Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Summer Reading Motivation!

For some of us, we have children who make us proud in the reading department. We can't tear them away from books of all sorts and descriptions.

What about those of us whose children need extra motivation?

What if you could set a goal of a certain number of books, or chapters, for your child to read, and have a visual way to keep track?

Well, I have an idea for you.

It's simple, and appeals to many ages. It can also be adapted to many other uses. 

First go online and Google "free printable 100 chart." You will be presented with a ton of options. Find one that speaks to you. 

We found the one pictured below here

If you need something with less squares on it, by all means don't limit yourself to a hundreds chart. Any large grid graph paper can be adapted to your purposes and then photocopied.

So how do we implement it?

In our case, we are choosing to let the kids read a book/chapter, according to their reading level or tolerance, and fill in the boxes on the chart. When the chart is full, they get ten dollars. The amounts are relative and can be adapted to the goal you set for your child. 

To make the chart effective,  make sure the chart  gets posted where it'll be motivating to the child, and they will see it often. 

If you have multiple children, you may find they urge each other on if they charts are all together, and they can have a healthy competition going on.

If your children work better with a co-operative approach, then by all means approach it from that stand point. You may find that setting a date goal for all  to have the chart filled, will do nicely. Then the group works together to finish as a group, rather than there being a competition over who can fill the chart first.

There are all sorts of ways to fill the boxes: stickers, bingo dabbers, markers, stamps, crayons and pencil crayons are all great things for the kids to use. If you prefer, the parent's initials are also an option.

Enjoy, and Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Round Tuit: Replacing "I can't" with "I'll find a way".

Bringing about change in our lives can be a difficult but rewarding thing. But what happens with having a goal that is too big? A mountain sized goal? One for which you haven't possibly got the endurance? Is it then worth trying? Is it worth even starting? Is it worth risking failure?

I had some goals for myself. One goal in particular actually. I wanted to lose in excess of 100 pounds. Do you know that I tried for years to do it? Tried, got tired in the trying when the results were slow, lost hope, quit, saw a glimmer of light, and started wondering if it was worth trying again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I tried everything. I beat myself up. I made my inability to lose this weight tantamount to fatal character defect, and saw the rest of what I wanted to do as hopeless, by extension . I was convinced that If I couldn't do this 'one thing', that the rest of my goals must be hopeless by default.

Photo Credit Sears Canada

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

I decided somewhere along the lines that I had to start seeing these things differently. That I had to become willing to risk what other people thought of me to find and use all of the tools necessary to meet my goal. Do you know what happened when I became willing? Hope came back!!!!!

Success came.

No question, there was a price to be paid. But I would do it all again in a heart beat!

And it snowballed in the most wonderful ways. It's like this 'one thing', that had been affecting all other areas to the negative, once resolved, caused a serious ripple effect. I suddenly had the energy and the hope to spend the energy, on these important goals.
I've been working on several different types of change. You see, I've got so much to work on.

I'm not a naturally organized person. I have the ability to remember all sorts of random pieces of information and if I saw a thing in a pile some where, three years ago, odds are high I'll remember where it is now if you ask, provided someone hasn't moved it on me. But loose leaves of paper are the bane of my existence. The fact that I have done more than one job with admin. requirements well,  is an irony,  and proves what hard work can accomplish.

I'm not a naturally patient person. Homeschooling, by default, requires one to deal with their children practically all the time. People assume superhuman patience in a home school mom, and worse still when they find out I deal with special needs stuff too.  I am here to tell you, this is a work in progress that has been going on for years.

I am naturally a pack rat. This has been one of my most difficult defaults to over come. However, five children in a reasonably small house has made it necessary to face my demons here. Insert better organization skills with less stuff, and voila..... things are looking much better! Obviously, they don't always look this good all the time. I've got five kids! This however, is a snap shot of what is possible now, and it was very much NOT POSSIBLE before!

Some days it feels as though my efforts are moving so slowly it feels that change is imperceptible.  Keeping at it long enough, though, has resulted in a snowball effect that is pretty undeniable.

It all started with what seem like pretty simple choices. You have to start with believing it's possible. But don't stop there:

Realize you've got a problem
You need to do more than to know there is a problem, you'll need to define it and how you're co-operating with it. If you've been struggling with a goal you just can't seem to meet, there is an important thing to know: You've got a system. It's just a bad system for reaching that goal. If you do something over and over again, you'll get better at doing it that way. Even if it's the wrong way. You just get better at being bad at something.

Appeal to the higher court. He knows your situation. He knows what you'll need to claim victory. He can show you. James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." If you're embarrassed that you haven't already licked this problem, don't be. He already knows and He's ready and waiting.

