Thursday, December 31, 2009

Homemade version of Spindle Box

That's my version of the spindle box. Improvised and homemade.

Very simple to make. I had an old "mooncake box" which was deep enough. Measured and cut strips of corrugated plastic board to make the dividers. Wrote the numbers on an old greeting card and cut it out. The wooden sticks (the size of tongue depressors) was bought from a stationery shop in Tmn Tun.

Simple, attractive and hopefully good enough for the budget conscious. The sticks were sold at Jasema (Rahim Kajai side of Tmn Tun) at RM3.20 for a pack of 25 coloured sticks.

They have plain non-coloured ones too but I was attracted to the multicoloured packet. I also noted that some versions of the spindle box sold start with the number zero and end with the number nine.

It's used to teach the child numbers using concrete materials that they can touch and hold.

My son already knows his numbers until 20, so I made it with the purpose of sensorially showing him what it means when I say the numbers get bigger from 1 to 10. He gets to feel that 10 is a whole lot more sticks than 1. I'm hoping he eventually understands the concept of the number line, in that as you move up or to the right of the number line, the quantity gets bigger.

So far, we've played with it 3 times. He's picked up the message that 10 is much more than 1. He's learnt new maths vocabulary - "least" and "most".

So far, I'm the one counting and picking up the sticks, placing them in his hand for him to place them in the right slot. Even though he's not picking them up and counting them, there is some fine motor work involved for him too cos he's learning how to place them nicely in their slots. He's not so good at that yet.

When he's eventually bored with the sticks, I can substitute it with other materials like seashells, paper stars, straws, beads, cotton balls etc. I could also substitute the box for an old egg carton case that I saved. Perhaps that'll be good for fine motor work too.

I'm including a photo of the commercially available spindle box below.

Homemade Pre-Writing Motor Skills Board

I remember seeing something like this (a wooden version), on the internet (or did I see it at an OT session?), a long time ago. It's for those with fine motor impairment and helps them practice their pre-writing skills.

Whilst searching for that photo above, I came across this website
I know there are toy libraries in Klang Valley because I had searched for them last year. But I doubt they are anywhere near as well stocked as this place in UK. It's part of their NHS (National Health Service). I could probably start my own (after he out grows those toys) but am more likely to donate them to a special needs centre etc. But I digress...

I finally got round to making my improvised version today. Just needed a coloured corrugated plastic board, pencil, ruler and good cutter. I showed him how to use it. The first time, he pressed so lightly that it was hardly visible. I told him to press down harder as he was about to do it the second time. The result is that black line below the blue board. I guided his hand the first time but for the second time, I merely held my hand above his.

I had forgotten about all these boards, as it was a long time ago that I saw it. I was reminded about it when I was recently browsing a local website for Montessori maths stuff.

The local website's pre-writing motor skills board is different. In their version, the child uses a knob to move it around the piece. I plan to make my own version where it's just cut out from corrugated plastic board (but of course!), which means he has to use a pencil to trace out the pattern.

There are plans and then there are plans so stay tuned and you'll see if I do get round to making something similar to that red board above!

More on pedalling

Another short post on pedalling.

I wrote yesterday that there was a stretch where my son pedalled by himself rather "fast". Well, guess what I noted today? I think that he had the help of gravity! I think that stretch where he pedalled fast was very slightly sloping downward. LOL! I didnt notice is yesterday cos the sun had already set and was dark.

When we were at that stretch today, he stalled/stopped several times which means that yesterday, whilst his speed might have been helped by gravity, he certainly did still need to use his own strength to pedal. So I am still happy inspite of this new observation.

Today was another good day of pedalling. This time, there were several stretches where I didn't push him at all and he pedalled himself. I'd guess that for 30-40% of the time, he was pedalling on his own. He was wearing his Neurosuit too. I'm very happy with the progress. God's blessed my effort! All glory to Him.

Orientation Day

It was Orientation Day at his kindergarten today. It's for new students and their parents to get to know the place, the classroom, the science room, the computer room etc. It's the day they announce the allocation of kids to classes.

I had a few weeks ago, called up the principal to request for my son to be with the 5 year old kids. After that I simply prayed, submitting it to God, as it is out of my hands from then on. So, which class was my son put in? The 5 year olds! Yay! An answered prayer.

The ratio of teachers to students is a bit big in this school, but it's not so bad as I'll be with him. At the moment, it's 16 kids in his class. Of the 16 names, I saw 5 familiar names - 4 from the holiday programme and 1 whom we met at the neighbourhood playground. On top of it, the autistic boy isn't in his class. Yay!

My son sat very patiently through most of the powerpoint presentation, clapping when everyone else clapped. But in the last 5 minutes, he was calmouring to leave the hall.

I very briefly met the class teacher, Mrs AJ. I said "very briefly" cos my son wouldn't let go of me, insisting I accompany him as he explored his new class.

We wandered into the computer room. He briefly played a number recognition game. They use a wired mouse there, which he isn't used to. At home, he's used to the laptop's touchpad.

He refused to enter the science room. He probably felt that it was not inviting cos all the windows were shut, lights were off, (stuffy feeling too) and he probably remembered the plastic human skeleton at the back of the room!

We next wandered into the Montessori room. I saw the "pink tower" and immediately brought him there. I showed it to him and he liked it too. It wasnt painted pink, but left bare with a coat of varnish, which is more attractive actually. We spent a few minutes playing with that.

Then he moved on to the red knobless cylinders (he calls it the twin tower as it was displayed beside the pink tower). He needed help arranging those on the table (instead of being stacked up) from smallest to largest.

I have been wanting to get the pink tower for him but held back because it's kinda costly considering it's only made of wood and are mere cube shapes (I know there's a lot of thought behind it) and there are more of those sensorial items that I want to get for him. It's something I can't make myself. It's something I know he needs practice on. He still struggles with arranging objects like stacking cups and stacking blocks. There are several Montessori items that help with that aspect of visual discrimination/grading/visual sense - the broad stairs, the knobbed cylinders, the knobless cylinders. Oh, how I'd love to get my hands on those for my son to practice! Those added up cost a tiny fortune, so I've been thinking long and hard on alternatives.

He saw the kids playing in the playground and headed off to join them. He gravitated to his favourite equipment - the camper van. Have I mentioned he loves vehicles? LOL. He still observes the other kids from outside the camper van and likes to keep the back door closed. He's not gained enough confidence to climb inside it as the place is a bit cramped and kids movements are unpredictable.

We left early as there wasn't any further structured activity and I didnt have any questions to ask (it could wait til Monday) or places to explore.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Just a short post on this topic.

We had stopped his therapies a few days prior to and during Christmas as I was busy, and we had relatives over. So, when they left on Monday, it was on again with the Neurosuit and pedalling.

