Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Desa ParkCity's Waterfront

I was very hesistant to go for his morning exercise today as I was feeling rather tired after yesterday. I was sick yesterday after lunch. From the late afternoon I rested lots and drank lots but 2 Panadols still couldnt shake off the headache, bodyaches, nausea. Ended the night with a fervent prayer for healing. Thank goodness I was felt better this morning although still tired.
I reluctantly decided to go out cos we finally had a cooler morning today. So off we went to Desa Park City again, this time to check out the playground there.

By the time we arrived the temperature had risen & was a little uncomfortable. I noted there are 2 playgrounds. I chose the one nearer the shops as the equipment looked different.
The equipment is definitely different from the ones in other parks. Looks like the stuff I saw on a show produced by an Australian production co on his Playhouse Disney Channel.
There was only 2 equipment that he could use: the very steep open slide & a circular swing similar in concept to the Ikea one we have. The rest were very interesting, suitable for older kids.
I wanted to check out the other playground but I think it might be accessible by walking around the lake, rather than driving. Perhaps we'll do that another time when the weather & my health is more favourable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lessons from raindrops

He noticed it was raining. He said it sounded funny. So we drew open the curtains and took a look. After a few moments of staring at the rain, I took the opportunity to do some activities.

The first was on gross motor. We pretended to be like the trees in our garden being blown about by the wind. This was good for him as it got him to raise his arms straight up (or as straight as he could) and get some swaying movement.

The second was on maths. What's rain got to do with maths? Well, the wind had blown some raindrops onto the glass sliding door. Some droplets were rolling down. He noticed them. I thought I'd teach him maths concept & vocabulary of first, second, third etc. So we paired up raindrops & guessed which would be first to the finish line (the bottom).

I also took the opportunity to point out that the raindrops rolling down start off small & slow, then as they pick up more water from other raindrops, it gets bigger, picks up speed & rolls down faster. I'm unsure how to classify this lesson. Is it physics?

The whole event probably took only 15mins. But I'm happy to have taken that opportunity to teach a few things, and I didnt even need to prepare any materials!

Sorting Games (buttons)

Now that I've made lots of books for my son & his reading is on track, I have time to try to develop his maths skills. I recently came across a website for teaching maths to kindergarten age kids. It's informative and has simple activities that I can do with my son at home.
I've only read the bits on sorting, pattern games, measurement, as well as the "how to teach" bit. There are lots more that sound interesting & useful so I've bookmarked the page:

This is the sorting game my son played: sorting buttons. There are many ways to sort: by colour, by number of holes, by hole/no hole, shiny/matt. Amazingly it kept him occupied for almost half an hour.

I tried playing the sorting game with him using plastic fishes from his fishing game but it wasnt as effective. I'm not sure why. Perhaps he was already tired or it was too distracting with its loud colours or that I had attempted to play it in a different way (fishing with a rod) before switching to sorting.
I'll next try to dig out some old stamps and play the sorting game using those, as suggested on the website.

Taman Tun Park & Desa Park City Waterfront

I've been having sore muscles and a stiff shoulder over the past few days. I was very reluctant to head on out for my son's morning exercise. But I did anyway because I simply had to.

Weather looked promising, cloudy with a gentle breeze. The moment we got into the car, the clouds parted and the sun shone. Somehow, it does that around 9.30 most mornings, as if just to trick me to get out of the house with my son.

When it's hot & sunny, and my son is in his Neurosuit, he doesnt want to play on the playground equipment. It's simply too hot & uncomfortable. I understand so I dont force him. But I have to get some exercise done when he's in the suit. So we went to Taman Tun park this morning instead.

There's lots of shade by the side of the lake nearest the hills, which is why I chose that park. This morning's exercise was just to maintain/build up his endurance.

Of course, there are elements of simple nature lessons/biology too. There are lots of fishes & turtles in the lake & stream. Monkeys roam the forest fringing the park.

We had brought some bread to feed the fishes but ended up feeding them all to the pigeons. In the past he would not throw bread to the pigeons, preferring me to do so instead. Perhaps it was because he's a bit fearful of them. They make a certain noise when they flap their wings near you. It might be scary too when so many of them surround you all at once and when you're movements & reflexes are a little impaired.

After watching me feed the pigeons for a while, and even though the initially kept refusing to throw them the bread, he eventually started to feed them too. It's a very small thing, but I'm glad.

We saw large fishes, small fishes, turtles sunning themselves and busy dragonflies. He was more interested in the fountains though! He always had been from when he was a young baby & I had brought him to that very park in the mornings in his stroller.

I'm glad that he was able to walk & run by himself throughout the time at the park, without me carrying him. He did want me to carry him as usual when he's tired. But I instead just went down to his level, hugged him, patted him for a while (as a form of rest), then managed to find something to distract him (this time it was the brids) to get him to walk a bit further to the car park.

Having finished early, I thought of checking out another park which my friend Elly had recommended. I think he's a bit bored (as am I) with Titiwangsa & Lake Gardens on weekdays. The new park is in Desa Park City which is a bit further on from Taman Tun. Having never been there before, I took out my brother's GPS. Very handy!

The Waterfront area is very well designed. The layout of the place, the spaciousness, the lake, the design of the shops reminds me very much of my uni days in UK. If only the weather were much cooler, it'd be perfect!

We will definitely make another trip to the playground there but only when the weather is much cooler. There was a stark lack of shade and shady trees at the playground and by the lake. With the shops (Jusco, cafes, restaurants) nearby, it's convenient too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Visit to Orthorptist

These were the findings of the orthorptist:

- his binocular vision is fine & he does not have depth perception problem
- he has slight childhood long sightedness. He has a bit of problem seeing small objects up close.
- he has slight astigmatism. I think she mentioned a figure of 100.
- his left eye is slightly higher than his right

What needs to be done:

- no need for glasses yet
- use an eye patch on alternate eyes for an hour a day but for no more than an hour, while doing activities. This would help straighten his head and therefore help blood flow and straigthen the spine. It'll also help to reduce the likelihood of lazy eye.
- regular monitoring, on a 6 mthly basis

She explained that childhood long sightedness could resolve by itself as the child grows older. It happens because as a baby, the eye is a bit short & the focal point of the image falls behind the retina. I've read that babies dont see well, so perhaps that's why. As the child grows up, the eye grows too and the focal point should then fall perfectly on the retina. For my son, he's at the correct developmental stage in terms of his childhood long sightedness. She mentioned a figure of 20/30.

She confirmed that short sightedness is hereditry, so we'll have to monitor that too when he's older.

She seemed very experienced as she was very fast is performing various tests; was able to pick up problems quickly; able to perform other tests to confirm her initial findings; able to get my son to co-operate.

She was very approachable, explaining things to me, answered my questions, made sure I understood what she meant about his left eye being higher by showing it to me a few times (cos it was slight & I'm untrained).

Now, the tricky bit is to get my son to wear the patch!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Targets for 4Q2009

The year 2009 is fast coming to an end. Each day seems to go past so quickly. A day feels like an hour; a week feels like a day; a month feels like a week.

I have 3 months left to prepare my son for kindergarten. Three short months. I've to be very focused on what I'd like my son to achieve.

These are my targets for 4Q2009, in relation to preparing him for kindy:

Living skills:
- to be able to verbalise that he needs to urinate
- to be able to sit on the WC or potty to poo
- to do more self feeding
- to suck water from his tumbler

- to have louder & clearer speech such that another adult can understand him most of the time
- to express his wants & discomforts

Pre-writing skills:
- to improve his pencil grip
- to correctly produce the strokes for all the alphabets & numbers

Academic skills:
- to recognise more high frequency non-decodeable words
- to develop his pre-maths skills (grouping, sequencing, patterns, measurement)

Now that I've listed them down, I'm reminded again of how far behind my son is compared to his peers. Those targets are stuff I've been working towards for a while now, amongst many other targets. The targets above which involve his motor functions (speech, living skills) have been slow to achieve. Academic targets (reading, numbers) have been much much easier to achieve.

Although I feel discouraged seeing the list, I must not give up, for his sake. I must be patient. I must be focused. I must give him lots of opportunities to practice. I must be positive.

"Best Buddies" Programme

In response to my posting on "Will he have friends?", I received an email last night, from a mother who briefly shared her experiences about her disabled son in relation to friendship.

This made me think further and perhaps I'll write more about how I perceive the Malaysian society in general, views persons with disabilities and how things could be different. But I'll leave that for a future posting.

