Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - The Play

Sorry I have not blogged recently but we have been really busy. Gess got a part in the local Community College's Production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. As a homeschooler I am really excited about Gess having an opportunity to be in a play. She did not get a speaking role as she was a bit shy around all the other children during the auditions. However, she is still in many other scenes. Her role is a church kid who sings in the angel choir.
I have been very impressed at how good she does in the 4 scenes that she is on stage for, particularly after sitting through the many scenes she is not in. She is sitting fairly still, or at least as still as some of the other kids are. Gess gets to be really animated in a few scenes where she cheers for a bunch of rowdy kids or has to run out of the church screaming "fire!" She really gets into those scenes!
There are some times where a few people around her have to help her out, such as making her face forward, hush her if she is trying to talk or help to escort her on and off the stage. I really appreciate how gently they help her out and how much she has been accepted by the cast and crew. I am really glad that I live in a community that cheerfully includes special kids into the mix. It has been lots of fun!
The true test of Gess' stamina will be this weekend as she has 4 performances of the play. One on Friday evening, 2 on Saturday and a Sunday matinee. With how well she has behaved during all the rehearsals I think it is safe to say she will do just fine. She really is growing up and it is apparent that her social skills are developing just fine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Teaching Independence: Going Outside Alone

Fostering independence is a bit tricky with a child with special needs. You can tell that Gess really desires to have the same independence that her peers have. Our current focus has been on giving her more unsupervised outside play time. Since we have a fenced in back yard that has a lock out of her reach, we are able to do this without too much fear of her wandering off. I must admit I am still constantly peeking out to be sure that she is OK, but it's the most independent she has been and she truly loves it.

Our main concern with giving Gess the freedom is that she learn to use it responsibly. Gess had finally quit trying to wander outside without permission until we introduced letting her play outside alone. Now she was again trying to leave the house without telling us. However, this time she was not trying to simply "wander" off, she was just trying to do what we sometimes gave her permission to. So to address this we reviewed safety rules for playing outside alone, taught her to ask first before going out, and implemented visual cues to make sure she did not forget.

To review the importance of staying in the yard (in case the fence is ever not locked) we re-watched the video Stay in the Yard from Do2Learn Education Resources. I shared this website with you a long time ago in my blog Computer Time: Do 2 Learn which goes to show you that is a resource you will continue to use for some time.

So now we talk about being "safe" when you go outside and you do that by staying in the yard. Then we wanted to remind her to ask before going out the door. To do this I made a sign that says, "Did you ask for permission?" Well, that did not work because she would ask me for permission but when I said no, she still went out the door! I had to be very specific so I added "Did Mom or Dad say yes or no?"

I color coded some of the words in the sign and made the words "ask" and "no" red and the word "yes" green. This is to remind her to either stop or go according to the answer. Then we followed that up with two traffic light signs; a red stop one and a green go one. I velcroed the stop sign to the door and put the go one out of reach.

Now, when we say yes, we give her the "go" sign to put up. Without the go sign she can not go outside alone.

Of course, I again emphasize the go sign must be out of reach. She would just change it herself if she had the ability to, I saw her try it once! I also had to train her that she could come back in whenever she wanted to as well. With the screen door shutting her outside at first she felt like she had to stay. She would sit at the door and holler for me when she wanted to come back in. Now I always remind her that she can come back in whenever she wants. When she is in to stay we let her help put the stop sign back up so that she knows she can not go back out again without asking. This has worked great. Gess never goes outside alone when the stop sign is up. It was really a simple plan that has given us all more freedom to enjoy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Science: Chemical Reactions

I am loving the Real Science 4 Kids curriculum we have chosen. Right now we are in the Pre-Level 1 Chemistry book. We divide each lesson into two or more weeks depending on the amount of material and how quickly Gess is grasping it. The first week we read through the workbook and on the second week we do the lab work. Gess really loves when we get to the experiments. This study was on chemical reactions.

Our lab work for chemical reactions has us labeling 4 cups and placing lemon juice, vinegar, milk and water mixed with baking soda in them. Gess had to first describe what was in each cup (she didn't see me prepare them). She did pretty good but she thought the lemon juice was apple juice and of course the baking soda water was just plain water.

Then we started mixing them. She discovered what happened when we mixed the following:

1. Lemon juice to vinegar
2. Lemon juice to milk
3. Lemon juice to baking soda
4. Vinegar with milk
5. Vinegar with baking soda
6. Milk with baking soda

She then add to look at her overall findings and discuss what she learned. As much fun as she had experiencing some messes as a couple of the mixtures bubbled up and all over the table, I thought I would add an another element of even more fun and yes, more mess to really drive home what a chemical reaction can look like. We had to take this last experiment outside.