This evening, he did so well pedalling at Titiwangsa. There was a stretch where he pedalled fast all by himself for a distance of about 40 feet! When I say fast, it's certainly not as fast as his peers, but it was fast by his standard! It was fast enough that I had to break out of a slow walk in oder to keep pace with him!

I did have my hand on his back (but didnt need to push him) for safety reasons as the pavement is uneven, potentially causing him to topple off the bike. There were other short stretches where he pedalled himself, but slower, and a shorter distance. Oh yes, to top it off, he was doing it in his Neurosuit. It's harder to move, and do things whilst in the suit.

Overall, very pleased with his progress in learning to pedal. His pedalling skill has also translated to walking up the stairs using alternate feet slightly more often. He's also lifting his knee up a lot more when walking fast. I'm so encouraged!

Homemade insets

I finally got round to making insets. Had been planning to do so for some months now. Well, there are many things on my To Do list in terms of Montessori activities and never enough time or energy!

Bought a few pieces of different coloured plastic corrugated boards from Tesco this morning. Measured, drew, and cut (use a good craft blade/cutter). As simple as that! I've 2 more shapes drawn out but haven't got round to cutting them.

Actually I bought a cobalt blue board to be teamed up with the pink one in the picture, for it to resemble the typical Montessori inset. But I thought maybe this (pink on pink, instead of pink on blue) is good enough?

Oh, to get him interested in drawing lines, I told him he was decorating a bauble and an easter egg. Luckily he bought the story.

It's the first time he's introduced to this activity and due to his fine motor impairment, I held his hand to draw the horizontal lines with orange and red colour pencils. He tried it for himself with the blue pencil in the oval shape. The black lines in the circle look vertical but was drawn horizontal (I had turned the paper sideways). Towards the right half of the circle, he took over and became scribbly lines (he was a bit "geram" by then).

I found this set of colour pencils that come together with their individual soft grip. It's on offer at Tesco for RM5. Pretty good price compared to Faber Castell's normal pencils that are packaged with 2 grips. I think these colour pencils with a soft grip might be more suitable for my son compared to a standard sized pencil (too thin?), and compared to the jumbo sized/triangular shaped ones (a bit hard?). He used this set to draw the lines during the inset activity. The quality of the lead isnt good (hence cheap) so he has to press harder for the colour to be visible. Perhaps that's not so bad as it might get him to build up his muscle strength! The grips are removeable, so can be transferred to other pencils.

Monday, December 28, 2009


The morning before we headed out to Aquaria, we looked through some books on sea creatures (photos not illustrations) and did a matching game (between toy ocean animals and the pictures in his book). That was to gear him up to the actual visit. In fact in the past few weeks we have been talking and reading a bit on sea creatures.

He was so excited upon entering Aquaria last Tuesday. Even while I was waiting in line to buy the tickets, he had already wanted to go up close to the large exhibit of pirahna fishes, which was beyond the entrance barrier.

It was a really good trip. He thoroughly enjoyed himself. He was so excited that the went on the travellator through the underwater tunnel, not once or twice...but FIVE times!

He loved the shark, sting ray, shovel-nose ray and the santa claus diver feeding the fishes amongst others. There were not just fishes but reptiles, butterflies, spiders and bugs being displayed.

I was happy that they had an exhibit on the life cycle of the frog, and that he was curious about it (he visually compared the different tanks - no legs; 2 legs; 4 legs, shorter tail; full frog). It was real eggs, real tadpoles, real froglets (almost a full grown frog - I learnt some new things there too!), real frog. Certainly more interesting compared to learning from books.

For the butterfly life cycle, it was animated, and shown on electronic display. Good enough, but not quite the same. Perhaps for that I could take him to the Butterfly Park.

I showed him most of the exhibits but was unsure if anything was absorbed. Later in the day, I found out that he did.

When we got home, we looked through some books which reinforced what he saw at Aquaria earlier. I was surprised that he remembered the snake-necked turtle that was trying to climb out of the tank. He also remembered the puffer fish had puffed up because the sting ray got too close to it and scared it.

He also wasnt scared of approaching Santa. He clapped to welcome Santa, when asked to by the emcee. Nearer the souvenier shop, there was the opportunity to take a photo with Santa. He was brave enough (but a little hesistant) to go sit on Santa's lap for a photo. I guess this environment was different from the Christmas party with Santa in school. At school, the kids went crazy when Santa threw candy into the crowd. There was also loud music (unnecessary really) and loud ringing of the bell. At Aquaria, although there was a similar sized crowd, it wasn't noisy or rowdy.

When asked if he liked Aquaria, he replied yes. When asked if he preferred Aquaria or Genting, he replied he liked Aquaria and Genting. "Super duper duper fun", he says.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Season's greetings

Firstly, season's greetings to one and all! My wishes to you my friends, his teachers and therapists, that 2010 bring you much happiness, contentment, good health and not forgetting, financial rewards too!

I've not been posting as regularly these past 2 weeks as I've been busy:
- there are the Christmas preparations (a much merrier Christmas this year with MIL, FIL and 4 nieces from out of town);
- I've been searching the internet, reading articles and viewing videos on teaching maths the Montessori way; - finding out more on a potentially new therapy for my son (hyperbaric oxygen treatment); and
- the usual errands to run.

There's lots I want to share on but there never seems to be enough time! Apart from the things mentioned above, I wanted to share about our trip to Aquaria on Tuesday, his new shoes, and how he's testing the boundaries.

I'll keep this post short as I want to take a nap while he's napping, cos I stayed up til 3am surfing the net for Montessori maths info. Broadband speed is so much faster after 1am, but I then suffer from a bit of a brain fog the rest of the day!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bits of Progress in other areas

On Tuesday last week, we made a minor modification to the treadmill for him. Now he's able to take longer strides without hitting his feet on the front of the machine - I'm very happy.

I also took off his "indoor" pair of shoes (Bata) in the last few minutes of Tuesday's session cos he was walking funny. His left foot was turning inwards which got me worried! But he was ok after I took off his shoes.

I also noted that sometimes he does seem to walk heel-toe but sometimes it goes back to toe-heel. I'll count it as a bit of progress cos he's doing it at least some of the time.

Noted that his right leg is taking longer strides than his left leg - that's unusual. Typically it's his right leg that's the problem. Perhaps my helper needs to move over to his left and give some focus to his left too.


Overall, we've seen the benefit of his pedalling exercise. He's definitely engaging his lower quads more. For e.g. when he steps down from the car, he's bending his left leg a lot more (that usually is the last leg to come down). Previously, he didnt bend it and would just let gravity do the work, by letting his right leg take a bigger impact when "jumping" down.