What I do want to highlight in this posting is of what I read about some months back which is rather encouraging. I happened to recall it this morning.

I came across a programme called "Best Buddies" Programme. It started off in US and has a local chapter set up in 2008 at UCSI University. The club/society aims to help form friendships between college students and people with learning disabilities. From the photos posted, there are at least 2 persons in the group with physical disabilities as well.

Perhaps there will be more positive steps in the wider society in reaching out to understand, to engage, to see the beauty in persons who are disabled.

Read for yourself about it's activities (bowling outing, kite flying in Kepong, a Talent Show, Disability Awareness Workshop, Pot Luck) and a simple touching account of one of the students and her new friend with Down Syndrome:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will he have friends?

A few days ago, I read a posting titled: "Owen, doesn't have a single friend". It was written by a mum about her disabled son, Owen & the lack of real friendship due to his severe disabilities.

My day to day thoughts are usually focused on activities for my son, to help his gross, fine, oral motor development, speech and cognitive developments. His little bits of progress (& of course, God's grace & mercy) give me the encouragement to continue my efforts and provides the hope that he will live a 'normal' life in future.

I consciously choose to be positive. I consciously choose to be busy, doing things with my son as I've to minimise the developmental gap between him and his peers. A day 'lost' is a day the gap grows wider. I want him to be able to lead as 'normal' a life as possible.

I bring him out often (minimised lately due to H1N1) to the parks, to shops, to therapies where he does experience some form of human interaction outside of the immediate family. But those forms of human interaction are different. We do not have much contact with other kids of the same age. He has yet to begin kindergarten. I am therefore 'protected' from the stark reminder of how different he is and of the various challenges before him.

So when I read her posting, it was a painful reminder. The next day, I tried to ignore the emotions it stirred up. Today, another mother posted a similar topic: "Friendless forever". It was heartbreaking.

This time, I knew I could not ignore my emotions. I had to work through it. It brought to the forefront, one of the many differences between a special needs child and an able-bodied one. There are of course differences which I'be gotten used to e.g. the need for therapies, the need for various medical specialists. But this, this was a reminder that one of the simplest, enjoyable aspect of being human, to have friends might not be possible for my son.

We were not made to be alone. Adam had Eve. No man is an island. Isn't one of the images of childhood, that of happy kids playing with one another?

Although my son's disability does not seem as severe as the boys' in the 2 postings, the ability or inability of a disabled kid (including my son) to have friends is a real concern.

My son, unlike the other 2 boys, is verbal. However, his articulation is poor. My helper, my husband and I understand what he says most, but not all, of the time. He speaks in phrases & not sentences as yet, but he speaks to non-immediate family often in a whisper.

Is it possible to build a friendship when one has speech development disabilities on top of gross and fine motor disabilities?

At the moment, I try to do my part in helping him build his social skills. I try to provide the opportunites for him to start experiencing friendship & to model how to make friends. For example, I've come to know & made friends with a family who has a boy his age. When we do meet at the park (it's not often) I try to engage the boy so that they both play together. It's not easy.

At other times when he's in the company of older kids (e.g. at music class) who have more developed social skills compared to kids his age, I do not make such an attempt as I want to observe how other kids perceive him & interact with him without my interference. It's of course, also because making friends is not the main aim in music class.

What are my observations of other kid's interaction with my son?
- Very often, they leave him alone if there are other kids around.
- I do note that older girls seem to be more caring/helpful towards my son.
- Very often, they do not speak directly to my son.
- If their parent is around, the other child would ask something or say something to my son, only upon their parent's prompting.
- If they do want to interact with my son out of their own initiative, it's often indirectly - they'll speak to me as though I'm my son's voice (which I often am, but try to minimise).

Am I being overly anxious? He is afterall only approaching 4 years old. Afterall, young kids still rely a lot on body language to play together. Afterall, kids who have a buddy, have had other & more regular opportunities to form that friendship, outside of the one hour a week music class, or outside of the weekly playgroup sessions. Afterall, friendship is a social skill that needs to be developed. As with any skill, he needs to be given opportunities for practising it. And afterall boys are not as sociable as girls.

So, will he have friends? I cant tell. I will continue to help him develop the skills needed for it: clear verbal communication, compassion, turn taking, patience, a sharing nature, good manners etc.

I pray for God's grace & mercy in his life. We're already blessed knowing the few families who are kind & loving enough to see beyond my son's disabilities. Thank you to his music teacher, to the 2 mums who are kindergarten principals, to Elly, to Rumi (& of course his therapists!).

The little bits of progress I've seen in his other areas of development (e.g. cognition) give me hope that he will also be able to develop in the area of social skills to the extent of being able to develop friendships in the future.

The postings by the 2 mothers that I had read can be found using these links:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

KL Bird Park

A friend invited my son & I to visit the Bird Park together with her girls. Her eldest is the same age as my son & used to attend playgroup together. Unfortunately that morning, I had an upset tummy, most likely due to the salad dinner the night before, so they went ahead without us.

Hearing that my friend & her girls enjoyed it, I brought my son there today. We enjoyed it too!It's clean, has a lot of shade & rest stops & mini cafes, surrounding is well maintained, birds seemed healthy. I took very few photos as I was alone with my son without a helper & I wanted to enjoy the place rather turn it into a photography session.
I liked the fact that there were a lot of birds that were free to roam as they please within the giant aviary. It is after all touted to be world's largest free-flight, walk-in aviary. There are of course birds in cages like the eagles, hawks & exotic ones like birds of paradise.

My son liked that the birds were so close to him (as opposed to being in cages) during the free-flying birds feeding time. Peacocks, peahens, egrets, ibis & storks were among the free-flying birds roaming around. I think it was the first time I saw the Western Victoria Crowned Pigeon - beautiful large gentle birds with such a delicate patterned crown. Shame I didnt take a photo.

We were lucky to come across 2 small Asian hornbills roaming free.

I loved the vibrant colours of the birds - macaws, toucans, lories & those in the oriental birds aviary. Stunning! There was a section of the aviary (World of Parrots) which allowed visitors to feed special liquid bird food to the lories, parakeets etc. See photo above.

There are also other features like a waterfall with fishes. According to my friend, there's a nursery where kids can play with the chicks and ducklings. I'll have to come back for that & other sections.

We missed several sections as it's spread out over a large area. My son was tired when we were about half way through. He was afterall wearing his neurosuit. I think with the birds, he walked a lot longer in duration & distance compared to just bringing him for a walk at Lake Gardens.
We did spot the emus & ostriches as we rested at a hut overlooking the Flightless Birds section. Unfortunately a gust of wind blew the wrong direction, from their enclosures to where we were & the smell of their droppings made my son vomit.

For more details about the Bird Park, head over their website:

Note that there's a special rate if you bring along your MyKad & Jusco card/MJ card. If your child has the Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) card, bring it along too cos they'll waive his entrance fee. I also noted that it's rather wheelchair friendly.

Homemade Books - Montessori Pink Series

I've searched the internet for free downloadable books that are suitable for use with the Montessori Pink Series level. (Links to my homemade books are at the end of this post)

I came across some but felt they werent suitable for the following reasons:
- too many words from Blue/Green series. For e.g. usage of c-v-c-v type words (instead of c-v-c), or blends
- too many sight words
- pictures aren't attractive. For e.g. some are black & white; most are clip art type illustration

I've not had time to search the bookshops for suitable ones. My friend, the kindergarten principal suggested Ladybird series. I presume she meant the Peter and Jane series. I browsed the series last year at my in-law's house. I think it's still not what I'm looking for. I also want books with a high rate of word repetition. I'm also looking for a series with a good variety of books at any particular reading level.

She did suggest the Scholastic's Clifford series, which she has and will bring along to show me next week. I'm very grateful for her help! I do hope it's suitable for my son's current reading level.

Another friend, also a Montessori trained kindergarten principal, suggested I take a look at the Grolier series. I couldnt find much about written about it on the internet. It's part of the Scholastic group. The perception I have of Scholastic books are that they're really expensive! I remember taking a look at their catalogue, given at the SEGi Appreciation Day & getting a shock at their listed price.

Perhaps I'm too demanding. As usual, if I cant find what I want in the market, and if I can make it myself, I will!

I've made over 20 mini books (and counting). Very very time consuming - so much time required in planning, organising, searching for photos, making the softcopies, and assembling.