I have shared Steve Spangler Science with you in the past. His site is an excellent resource for fun, hands on Science projects and teaching videos. In 2005 Steve Spangler started sharing about how Mentos candy reacts with soda. Check out his video explaining how to make a huge geyser with a simple tube of Mentos candy mints and a bottle of diet soda.

As you can see, this is a really fun, yet messy experiment. Gess had a blast placing different things in the bottles to see if they did or did not react. We finished with some Mentos candies and she got her geyser. We don't yet have a tube like they do in the video, but I am thinking of getting one. That is really neat. We will play with this again and again I am sure.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Year Older - Gess' 9th Birthday

I can't believe my last post was way back on October 2nd! I really try to do one post a week, but this month has been crazy. I hope to get back on track now. One thing this month has brought us was Gess' birthday celebration. She certainly couldn't wait to be 9!
Gess knows she is "growing up" and constantly tells me how she can't wait until she is 18 and passes the test so she can drive. Man, they sure want to skip all the good times don't they? One day Gess kept frantically pointing to her leg. I asked her what was the matter. She said "My leg! My leg is growing, it's growing into 9!" Yes, my literal little girl figured her leg was literally growing "up" on the one day that is her birthday! You just gotta love moments like that!
But to help her slow down on the "growing up" thing and settle down to enjoy the moments until then I figured I would share the neatest gift Gesserine got for her birthday. It was given to her by her brother and his girlfriend. They are so creative in the gift giving department and this gift will not only be fun and educational it will help her create those precious memories that she will cherish for all time. The gift they got her was the book 101 Things You Gotta Do Before You're 12!

This beautifully illustrated book has lists of neat things for kids to try and do. From seeing an eclipse or meteor shower to inventing a new game or sport these activities will help them expand their knowledge, see new sights, and experience life in fun and exciting ways. They gave this gift along with a promise to help her once each month to work on something on the list. I am actually typing the list up so she can check off each one as she accomplishes it. I think we all are going to love this one!
Of course there are some things on it she has already done. For instance just last month she rode a real train (though I think it would be fun to actually take a trip that leaves the city), she has played in the mud and watched something grow. But there are many more things I want her to experience as a child. I think this is really a neat way to help your child explore life and the world around them, especially a child with special needs who might just need that extra bit of help learning about new things.
So, my little girl is now 9. This is her last year in the single digits. Oh where does the time go? I can tell you this, 9 years ago I had no idea just how smart my daughter would be. I was bombarded with all that was wrong with her, but thankfully I did not focus on that for very long. Now, each and every day, we are determined to keep finding what new things Gess can learn and do. We focus on what's right with her and believe me, there is just too much to celebrate that we never really find time to complain or worry about the things she can't yet do.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Counting On - Basic Addition Concept

As we are getting into addition, an important concept we are trying to master is counting on from one number to the next. In the book Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome they offer some ways to help teach the concept. They suggest playing games with dice and count on from the first dice to add the second. You can count money starting with a $5 or $10 dollar bill. They also suggested laying out a number line that goes to 20 and throwing out random playing cards (with the face cards removed and using aces as ones) and counting up to 20 from whatever card is thrown.
Another idea that my husband came up with involved an abacus I had purchased but have yet to use. While this game does not use it in the manner in which it was intended, it is a great visual tool to help Gess count on and she has found it more interesting then just throwing out one random card to count from.
First we took the playing cards that already had the face cards removed and used aces as ones. I then sorted the cards by color. I had one stack of black cards (spades and clubs) and one stack of red cards (diamond and hearts). I laid them out in front of the abacus with the black deck first and the red deck second. We would throw one card up from each deck. Now Gess would go to the top row on her abacus (which had dark blue, almost black looking beads) and count the number that corresponded to her black card deck. Then she would do the same with the second row (which happened to have red beads). It would look like this:

Then I would have her point to the last bead on the upper row and say whatever number that was. In this case it was a 5. Then we would count on from that number on the row of red beads adding the total of the two cards.

Out of all the activities we have tried, I think this one has been the most successful and most fun for Gess. It's a game we will play often. I think I will also look for other ways to use the abacus in our daily math lessons.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writing Journal - Enhancing Memory Retention

Last year I posted about the Creative Writing Journal we kept throughout the year. In it Gess would write down something that she learned that day. I started with the sentence "Today in school I learned about..." and she would write down one subject or topic and draw a picture about it. By the end of the year she was writing the entire sentence. Our goal for the journal was to not to simply work on writing skills, though it is helpful for that, but to help Gess answer the question "What did you do today?" In order for her to answer that, she had to think about what we had done. Since her memory retention was limited she almost always just said the last subject we studied unless I cued her to remember another subject (which I often did.) So this year, her speech therapist and I came up with an idea that we hope will help Gess retain the information throughout her day.