Just last Wednesday at Lake Gardens, he was able to comfortably lift up his leg to all the ladder rungs, without my help. This is especially noteable because we had stopped playground equipment activities for a few weeks due to his cold and due to the focus on treadmill and pedalling. Before stopping, he often struggled getting his leg up a single rung. Very very happy.

I still showed him how to lace it for the first few holes, then help him lace the next few. Last week, he laced the last hole all by himself. No big deal if he were a normal kid. But for me, that's great! I seldom do this activity, so I count it as a small step forward.
Wearing sandals
If the sandals (imitation of Croc sandals) are placed in front of him, and he holds on to me for balance, he could slowly get his right foot into the sandal. I am a bit hesistant to include this point in the posting cos he only did it once (he seldom wears sandals), but I will cos for him learning motor patterns/movements is not easy.

A few days ago, I started off holding his hand (the way the teacher does at class), to guide him in playing Twinkle twinkle little star, on the piano at home. I did this for the first few notes - do do so so la la so.  Then whilst my hand was still holding his but no longer guiding him, he played the remaining bit - fa fa mi mi re re do. Very very happy.

5 steps forward, 2 steps back
We stopped gross motor and Neurosuit therapies when he caught a cold a few weeks ago. We have now resumed, focusing on the treadmill for gait training/correction and pedalling for engaging/strengthening the lower quads. Once school starts, there'll be a whole lot less time for these outdoor activities.

Am glad that he didn't regress too much because of the stoppage. I'm glad that he is picking up not too far back from where he had stopped before he fell ill. As his therapist said, it may be that he goes 5 steps forward, 2steps back but at least you've still gained 3 steps forward! It's also one of the key reasons it's so important that he not fall ill often.

Music class - 19 Dec

It's been a few weeks since we were at music class due mostly to him being sick.

Keen or not keen?
I thought he'd be keen on going again. He did nod when I asked him the night before if he wanted to go for music class. But when I turned off the main road into the inner roads leading to the music teacher's house, out came "I dont want. I dont want to go."

Sounds like a repeat of the past times driving to music class. I dont understand why he protests. He does enjoy the class - not all of it but certainly some parts of it. Perhaps he rather be at the park?

He did also protest going for the holiday programme at his kindergarten. But those protests were a lot louder. This was very mild. Teacher had explained that at his kindergarten they had probably not made him feel comfortable or confident in himself or there were some activities that he doesn't like. If that's the case, I wonder if it applies to music class too or is there something else I'm missing? I really dont know what's causing the protests. I think he is a sensitive child.
By the way, he also protests when going for CST therapy where he just sits there playing with his cars (it's a gentle therapy where the therapist lays hands on him to release tight muscles/fascia etc & he doesnt have to do anything). But I digress.

One thing at a time
The teacher shared his reflection that for most teachers, when teaching music to kids, they often go directly into note reading. But there are actually several steps involved for the child in the seemingly simple one step of playing the written note. Some of the steps the child must go through are: listen (a skill in itself!); process it internally; get the speech muscles to sing or get the fine motor muscles to play.

He said we shouldn't assume that because of his disability, he does not understand the lesson or that it's not being absorbed. When it comes to music, I really just let him go at his own pace. I try to encourage but no forcing. I want him to enjoy his music class, and not end up like me, disliking my music lessons!

I really like his method of teaching. I feel it starts off with building in an appreciation/awareness of pitch, rhythm etc. It may be a long process but I trust that it lays a good foundation. I believe what he says that in the end, they'll be able to hear an unfamiliar piece of music and figure out how to play it without even needing to see the music sheet. I believe so too because I saw the older boy from the class prior to ours, figuring out a tune he heard and finally playing it right.

New song - OBEY
It was a simple catchy song. He liked it when the teacher made it more interactive by inserting their names into the song. I like it that he's teaching values/character as well through songs.

When I played that song with him at home the next day, he still remembered it. He asked that it'd be my turn to sing it to him (ie. replace some words with his name & he's supposed to 'reply in song'), the way the teacher did it at class. But when it came to his turn to 'reply in song', he didnt! I think that takes a lot more repetition because it's different for him. For him, there's a lot of motor planning involved especially when it comes to speech muscles and that slows down his processing speed.

Writing "Obey"
Teacher wrote out the word on the whiteboard and one by one, the kids were asked to copy it out on the whiteboard. My son writing:
- his first letter had some semblance of an "O";
- his "b" started off well with the vertical line drawn from the top down but then he added a circle at the bottom, thus looking like a pear as A pointed out (to me it looked like a cherry);
- I now cant remember if teacher helped him with "e", I think he did
- his "y" looked like a funny "N"

Then he had the kids write it again but doing so while not being able to see what they're writing (he held a piece of board in front of their face). I was very keen to see what my son would do! To my surprise, my son managed to write the "O" without looking. But got stuck with "b" so the activity was stopped.

Finger exercise
The fingering exercise involved 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers respectively playing do; re; mi. To help, the teacher placed a coin on the back of the hand, to help the child focus on keeping the hand still and just using the finger to press the key.

He hasn't achieved finger isolation yet - ie he can't move a chosen finger independently of other fingers. (It's one of many fine motor targets we're working on) So he just used his pointer to press 'do' - the coin fell several times. He needs more practice. That'll be tricky cos he only sat there for a max of 1 minute! The rest of the time when the other boys were doing this activity, he was walking around, dancing, moving around.

Teacher gave a piggy bank as a christmas gift to each student. This tied in nicely with the exercise cos if the coin didnt fall, the kid gets to keep it and insert into his piggy bank! He inserted his anyway! LOL

I was concerned on what to do with him at home on this activity. Teacher says we'll have to find other ways to have him practice. But first, he needs to get more flexibility in his hand muscles.

Interaction with A and J

In this class, I noticed that A was being a big brother to my son. So nice! He came to help put in the new music sheet in his folder although I was almost done filing it in. I of course let A do the remaining and praised him for being such a good friend in helping. J very quickly then came to help! So I praised him too for being a good friend. My son was at a distance away, so he wasn't involved this time, but it's good that they came over out of their own accord, without being asked to/ needing any prompting.

It's thanks to the teacher for he had promoted such behaviour from the early days. Examples included distributing music sheets, distributing stickers.

When it came to playing with sleigh bells (used for follow the pace of music/follow leader), he as usual got very excited. He and A ended up facing each other and shaking the handheld bells playfully and so vigourously at each other that it must have accidentally hit my son (minor la). He shouted out "Owww, PAIN". It was loud and clear enough that A's mum heard him. Yay!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Progress of his speech

In the past few weeks my son has been talking a lot more, and saying new things. I think it was brought about from exposing him to a school environment where he's surrounded by lots of kids who seem to be constantly talking.

