We had a snow day/Daddy's home day today. It ended with Dominick sitting on the couch, looking at me, and saying sincerely "I could never, ever do what you do every day. This is fun, but really hard work." I have had a hard time adjusting on some levels. Here I am, home all day, and still I find myself behind on laundry, still things don't get picked up the way I wish they would, still the projects I have in other areas of my life keep getting put off until the last minute. I can't quite understand why I am so wiped out by the end of the day, and having Dominick around sometimes helps me put it into perspective.
Today he made lunch, he got laundry done, he made sure the trash was taken out, the dishes put away, all the little things done that I try to cram in around working with the kids. What a nice treat all of that was! The kids just love having him home and it feels like a special day having him around when we are doing school.
I have gradually been figuring things out with Kenny and Olesya, discovering that some of their deficits are really far more challenging than I realized. We have been working with a software program for Kenny the past couple of months called "Earobics". It is designed to work on auditory processing issues, and man, has it been revealing to stand back and watch Kenny struggle with this. The program is not all that expensive at $70, and they have a elementary version, and a teenager/adult version. It is designed as a series of games played on different levels, that gradually have you work up to progressively harder listening tasks. There is an entire beginner level, which Kenny is on, and it has 6 games I think that each have 12+ levels to them. Beyond that there is an intermediate level, and na advanced level.
This poor kid...when I think of the frustration over the past 3+ years...it makes me want to cry. SO much of what we have struggled with has related around his memory and inability to process what we say to him. The hard thing with a kid like Kenny is that there is so much wrapped up in one kiddo, that it makes it hard to isolate specific issues and determine exactly what is wrong and what corrective measures are best for him. You have speech issues magnified by the cleft lip and still unrepaired palate, plus the fact that his repairs began years later then they would have had we given birth to him. Then there is developmental and emotional delays due to institutionalization and lack of early stimulation. Then there is language learning issues because of changing languages at 8 years old. Top that off with true learning disabilities like auditory processing and memory issues, and you have a real mixed bag of tricks.
Watching Kenny work with this software has broken my heart. He loves doing it, so motivation is not a problem at all. But this morning, when I mentioned he had a little time to work on it before we started something else he turned to me and hung his head saying "Mommy, I am not doing good at it at all. Some parts are so hard I don't think I will ever be able to do it...and I know that even Joshie could do it very easily." I explained to him that this was a postiive thing, that finally we had pinpointed where at least some of his challenges were and that working with this would eventually help him a lot. The truth is, he may be at this a very, very long time before we see improvement. For example, one of the games he is having the most trouble with says 3 or 4 words out loud, then shows you a set of pictures and you are supposed to click on the pictures in order than you hear them. About 75% of the time he can not correctly click on 2 in a row. Seriously. He can't remember 3 or 4 objects but maybe one out of 4 times. There is another section where you have to identify different consontant blends, and he gets ir wrong almost every single time. Another game asks you to break sounds into syllables, and he can't hear syllables to save his life. Every time he manages to get a point, he loses it instantly the next question.
And I wonder why the poor kid can't remember 12 months of the year in order. It explains so much, why he can't remember spelling words he spells right many times, then all of a sudden it is gone in a flash and it is like a new word to him. Another thing I have discovered is that songs don't work for him either. He can't ever, ever get the lyrics right! He can't remember them even if he has heard them a hundred times! Believe, me, I have been "Mama Mia'd" to death, and I still can't figure out what in the world Kenny is actually singing :-) It is discouraging to see right in front of us, as clear as can be, just how poorly his brain is functioning in these areas.
Then there is Olesya and her mental road blocks with math and spatial stuff. I really had my eyes opened yesterday when we had our first go at tangrams with her. For those of you who might not know what tangrams are, basically, a large square is cut into 7 other shapes, then you take those shapes to try and recreate other patterns. On a whim, I had Olesya take her shapes, mix them up, and asked her to look at the initial basic square and recreate it with her shapes. Super easy. Here is the pattern:
Despite these very specific things, these kids ARE smart!!! Others might not see it, but we do in so many ways. They are both very intelligent children who have some serious areas of concern, but they are far from stupid. My biggest job, aside from trying to come up with strategies to work with these deficits, is to convince THEM that they are not stupid. We are making progress in this area, very slow progress, but daily I really focus on their areas of strength and point it out over and over again. But I think this week I realized we have a much higher mountain to climb with both of them than I ever really imagined. That's OK, I have a couple of sherpas to help me out with the retired teachers we have surrounding us and holding us up :-)
Often I am asked what I think caused this in the kids, and there are so many possible factors there is no way we could ever know. In reality, knowing the "why" doesn't help at all anyway, as the end result is still the same and that is what we have to deal with.
But we refuse to see this as "bad", and instead of decided to view it as a puzzle, a challenge of sorts On the days when it doesn't have me wanting to bust out in tears of great sadness at their obvious distress, I try to step back and look at it as a great mystery to solve! I also know that this is NOT going to stop either of these kids from having happy, productive lives...we'll figure it all out somehow, we'll guide them in directions that make sense. And in the meantime, the homeschooling years will never be boring for good ol' mom as I'll always have a puzzle or two to figure out! Hahaha!