To challenge Gess a bit we decided that this year we would have Gess choose two things that she learned during her day instead of just one. In order to assist her in remembering what all she has studied we decided to have a sort of visual check list that she will fill out at the end of each subject. Then, when she goes to write in her journal, if she can not remember what she learned she can reference this to help her remember. So I found images that I thought would be helpful for each subject and made this list.

So after we finish reading she writes down the subject for that day which might be the subject of the story we read or simply just "spelling" or "vocabulary" and things like that. Then we circle exactly what we did for that topic. For each subject (except for writing) I have the following images: (These will vary depending upon your own curriculum and subjects, etc.)

Reading - For read text book, reader, etc.

Each subject also has an image or two that represents unique things we do in that class. Below are a list of unique images by subject:

Reading - Spelling Words
Math - Blocks/Manipulatives
Writing - Free Writing, Chalk Board Work
Science - Lab/Experiments
Social Studies - Map Work

I then have an "Other" category for days we may do something extra or special. I have yet to use that column.

So when it is time for our journal I will have her write the sentence "Today I learned about..." I first see if can think of two subjects on her own (so far she has not). If she can not remember on her own she just turns to her sheet.

Then she writes the sentence and draws a picture. It comes out something like this. (We are working on penmanship and staying in the lines, but that is not my main focus here.)

I will be anxious to see if by the end of the year she will be able to fill out her journal without the use of the sheet. If she does seem to pick up on it and not need it I will enhance it by having her write more than two subjects at a time. I want it to remain a challenge for her memory retention as well as a tool to use at the end of the week to share with her daddy the favorite things she learned about in school.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dealing With Emotions, Temper and Anger

Over the last year Gess has started expressing fear over things like heights, the dark and things at the doctor's office. Along with that she has also displayed some really defiant behavior. It is not the simple fear or behavioral issues that I became concerned about, every child goes through those. In her case, she would become so upset or distraught that she would simply become unreasonable and it just seemed like there was no way to talk her down. It was like she would just shut down and the episode would then spin out of control. Since this was all new behavior for her I was striving for a way to deal with it.

Typically if Gess started to disobey we could simply provide her with options and she would usually choose the option that would make her obey. Option 1 (raising first index finger) would be to obey and option 2 (raising my next finger) would be whatever the proper punishment for not obeying would entail. It even got the point where I didn't have to explain the options. I would raise each finger one at a time. She would point to the first, and then begin to obey. Life was so much easier when this worked!

There are actually still times when it does work. However, I had to find some way to address the really defiant behavior. To do this, I first tried to see if there might be a cause behind the rebellious behavior. For Gess I think the biggest reason is she wants more independence. The girl is almost 9 years old and she rightfully wants the freedom most 9 year olds have. However Gess still tends to wander off when not supervised so she is not really given the freedom to go and do things other her kids her age do. This makes it difficult for kids with special needs. They want a freedom they are not capable of having. It is understandable that would be frustrating and this knowledge helped us to implement some positive changes.

First off, I became very mindful of offering Gess as many positive choices as possible, and not only during the defiant behavior. When Gess is behaving appropriately I try to grant her as much responsibility or decision making as I can. From the little things like what do you want to eat, or where would you like to go, to which direction in the store should we head first, etc. No decision is too small. I also made sure that I started placing things like plates, cups and healthy snack foods in easy to reach places and offering other ways for her to be more independent.

I then began trying to take her feelings into account when making my decisions as well. If I needed to run to the store and she was playing a game, I would start giving her a 5 minute warning in which I actually set a timer. That way she knew in 5 minutes we had to leave. That helped tremendously as she would willingly quit when the timer went off. Warnings at the park before time to leave are also helpful. Granted, I know there are times when this is not doable, sometimes I have to leave right away, but I find that she is more willing to obey when most of the time her interests are respected.

Now that we had the positive reinforcements in place, we were ready to tackle the instances when the bad behavior occurred. The thing I wanted most was for Gess to remain reasonable. I think she gets frustrated because she does not think we know or understand how she actually feels. So I made a Velcro board in which she could learn to 1) explain to us how she felt and then 2) choose to express those feelings in an appropriate manner.

I found some good emotion cards to use at Do2Learn. I then tried to think up some good choices for Gess to make in response to those emotions and put them on another card. I then made one final card that said:
I am __________

I need to ___________

Now she could choose which emotion she felt and which option she would choose. We would then talk about how to do that.