He's also asking more questions. I remember not so long ago (3-6mths back?), I had asked his speech therapist why is it that he wasnt asking questions like his peers. She had explained the reason and said that it'll come. It has now!

I'm so glad that not only is he talking more but also asking questions cos it serves as a guide to know what he's interested in. Armed with that insight, I hope to be able to feed his natural curiousity, and to customise lessons.

Having said that, he does tend to ask questions to which he already knows the answer. Perhaps it's because he seeks reinforcement of his knowledge. Perhaps he wants my attention. Or perhaps he's indicating that he wants to be introduced to new stuff - I feel I've not been spending enough time with him on expanding his cognitive abilities. I was focusing on his gross motor and fine motor the past few weeks. But that's another story.

I've been trying to remember the stuff he says, but as usual, I tend to forget. So below are bits and pieces of things he's said.

"Look at me!" - he had glitter dust all over his hands from making greeting cards. That was the first time ever, saying that. It was said about 1-2 weeks ago.

"Look at me!" - he had on his brand new shoes. This was said on Friday just past.

"I'm still hungry...Are you?" - after he had his smoothie! I usually doubt it when it's said after a meal or snack. The statement that he's still hungry is said often. The new part is where he adds on the "are you". It was said about a week ago.

"I dont know how to swim. Mama help me to swim better." - we were at the club and he was looking at a man swimming. It's grammatically incorrect but it was two sentences in one breath! That is his longest ever! It was said on Friday just past.

"What's wrong with you?" - it wasn't in a rude tone, the way adults scold someone else. He was making a statement. I was taken aback nonetheless. He's never said that before. It was out of the blue. No context set immediately before that. I think I had just changed my clothes and he came up to me saying that. I was puzzled. He then put his hand on my tummy, gave it a rub and said "Tummy ok now!". I made a guess and asked him if my tummy was upset and by rubbing it, he made it better. He nodded. (If he had hurt himself, that's what I do to make it better - rub it gently). I think it was said a few days ago.

"Pretend only!" - that's his answer when asked if he was a puppy (he was biting and tugging at his pillowcase); and when asked if he was a lion (when he roars); and when asked if he needs to pee (he holds his pants). This phrase is being said quite often in the last 1-2 weeks.

"Mama, look up there!" - he was fascinated with the lighted up stained glass. Normally, he'd just point and not use his words. This was his first time using his words to get me to look. I could sense the excitement in his voice. It came out very fast, the moment I entered the room. It was said a few days ago.

"How about that one?" - I dont have much time to shop and its hard to shop with him around nowadays, so a few days ago, after KizSports, I quickly darted into a shop (looking for a sweater for him). To avoid him crying and protesting (boredom), I roped him in. I casually asked him what he thought of this shirt or that jumper. He would sometimes answer. Then, after pointing out several items to him, I was surprised that he happily did a role reversal! He was instead now asking me "How about that one?" pointing randomly to the clothes. I gave my reply - too big; too small; let me check for size - oops, no size; too rocker; not nice colour; maybe; that's for adults; that's for girls. Sometimes he'd repeat my answer. It became a new game to him. I was happy to play along cos I found it very amusing. In the end didnt find anything suitable but it was the most fun shopping experience I had with him!

"Where is papa now?" He started asking this a few days ago. Before that, it was "Where is mama? Where is mama?" in a very sad voice, the moment I'm not within sight. He's been very clingy the past few weeks - but that again, is a story for another post. I'm glad he's now asking about papa.

"How are you doing, mama?" - that's what he means to say but it comes out as "How doing mama?". That's due to his dysarthria, where he skips some phenomes or syllables or words. I remind him there are missing words and get him to repeat slowly. I think this started 2-3 weeks ago.

"What's that sound?" - he asks this even when he most likely knows the answer: e.g. rain, a car alarm going off, papa walking around in the next room; toilet being flushed next door. Sometimes, it's a new sound: e.g. my car going over something on the road. I think this started 2-3 weeks ago too. There are games he plays where he guesses the sound - perhaps I'll write about it separately.

"What does it mean?" - when I use a word he doesnt understand. It's good for building his vocab. Perhaps started saying it 4 weeks ago.

"What happened there?" - while pointing to a car's missing hub cap or a dent. He also asked it while pointing to the outdoor play equipment or field in his kindergarten. He was asking me to relate the games they played there earlier on.

Other points noted

I note that he's asked 'who', 'what', 'where', and 'how' questions but not asked "Why" questions. I dont know why he's not asking 'why' questions!

I'm the one always asking him 'why' and it's usually this: "why are you angry?" and "why did you do that?" He's unfortunately been angry quite often.

The other aspect to note about his speech is that his volume is getting a little louder when he's at home. It's still very soft when talking to outsiders. But I am noting that there is a slight increase in the frequency of speaking in a slightly louder voice to his music teacher or CST therapist. Slow process.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Progress of his pedalling exercise

I had hoped for faster progress but had to remind myself that it takes loads of training to strengthen muscles (lower quads) that are weak. It's been slow-going, also because I had to break down the process into smaller manageable phases.

I'm still very glad though for the progress that he had made because I'm teaching him pretty much through keenly observing him, through trial and error and with loads of God's grace!

Feet on the pedal
Started off with a very simple objective of getting him to keep his feet on the pedals while the pedals go round and round. We push his bike - no effort on his part to exert energy - during the earlier sessions.

Even now, its sometimes hard for his feet to find the pedal after it slips off. But he's able to keep them on for longer periods of time and he can get his foot back on without needing us to prompt him, so I'm happy enough.


Then the next step was to get him to steer. Before we introduced his element, my helper and I would be beside him, on either side of him, with one hand holding the handle (to help steer) and with our other hand, try to keep his feet on the pedal. Imagine being in that position and walking and pushing the bike! It was hard to keep it up for just 30 seconds. Thankfully, those muscle-stretching-back-aching-days are behind us...and so are the stares and wierd looks we get from people! LOL

Getting him to steer was an easier objective, because he could already steer when he was pushed around on his tricycle at home. Its trickier for him now cos his brain has to multitask:
- steer
- keep feet on pedals without our help
- try not to get too distracted with surroundings (we do it in the park instead of at home)
- listen to mama's prompting to push down hard - left, right, left, right (I bet I sound like a drill master to strangers in the park! LOL).

Though he occasionally gets distracted and nearly runs the bike off the path, generally, he's better and we mostly let him decide which path he wants to cycle on. That part on letting him decide, lead to a power struggle yesterday evening (Wednesday) at Titiwangsa, cos he wanted to explore a lot more even after 90mins of cycling (90 mins is the longest cycling ever! but last 30mins we pushed him), but we had to head home to get dinner ready.