For each book,
- I target one or 2 words that will be repeated many times
- I'm careful with the choice of words, sticking to c-v-c or v-c decodeable words in Pink Series
- I introduce very limited non-decodeable sight/high frequency words. For e.g. I've only used words like: a, the, I, he, but not all those words together in a single book.
- I keep it short with each book having between 4-10 pages, depending on the length of the phrase or sentence.
- Each page has only 1 phrase or sentence.
- Deliberately chose larger font size
- 99% of the photos used are "real", not illustrations
- I've tried to make it attractive by adding colour where appropriate e.g. on the front & back cover, borders of each page.

If you know where I can get early reader books, either softcopies from the internet, or printed copies at the bookshops, please do let me know. My email is on my profile. It'll save me a huge amount of time. For the moment, it ought to meet the criteria above. Most importantly, it should contain more than 75% Pink Series words, with high repetition of target words.

I plan to share some of the mini Pink Series books, in future postings.

Update - here are links to some of my homemade books that I think are suitable for the Montessori Pink Series level. It is not in sequential order, so please use your wisdom in choosing which ones to start introducing the child to (for e.g. the earlier books he read do not have sight words, but those books may in fact appear lower down or in the middle of the list below)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Homemade Game of "Odd One Out"

How to Play It
- Explain to the child that in the group of 4 photos, there is one which doesn't belong; one which is different from the rest. The child is supposed to place a piece with an "X" printed on it (not shown in photo) on the photo that doesnt belong/the odd one out.

- If the child has not played this game before, start with a very simple set before progressing to harder ones. E.g. the set on the left in the photo above is quite simple. The grouping is "animal". An even simpler set to start off with would be, for e.g. the set on the right in the photo above. The grouping is "fish". Start simple so as to set the child up for success, not failure. Once he feels he can do it, it'll be a great motivator to move on to harder sets.

- Give the child a chance to think & come up with the answer on her own. If it's right, great! But ask why she decided so, to check that it wasn't a fluke. It doesnt matter if it is wrong initially. Explain to her the right answer. Bear in mind also that the child may see things differently from you, so her answer may be right too, based on her logic (that is, if her logic is right).

How to Make It

- I used powerpoint as it's easy to draw shapes for the outline, customise the colour, size, inserting the photo & resizing/cropping it.
- Photos are obtainable from various websites. I tend to use,
- Print, cut & paste onto cardboard/artcard. Laminate for durability if you wish.
- Do make sure you vary the location of the photo that doesn't belong (the answer). You wouldnt want the child to think the answer is always for e.g. the top right photo.
- There's an infinite number of themes to use. The only limit is your creativity. The photos below are some of the sets I've made.
The set on the left is on animals that fly. The set on the right is on insects.

The set on the left is on objects that fly. The set on the right is on ocean animals.

The set on the left is on pets. The set on the right is on farm animals.


- early maths skill

- reinforces themes introduced

- fine motor (placing the card with the "X"). If the child is not able to place the card, you can of course vary it by having the child point or name the answer or use the child's alternative communication methods.

- cognitive skill

Want a softcopy to save time?
I'm happy to share my files if it's for personal homeuse. Just email me. My email is in my profile.

Homemade Game of Dominoes

How to Make It

- Using powerpoint is the easiest as it has the funtions I need to draw shapes, customise the colours, insert photos.

- Photos can be obtained from professional photography catalogue websites like, I specifically choose photos with a white background, where possible, as it looks "clean" and more professional. He seems to be more interested when I use such photos.

- For my son who's still young, I just used 4 different pictures. Ensure that you have 2 sets of all the combinations from that 4 pictures as it'll make it much easier to play with a young child.

- Print, cut and paste unto cardboard/art card. You can instead use plastic/paper corrugated material for a chunkier feel for very young kids or kids whose fine motor skills are more challenged.

Variations for Playing It

- For younger kids, you may neeed to customise the rules of the game. Instead of turning over a domino piece and then finding that there isnt a matching picture (which may greatly discourage him), you can deliberately choose a domino piece that has one matching picture & have the child match & place it side by side.

- Themes that can be used: colours, numbers, alphabets, ocean animals, farm animals etc. There really is no end to the possible variations. Start with a theme that interests the child e.g. the theme vehicles could have cards with the pictures of a digger, dump truck, bus and train. When he gets the idea of the game, introduce other sets which have themes you target.

- For encouraging speech/as part of speech therapy activity, what I did was to ask him which side he'd like the next piece to join up to. Then have him verbally request for a piece that has that photo. E.g. "Mama, I want a card with a photo of the man kicking". Since we're currently practising the "c/k" sound & it's still hard for him to say such a long sentence, I just have him say "kicking" or "walking" or "cooking" etc.

Benefits of the Dominoes Game

- reinforce vocabulary of new themes introduced in other activities

- turn taking

- visual discrimination

- reinforce concepts introduced in other activities e.g. counting (counting the dots) or numbers (matching roman numerals) or colours

- fine motor

- hand eye coordination

- as a speech therapy game

Why I Made It
- Last year, I came across a version of printable dominoes for young kids on one of the toddler activities websites. It had the traditional dots on the face of it except that it's much larger and colour coded. We played it to reinforce counting & colour recognition.

- This time round, I made it as part of speech therapy homework to encourage practising the middle "k" sound (see earlier post:
Want a copy?
I'll gladly share the set photographed above with those who want it (saves you time) - just drop me an email. (My email is in my profile)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Little Surprises

Over the past week, there have been little things that he did which took me by surprise, They were pleasant surprises.

(1) Number 40
I was occupied with preparing materials for him, so I brought out an old toy for him to keep himself busy. It was a hexagonal container shape sorter where one end has a clock face with moveable clock hands. The clock face has minutes (5, 10, 15, 20 etc) written on it instead of the common 1, 2, 3 to indicate hours.

He took a look and said "fourty". Thinking I heard wrongly, I just said "yes", in case he did really say "fourty" but I did not echo him back to say "fourty" because I wanted to test what I heard. I approached him & asked him "where is it...can you show me?". He pointed to "40".

I was surprised. I hadnt reinforced his numbers for a very long time, having been busy learning phonics myself, preparing material & teaching him. The last time I taught him numbers, I prepared cardboard cut-outs up to 50. But back then, he showed interested up to 30 only.

I think perhaps he picked it up from TV. He watches quite a lot of TV as that's the only way he'll have his meals, unfortunately. I know it's a bad habit, one which is slow to break out of, but there's a reason how it came to be. That is a very long story not meant to be told now.

He watches educational stuff on Playhouse Disney, TVIQ & now Nick Jr (for Mandarin). TVIQ is sometimes is meant for older kids as it teaches advanced maths stuff like adding, subtracting double digit numbers, division, multiplication.

I'm just glad that he's recognises the numerals "40" to mean "fourty". Whether he knows the quantity which 40 represents & how to count from 20 to 40 is another matter!

(2) Cross hands
This incident was informed to me by my helper. He was trying to adjust his bib to the front of his chest cos it had rotated to his back (it looked like a mini cape). He couldn't. He ended up with both arms crossed over his chest, hands on opposite shoulders. That is a position that he could not do before. I'm happy that he's more flexible in that sense. I think the CST sessions twice a week & the Neurosuit helps a lot.

(3) Bumps to roti canai shop
He really does observe a lot more than I realise. Strangers often ask why he looks so angry, as he often as a frown over his eyebrows. I tell them that he's serious, not angry, serious in oberving on-goings.

In the past I found out that he observed the bumps on the road. For e.g. he knows there are 2 bumps on the road in front of his soon-to-be kindergarten. He knows how many more bumps there are on the road up to our house. He knows there are lots of bumps on the 2 roads leading to his music class.

The examples above are roads often travelled. We dont often go to the roti canai place nearby. When I told him that's where we're going, he said "3 bumps". It surprised me.

I find it strange he's so observant of road bumps. He even knows the road sign for a road bump, which is something we never taught him. When he plays with his toy cars, he makes them go over imaginary road bumps - and it's very accurate in the sense that the front tyres are lifted off the floor first, followed by the back wheels. He doesn't just lift the whole car off. Even when he's playing with his pull along toys or push toys, he insists on going over bumps, whether self imagined, or real ones which he sometimes want us to make for him.

If you have some insight on why he might be so interested in bumps, do drop me a comment or email me! I'm not worried about it but am puzzled.