So far this has really been working great! I think now that Gess understands she can tell us what is wrong, she loses much of the initial frustration from the incident. The hard part is to come up with the choices that might best fit the situation. We have already seen such an improvement from this that we hardly have to actually use it. Now we simply ask Gess what is wrong and cue her to say "I am..." and let her finish the sentence. Then we ask her "what do you need to do to?" She will then say something like "I need to calm down." So we walk her through how to do that, like going to sit in her room or somewhere else that is quiet until she calms down.

Other options are I need a hug, I need to cry, I need be alone, I need to be with you, I need to talk about it, and so forth.

I also have positive behavior options and randomly do the board when she is in a good mood. This way this does not turn into a punishment that she simply chooses to shut down from. I have the emotions like happy, pleased and excited for which I use choice options like I need a high five or I need to cheer. So far this has been quite successful. I am sure it is not the answer to all of our behavioral issues but it certainly seems like a great tool to use to help a child learn some appropriate ways to deal with their emotions.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Social Studies - Heritage Studies 1 from BJU Press

Well, Gess had her surgery which went really well. She had a rough first week home as her throat got infected but after some stronger antibiotics we are finally healing up. She is doing much better now so we started school on Monday August 30.

We had a really great first day of school and I think I will like all the choices I have made for this year. Today I will share what we are doing for Social Studies.

I have really struggled to find a curriculum that works well for Gess in this area. Gess should probably be in the 3rd grade, however for social skills and interaction in group activities we generally keep her one grade behind that. With that said, we are still mostly in grade 1 materials. So when I grabbed a new Social Studies Curriculum I decided to stay back at level 1.

One reason is that I really want books that Gess can read by herself, not ones that I have to read to her. While her vocabulary is really advanced and she can read the words in 2nd grade materials, she struggles reading print that is too small. Even with her glasses she still seems to need large print. I also want her to experience the independence of being able to do some of the work on her own. I also wanted worksheets, tests and materials to be easy to adapt to special needs and offer hands on experiences. After much search I finally settled on Heritage Studies 1 by Bob Jones University (BJU) Press. I found it pretty cheap on Ebay and we started using it this week.

I have found the student Text Book to be visually appealing and the text rather large so Gess can read it really well. The worksheets and tests seem to be really adaptable to special needs also. The tests offers things like matching items and circling the answers which are often in picture form rather than text. The visual choices are great for children with special needs. It really sets the test up in a way that they can succeed.

The material also seems to be more of a hands on nature. Our very first lesson took us outside making lakes in the backyard to enforce the concept that lakes (and other bodies of water) are simply water in "low" places in the earth. She not only read it but now understands that the water needs be in land that is lower than the land around it so that water can not run off. We made our "puddles" in the back yard and then talked about how that same concept on a larger scale is what makes ponds, lakes and oceans.

After we made our "lakes", we went inside and read our text book. The next day we began learning about maps and how the blue parts on the map represent the water that is in low places on the earth and the green parts is dry land that is on higher places. This makes much more sense now that she has seen how a body of water is made. I just love real life hands on examples. I think for review we will be feeding the ducks at the lake on Friday and talking about how that lake was made! What a fun way to end the lesson, don't you think?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why? - Activities to tackle the concept

We had a great therapy session last week and I have many new ideas to try again this year. One of my main concerns is tackling the concept of "why." It seems to be one that is hard to grasp for many kids with Down Syndrome, at least at this age, so we are trying to come up with games and activities to help teach it. While I am sharing what we have learned, I encourage you to comment and share things that have worked for you too. I love getting new and fresh ideas!

Last year I shared the "Sorting Activity: Why is it Different?" This was a great start in learning to focus in on why something was different and to learn to speak in the negative, "it is different because it is not ______." Another activity to expand on this concept are activity sheets about what does not belong. I found some to use at I do not even print them out, we just discuss them together on the computer.

Share this picture and have the child tell you what does not belong. At first Gess could not answer the question because I did not ask her what was "different" or why it was not so. Now I am teaching her the same concept, but from a different angle. What does not belong? Of course once she chooses the right item we discuss "why" it does not belong. (There can be more than one right answer. The turtle is not "furniture" or found in a house or is alive, etc.) The point is to get the child thinking about what links the items that are the same so they can determine why the other one is different.

Another great activity is figuring out "What's Wrong with This Picture?" We have all played with those pictures as kids. You have a picture with silly stuff on it like a horse wearing a cowboy hat or a duck with a pig tail and you are supposed to circle what is wrong with it. Well, instead of circling or coloring we just discuss what's wrong. Gess finds something that is "silly" or "wrong" with the picture then I ask, "why is that silly?" We want them to learn to answer things like "because horses do not wear hats" or whatever is appropriate. It might take some time but doing this will surely help them see not only what is wrong, but why it is so. I thought I could find lots of pictures for this activity free online but you know, so far I have not. I do not really know how to search for these pictures and find what I am looking for so I just bought the coloring book "What's Wrong with This Picture?"