Pedal power
I'm currently working on strengthening those lower quads. He's progressed to needing just a little help from me in pushing him. Maybe its now 70:30 of his strength versus my strength - that's when he's already got the momentum going and when it's on a hard, smooth, horizontally level path.

When he cycles a good stretch of distance with say 90:10 effort (latest!) I get so excited!

When he's on a path sloping upwards, we've to push him a whole lot harder (100% our strength), but that's perfectly understandable.

He needs extra help from us pushing him too under these conditions:
- when it's a softer surface like the rubberised surface around the playground equipment
- those slightly bumpy/textured surfaces made to look like large cobbled-stone paths (because of these two conditions, places like Lake Garden's isnt suitable for his cycling exercises as yet)
- when the wheels get stuck in a depression, like when a floor tile has broken off

Later on, we'll add more challenges (like those above), but only as he gains strength in his lower quads. For e.g. to get him to cycle in his Neurosuit. We had done so occasionally in the past but since we're resuming after a break due to his cold, we're starting off without it.

Getting the momentum again

He's also learning to get moving from a stationary position. It's hard even for adults like me who havent been cycling for a long time. It's hard but he's learning. I help him a little so he doesnt feel it's an insurmountable task.

He loves it...I love it

Despite having to work at it, he loves cycling! He'd rather cycle (with our help) instead of playing with the playground equipment. Then as mentioned above, he wanted to continue cycling even after 90 mins on the bike (not all his effort alone).

It's a fine balance to keep him interested in cycling and yet also give bits of challenge so that he continues to progress. Then again, that applies not just to cycling but other aspects of his development too.

My 'job' is so much easier when he loves doing the activity. Of course, it helps that I find this rather interesting. Kinda like an experiment - observe, analyse the situation, test out my assumptions, modify here and there, try it out and repeat...and document it in my blog! It's good exercise for me too - physically and mentally!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joy of a good night's sleep

Oh, the joy of a good night's sleep! He slept well last night, waking up only once last night. I slept well too and woke up early at 6am feeling refreshed.

For the past 4-5 weeks, he hasnt been sleeping well, waking up between 4-8 times in a night and each time needing me to carry, walk him back to sleep with background music on.

Possible reasons:
- It was partly because he was a bit ill with a cold - not for the entire period, but for the last 2 weeks or so.
- I think starting kindergarten was a big factor too - many new things he had to get used to over there.
- On top of that, there were the changes to his (and my) routine which may have caused him to be unsettled for e.g. I had to run many errands before his holiday programme.
- Another factor was the lack of gross motor exercises...perhaps not burning off the energy meant he wasnt tired enough to sleep through the night.

I started him back on gross motor exercises on Monday but gently cos he's been 2 weeks off it due to his cold, and also because he's only just really recovered. Yesterday though, he did a lot more exercises and was perhaps therefore more tired. Exercising releases endorphins so perhaps that helped too!

Yesterday morning, we went to two parks. It started to drizzle about 30mins into cycling at Tmn Tun, so we were heading back when the sun shone through. He chose to go to the park over going home from there, so we headed to Desa Parkcity cos it has covered areas in case the drizzle started again.

In the afternoon, he had his bit of exercise again at Tesco, pushing the trolley. But this time it was just briefly and an empty trolley. I had done my big load of grocery shopping on Monday. He had his Neurosuit on then and a very heavy trolley to push.

It was evening when he got home from Tesco and was raining. So we got him onto the treadmill. He did great on it! Managed 30mins at the slowest speed (0.8), with several breaks in between. The eventual aim is to get him running for 30mins. But that's a story for another post.

Just very happy right now to have slept well. Hoping that he'll continue sleeping very well from now on, cos a growing kid seriously needs his sleep...and so does his mum! LOL

Monday, December 14, 2009

Aquatic life

A nice tie-in to having his aquarium, is the book we're currently reading: Tiddler, also by Julia Donaldson (thanks Elly!). It's a story of a little fish with a big imagination. It includes various sea creatures which you dont normally find in young children's books. Creatures like the plaice fish, which he loves cos it looks cute with just it's eyes peeping out from under the sand.

Again, a very well written book. So witty, but in language simple enough for young kids to understand. I hope to get out a lesson on sequencing too from it but haven't been able to just yet. We both love the richness of the illustration - in terms of detail and colour.

Last week he played the V-Smile/V-Tech game of Nemo, which was teaching kids about the various sea creatures. However, the pictures in the game, shown on the TV screen were too small and blur to be of much help in teaching.That was before we read Tiddler, and before the guppies.

I have plastic sea creatures (like the sets for farm animals, dinosaurs etc) and he knows the names of most of those (except seal - cos I dont know how to differentiate between a seal and sea lion - perhaps it's time for me to find out?)

He's also watched documentaries on Discovery and National Geographic. He also has a book on "wierd" sea creatures (that's the title of the book) with photos of the creatures (not illustrated).

Now, I'm planning a trip to Aquaria so he sees the real thing. Sure it's different from experiencing them out there in their natural environment, but it's as close as he'll get at this age. (Papa is hoping that one day he can take up the Discover Scuba Junior and join him on diving trips).

Life Cycle

When one of the most recent fishes died, he asked "what happened to big fish?" to which I replied that it died. He most likely doesn't yet understand the meaning of death. But he does seem to understand that death = sadness. The expression on his face changed, as if he was about to cry. Subsequent repeats of that question from him did not however, bring about the same expression.

Another occasion, he asked "where is big fish now?". I was taken by surprise and had no ready answers for that. So in the same vein as other kids who have asked where are their pet dogs after they died, I answered "Big fish died. Maybe it's in fish heaven."

So on a separate subsequent occasion I thought I start introducing the cycle of life. The female fishes that papa bought looked kinda pregnant, with bulging tummies (only one survived tho). I'm hoping that there'll be baby fishes soon so he can see first hand how babies grow, and later have more babies of their own.

Moving on from fishes, on a recent night before he fell asleep, he was in a very chatty mood (if he's not too tired out, he's quite chatty before he falls asleep). The topic of conversation somehow changed to something like this: me explaining to him "you need a boy fish and a girl fish to make baby fishes. Just like you, you came about because of mama and papa". Then he put his hand on my tummy and patted it, saying "yes, there...from small grow big, big, bigger". Ooo, I was surprised!

I know that I had in the past talked to him about a picture of a pregnant lady doing an ultrasound. It was in the Positive Parenting magazine or perhaps the Fit for Life section of The Star, and I was just flicking through it with him, looking at pictures. It might have been on more than one occasion. But I didnt think it got registered in his memory! Perhaps I should start scouting around for books or tips on how to explain where babies come from, in preparation for that question? Tips on handling that question in language that is appropriate for a 4 year old kid, are warmly welcomed!

