Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beginning Steps To Reading

The reading curriculum we used this year is called Beginning Steps To Reading which is a Christian based phonics program published by Eastern Mennonite Publications (the do not have a website, you need to call for a catalog). It was recommended to me at a homeschool convention by someone who knew I had a daughter with Down Syndrome. They said the material seemed to move more slowly and had great results for children with special needs. So far I have found that to be true, but we still slowed it down even further. Instead of doing a lesson a day, we split the lessons up into two days. That one extra day seemed to help Gesserine get a better grasp of the concept. We would then spend Fridays doing some sort of review work as well as spelling and other related activities. This did mean that we spent a year covering one semester's worth of material, but my daughter actually grasped the concept and phonetics, so I think it was well worth it. I believe it is important that my daughter actually "get" the material we use, not just that she get "through it."

Beginning Steps to Reading starts out teaching short vowels sounds and adding some consonant blends. They quickly get you to where you can begin reading simple Bible stories using only the letters and sounds you have learned.

I really loved the way there was a bible story for every lesson with an emphasis on words that started with the sound you learned that day. I also love how adaptable the workbooks were. My daughter's fine motor skills are delayed and at the beginning of the school year she could not write very well. Even when she did write it was difficult and time consuming to get accuracy. To do lengthy worksheets requiring lots of writing would not be beneficial for us. However, these workbooks, while they have spaces and an emphasis on writing, also offer other options that allowed us to use them without having to worry about her writing skills.

Some pages had an option to circle the answer with a space to write the answer as well. We just skipped the writing and circled the answer.

Some pages had the answers at the top for which I just had her draw a line to the corresponding question.

For others that were less adaptable, I simply used stickers I made for her.

Another nice addition were the supplemental worksheets. They usually required her to do some cutting and gluing. This was just a fun way to reinforce the lesson while working on some motor skills as well.

Here is a video of my daughter working through one of the workbook pages. Notice how she talks herself through the problem. There are times you think she is going to get it wrong and then realize she is simply taking her time to think it through. Other questions are so easy she gets them right away. The last one is my favorite because she does get it wrong but corrects herself and tells you that she got it wrong only to find the right answer in the end.

And here we have her reading a story from the book. This was toward the end of the year when she was first learning about long vowels. After over half a year focusing on short vowel sounds, changing to using the long vowel is tough. She really has to concentrate on the long vowel, so much so that at one point she writes an imaginary "long vowel" sign over an "i" and pretends to mark out the "e" to represent that it is silent. Then she finally pronounces it correctly. While she still sometimes struggles with long vowel words, it is coming, and that is such a joy to see!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Weather

No Time For Flashcards is one of my favorite blogs for finding fun and easy craft and other hands on activities to do with youngsters. Well, this morning I found the Weather Man blog there and I realized that was something I just had to do with Gess. Since our hailstorm this summer she has been fascinated with the weather. While we did check the daily weather this last school year, we only had picture cards and a workbook to write it all down in. Well this Magnetic Weather Station looked like a lot more fun for us so I went right away to making one. You can visit the No Time For Flashcards blog for step by step instructions, as they did a really fine job at explaining it. It is really simple and took no time at all. They also always post great book ideas to go along with their activities, it's really neat. Here is Gess with our finished product.

I did the actual cutting and just let Gess help me glue some cotton balls onto the clouds and the circle on the sun and she helped me put the magnets on the back. We then went in search for the magnet letters to spell 'weather' and grabbed a cookie sheet out of the kitchen. In no time flat we had our own Weather Magnetic Station. We will be using this year round. Thanks No Time For Flashcards, for another great idea!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

That's a silly picture

I just had to share a little follow up on that last article. Gess has had the plastic glasses for so long that she apparently does not remember her old glasses. We were on my blog page and she noticed this picture from my last blog.