(4) Counting in Mandarin
My husband has taught him the mandarin equivalent of counting 1-10. I havent been reinforcing it but he is able to recite it, thankfully. The other day, my helper informed me that he counted the drawer knobs (ee, erh, sahn) in his room in Mandarin! He was also counting his steps as he was running across his room (1-4). Reciting is one thing while counting is another. He can count in English, but he has never done it in Mandarin, until that day.

(5) Following actions of action songs on TV
In the past, he wouldn't or couldn't follow the actions of songs on pre-school programmes, whether Barney, Mickey's Playhouse, Hi-5. These days, he would sometimes follow along. His movements are not entirely accurate. For e.g. if hands are lifted straight up, he's would be half way up with his elbows bent. I'm happy that at least he's trying to imitate and his reflexes are a tiny bit faster.

(6) Hospital
I wrote about how he's learnt to "get out" of doing exercises in his NeuroSuit by saying that he's sick. He's taken it a notch higher!

My helper tested him by saying that if he's sick, he has to go to the hospital & so asked if would he like to go to the hospital. He replied "no". But that evening, when said we'll go to the park the next day, he said "I'm sick...go hospital".

I was surprised as he strongly dislikes hospitals. But in the last 2 months that he needed nebuliser, he was behaving very well during the nebuliser treatments. He was even smiling to the nurses there. I'm glad his fear of hospitals is subsiding.

Friday, September 18, 2009

optician, optometrist, ophthamologist, orthoptist

Try saying optician, optometrist, ophthamologist, orthoptist really fast. Quite a tongue twister!

In an earlier posting, I mentioned that a few therapists & his music teacher advised that his eyes should be tested. I dont think he is long sighted or short sighted as he can see things both far away & tiny things up close. So I never pursued it further.

Upon repeated advice from them, I thought I better do something about it. Since I didnt think he has the usual long/short sightedness problem common to most people, I asked his therapist what exactly he should be tested for. She said "depth perception" because she always notices how he hesistates in walking over from a tiled floor to a vinyl black & white chequered floor.

Depth perception is relied on heavily in activities such as throwing & catching a ball; stepping up/down steps etc. He cant catch a ball. He hesitates in stepping up/down steps he's unfamiliar with. While these point to a depth perception problem, I think it could also be simply due to his cerebral palsy (gross motor problem).

I also noticed that when he draws his zig zag lines it doesnt stay horizontal but slopes downwards to the right. He also seldom writes within the lines when practising writing numbers or letters. He also seldom pastes a sticker within the drawn out designated place. Again, it could be a depth perception issue or just his fine motor problem.

His music teacher pointed out that one reason kids might be hesistant or have slow reflexes is because of vision problems. My son has slow reflexes but it could be due to his CP.

So, best to rule out any vision problems & if there is one, to have it treated early.

So I was on the internet today, finding out about depth perception testing as I have no idea what it involves.

Would it appear threatening to him? Big machines would scare him. A hospital setting would make him very anxious.

Which type of professional performs such tests? I had previously asked my optician about his qualification because he seemed so young. (He's the son of the usual person I went to over a decade ago) Thankfully he wasn't offended and explained the differences between an optician, optometrist & ophthamologist. That was over 2 years ago. I vaguely remembered the differences.

So, after a few hours on the internet, phone calls to 2 mothers, an ophthamologist, an orthoptist, receptionists of another ophthamologist I am still left with one unanswered question. But this is what I found out:

There are very few paediatric ophthamologists in Malaysia. I found one which seemingly good experience ("CV" was posted on the website) & came highly recommended by a mother.

There are probably also very few orthoptists in Malaysia. The one I came to know & spoke to was recommended by my son's ophthamologist.

There are lots of optometrists and even more opticians - just look at the number of specs shops in the malls or in your neighbourhood.

This is what I understand about the differences between an optician, optometrist, ophthamologist, orthoptist:

Ophthamologists are medical doctors (M.D). They've done their medical degree at uni, internship, and further medical & surgical training in eye care. They do the whole works in relation to eye care - eye exam, diagnosis, treatment, management, surgery etc.

Optometrist are not medical doctors. They have though gone to uni for their degree in optometry. They too do eye exams, diagnosis, treatment, management...but not surgery. If you wear glasses, they're the ones at specs shops who diagnose, treat & prescribe your glasses.

Opticians have attended technical courses or attained a diploma. They analyse the prescription, dispense it, reorder previous contact lens prescription, adjust your glasses.

Orthoptist - this term is new to me! My son's ophthamologist referred me to her because she does not perform depth perception testing. An orthoptist is also involved in eye care but in a very specialised area of diagnosing & treating defective eye movement & coordination. This area includes binocular vision problems like squints, double vision, lazy eye, not being able to see in 3D etc.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Homemade Game of Snap

In the next few posts I'll write about the homemade games/activities I've recently made.

The one I'll write about in this post (the snap game) was easy. It's also timely as Hari Raya is just a few days away! Just download from this website, print, cut and paste on cardboard.

There are other activities & crafts from Playhouse Disney - just get to their main website, then click on the "celebration centre" icon and choose the festival you want e.g. christmas, hari raya.

This game helps in:

- fine motor (picking up one card at a time from a pile of cards; putting it on the central pile)

- turn taking (waiting for his turn to flip a card over)

- memory (he has to remember what was the immediate past card)

- concentration (depending on age, he may lose concentration quite fast, so keep the game short)

- reflexes (has to be fast to shout 'snap')

Variations of the game can be made yourself at home:

- use the game to reinforce concepts that you're teaching e.g. shapes, colours, alphabets, numbers, sight words

- use the game to reinforce themes or subjects that you introduced e.g. a set for ocean animals contains 2 octopuses, 2 starfishes etc; a set for farm animals

- use the cards for a classic memory game by placing them face down in a row & having him turn two cards at a time to find matching pairs.

I find that powerpoint is very useful. Photos can be obtained from various professional online photo catalogues like and and
For some of them you may have to register before being able to download. You dont have to pay for the photos unless you want them without the company's watermark. For home use (& not commercial use), my son didnt mind having the watermark.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

He's a visual learner

According to education experts, there are 3 main types of learning: physical (tactual-kinesthetic), visual and auditory. It is useful to know your child's learning style as you can be better at helping him learn.

I read about learning styles last week on and heard it mentioned at a talk at the Parent Support Group last Saturday. A child's learning style, though is not set in stone and may change over time.

There are 2 kinds of visual learners: picture learners and print learners, with most kids being a mixture of both. Picture learners think in images while print learners think in words. Print learners quickly learn to read and can easily memorise the spelling of words. They like to practice writing and forming letters.

A visual learner learns faster if ideas or concepts are taught in a visual manner. For e.g. when teaching maths, he'll learn faster if he watches the teacher solve the problem on the blackboard or sees himself solve the problem with concrete materials.

An auditory learner learns better if he listens to the teacher explain it and answers the childs questions.

A physical learner does better if he uses an abascus, blocks etc to learn the maths concept.

Knowing your son's learning style is just the first step. What's more important is how you leverage on that.

I've suspected from an early age that my son has a good visual memory. He definitely does not have photographic memory but his visual learning is his most obvious among the 2 styles. I have many boxes of homemade picture cards; a few posters for sticking on the wall; homemade cut outs of numbers in many styles; a few sets of alphabets and numbers; a small drawer full of various educational VCDs (I know, it's been advised that kids younger than 2 should not watch TV, but it really helped him); lots of different types of books; and various homemade activities.

The article from babycenter suggests to provide the child the materials he needs to learn & indulge his interests. Examples:

- if he likes games, use card games to sharpen his memory and concentration skills

- have lots of books available

- visual learners may benefit from educational TV, though it's not recommended for all kids

- spend lots of time going over the alphabet if he likes letters and words

I believe in multi-sensory learning as I think that enhances the learning of the subject. In the article, it quites an expert as saying that it's crucial that parents work with multiple senses as well so the kid becomes more rounded & use various strategies to grasp new information.

I have various activities to stimulate his physical learning too, especially because he has gross and fine motor disabilities. For e.g. when teaching him patterns I also use of his wooden blocks or pieces of Mega Bloks & not just the homemade printed strips stuck on cardboard.

To strengthen his auditory skills, the article advised to encourage them to listen to music & accompany verbal directions with visual cues. When I teach him how to cross the road safely, I point left when asking him to look left, then point right when asking him to look right etc.

I like the fact that the article included this paragraph: "In the end, what mattres most is that you nuture and support your child's learning, no matter what his style. Follow his lead & focus not on how great he's becoming at certain subjects but how great he is in general. Good parenting counts most as it's essential for learning and discovery."

