopted from the orphanage as infants did crawl. My adopted son has very similar learning issues as Kenny. He also does not show a left or right preference. I suspect her theory goes deeper than just simply crawling. I will be very interested in seeing how her work/theory helps with the learning issues. Best of luck!

Judy said...

I'm a friend of Dee's, with a kid from Kaz (and three others), who reads and enjoys but hasn't commented before. The inability to sequence, remember months and dates is something my bio son had and he had all the stimulation and attention of any upper middle class child. He walked at seven months. He's 31 now. Dropped out of college after two years and is a very successful business man, but I'm still not sure that he's name the months in sequence. Judy

Regina said...

I am very interested to know how this program works in your experience. Milo is still so young (3), but I expect that he will have some similar learning problems. I can see bits of it starting.

Glad to see your family is enjoying the summer. Time is flying!

wilisons said...

Brain Gym style excercises are amazing! I was in awe one day when one child in my class who was struggling returned with letter sounds came back from the reading specialist and things were sticking. When I inquired about the transformation, I was told they did brain gym activities first. I now often do them with kids before introducing new information.

Please read up on dyslexia beyond what Diane Craft says. Her ideas sound ok but she leaves out a BIG piece of information which is a FULL multisensory approach to teaching sounds, sight words, and patterns in language. After being in a 60 hour course for the last 2 weeks I have seen how important this piece along with the direct teaching and sequence of alphabetic code and presentation are critical.

Best of luck!

Rich & Sig said...

I was raised in Brooklyn, NY and rode the subway at the age of 8. Alone. Horror of horrors.
I also rode my bike everywhere and of course, had no cell phone, so no one knew where I was all day.
I am alive and well and I can say I have lots of street smarts. My kids? Not so much, but I may work on that....

Thad and Ann said...

I love Dianne Craft!! Through her site I learned about cod oils & so many other things to help a child's brain & gut heal. I stumbled(ha! one of those God things) on her site one night after having a horrible day with our oldest. So many things made sense & I felt so free & understood! I was so excited to finally find something that helped us as a family. I am so happy for you & I'm sure Kenny will do wonderfully with this program.