autism,  Education,  helps,  home strategies,  learning strategies,  reading comprehension,  sensory processing,  strategies

Back to Basics

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J’s early intervention preschool snack mat. He’s two years old and some change in this picture. I found these in the basement the other day while I was trying to find new places to store holiday decor.

Because of my recent observations while working with J, I’ve been seeing examples of J’s processing issues in real time. One of this week’s highlights of auditory processing flubs was when we were discussing the new Disney movie Moana. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but we were making up scenarios and one of them involved W and Moana. All of a sudden J said frantically, “W shouldn’t use marijuana!” J really paid attention in health last year, and was really concerned with what he “heard.” This is a perfect example of some of the many processing issues J is dealing happening at once. He failed to hear the word “Moana” correctly, and quickly associated it to “marijuana” (Moana has 3 syllables, marijuana has 4 and a letter “r” sound in it). It’s also interesting to me that J associated this word to his younger sister, not thinking about how illogical that association would be–or that “marijuana” would be WAY out of context of our conversation because we were talking about Disney movies. But that’s how J put the few sentences of conversation at the table together–cherry picking words (he has a BIG tendency to listen for words that cause him anxiety) and then putting thoughts together in pieces–often in a mixed up way. Like a distorted message you’d get from playing a game of telephone with a group of friends. When J’s done this before it’s usually been amusing to all of us. But now that I have a better understanding of what might be happening, it makes me realize that there are real issues that need to be addressed.

I’ve been looking for resources to help build and strengthen J’s deficits in what I suspect to be auditory processing and working memory deficits and luckily there’s a lot of stuff out there. (I’ve got Train the brain to hear: understanding and treating auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, short term memory, executive function, comprehension, and ADD/ADHD by Jennifer L. Holland on hold from the Fargo Public Library–which I’m really excited for). There are also a lot of downloadable games and activities (some free, some not) that can really help practice auditory processing and short term memory skills. Here are some resources we’ve used over the past few weeks:

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This is from Teachers Pay Teachers. J LOVES doing this one. We do this as a “warm up” before we start working on math or reading. At first I was surprised at how REALLY hard following multi-step directions was for him. But after a few days, J figured out what he needed to do to make things work for him. Now he spreads all of his markers out in front of him, “ready to go” and as I read off the instructions, he watches and chooses his colours and points along where the action needs to be made. I still get a lot of “can you repeat that again,” but he’s figured out the rules of the game and that’s the first step. Some of the directions for this sheet were: “Colour the fourth snowflake yellow. Then colour the four smallest snowballs yellow too.” “Choose a name for the snowman on the left. Write that name inside its body using black.” “Choose a name for the snowman on the right. Write that name inside its body using black (he got that colour wrong).” “Outline the hat of the snowman on the left in black. Then, on the snowman on the right, colour in the hat red.” As you can see, sometimes it’s more than just two sentence directions. You sometimes have to make choices about things (names of people).  There’s multiple things to juggle while you’re working.

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This one is from https://ourjourneywestward.com/brain-training-activities-auditory-attention/. We’ve actually been using quite a few games from this site. J also struggled with the auditory instructions on this one, but once again, after a day or two, he was able to figure out the “rules” and what to listen for. We’ve also been playing the “I went shopping” game from the site and have tried a few of the games from http://brainconnection.brainhq.com/brain-teasers/. J is really good at the word list recall game (which is visual, of course) and so I’ve modified it that I read aloud the word list and then when I’m done it’s his turn to write down what he hears. (Fun fact, this is exactly like one of the tests J had to do for the concussion screening). Like I said, there’s a lot of great stuff out there.

J’s getting a lot of the one word recall memory down, so in a few weeks I’m thinking we’ll move on to connecting these words to get him to realize that language is linked and not just a bunch of individual words in succession (which I think is how he processes language). Sunday night we played the “shopping” game with sentences to stories he knew (the Sound of Music, the novel they’re reading in class right now). It’s tough for him–it’s not a collection of individual words he has to hear and keep track of in his mind, it’s full simple sentences. I’m hoping though, as we practice, he’ll learn the “rules” of listening to and tracking full sentences so he can process those faster and better.

I’m really excited about this. I know it may sound like a lot, but we usually play a game two or three times a day, and they only really take 5 min each. It’s super easy because someone else has come up with all of the ideas and I just copy them. I’m trying to find ways to combine “chaining” visual and auditory commands, and when I see games like this, I think “hey! we can make that work for J.”

Here’s a great link for a Telephone Pictionary game I’d like to try, because I think he also struggles with how his visualization skills play into all of this (and he’s got pretty good visualization skills). Like I said, lots of good ideas out there and all I have to do is Google search or Pintrest them!:

Telephone Pictionary Church Activity

In some ways I feel like we’re backtracking–a lot. These are things that he should have been able to pick up as a preschooler and elementary school kid. But somehow he didn’t master these skills (hey, the kid has a lot of things to work through, so I can’t blame him) and we have to learn them now. I have a feeling it’s going to take some time. I have a hunch that J has been functioning (for 14 years now) on trying to process individual words at a time (not always successfully) and it’s going to take some work to get him to process words faster and show him how you don’t necessarily need all the words to find meaning because understanding context can help a ton. It’s like all those bad habits I learned in Junior High when I first learned the French Horn (like taking breaths through my nose instead of my mouth–I know, gross, right? And how did I not pass out!–and my funky embouchre). That’s how I started learning (because Mr Y had thirty or so kids all learning different instruments for the first time at the same time and hey, if I could follow along and play the notes, then it works, right?) I could technically still play notes and make the right sounds with all my bad habits. But I eventually had to fix and relearn those techniques because I just couldn’t cut it when I had to play the harder music in high school. Sometimes we just have to go back and learn (or relearn) basic technique.

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I had to throw this one on today because W is also part of our nightly memory games (it makes J have to work harder the more people are involved in the game). W has been the best peer model since birth, and she’s so patient. This girl is a rock star! This was her “early intervention” snack mat. Since she came to every session every week since birth. The teachers thought she deserved a seat at the table too (once she was big enough to sit up and eat Cheerios).
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