For the article on visual learning, which also has links to other learning styles:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ni Hao, Kai-Lan!

This morning, my helper pointed out an article in yesterday's paper, which I hadn't had the time to read yet. It was about programmes for kids to teach them Mandarin, to be newly aired on Nick Jr today. She says my son likes the character Kai-Lan.

So at 10.30am today, I switched on Nick Jr and watched it with him. He does indeed like it. The lead character, Kai Lan is cute & loveable. I liked how they incorporated various things into just one episode:
- introduced chinese culture (today was on dragonboat festival);
- "interactive" (he got up & joined in when they invited him to do the dance);
- introduced bits of mandarin similar to the way Dora teaches Spanish to English speakers;
- showed what kids should do when they're angry;
- friends help each other
- taught that it's ok to lose & you should try again.

The bits of Mandarin they taught today:
- Ni hao = hello, which will be recurring given it's the title of the cartoon
- Ye ye = grandfather, who from what I read, is a regular character in the cartoon
- counting 1, 2, 3 in Mandarin (my husband has taught him to count to 10 in Mandarin)
- Tiao = jump
- goodbye in mandarin (I dont know how to spell it...maybe it's "jai jian")
- other bits were said quite fast e.g. ne tiao tao hen hao = you jumped very well

I'm glad that there's finally a good quality cartoon to teach Mandarin. I'm such a "banana" that I can't teach Mandarin to my son. It's good timing too cos he's within the show's target age group.

It's being aired on Nick Jr, Astro Channel 612, weekdays at 10.30am.

There are other Mandarin shows & Mandarin dubbed shows of popular cartoons like Dora showing on Nick Jr too. For details:

Homemade activity to quicken his reflexes

His therapist reminded me of a game which can train him to quicken his muscular reflexes. From young until now, he can be quite slow in using his fine motor to do things. Not always, but often enough for me to notice. He has definitely improved over time & practice, but it's still delayed.

This morning, in his suit, we did various things on the circular swing. I started off by having him lie on his tummy on the swing. He was rocked him back & forth at varying speeds whilst giving him a label (flying like superman) so he registers the action with the label for future purposes.

To make it fun, I got my imagination going. He's a bird. He's a helicopter: chop, chop, chop. He's just himself with superpowers flying with the sound: aaackkk, aaackkk, ooo, ooo (he chose that sound effect). He's flying over the garden, over the trees, over to his kindergarten to join his friends.

This was in preparation for him to eventually be able to lie on his tummy on a moving swing and throw objects (ball, rings) at a target placed on the floor. The idea is that he has to anticipate the rhythm, plan & time his movements to throw it. I did not reach that stage this morning. That was not my intention today.

After swinging him on his tummy, I tried variations to reach that eventual objective. I put him back on the floor. This time, an empty box was placed on the swing instead & had the swing moving back & forth. I got some old picture cards out for him to throw into the box when the box on the swing got near to him. He could only place a few cards in (less than 5). I found it tricky cos being a circular swing, it's hard to control the swing so it moves purely front & back, without moving sideways.

So I changed the game. I got on to the swing with him (otherwise, he'd not want to play anymore) and I positioned myself such that I had good control of the swing using both my legs/feet. That minimised the sideways movement. Then, a box of cloth balls (that aren't bouncy) was placed on his lap. His legs were hanging over the edge of the swing. The target: a big laundry basket placed on the floor in front of us. We played a few rounds of this. He could throw (more like drop actually) quite a few in.

I did this activity at home cos we didnt head out to the park. It was very hazy & hot. And he isnt as keen anymore to use the equipments there.

Avoiding exercise!

In the past week, my son has realised that he can avoid or at least reduce the amount of exercise he has to do in his NeuroSuit.

He must have observed that when he was sick in July & August, he didnt have to use the suit. After that I was very careful in observing him. If he sounded like he had phlegm (early indication of potentially becoming sick), or if he coughed or vomitted consecutively (other early indications of being sick), I would not put him in the suit.

Later in the week, I started asking him if he was well or sick when the above indications appeared. I wanted him to be able to tell me (or later on, his teacher) if he felt sick.

He started telling me that he was sick. The first few times, I wasnt sure whether to believe him but I gave him the benefit of the doubt as I really didnt want him to fall ill again so soon.

Then when the "I'm sick" continued, and there werent any indications of being sick, I knew that he was avoiding exercising in his suit. I tested him out. Just 10minutes into our evening walk, I asked if he was well. His reply came as "No, I'm sick". So, I promptly said that we'll have to go back since he's sick. "No, no, no" he said. I asked again if he was sick. He replied, "No, not sick"

So my son is smart enough to have learnt to get out of exercising by saying he's sick! But I do closely observe him, in case he really is falling ill.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Negative attention & spanking

Over the past few weeks, my son has resorted to intentionally pushing out the retractable mosquito netting at the living room sliding door. It's happened so many times. Each time it has happened, I noted that it's due to 2 reasons:

- him wanting attention while I or others in the house were busy

- it happened when he got angry (release of anger)

I responded in the following manner:

- I'd ask why he did it. He usually cant answer if the reason was to seek attention. If it was due to release of anger, he'd say so.

- I'd explain what are the alternative actions available in those scenarios. E.g. if angry, he can punch Taz, his punching bag (inflated with air). Address the reason behind his action by showing him the correct way to respond. Dont just teach what he should not do.

- I'd explain why he should not do it (that it'd ruin the net & that papa would get angry)

- I'd get him to help fix it (teaching him there are consequences to his actions)

- I'd give him a time out (but I stopped time outs cos it wasn't working)

He's still pushing out the netting. I've not succeeded yet. Perhaps it requires consistency to get the message across. And it makes it harder when other adults in the house use a different approach, does not understand why he does that & believes in spanking.

I've stated before that I dont believe in spanking. Perhaps it would work on other kids. Perhaps I'm dead wrong in my believe. It's a highly controversial topic with strong arguments on both sides.

I believe that by spanking or hitting a child, you're teaching him that it's ok to hit/spank someone else. So, he's more likely to hit other kids. When that happens, the parent would of course get angry & perhaps hit the kid as punishment. The kid gets a mixed message - its ok for some people to hit but not for others. Mama can hit me, but I cant hit others? It's confusing for a young child. Walk the talk, I say.

Furthermore, the child would get a shock the first time you hit him. Then he'll of course remember the pain right then. Maybe he'll stop that action for a while until he forgets or loses control of his emotions (he's still immature). Then he's likely to repeat it again (kids being kids) at another time (unless it shocked him so much that he's traumatised or constitutes abuse).

There's also the chance that as an immediate reaction to the first time you hit him, he'll purposely repeat what he's not supposed to do, just to test the boundary with the parent, right there and then. So, the parent hits again to "teach him a lesson", this time harder & with patience wearing thin. A power struggle ensues. When the parent is angry, it becomes a dangerous time to discipline by hitting. Very often, the parent releases his anger through the act of hitting. It's hard to control how hard you hit, if you're angry.

So say that he does stop "being naughty" doing what he's not supposed to do. Kids being kids, they'll end up doing something else deemed "naughty". The parent then hits again, to "teach" him. Over time, the hitting would slowly lose it's "effectiveness". The parent may resort to hitting harder, or progress from hitting with the hand to using the rotan. It impact of the pain would have to escalate to get the same "effectiveness" as the first time he was hit.

There is also the emotional aspect to be careful of. Hitting instills fear. Depending on the character of the child, he might bottle up resentment. He may no longer trust the parent. He would learn that if something unacceptable happens, he should try to avoid being hit as it's painful. For e.g. if he broke something whether accidentally or on purpose, he might hide the broken pieces. Or, he might lie to get out of being spanked. Or it might teach him to "cover his tracks" (be really sneaky) so as not to get caught. It doesnt teach him to take responsibility for his actions.

As a child, I feared being spanked with the rotan. In fact, just having to face an angry mum or dad was bad enough for me. I feared failing class tests - some teachers would make you line up in front of the class & hit my palm with a ruler. The mere anticipation would make me quiver. Tests badly stressed me. Even if I knew the topic of the test, the fear could make my mind go blank or make me doubt myself.

Not spanking does not mean there's no discipline. There are other ways of disciplining & handling such situations. It requires erasing what we learnt from our parents that spanking is THE way to discipline our child. There are books out there on this.