We will not actually color in it as I want to keep the pictures fresh, but there are lots of great ones in here. If you have any good links for places online to find similar pictures, please share them. I also look forward to hearing other things you have done to help teach the concept "why" to your children so don't forget to share them! I hope to be sharing other speech activities in the future. While school has been postponed a week or so for us, speech has already begun! I only pray that the surgery won't cause other speech issues, but I know she is in the best of hands!

Since posting this I have already been given a great link for this. I will share that and hopefully others I get here.

Links friends have shared:

What's Wrong Games/Activities:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Upcoming Surgery Delays Start of School Year

Gess had her checkup with the ENT and the Ophthalmologist last week. Gess had a really rough winter and allergy season this spring and the doctor believes she needs to have her tonsils and adenoids removed. Her adenoids are large and they do believe that does affect her sinus issues. They say that her tonsils coming out will actually help with her restlessness at night as well as other breathing issues. Gess also has a small hole in her ear they are going to try to patch while they have her asleep. She will have to stay one night in the hospital and come home the next day. She will have to take it easy for one week after-wards (no school that first week) and no sports activities for at least two weeks (so no gymnasitcs for awhile).
My original plan was to start school the third week of August, however, that is the week she will have the surgery so we will just put off school for another week or two. I don't want to start for only one or two weeks then stop for one or two weeks then start back up again so we will just wait to start until she is all better. I probably won't start until after labor day if that is the case, but we will see. I love the flexibility of homeschooling when it comes to things like this!
Gess will also be getting new glasses and have to patch her eye again for her strabismus, but the doctor also suggested to just wait until after the surgery to start that whole process again. We either have to do surgery for that one day or just keep patching periodically. We have our main doctor saying the surgery may help her be able to use her eyes as a team but the surgeon said the surgery would not help her vision at all. That's one we have to think about more!
Even though school isn't starting yet, I will begin posting more regularly here (which is usually about once a week). I will try to start catching up on reading blogs too. We just had such a busy summer I hardly had time online! I am excited to start the new year and try out some new things and I am curious to see what you all are up to too!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Real Science 4 Kids

I have been looking for a good Science curriculum for Gess and we found Real Science 4 Kids last year at the Homeschool convention. My husband and I were really drawn to it. My only concern was paying the approximately $80 for it when I am not certain if she would be able to keep up with the material. It looks like it is presented in such a way as to make learning it easy and fun, but is it adaptable to a child with special needs? Not being certain we decided to wait and continued with the curriculum I had for one more year.
Well, as I was researching what to use this year, I had a pleasant surprise. Gravitas Pubilcations now offers the Real Science 4 Kids in downloadable ebook format. Not only that, but they package it to where you can purchase 1 chapter at a time! I am so excited because now we can test the materials and see if it will be successful for Gess without having to pay a lot of money up front. Of course, if we really love it I will probably be more willing to part with the money. With the economy the way it is though, I am really reluctant to let go of cash without knowing I am getting my money's worth. So to start of our school year I am getting the first chapter for $3.50!

Gravitas Publications was created specifically for homeschool science needs. The Real Science 4 Kids books are world-view neutral and scientifically solid. Their concept is to introduce subjects like Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Geology at an early age in a manner that makes it easy for children to understand. Introducing them to these concepts early on will enhance their comprehension at the high school level and beyond. They start with Pre-Levels for grades K-3, Level 1 for grades 4-6, and Level II for 7-High School.
Their Where to Begin page recommends that you start with Chemistry, then Biology, then Physics, and then Geology (which is due out in the fall of 2010). You first teach the concept, then you teach the experiment and then you try to teach the connection between the two. Each book has 10 chapters and 10 experiments giving you 20 weeks of instruction. They have a great schedule to follow on their Where to Begin page. Of course this schedule might not work well for us. Materials usually take us longer to get through because of how I adapt things for Gess. No matter how long it takes, if it helps my daughter understand the concepts, I will be thrilled! I am anxious to begin and see if this works well for us. So if you are looking for a challenging new Science curriculum for your kid you might give Real Science 4 Kids a try. If you have tried this or are currently using this, please let me know what you think of it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Church Camp 2010

Gess went to her first overnight camp this year. It was a lot of fun. I went as her sponsor and got to stay in the cabin with her and accompanied her to all of her activities. She did really well fitting in with her peers, but there are still some areas in which she lacks the independence to do on her own. Over all though, I think she had a great experience. This was only a one night camp, which was a perfect way to start.
After registering and getting settled in our cabin we began our day at camp by meeting at the flagpole. Each day they stand silently as they raise the American and Christian flags. Once they are up they say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Holy Bible. Then we were off to the tabernacle for our first service.
Our speaker was a man who starts Spanish speaking churches in our area and also travels the world sharing the gospel using a soccer ball. The ball was made of various colors which makes it appealing to the children. However, each color represents a piece of the gospel message. This is a way to share the gospel with the lost and give children who are saved an easy way to share it with their friends. I plan on purchasing a ball for Gess to keep so she can remember this very important message. I found them on sale by Energia Products (which is Spanish for "power"). They are a division of Childrens Evangelistic Ministries which have used this ball to spread the gospel in over 115 different countries. You can visit their site to learn what each of the colors mean.