Get with other people who are doing what you already want to do
It doesn't matter whether you find someone in person, or even choose online support groups. Find out what they are doing and choose to put in the work. Pick positive people that help you see the 'good' when you are working through the 'hard' required to reach your goal.

Keep Track
Make a list when you start, of what things are like right now- if your goal was weight related, you'd take measurements, get on the scale, write down your sizes in everything. (Shoes, belts, clothing sizes) Your medical outlook. Before pictures. Every little thing that describes where you are today. Yes. It's embarrassing. Yes it's a serious reality check. Yes, it'll be worth it.
 It works with more than weight loss. if you're starting with a huge organization deficit, take pictures. Write down where you are and where you want to be.
Along the way, make progress assessments- with a  big goal, you're going to have points where you are convinced nothing is changing. It's better than you think it is.  Just make smaller goals so that you can experience successes closer together to motivate yourself. Remind yourself where you came from. Also, why you never want to go back there.

Find the right tools for the job
Your tools may have to be quite unorthodox. Sometimes our challenge is that we have some of the right tools, but are missing one of the major factors to make all the rest of the tools sustainable. Just don't be afraid to find all of your tools. If you have ever watched an episode of Red Green, you know that there is more than one way to get a job done. If you ask my husband, almost all of them require WD-40 or Duct-tape.

Reset your defaults one small victory at a time
 Every day make small changes.  Repetitively practice them until they become habit. Each one of your new steps will feel awkward, and like they take up a lot of your effort. It won't feel that way forever. Don't despise the day of small beginnings.

Don't hold yourself to the standards that others set for you if they are too low 
There is a tendency not to rise above the standards that others set for you because it's hard to go against the grain. "They don't believe I can, It must not be possible. So why should I try so hard for something that isn't possible?"
 It's not that it's not possible. It's that they don't have vision. The court of public opinion is fickle. Don't submit to it. When you stop caring what they think, you can see your own standards and rise far above what others think.

Don't expect a magic bullet
Sorry, there's just no nice way to say this. There is no magic bullet to getting to your big goal. Just hard work, and the right tools, and perseverance.

Don't give up
There is a tendency for us to feel like setbacks are worth quitting over. You're gonna hit weight loss stalls. Your kids are gonna mess up the room you just de-cluttered and cleaned. If clean eating is your goal you can bet you'll be discouraged at some point by a junk food binge. Just don't park there. Pick yourself up, and do the next right thing.

So if you're ready to start on your big goal, and just need to get 'A Round Tuit', Please take mine. It's right there at the top of this post. Consider it your gold engraved invitation to making it.
If you're so inclined, tell someone about your goal. Someone that'll hold you to it. You can even put it in the comments if you want to.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Explanations are not Excuses (The Myths: Evaluating things we say to Special Needs Parents)

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me for the topic of special needs. If you didn't by chance manage to catch the series of Let's Call A Spade a Spade: Special Needs Diagnosis, feel free to check it out. 

There are many myths and mindsets regarding special needs that abound. I'd like to tackle a few of them today. I speak in defense of some parents that may not be able to tell you what is on their mind. I think sometimes that we need to identify these mindsets, and their effects, to help us to re-evaluate their usefulness.  

"It's a parenting issue"

This comment carries with it the assumption of devaluing the parent, or their skills or the amount of work they put in. It's tantamount to claiming the parent is a poor parent. No question, as parents we have a responsibility to train our children in the way of developing character. This is always a work in progress. It's a marathon though, rather than a sprint, and sometimes meeting behaviour related goals with a child are going to take a very long time to achieve.

To simply criticize the parent in the middle of their journey really is quite unhelpful. It implies they are not doing their job. If, they also happen to be a stay at home parent, for whom that is their life's work, it pays out double insult.

Lets take for granted for a moment, that the person saying such a phrase has a higher skill level as a parent, than another special needs parent. Lets even go so far as to say the special needs parent would benefit from your expertise. Would they really be willing to come to you for any sort of skills improvement, if your approach to the situation is to put them down with your comments? 

No, there is a better way. It requires walking along side them.  It requires not implying with our words that we think they are a 'write-off'.
I am in the camp that says that I will approach it from the standpoint believes the best of a parent. That the parent is doing their job. That there are effective approaches to getting where they want to be and ineffective ones. Sometimes we simply need to tweak what's not working and choose to reinforce new habits. 