I do not know if my approach will work on my son. I'm not a parenting expert. The reasons I stated above simply seem logical to me & are probably bits that I've read from parenting articles & the babycentre website. They are merely my view points. If only there was a manual that came with the kid we're given!

Photos of his writing & drawing

This past week I've been pleasantly surprised with his writing. I've not been actively getting him to practice writing. My focus recently has been on building the foundations for reading. Also, I've been busy this week attending to other matters, so had very little time to spend with him.

These are the photos of his writing & drawing taken this week (aged 3yrs 9mths):

Look at his writing of number 2, bottom left of photo

I was really surprised with his writing of number 2. Of course, it's not perfect. I dont expect it to be given his disability. I'm just very glad that he's progressed, without me forcing him to do pages of writing.

He wrote it using the chunky Tesco marker pens. The sheet was laid on a hard surface, over a small plastic container about 20cm in height. He was seated on the floor.

This worksheet is available for free from The sheets are graded by skills & are grouped by themes. The sheet in the photo has the aim of teaching to count & to write numbers 1 & 2.

I like his letter "S" on the right The photo above is of his writing on a big whiteboard, which was placed on the floor, leaning against a wall. He used whiteboard marker.

He wrote "W H H", then "OSO" and repeated "OSO" below it. OSO is the name of the cartoon character, Special Agent Oso, shown on Playhouse Disney. I was pleased that he could write "S". I read that curved letters are harder compared to straight letters like "E", "F"

Depiction of a face

His drawing seems to have evolved. The eyes are now circles instead of dots. The nose is a "V" instead of a dot. I think the ">" on the left of the face is either an arm/hands or an ear. He drew this today while I was out. I just noticed it & he's asleep now so I didnt have the chance to ask him what the ">" symbolised.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Self confidence

When tasked with something he's unsure of, he'll say "I dont know". He doesn't give it a try. He's afraid of being wrong.

Last night, I was looking through my homemade word family list & craft activities I downloaded from the internet & he was interested in looking too. So I tested the word family list out on him impromptu. He could read most words on the first few sheets. Then it came to the word "hen" which he did read out. But he mistook it for "hand" and pointed to the palm of his hand. My helper laughed and pointed out his error. Oooo! The look on his face changed. He was upset. I didn't console him, but I did explain the difference between "hen" and "hand". My helper was trying to console him. Quite quickly, it progressed to silent tears & then crying out loud!

Today, his music teacher played the "Dont Give Up" song which says to try again. It's something I really want to inculcate in my son. I believe that if he can overcome that fear of being wrong or at least not always seek praise for getting the right answer or to be brave enough to try again, he will build up resilience. Resilience will take him far, help him survive in this world & is even more important for him given his disabilities.

"I dont want"

My son definitely has a mind of his own now.

He's frequent phrases pointing to this conclusion are: "I dont want" and "little bit more". I'm glad that he is able to use his words to express his desires, even though it's simple words. I'm glad there's less whining.

He loves to watch animated movies like Disney's Pixar Cars, Nemo, Monsters Inc, with Cars being his all time favourite because of his love of cars. He'll insist on watching to the end. We have it on VCD, so we're still able to trick him by fast forwarding to the end of a disc.

If it's a show on Playhouse Disney, he'll ask for "little bit more", like he did last night when it was time to brush his teeth.

A mother of a same aged boy said that when asked to do some work (I didnt ask what type of work), her son would retort with "I dont want". She says that he too asks to watch TV often.

Last night threw a temper, refusing to be allowed to brush his teeth properly. He cried badly until he vomitted his entire dinner. It's been a long time since he cries so badly. Looking back, I think it was because it was way past his bedtime. Also, my helper did get to brush his teeth very briefly & he was let off, before I insisted that his teeth be brushed again, more thoroughly. So perhaps he thought it was unfair as he had already brushed his teeth, so why brush again.

I feel that at times, my helper is a bit too soft on him, giving in to his wants. I used to be like that too (very selective in choosing my battles with him) when he was younger (up to early this year) cos back then feeding him, ensuring he had sufficient nutrition & minimising the frequent vomitting were top priorities.

Now that he's better at eating & much less vomitting, it's time to set boundaries. It'll take a lot of patience, a lot of practice, consistenty & a firm approach (firm but not violent - I dont believe in spanking).

Friday, September 11, 2009

In-your-face unsolicited advice & help

In the past even without him wearing the NeuroSuit for his outdoor exercises, we occasionally come across mothers with their kids in tow, who strike up a conversation. It doesnt happen often because our walks/exercises are usually on weekdays, when most mothers would be at work.

Now, when he has on his suit, he tends to attract more attention. That is fine by me, as most of them would be at a distance with a curious look on their face. I've got used to it.

Last Friday, at the Lake Gardens, a retired lady approached us while I was adjusting his suit. She was very direct, asking what he was wearing, with all the follow on questions from there.

I guess I entertained her out of politeness even though I was getting flustered, struggling to keep my son still enough so I could adjust his suit. What really got to me was when I realised she either wasnt really listening to my answers, or that she didnt believe me. I had earlier told her that my son can not only walk but run without the suit. After several more questions, my son broke into a run & she was totally taken aback by it, saying "He can RUN!". In my heart, I gave a silent "I told you!"

Turns out she's a retired principal who sold her kindergarten. She had a few special needs kids enrolled previously. She's now helping to raise funds for charitable organisations. She was very eager to help me without me giving the slightest indication of needing help. She took down my number saying that someone from the organisation will call me & share information on their contacts with me. She also gave suggestions implying them to be the miracle cure (do this & he'll be fine). For e.g.
- to improve his oral motor, get him to open his mouth wide & give a big hearty laugh.
- to help him catch up with his peers, get him to mix with other kids
Well, if only it were that simple, he'd be normal by now.

I know she has good intentions & meant well. I'm not in the least bit angry at her. In fact, there was a lesson or two or three in it for me:

I learnt that some people just love to give unsolicited advice to others. By helping others in that manner, they feel good inside. It didnt occur to them that I'm doing so much more with my son than what they think. However, in order for them to give help, there must be a party receiving the help. So, I decided that in future, when approached by such persons, I'll help them feel good inside by letting them feel they're helping me.

I've a new tactic to handle such situations too. I'll give polite short answers to their questions, without elaborating or explaining much. When they continue with more questions, I'll ask if they're from the medical profession. If they are, then I know how to cater my answers accordingly. Those in the medical profession would already be familiar with a lot of the terminology & saves me time & energy.

I've also learnt that I've to be careful myself, not to be one of those giving unsolicited advice!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lake Gardens

I have switched his morning exercise from Titiwangsa Park to Lake Gardens. He hasnt been keen on using the equipment at Titiwangsa the past few visits. He often wanted to be carried even before we got to the playground (when walking from the car park to the playground).

He probably needed a change of scenery. Or it could have been too hot & sunny for him as the children's playground at Titiwangsa Park is not shaded. The Neurosuit tends to be hot as it adds another layer in our already hot & humid weather. The smaller children's playground at Lake Gardens is partially shaded.

He's also getting heavier (16kg) & with the suit on, I struggle to carry him all the way from the playground to the car. The suit itself isnt that heavy but when he wears it & I'm carrying him, it makes a noticeable difference! He's already more than 30% of my weight without the suit on. At Lake Gardens, the car park is nearby.

He was happy to be back in Lake Gardens. We used to often bring him there before we discovered Titiwangsa. This bridge is still one of his favourite pieces of equipment (see photo above).

Now in his NeuroSuit, he wasn't keen on playing on the equipment compared to previously without the suit on. He did play on the equipment but not as much compared to previous times. I think it's because it requires so much more energy & effort climbing, stepping, balancing etc.

He was happy to observe other kids running around & the cars moving in / out of the car park. He did also run around but not with the others. The helicopter (photo above) is also a favourite of his (& other kids). He is now able to sit on a see saw for what seems like quite a long time without sliding off to one side & I can now be on the opposite seat of the see saw playing. He struggles climbing up the ladder when in the suit, so I help him if he wants to climb up.

When there weren't many kids (less likelihood of being shoved or pushed), I sat on the nearby bench & observed from a distance. I wanted to slowly transition away from always being by his side.

This equipment is new. It's really good for him to practice the step up/step down movement. The hanging steps gives added challenge to his depth perception. He went through it just once, holding my hand. Tried other times to get him to use it but failed. I'll not give up!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Learning to teach phonics

I had written in an earlier post about my visit to a child enrichment centre (see link:

What I didnt mention was that I also spoke to the teacher who teaches kids to read. My friend mentioned of a few other kids who've successfully been trained by her to read. She had also taken in a few (very few) special needs kids in her younger days.