After the service we had some recreation time. Each activity was focused on re-enforcing the theme of children around the world. We played games from China like "rock, paper and scissors" but in Chinese instead of English as well as their version of musical chairs. We made Chinese lanterns and various flags during crafts. Gess wanted to paint her entire base red, so we chose to make the flag of Denmark which is mostly red anyway. By adding a couple of white stripes her red thing turned into a flag!

They also learned to sing Jesus Loves the Little Children and other songs in Spanish and had a Mexican Fiesta with a pinata and everything. The kids munched on candy all the way home!
There was also the water slide, which was the part the children looked forward to the most. Gess was all prepared to be brave and do it when they got one of the teenage workers to go down it really fast. Seeing him zoom down that fast freaked her out and she decided not to go. However, another one of the youth workers came to her rescue and took her down on his lap. Actually we had more than one worker offer to take her, but he was already wet so he got the honor.
She handled the cafeteria fairly well and ate with all her friends. The food was good too! She also sat on the pew in the tabernacle with her peers and there were only a couple of times I had to get on to her. She seemed to listen well, or at least sit still and be respectful while they were talking. The music of course is always fun for her.
All the kids played well together. During free time she seemed to perfer to hang out with the boys and play some basketball. They were gracious and she seemed to have a ball (pun intended of course).

They also had a miniature golf course that she loved and did pretty good at from time to time. She even had a couple of holes in one, and then there other times I think her par was like 20! She had fun which is all that matters.

Then of course there was a camp fire upon which we roasted marshmallows to make some Smores. They really hit the spot after such a long day. Gess also handled lights out in the cabin just fine, or at least as much of any of the kids did. They were all pretty tired but resisted putting an end such a fun and exciting day.
Next year she will again go to the one night camp. I can't wait to see how much better she does. If she were better about boundaries I would feel better about sending her alone, but then again, I enjoyed being a sponsor to all 3 of our girls and I wouldn't want to miss the fun too!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Help Pass ABLE Act

I received this today in my email and wanted to pass the information along to you all.

Help Pass ABLE Act

Take Action!
Contact Your Representative


Contact Your Representatives to Convene a Hearing and Vote on the ABLE Act Today

As you know, the NDSC endorsed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) of 2009 (S. 493/H.R. 1205). The ABLE Act will give individuals with disabilities and their families the ability to have a savings account which could fund a variety of essential expenses for the individual, including medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing, and transportation. The funds from the account would accumulate interest tax-free.

Another important aspect of this bill is that the funds in the Able Account will not count as assets of the individual with a disability when determining their eligibility for important and life-sustaining federal benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.

The legislation is supported by both parties. Currently, H.R. 1205 has 180 cosponsors, including 19 members of the important House Ways & Means Committee.

Please contact your Representatives to encourage them to convene a hearing and vote on the ABLE Act today!

Talking Points

* Please help pass Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) of 2009 (S 493/HR 1205) by encouraging House leadership to schedule a vote on the bill this Congress.

* This is bi-partisan legislation is being led by the following Members: Representatives Crenshaw (R-FL), Meek (D-FL), Kennedy (D-RI), McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and McDermott (D-WA)

* The bill has 180 cosponsors, including 19 members of the House Ways & Means Committee, in the House.

If your Representative or staff member has any questions or is interested in cosponsor the bill contact Dustin Krasny (202-225-2501) in Representative Ander Crenshaw's office

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Plans

Our school year ended rather well, it was just really busy and I have not had the time or the inclination to blog much lately. I have started to make exercise a part of my regular routine and I had to find time for it somewhere. It appears it was blogging and spending time on the internet that took the biggest hit, which is alright with me. I do intend to keep this blog up though, especially through the school year. As we ended this year we were pretty much on all the same activities I had already told you about so there was also not much to tell anyway. I will do an update soon though and let you know where she is in all her subjects. For now, here are our summer plans.