I do have some story books kinda broaching that topic, but in the context of the animal kingdom. One is a cloth book, "First Things First", showing amongst other things, a caterpillar growing up to be a butterfly; a boy growing up to be a man; a girl growing up to be a woman.

Another book borrowed from Elly, titled Monkey Puzzle (author Julia Donaldson, writer of the Gruffalo) highlights the point that baby monkeys look like their parents, but a baby butterfly does look like a smaller version of an adult butterfly. It's very well written, rhymes, easy to read aloud, easy for him to understand, love the illustrations too.

Another book I remembered that perhaps touched on it is the classic Ugly Duckling story. Though not about the life cycle, it does show ducks/swans start off as eggs, then hatch, and the ducklings (I forgot what's a baby swan called) then into adult beautiful swans.

I had shown him real tadpoles when we were at the Tmn Tun lake. But I dont know if it requires him to actually see a tadpole growing bigger, losing its tail, growing legs, and finally turning into a frog for him to appreciate it. A website had suggested keeping tadpoles and breeding them for that purpose. I hesitate to take that path...too icky.

I had also shown him the displays in the educational room of the Butterfly Park (cocoons, butterflies etc) but again, I dont know if it registered in his memory. I hope it did, but if not, I'm sure we can go there again (for the third time!).

Pet fish

All the while, my son likes looking at fishes in aquariums wherever a place happens to have a fish tank. So when a friend gave us her son's tank, the thought of getting him pet fishes came closer to fruition.

As promised by papa, we went to the aquarium on Saturday to get guppies for my son. Two pairs of male and female guppies.

This would be his first "real" pet. I say "real" because we had "trial runs" with some fishes caught from the stream in Tmn Tun park and from the lake in Desa Parkcity (mgt had allowed fishing a few Sundays ago).

All the previous fishes had eventually died because of various reasons- initially we didnt have an aquarium and were kept in large plastic containers which were probably not suitable with hindsight; while some died as they were eaten by larger fish; some died for unknown reasons etc.

I've no clue on rearing fishes. So this is papa's territory as he rared fishes as a boy. I'm learning and so is my son! As it turned out, one of the female fishes didn't look to good on Saturday night itself. Sadly, it died by Sunday morning.

Papa thought getting fishes for his birthday, would be a more meaningful present as he'd be able to go through the process of going to the aquarium to see for himself, choose for himself (actually papa chose), bring home and release into the aquarium (papa released with him looking on).

I hope that having pet fishes will teache him about responsibility (a song introduced by his music teacher), aquatic life, life cycle (birth and death).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Visit to Shine

We went to Shine for an appointment today. I had previously requested to see the Special Ed teacher for the first consultation. First consultation is only 30mins (it's free) so I talked fast and asked many questions. My questions were mainly related to schooling as that's her area and that's top of my current concerns.

Points brought up and advice given:

- She thinks that if he's cognitively fine, he should stay with his peers. Just help him out more in weak areas like handwriting.

- Also, he should be with normal kids ie. mainstreamed, for now, because his cognitively ok.

- It's true that we wont know for sure if he has learning disabilities until he starts school proper. For eg. whether he is able to learn in a group setting. If he does appear to have learning disabilities, I can come back to her for further consultation.

- Personally, she thinks enrolling in the Chinese school system (for primary years onwards) is not wise. There's simply too much homework, too much writing, far too strict. She gave an example where a kid missed one day (due to MC) and ended up with a big stack of homework, of 10 different workbooks/areas.

My son is a bit on the sensitive side, so a very strict teacher may cause unnecessary stress. She also gave an example of a girl who started making loads of excuses not to go to her Chinese school when she reached Primary 1, because she was terrified of her teacher, even though the teacher scolds other kids and not her. Personally, I can relate to that feeling!

- She said that I've to be clear on the role of a shadow aide. A shadow aide must aim to let the child eventually be independent, and not need a shadow aide. I can help when he really needs help but other than that, dont let him be reliant on me. I was aware of that during today's holiday programme! I'll tell more about it in a post on his day.

- She advised me to talk to the teachers so that they dont use double standards for my son in terms of discipline. I brought this point up based on somethings I noted today and yesterday at school. Again, I'll tell more about in a post on his day.

- She says when it comes to registering him at Primary school, it may not be necessary to tell the teachers of his disability if he has caught up enough. It depends very much on his progress these 2 years. If they do know, then I should fight for him to be in a normal class and not a "klass khas" in a normal school. If I do need to convince them, then I can get a complete assessment done by an educational psychologist. It covers 4 areas, and done in probably 4 hours. I dread that. I feel such tests are seldom reflective of reality. But too soon to worry about it. My focus is these 2 years. One step at a time. Do as much as I can to help him.
Just a brief mention on the place itself. It's very well done up. Feels like a 5 star therapy centre. Non threatening. Has stickers of cartoon characters around the place. Has kids story books at the reception area. Consultation rooms are bright, and has toys. The special ed teacher is nice - non judgemental, really listens to you, patient (despite it being free), willing to help. Very hard to find people like that who are willing to help my son and I'm so blessed to have those special people (teachers, therapists, friends) in my life to help my special son!

4-5 year old class or 3-4 year old class?

Taking a cue from my friend's comment on which age group to put him in for the school's 2010 intake, I think it's time I put down my thoughts in writing.

I have the unenviable position of having a son born 8 weeks premature and born 4 weeks on the "wrong" side of the government cut off for allocating kids into schools. Having a gross, fine and oral motor disability and without a cognitive disabiltiy makes the decision harder.

The govt uses the calendar year as a cut off. He was born Dec 2009 and technically should be with the 4-5yr old age group when school starts next year.

Points for putting him with his academic age group 4-5yr olds (ie govt's method of following calendar year):

1. Kids learn from other kids. He likes to mimic or follow bigger kids. He'd learn behaviours expected of that age group. Also those more mature (e.g. girls) would have the chance to show him how things are done.

2. His reading skills are more advance than some of the other 4 year old kids in the holiday programme even though he's a December child. If he's pushed back one year, he'll learn the basics of letter recognition, the phonic sounds of individual letters, which are stuff he learned late last year/earlier this year.

3. The 4 year old kids are more verbal than the younger 3 year olds, in general. This would encourage him to talk. Yesterday, both my helper and I had separately noticed that he's saying more at home, and saying new stuff we've not heard before.