She's very experienced. I told her my son has CP, which is a neuromuscular disorder, where his motor skills are affected & his intelligence is not affected. At the end of the conversation, I left quite disheartened. Here is a snippet of the 3 topics that she addressed one after another & affected me emotionally:

Can he write?
No. His fine motor skills are affected. But I work around that by using moveable alphabets.

Can he speak?
Yes, but softly & not clearly. His speech muscles are also affected.

Oh, so he'll have problems with spelling. What are you doing about his speech?
He sees a speech therapist once a month. It used to be weekly, but she says he's progressed well that it can be monthly.

Is he potty trained?
No. I'm trying to potty train him at home. He just wets himself all over.

Ah? (incredulous look on her face) Cant he be in diapers?
Oh, yes, he'll be in diapers when he comes for class.

But he could poo poo in class!
Well, class is only 45 min, once a week. Chances are not high that he'll poo during class. Anyway, if he does, I'll just change him.

I then had to divert the conversation to the things that my son can do, in terms of phonics & reading. I had brought along the homemade sheets (missing ending consonant & middle vowel) to show her. Having mentioned that he could do the ending consonant sheets but not the middle vowel ones, she immediately spotted my error. It was apparently because I was moving too fast, that I skipped a step.

She taught me that I had to teach him to blend a vowel & consonant. When I told her how he had problems identifying whether to use vowel a or vowel e in the missing middle vowel activity because they both sound the same, she taught me how to teach short vowel sounds.

She was in a rush for her next appointment. She said that she's fully booked, every day, from morning to 10 at night! She's a very popular teacher. My friend did say previously that in the past, there had been a waiting list to accept new students.

After my visit to the child enrichment centre, I was still emotionally upset. Mildly upset, not hugely upset cos I've had a similar experience at the kindergarten only worse.

Her questioning made me feel like the way I did when I first met the principal of his soon to be kindergarten. Questions were asked on what he could do, to which most of were answered with a "no, not yet" & followed on with a series of problems they the teachers would face.

I felt they just saw his disabilities & not his abilities. I was upset. I had expected teachers to assess the child as a whole & to accept whatever were the child's abilities & work from there.

I felt I had to fight for good education for my son. I felt I had to defend his abilities. I did not understand why they were so focused on what he cant do.

I could not work through my emotions. I didnt understand what I was feeling. I wondered if it's normal to feel that way even though at that time I didnt understand what I was feeling.

I talked about it with his CST therapist on Monday. She assured me that it's normal cos I'm his mum, his protector. She equated it to being asked whether you're a competent mum; it's as though they're asking if you're doing enough/doing the right things.

I know that this is my problem. It was I who was upset. I always have a choice in how I can react to a situation. This is something that I have to learn. But it's hard. It hurts when people 'reject' my child due to his disabilities. I cannot protect my child forever. It is a harsh world out there.

The teacher was merely being practical & going straight to the point in asking those questions. She was kind enough to point out my mistake in teaching him phonics. She was kind enough to give me tips on how to teach him the short vowel sounds. For that I'm grateful.

This story has a happy ending even though my son was not accepted as her student.

Early the next morning, she conveyed a message through my friend that she's willing to teach me so that I can teach my son (train the trainer concept) without charge. And that it'll be on-going in the sense that I can come back to her for help whenever I get stuck.

I was so happy! I had hope again! Everything seemed possible. God was good to have opened doors. God was gracious & provided help.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Speech therapy homework

I struggled to think of ways to achieve the objectives set out during the last speech therapy session, which I had written about in:

It really bothered me the rest of the day & night. It was hard to incorporate those words with a middle 'k' used in the session as we dont use it in daily life (e.g. peacock, racket). I decided to pray about it & the next morning, I had some new ideas! Wow. God's good.

I woke up in the morning, remembering Caroline Bowen's website. The therapist had a few months ago pointed out that Caroline Bowen has a good website on "minimal pairs". This time round, I was hoping to find examples of other words that contained the middle 'k' sound.

From her website, I got to understand that the method his therapist was using was called "chaining". It's used in cases where the child is able to say the target sound in words that end with the target sound (e.g. duck) but not in words that begin with the target sound (e.g. cat). Apparently, by getting the child to practice saying words with the target sound in the middle (e.g. jacket), will enable the child to eventually say words with the target sound at the beginning (e.g. cough).

Caroline Bowen is a speech language pathologist (speech therapist) who has a very useful website. Lots of resources for free downloading. For the minimal pairs acitivity, she has done up lots of words with pictures! Saves you so much time in preparing the material. Here's the link:

These are the ideas that I've come up with, to get him practising words with middle 'k' sound:

1. Homemade dominoes - I'll replace the dots with pictures of words with middle 'k' sound (see newer posting for photo, details on how to make it etc:

2. Homemade pattern game - instead of using shapes or colours to teach him to recognise patterns, I'll replace those with picture of words with middle 'k' sound.

3. Homemade memory card game - this is the traditional flip 2 cards over at a time until you match up all the cards. I'll use pictures of words with middle 'k' sound.

4. Nursery rhyme songs - haven't come across songs with lots of the target words yet...but it's an idea. If you know of any, help me out by leaving a comment!

5. Daily activities - I've to keep an 'ear out' for suitable words used in daily activities & get him to repeat after me.

My progress so far:

So far, I've created the dominoes game & pattern game but yet to cut & paste them on cardboard. I'll write & share about those in a separate blog cos those activities can be done for normal kids too.

In terms of idea #5 above, these are the words with middle 'k' that I've picked up so far & got him to repeat & the situations in which I get him to repeat are in brackets:

- buckle (when I buckle him into his car seat)
- blinking (he notices there's a tiny light in my car that blinks)
- checking (he likes to check the bumper of my car when we arrive home)
- kicking (kids kicking a ball at the park)
- parking (parking the car)
- cooking (helper cooking)
- looking (at various times in a day)
- lucky (at various times)
- pancake (he likes to say 'flat like a pancake')
- blanket (he loves his blankie)
- King Kong (nickname he gave my sis)
- duckling (storybook he has about a duckling)
- tickle (we love to tickle him)

I'll have to run by this list with his therapist to make sure I'm on the right track. Hopefully, we can see positive results soon!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Little bits of progress

This is a round up of the little bits of progress that I've noted in my son over the past 2 weeks or so.

1. Cranial Sacral Therapy

His CST therapist was away for the month of August. He resumed his therapy last week, on Wed & Thurs. On Wednesday he noted that his left leg was a bit tight so she did myofascia release on him. She noted it was better on Thurs.

During the evening walks on Wed & Thurs, I noted that he spoke quite audibly (in terms of volume & clarity). I've noted this happening before where sometimes in the same evening after his CST, he either has better standing posture (straigther back) or clearer speech.

I also noted that he sat more often in a cross legged manner rather than his usual 'W' sitting over this past weekend - it's an improvement.

She said that although the stability of his hips have improved (compared to a year ago) it still needs to be more stable in order for his jaw to correspondingly be more stable, to see further improvements in his speech.

2. Reading

He surprised me by being able to 'read' these words that I showed him in a book of his: bed, hat, can. He didnt need me to say out the phonic sounds of each letter. He too didnt need to say out the phonic sound of each letter. He merely said the name of the letters, then said out the word.

3. Speech

He continues to speak in short phrases, occasionally a long phrase/sentence comes out. He still babbles which I imagine it to be him practising his speech muscles. I'm trying to remember to model sentences for him to repeat. I do it as and when the situation arises (as opposed to creating new activities for him) so, I do tend to forget sometimes.

He's had a few meltdowns with me because I absolutely could not figure out what he was saying. Not many, just perhaps one a day, for 3 days in the last week or so. Happens when he's hungry & tired. I imagine it'll be difficult when he goes to kindergarten where teachers & friends minght not understand most of his speech. Perhaps having me as his shadow aide is therefore required due to his speech impairment & not just motor impairment.

I've been "singing" the short vowel sounds partly for him to be familiar with them & for me to learn how to say them accurately. His speech therapist says that short vowel / long vowel sounds are difficult for us Malaysians cos we speak English differently from the Westerners. So I've to learn it before I can teach him properly. After 2 days of making it into a catchy jingle, he can say the short vowel 'a' sound more accurately (but not perfectly). Previously he says the sound of 'a' with Malay pronounciation (e.g. 'a' as in the word 'baca').