We have entered Gess in the Summer Reading Program at the library as usual. Gess loves it and this time I am making her read harder books. She is into some early chapter books and I am really proud of her skills. She is finally using book marks to mark her place because the books are longer than her attention can allow for, at least sometimes. She is also reading on her own now as well. I am not always sitting there making sure she reads it correctly. If I see her pick up the book and read it, I let her be. When she is done we put it on the list. If she happened to skip a word or page, so be it. Reading independently is our ultimate goal. However, many times she still sits and reads the book to me. That is such a fun bonding time I am not ready to give that up just yet!

We have decided to keep her gymnastics through the summer too. That is such a great source of physical therapy/PE that I did not want her to miss any of it. Besides, she really enjoys it. I can't believe how far she has come in a year. She can do a pretty darn good cart wheel and some nice swivels on the trampoline! Granted, they still need improvements, but she was not anywhere close when we started! Her coach is amazing and is so good with her.

Gess will also be starting swimming lessons today. We managed to find someone willing to give her private lessons. We did lessons at the pool last year and while she had fun, she really did not learn anything at all. I think having several classes going on at once was too much excitement for her and she kept wanting to see what was going on with each one. I am hoping this will work out better.

Gess will also be attending her first overnight church camp next month. We are very excited. She has gone to day camp the last two years and really enjoyed it. I am going as the sponsor, so I will be able to help see that she communicates well and how she handles sleeping in the cabin. It is only one night for this age group and I am sure we will have tons of fun. She is particularly looking forward to the water slide.

The last week of July holds a really busy time for us. It's the highlight of the summer for Gess for that is when we have our Vacation Bible School. Gess absolutely loves VBS and has been asking for it all year long.

At the end of that week is our annual Golf Tournament to benefit SEKDSS our local Down Syndrome support group. We always bring the kids up for lunch and she really looks forward to it. Since we live in such a small town, we have had a hard time getting people involved in a Buddy Walk, but our Golf Tournament has been really successful and we have several golfers who come each year. They love the time with the kids and getting to see the children that they are helping.

During this time we will also be getting some annual checkups. Getting this done during the summer keeps these appointments from interrupting school or causing us to travel during snowy weather. In late July Gess will have hear annual Speech Therapy evaluation and see her ENT and Ophthalmologist. She does not need to see her cardiologist for 2 more years!

With this much going on over the summer I think I will be anxious to get back to school so things can slow down again! I will do my best to keep you posted on some of these events when they take place. In the meantime, have a great, safe and happy summer!

Monday, May 3, 2010

PE: Special Olympics

It was so exciting to get Gess on the Special Olympics team. I was not aware that they started this at such a young age. Children only need to be 8 years of age to join the Special Olympics. Around here though, they do most of the practices and organizing through the public school so I had to figure out how to get involved. I went to our state Special Olympics website and found the contact information for our area and sent out an email. I was contacted by phone and we worked out the details and Gess was on the team. Each child that participates does need to take a physical. Children with Down Syndrome also must have an Atlantoaxial Instability test to make sure there is no risk to their spinal cord through physical activity.
They practiced during the school day at the High School. They were very accommodating and welcoming when we joined them there. We also practiced with Gess some on our own, mostly to make sure she understood how to stay in her own lane for the races. Since she does not have PE at school and access to the field at other times, we felt that might be important.
On April 22nd, our district held the Special Olympics and Gess was extremely excited! She wanted to win a medal so badly, and I am pleased to say she won 2! Gesserine participated in 4 events and won the following:

Tennis ball throw - Bronze Medal
Standing Long Jump - Bronze Medal
50m dash - 4th Place Ribbon
Team Relay Race - 5th Place Ribbon

Below are some of the photos of the even that day. It was really something to see people with special needs, get recognized and have such a fun day geared around positive reinforcement. We were so excited to see so many people in attendance and were thrilled with the amount of young adults who were volunteering to make this happen. College students were there cheering everyone on, they were not ridiculing and making fun of them. Events like this are so important because it truly does bring everyone together. I am grateful for everyone who helped to make this such a special day for my daughter and every child and adult with special needs who felt like a winner that day!

The Standing Long Jump

She was so excited to get her first medal!

She was so excited she couldn't stop looking at them!

Me and Gess waiting for the last event.

This one is my favorite. Note that she was holding a team mate's hand while giving a cheer for the team.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

PE: Playing Base Ball

Now that spring finally has arrived we are taking advantage of playing outdoors. Gess kept asking me to play "hitch" so I thought it was time to teach her the game, as well as the appropriate title, which is baseball. (Maybe she came up with hitch as a blend between hit and pitch, which is not a bad nickname at all!)