4. He's intelligent and observant enough to note how he compares to the others around him. (That's also a reason for putting him in mainstream and against putting him in a purely special needs setting). This point can work for or against him. It depends on his character. Will he rise to the occasion or shrink inwards? Will he see that he can't do fine motor, gross motor skills compared to the rest and withdraw? Or will it make him try harder? It also depends on the teachers and me, on how we handle the situation. I think since he wants to follow what others do, I think this point may work for him. But I will have to be very sensitive to his behaviour.

5. He'll be bored with the lessons if he's put with the 3-4yr olds. I've always tried to instill the love of learning through play, through exploration, by giving variety, by giving challenges when appropriate. I make mistakes for sure, but I try, and I think I'm doing ok. If he gets bored, he'll not learn much. He'll get disruptive. He'll lose interest in going to school. He might even lose the love of learning.

Points for putting him with 3-4 year olds:

1. Let him build up his confidence then after one or two months transfer him to the 4-5 yr olds, if he can cope. The reasoning is that if he sees that his skills are above the rest of the class, it'll boost his confidence.

However, I disagree. There'll always be a developmental gap in his fine and gross motor skills between him and his age group. Perhaps even a gap with the 3-4 year olds. After a while some 3-4 year olds would exceed his abilties too. So I dont see how his confidence can be built up in the aspect of gross and fine motor. But, his reading skills are better than the 4 yr olds, so he can build up his confidence in that aspect when he's in the 4-5 yr old class.

2. He hasn't had exposure to social skills since he's not been to kindergarten before. This point is true. But, from the 9 days he's been to kindergarten, I can see his picking this up. He's learning to line up two by two before heading out. He's learning to line up single file, to wash hands. Give him time, and with me as his shadow aide, I think he'll pick it up.

3. He'll get teased if he cant do self care skills that the 4-5 yr olds can do. Today, a boy mockingly laughed when he noticed that my son was still in diapers. True that I really have to push him on his toileting skills. That's one area I find very very difficult. But, that's still not a strong enough reason to put him in 3-4 yr olds class. Based on that reasoning, I should probably push him further back and put him with 1-2 year olds class cos most of them are still in diapers!

From the above, it's obvious now that I think he should be with the 4-5 year olds. My mother's instincts may be wrong, but I will follow them....seemingly going against the advice of his principal, his music teacher (sorry!), another kindergarten principal (sorry to you too!) and a special ed teacher at SUREA. Looks like I am optimistic but am I overly optimistic? Am I making the wrong decision? After all the teachers have vast experience and training.

Advice/comments please
Please please do leave a comment or email me if you have advice or experiences to share. Email may be easier cos sometimes Blogger has very slow connection and that makes it difficult to leave a comment below.

If you do leave a comment, please dont address me by my true name, cos I'm trying to be annonymous (identifiy theft etc). Thanks!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Talk at SUREA on Montessori for Special Needs

Tonight, I attended a brief talk on Montessori for Special Needs, at SUREA. It was a very brief talk, about 90 mins, so I didn't learn a whole lot.
What I did learn:
- I think I'm on the right track in terms of using the techniques he teaches (proximity, distraction, least adult involvement and something else I forgot!) I've certainly not mastered it, but it looks like I do to some extent use those.

- model the behaviours that I want my child to have rather than just saying it...which is what I try to! I'm far from perfect but I do make a conscious effort.

- get hands on, physical. For e.g. when teaching handwriting, hold the hand gently and guide. At least tonight, I've laid to rest my uncertainty on whether it's right for me to do that.

- when I'm teaching him I've to be very careful and examine my own behaviour and thinking. We're a product of our upbringing and environment, bringing different values and thinking. He uses terms I'm not familiar with in describing their philosophy. Kinda hard for me to summarise this point of his cos it's rather pyschological too and I didnt get a good understanding of it.

- when giving instructions, do it step by step, and make it clear. I thought I knew this point. But he pointed out my subtle mistake when it was my turn to role play in front of the audience. My mistake was when telling the child to "Come with me. I've something to show you." as a method of distracting, a split second after starting to say that, I walked away, for the child to follow me. He said, just give one instruction at a time. Eh? I should have finished saying the instruction first, then walk.

- There's a single person who can keep more than one idea in his head at a single time. He repeated that phrase several times so it must be important. But I didnt understand that as he didnt elaborate. Perhaps it's related to the point above.

I spoke to a teacher there who advised that my son shouldnt be put straight away with his peers. She advised that he be with those slightly younger for say 1-2mths for him to gain self confidence, then only move him up. This is a decision I struggle with - start him off with his peers (4-5 yr olds in 2010) or younger (3-4 yr olds in 2010). That's a subject for a separate post, so I wont go into it here.

I'm considering attending his talk this weekend but will need to think about it. I'm sure I'll learn useful lessons that I can use for my son. But, I hesistate because (1) it's 2 full days, which is a lot of my time to commit (2) it's RM400, which is no small sum (3) it seems to focus on kids with behavioural problems, which I dont think my son has (4) I'm likely to fall sick either before this weekend or during the weekend cos I'm having the symptoms of a blocked nose type of headache with stiff neck the whole day today

I want to write about my discussion with the principal on their programme they run at SUREA, but I'm really tired now. It's a school night (I sound like I'm back in school, eh?) so I've got to sleep now.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Restful Sunday

After my past few posts, friends have advised that I take things a bit easier. It's hard for me to slow down for reasons I'll not go into tonight. But, today, it was a restful Sunday for me. I just couldn't wake up this morning. So I slept and slept (with interuptions), until lunchtime while my helper took care of my son. Such a treat! It was good to have rested though I ended up with a brain fog the rest of the day! : )

Sleep certainly helped put me in a better mood, have a better perspective on events, and a more optimistic outlook on life. Good restful sleep would have enabled me to turn the rest of the day into a far more productive one. While the latter was not to be, I'm definitely glad to have gotten the many extra hours of rest.

His cold
At times it seems like his cold is getting better, at times not. I had hoped he'd have recovered by now. But I'm at the very least grateful it's not gotten a lot worse. For sure, we're going to kindergarten tomorrow. I'm actually looking forward to it, with the hope that Mrs K is more hands on.

Whiny and clingy
He's been whining a lot since last week. Far more clingy since he fell ill. He asks that I be with him all the time, whether it's when he plays with his vehicles, or when he's had his meal but I'm still eating, or even when I'm in the toilet. The incessant whining feels like a throw back to his younger days.

Controlled items
When he's sick, clingy, and my helper or I need to do our things, we usually resort to bringing out the "controlled items". "Controlled items"? Yes, controlled, in the sense that he doesnt usually get to play with them on normal days. When he's got those controlled items, nothing else in the world matters. He's deaf to you. He's just so engrossed with it. You'd probably guess by now what those are....his cars, trucks, diggers, dump trucks, trains....Those have been coming out of the cupboard a lot lately! LOL

Kindergarten stress
I had read in the past that when kids start kindergarten, there are a lot of demands made on them. There are changes to their routines, new environment to get used to, new people to get to know, new social settings, new challenges, separation anxiety (that last one isn't applicable to him). I'm guessing his whining and clinginess are resulting from starting kindergarten. I've responded with more hugs, kisses, reassurances, whilst balancing that against spoiling him.