She started laughing and said, "That's a silly picture, Gesserine in mommy's glasses!" I found it pretty exceptional that she assumed them to be mine. She just kept going on about how silly that was. It cracked me up so I had to share.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Strabismus (crossed eyes) Surgery

Vision problems tend to be common in persons with Down Syndrome and that has been an issue for us early on. Gesserine has been wearing glasses since she was 4 years old. As you might have figured, getting her to keep the glasses on was quite the trick. The ophthalmologist was right that it would not take her long to see they helped her so he would be willing to use them, but there was some problems adjusting. First she would always take them off the in car and we lost the first pair of glasses out of the window of our van! The next few pairs of glasses were ruined, not so much because she lost them (although she would just take them off and leave them in hard to find places) but because she would not take them off of her face properly. They kept breaking at the nose because she would pull them apart to take them off rather than up and over the ears. Here was her first pair of glasses. We went through 4 pair of these within the first year!

While we have been going through the Children's Mercy Hospital Ophthalmology clinic to handle her eye troubles, we get our glasses locally. Our optometrist is great and after seeing all the trouble we were having keeping her glasses in one piece he found and ordered us some plastic frames. These frames are absolutely amazing! They are totally indestructable. You can bend, twist, do anything you want to them, they will NOT break! They are held on with a strap around the back of the head that she hides under her hair. For some reason this made them fit better and she very rarely takes them off and loses them. My regular readers have probably noticed them already but here is a current picture of them. They come in pink, blue and white.

Well the glasses have been working great but last year we noticed that Gesserine was crossing her eye, well actually both of them. She has Strabismus. Here is the definition according to Children's Mercy Hospital.

Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)

Strabismus means eyes that are not straight or do not line up with each other. If the problem is not treated, it can cause amblyopia.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is reduced vision in one eye. This happens when the eye and the brain do not work together properly. The eye looks normal, but the brain favors the other eye.

We had to have her patch her eye for almost six months to strengthen them and get them back working how they were supposed to. While her eyes got stronger, one still tends to cross. We have decided to do the corrective surgery which will hopefully give her an opportunity to use both eyes as she is supposed to. For now she tends to use them one at a time. The doctor said it would be like tightening a spring in her eye and will pull the pupils to the center. However, if the eye is still so weak that she is not using it much, then the eye will begin crossing again after surgery. That is why it is important to get the strength up before hand. Well, now that the time for surgery is here, one eye has began to weaken again so we are back to patching for another month and see the surgeon on August 10th. The first time we had to patch she would simply NOT keep the patch on the eye, so we had to give her drops that actually blurred the good eye. This time, since we only have to do it for two hours a day and since she is a bit older, she is doing a great job. She loves being a "pirate" for a couple of hours each day.

I only hope it gets strong enough in time and that the surgery will help her utilize her eyes as they were meant to be! I will keep you posted as to how the surgery goes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day

I hope you all had a wonderful celebration on July 4th! Gess was really looking forward to it this year and started asking for fireworks a couple of weeks in advance. Thankfully the blog No Time for Flash Cards shared a great fireworks craft titled Light Up The Sky. When Gess asked for fireworks I told her that since we couldn't set some off yet, we could make some instead. She loved the idea and we went to work. Visit the Fireworks craft on the No Time for Flash Cards blog to see the instructions. Here is our finished product!

To learn about the holiday we watched some 4th of July videos at the History Channel. Of course there is nothing like reading the actual Declaration of Independence itself. We plan on making that a family tradition. We spent the rest of the week on vacation so that was about all the "studying" we did about the holiday. Even so, Gess certainly knew that the 4th of July was "Independence Day" (even if it was tough to pronounce) and that it was a day in which we set off fireworks! Here are some pictures of her enjoying the festivities.

She is still very sensitive to loud noises so you can see by the last photo how she handled all the noise. She does this every year, holds her ears and watches the show. At least this year she really didn't do it as much until we got to some of the really loud ones. It gets better every year. Still, I love how she does not let a little noise get in the way of her fun!


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