Gass had played kick ball at AWANA a few times last year and she really had a hard time with the rules. So we took apart some old linoleum, made some bases and just worked on what to do after you hit the ball. We went over which base was first, second and third. Then when she would hit the ball (which she was pretty good at) we would have her run the bases. Now that she is getting that down we are trying to work on teaching her how to determine whether to stop or keep running. For now she is simply to follow the coach's orders. She is having fun, we just need to get a real game going sometime. Here she is learning the game and enjoying the outdoors.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bible: Fun ways to sing and learn

Gess has been doing great reading through the New Testament with me this year. Together we have read the first three gospels and are now starting the book of John. It has been great to hear her read along and see how much she improved, not only in her reading skills, but in her understanding of what she reads. To help supplement that reading we got her the Read and See DVD Bible.

The Read and See DVD Bible has 40 Bible stories with pictures in the book and they also read and show the pictures from the book on DVD. The text of the story is shown on the screen as they read it which is a great help for her reading skills. Then, after each story is a song that fits that theme. The words for the songs show up on the screen as well, so it is not only fun to sing, but also is another good way to practice reading. So that makes 40 stories and 40 songs on the DVD and Gess just loves them all. If we cover one of the stories during our reading or lesson time we will end by loading up the DVD, watching the story together and then singing the song that goes with it. Gess, however, will also watch it on her own too. She has spent tons of time just going from story to song to story to song all on her own. The fact that she is not only learning to read, or having fun singing, but is also learning those great lessons from the Bible is an added blessing to me.

Gess got a CD player for her birthday last year and for Christmas her grandmother got her a CD and DVD by the Go Fish Guys. They are a children's Christian music group that has great songs and a really cool, rather than kiddyish sound. Their videos on the DVD also have the words to sing along with (again improving reading while having fun). There songs have great messages and also help you to remember important things like the names of the books in the Bible with their song Bible Book Bop and the 1o commandments to which they sing the 10 Commandment Boogie. I especially love this one which explains that we are saved by grace!

These are just some fun ways we have found to make the Bible really come alive. They certainly make Gess want to sing and praise the Lord!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Field Trip: Homeschool Day at the Zoo

The Kansas City Zoo had their first annual Homeschool Day yesterday. We went with another homeschooling family and really had a great time. It was well organized and I believe truly made learning fun for the kids.
We started off with a joint assembly to welcome everyone. Then they explained how and why we classify animals. The rest of day was spent exploring 5 different classifications of animals; Invertebrates, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. For each category you could choose to attend a presentation, craft, activity (game) or take a tour. Here is Gess in our opening assembly excited to start the day.

For our first event we chose to play the Parachute game while learning about Invertebrates. They all got around their parachute and flung the balls around, but this time each of the balls had the name of an animal and they had to first get all the vertebrates out of the mix, then they would pick out certain groups of invertebrates like the bugs, the ones that live in the ocean, etc. Then they just played with the parachute a couple of times at the end. Gess really loved that game, but what kid doesn't like the parachute game?
The kids were also given a journal at the opening session in which they had to answer questions about each classification. No matter which event you chose, they were sure to share the basic facts for that section. The kids that completed their journal at the end of the day were given a free ticket to ride the carousel. Here is what Gess learned while playing the Parachute Game about Invertebrates.

Next we decided to take "A Close Look at Reptiles." While this was supposed to be an activity it turned out to be more of a lecture, but Gess sat through it pretty well and at the end she did get to feel some snake and turtle skins.

Then there was a break for lunch. We were welcome to brown bag it but we chose to get our food there. Here is Gess enjoying her hot dog.

Next we chose the Amphibians Tour. While this was inside and interesting, it was pretty crowded and loud so Gess sort of lost interest in staying with the group. There were several things to do inside the Discovery Barn. Here is Gess getting some time to explore things on her own.

Then for our last outing, we decided to tour the Australia Aviary. Gess really enjoyed being in with the birds, one in particular kept pecking at her and when it stopped, she would try to get it to do it again. I tried to capture it on camera, but this was the best shot I got.

There was a final group assembly to review what we had learned that day. Gess was a bit tired of structure at this time, but all in all, she did fairly well. Of course, she did document things in her journal and earned herself a free ticket for the carousel. She had an animal all picked out to ride, until it was time to actually get on. At the last minute she decided that she was NOT getting on them. She said it was "scary." So instead we chose one with a seat that didn't move and she enjoyed the ride.

Gess learned more about animals in one day of a hands on adventure then she would have in a month of lessons at home. Of course we plan on expanding on what we she learned. We will be looking up videos, books and information about each classification. I hope the Kansas City Zoo continues to offer this event every year. If they do, we certainly plan on attending! Of course we also plan on going back this summer to see the new Polar Bear Exhibit.
We want to thank the Kansas City Zoo for offering this program to homeschoolers. Going to the zoo on our own is fun, but having the experts teach you as you explore is resource we found very valuable!


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