4. Fine motor

He is able to turn the small lock on the door knob, from a vertical position to horizontal, and twist the knob & pull to open the door of our bedroom. A few months ago, he was already able to do so with the toilet doorknob which is not as tight as the bedroom's.

He still struggles to peel off most types of stickers but noticed that there have been some occasions he did manage to peel off on his own. I'm showing him a new way to peel which will require lots of practice on his part. I've lots of sticker books so that'll keep the interest up.

He is able to stick stickers but not totally within the designated circle, as parts of the sticker would be out of the area. Also, he tends to stick it tilted, not straight/vertical. I'm not sure if these are part of normal development or if it indicates a problem with his vision.

Last week during a CST session, he surprised me by being able to place a finger puppet on his finger, all by himself. It indicates better control of his fingers & co-ordination of both hands.

He also surprised me by placing his toy car's tyres on a finger of both hands. I did not see how he did it - whether he used one hand to insert the tyre onto a finger (in which case, I'm impressed cos his left hand is much weaker than his right), or whether he poked his finger into the tyre, then raised the finger up so the tyre slides down, which might be more likely (which is good too cos fine motor skills & hand-eye coordination are needed).

Visit to a Child Enrichment Centre - 5 Sept 09

My friend had invited me to come over to her son's educational enrichment centre on Saturday. She and 2 other mums with their kids would be there. The other 2 mums are also friends of mine & were bringing their kids to the centre for an assessment with the teachers there.

I was excited to go. Partly because I hadn't met those friends for several months & partly because I'm interested in early childhood education. I didnt bring along my son as he was napping & I wanted to minimise his potential exposure to H1N1.

I didnt get to ask as many questions as I wanted cos I didnt make an appointment with the teachers, whereas the other mums had done so and I sensed that the teachers were tired & in a rush to call it a day.

The centre is divided into 3 main service offerings. First was a methodolgy from Taiwan for brain activity. Another was teaching kids to read using the phonics method. Lastly, was teaching chess to kids. I was interested in the first and second ones.

The Taiwanese methodolgy is offered in several countries worldwide. The methodolgy has activities for kids age 3-6, which are meant to stimulate & develop them in 5 areas: logic, intelligence, creativity, emotion & judgement. I only got to see one out of the 5 areas, as it was the one which my friend's daughter was playing with.

We did talk briefly about my son's condition & she seemed open. She was very patient with the little girl & also in accomodating my questions. I liked that the activities are done at the child's own pace & the teacher is there to guide (not spoon feed the answer or instruct). It's that sense similar to my own approach.

I'm keen on giving it a try. I'll need to bring my son in for an 'assessment' first - more like a trial class really. It's the type of games/activities I'd love to do with my son but which I lack the time & knowledge to do so. The activity that I saw seemed interesting, something I'd like to participate in. It requires thinking, observation, concentration & fine motor.

I feel he's grown to a stage where I now lack the skills (& energy) to take him further e.g. teaching maths, teaching to tell time. I do not know what sort of games 4 yr olds should play (apart from the gross motor, fine motor types). The activities I do with him at home have gone a bit stale, not much new stuff.

For sure I'll still have to do therapy type activites (which I'm fine with) & by God's grace, my creative juices are still running on that count.

Attending kindergarten would of course present him opportunities to develop new skills. But kindergartens can only do so much. The teachers are rushed for time as they have a syllabus to keep to & report back to the principal. There are so many kids in the class for the teacher to attend to - I think 16-18 kids enrolled with just 1 teacher & 1 assistant.

My son is a careful & cautious boy. He first thinks about what it is you want him to do (especially for new tasks), then cautiously does it. He is not the type of kids who rushes through things without giving much thought. Due to his fine & gross motor disability he would need more time to complete a task compared to his peers.

The center's charges are reasonable. It's also not too far from home. It's just once a week. If he's accepted, I believe she said that his class size will be small (just 2 kids, incl my son) since my son has special needs. I would really like to give it a try, even if it's just for a few months to see whether he likes it or not.

Little Tikes - 5 Sept 09

Coming home from music class on Saturday, he wanted to play with his Little Tikes car (sit in/ride in car) & did not want to go inside the house.

Papa's car was parked in the car porch, leaving very little space for him to play but it was not a barrier for him. He still had his fun!

Gross Motor

He pushed his car around papa's car, maneouvering so well that he missed hitting papa's car by 1 cm most times. He moves it very well around the pillars; knows how to avoid going over the tiled edge; makes u-turns; controls the speed rolling downwards to stop just in time to avoid knocking into the gate; gets the positioning right to avoid the opened windows and yet avoid getting into the bushes.

He knows how to ever so slightly adjust his muscle strength, co-ordinate between left & right movements & his arms & legs. I found it quite amazing for a boy with cerebral palsy to be able to do that. This is a boy who even last year, would run and fall over nothing; who would be walking then turn to go right or left & tip over.

As I observed him, I knew that these are the things that would escape the attention of parents of able-bodied kids. It's simply amazing how much goes on in the body & brain to walk, run & in this case, push around his Little Tikes car.

This isn't the first time he's pushed it around. He does it often. He's had a lot of fun with it (& practice). He's such an expert now. It's also not the first time I've seen him doing it at the 'expert level'. I've just not had time to write about it. Lately he's been playing like this while wearing his Neurosuit so perhaps it helped him progress to the 'expert level'.

Speech therapy - 3 Sept 09

There were 3 objectives that the therapist was aiming for in the session.

1. To pace himself & ensure he gives equal emphasis on each syllable spoken.

Reason: he either skips a syllable or says some syllable very softly compared to the other syllables in the same word or phrase.

Method: She did this by placing a strip of 4 coloured squares in front of him & having him repeat after her, phrases that contained 4 syllables (e.g. my elephant) and pointing to each square for each syllable spoken. If he succesfully does it, he gets to play with the "pound-a-ball" toy.

Outcome: He participated for the first few words then created diversions by reading the letters printed on the toy, by naming the colours of the balls, by naming the animals on the pictures framed on the wall etc.

I thought the objective was about pacing (as what he did in previous session), so I brought out his phonic alphabet puzzle to get back his attention. I placed 4 random alphabets in front of him & had him point & say the name of the letter. He happily did this because he's just so interested in naming the alphabets nowadays. It's something he does very well & he knows it.

However, I later learned that this was not a good way because there isn't continuity between the letters, unlike the way you do stringing syllables to form a multi-syllable word.

I noticed that he uses the diversion tactic nowadays when he doesnt want to participate, either due to him perceiving it to be difficult or fear of failure or boredom or perhaps his way of coping with stress.

It reminds me of the early days of speech therapy last year when he could not say a single word. To coax him to merely produce the 'm' sound was very challenging. But the challenge now is different. The challenge now is to get him to participate, because now that he's older, he's exerting his independence more, which is a normal part of growing up.

2. To bring out the 'k' sound, by practising words with 'k' in the middle.

Reason: he could produce the 'k' sound if it was at the end of the word e.g. duck, but not if it's at the beginning of the word (e.g. cat). I'll elaborate on this towards the end of the blog.

How: She did this by showing picture cards of words with a 'k' sound in the middle. E.g. peacock, racket.

Outcome: He could do a few words but needed a lot of modelling & encouragement to say it louder. I think the loudness will come when he's more confident. But the therapist also has a point in that if he speaks so softly, he wont be able to hear that he mispronounced it & thus can't correct himself.

3. To practice speaking in sentences.

Reason: he's still speaking in very short phrases. Most of the time its 2-3 word phrases although I noted there is slowly increased frequency in saying 5 word phrases.

How: She placed several stickers on the table & brought out a paper cup. The idea was for my son to ask for the stickers he wants/state what he wants & he'd then get to stick it on the cup. E.g. he's supposed to say "Mama, I want the fish sticker please".

Outcome: I had to create the interest, to get him to participate. He did say the sentences after I modelled it for him. Noted he had difficulty with peeling off some of the stickers, which is expected due to his fine motor impairment.

My homework

To achieve objective 1 & 2. Objective 3 has been an ongoing which I build into his daily living activities. I still struggle with Objective 1, which was carried forward from the previous session. Objective 2 is new & struggled to think of activities to achieve that. But after lots of thought, prayer & a night's sleep, I've come up with some ideas. Will write about those in a another posting.