I was encouraged greatly once in a training session, to hear, that "sometimes you can be doing everything right, and still have the child be a challenging child. It's not a negative reflection on your skill level or the work you're putting in." 
What about that doesn't make you want to fight a little harder to help the child? It implies that it's not you as a parent, that is a write off? Rather than a hope-taking statement, it's a hope giving one. 

Proverbs 13:12 says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Before using this statement, evaluate, which effect would you rather have on a parent that may need encouragement to succeed?

"It's just an excuse for your child's poor behaviour"

You'd be surprised to find out how many things that 'look like' laziness, or bad behaviour, or rebellion, are actually completely different things. A child with Auditory Processing Disorder, may look like they refuse to listen to you, or ignore you. A child that can not sit still, has poor planning skills, can't carry tasks through to completion may have ADD or ADHD. The child that speaks with no tact and can't carry on a conversation with eye contact of any type may be working with Autism. You may also have children who can not stand tags, or external stimuli, that meltdown due to things going on outside of them, that have issues with Sensory Processing Disorder. There are any number of unwanted behaviours, or lagging skills. How we look at them will make all the difference.

We each of us look at these things through a lens. Either one can choose to look at these things in a way to devalue the child, and makes negative character statements about them, or see them through the lens that identifies a weakness or a lagging skill, and choose to train them and give them the skills and coping methods required to succeed. 

As a side note, I think that some people make the assumption that when a reason is given to help promote understanding of a child's condition, or to ask for understanding, it often gets looked at as though the parent is trying to condone a given behaviour. Not necessarily so.
 I'd like to draw attention to the fact that those ideas are actually separate concepts, and they do not necessarily go together. Yes, it IS possible for a parent to try to shrug their responsibility. Yes, it is possible for people to fail in their responsibility. Making that line of reasoning the starting point makes for a pretty short and hurtful discussion though.

 Before using that statement, evaluate whether you are assuming motives in a parent, leaning toward lack of effort, that may not be there. If you don't jump to that particular conclusion, you might just get to learn something new about how to manage that particular condition, because the parent will be able to show you a thing or two.

"_________ is over diagnosed"

This is a pretty unhelpful statement. It's kind of on the level of asking a pregnant woman whether her pregnancy was planned. If she answers affirmatively, it was kind of a waste of breath to have asked, and if she answers to the negative, you've possibly shamed her, or at least made her uncomfortable. All it serves to do is cause drama. What was the point of it?

Consider then the effect of saying this to a parent that trusts you with this information, and having one respond back to them, in that manner:

1) You'll shut them down. They know it's no longer safe to discuss the topic with you. They will fear you are in the camp of those who suggest that mental health or special needs diagnoses 'don't exist' or that it's a product solely of 'bad parenting'.  Not too much makes a person feel less safe than criticism and judgement.

2) It negates whatever emotional roller coaster brought this parent to the place they are in. It is hard to accept that there is a difference between your child and others. It is hard to find answers to cope. It is hard to feel alone, or like no one cares. Sometimes special needs comes with a difficult set of behaviours to manage, a physically and emotionally demanding child, and just plain old exhaustion. These are parents that require support. 

3) It  undermines whatever work has been done between this parent and their doctor and their medical support system. 
 It suggests from the get-go that they should have no faith in their doctor's judgement. It implies that the diagnosis of their specific child is wrong by default.  Let's take for granted they are happy with this doctor, otherwise they would have left and found another one.  That medical team may be all they've got for support and training. So, before you making that statement to a special needs parent, you might want to evaluate whether you are a qualified Behavioural therapist, Occupational Therapist, Doctor, or Trainer for problem behaviour management, and feeling patient enough to walk along side this family while they are sorting it all out.

 Rather, if you're truly interested, you might be surprised to find out, how many hours of testing they had to endure; How long the wait list was; How many appointments they had to attend; How many specialists they had to consult to finally get to the right answer. 

Yes, there are some times that a diagnosis is straightforward enough to make in one appointment. Some parents early in their denial stage of having received a new diagnosis may complain about that. Yes, there are some doctors that are 'quacks' and misdiagnose, propagating the myth, of over diagnosis, but other answers take an incredible amount of time to tease out. The existence of misdiagnosis does not by default make all diagnosis incorrect.
 To negate any of that of their experience, by implying that their diagnosis is wrong by merit of 'over diagnosis', helps no one. The parent is still left with the troublesome behaviours to manage. 
Before using this statement, evaluate whether you are qualified to be the medical team's replacement in management of those challenges. 

Sometimes we do ourselves and others a disservice, if we do not think through the affect that these words, though commonly spoken sentiments, may have on people. If putting these thoughts out here saves one parent the heartache described above because someone made an evaluation that they didn't want to cause this effect, then I have done my job here.