Friday's activities

He woke up early on Friday morning, just before 7am, even though he slept badly. The night before he vomitted, probably having caught another round of cold before he could recover from the previous one.

Upon drawing open the curtains, he pointed to his kindergarten nearby and said "That's my school. I cannot go to school because I'm sick. I cannot go to school." Indeed, he didnt go to school on Friday because he vomitted the night before. That's usually not a good sign.

I'd rather keep him home one more day instead of exposing him further to other kids' virus and germs. I'm praying hard for him to be able to go to school the whole of next week. I want to check out Mrs K, another teacher who's teaches 4yr olds, who's been there a long time and is supposed to be good. She's teching together with Mrs A next week.

If Mrs K is indeed good, I'll try to request for my son to be in her class. I hope they'll consider my request in the first place. They dont seem to be very "customer friendly".

We started the day productively, having done a few activities before he even had his breakfast. Mid-morning though, he spotted and wanted his dump truck. Since he's not so well, I allowed him to play with it for about an hour.

These were some of the activities we did on Friday:

1. Reading practice
He wanted to read his "Playful Pals" book of the "Now I'm Reading!" series. It's by Innovative Kids and more interesting than the Scholastic series. He remembered which books he's read in the series and didn't want to repeat those. I assisted him in sounding out the letters, while he blended them. Perhaps the size of the words were a bit too small for him.

It's highly repetitive, but in a good way. I like the way they've made it colourful, silly at times, focuses on a chosen vowel throughout a single book, includes rhyming, has minimal sight words, has guidance for parents, and has stickers as reward for reading it by himself.

2. Wooden blocks
Many thanks to Elly for loaning us her girls' big barrel of blocks. I'm able to do much more with 100 pieces than with his current 30 pieces.

Fine motor - there's improvement in the sense that he was able to place the triangular pieces (roof) on top of a very high stack of blocks without it tumbling over. He's also able to stack the blocks higher.

Block development play - he hasn't moved on to build bridges yet. It's still pretty much stacking one on top of another. But for the first time, I noted that he placed two cylinderical pieces side by side, to support a arch piece. (see photo below)

Creativity/imaginative play - he built houses. Some were just "single storey" houses and others were higher. All capped on the top with either triangular or semi circle pieces for the roof.

Pattern - I chose to make a tall tower with a pattern (see photo on left). I used Red, blue, purple blocks of the same shape, repeated twice then asked him what comes next. In my hand I had those 3 colours for him to choose. He chose to put purple, blue, red. ie, the pattern in reverse. I pointed out his mistake by saying out loud the pattern of colours as I pointed to the blocks. Then I removed his blocks and put them in the correct order. Then I asked him what comes next and gave him the choice of 3 colours again to put. This time, he got it right.

Measurement - Having built several tall blocks of different heights, I took the opportunity to explain the concept of which numbers are bigger than other numbers. Counting the blocks of the tallest and shortest towers, I explain that the tallest has the most blocks and the shortest the least, stating their respective quantities. Then concluding that x number is larger than y number.

I hope that he ultimately understands the number line better e.g. that numbers further down the number line are larger than the numbers early on; that if you add one, then you jump one digit down the number line etc.

I tried doing that a few months ago but wasnt getting anywhere so I abandoned it. But now that he'll be going to kindergarten, I want his maths skills to progress. His 4 year old peers are apparently able to add single digits either by using fingers or abstractly.

He is able to addition of "plus one". He knows that "plus one" means the next number. I've also recently, very slowly introduced "plus two" or more. I'm also introducing the concept of "minus".

3. Thomas the Tank Engine
By late afternoon he was tired and more cranky even though he had napped (that's expected cos he's a bit ill) and so was I! So, I brought out his battery operated train set (gift from Elly - thanks!) so it'd occupy his time while I tried to do a bit of paperwork.

After a while, he got bored and started experimenting by placing different object by the side of the tracks or on the tracks itself. I guess it was to test if the train was strong enough to push things away.

But I also didnt want him to ruin the train. So, I ended up playing with him and the train set. I brought out the blocks and asked what he'd like to be built. He did his "I got an idea!" but didnt say what. So I built various structures like tunnels, houses, tall buildings, and a forest. He joined in by placing more blocks on top of the tunnels. Later on, he placed roofs on the forest trees (cylinderical blocks), turning them into houses instead.

4. Jalan jalan
Early evening, I took everyone out for a drive around the nieghbourhood, just for a change of scenery.

5. Toilet training
At one point in the day, he actually said he wanted to shee shee (urinate) without needing to be asked. I was so happy. We havent had much opportunity to reinforce going to the toilet to urinate because he resumed his Neurosuit therapy and he's started kindergarten. I did bring him to the kindergarten's toilet but just twice in the week before. Other times he didnt want to go.

We've not been successful at all in getting him to poo in the toilet. He's terrified even though I got a bigger potty for him. Some kind of mental block perhaps.

6. Novelty pencil
As reward for saying he wanted to urinate in the toilet, I gave him a novelty pencil. I bought it at a knick knack shop in Genting at 3 for RM10. I previously saw it for sale at a "stall" in a mall in KL but was too expensive (RM10 each) so I didnt buy it.

As with most things I buy for him, there's a therapy or educational purpose behind it. This one was meant to get him to blow on the blades of the fan. It's cute, funny and cheap. He likes it, so he was willing to play with it.

I was very happy he could blow hard enough for the fan blades to spin. He did it a few times with various blowing strengths. I tried to get him to blow silently without using his vocal cords, but he couldn't. He best he could do was to blow with a soft "whooooo" sound.

Other stuff that we did
I've been writing this post since Satruday and it's now Sunday night. There much more that he did not just on Friday itself but also on Saturday. I'll unfortunately have to stop here and merely list in bullet points the other activities we did on Friday.

- Read aloud to him (storybooks borrowed from Elly - thanks!)

- Played with maths manipulative toy (maths concept of grouping shapes to form new shapes, fine motor, imagination to build new things out of the pieces, maths concept of sorting by colour and shape)
- Played with V-Tech (& found out that the cassette for Dora is spoilt, so used Nemo but not as suitable)

- Ladybird Start School series (just to teach writing strokes, so used finger to trace over some letters)
- sorted buttons into groups (fine motor, maths concepts)

- sticker activity using Guardian stickers (fine motor)

- cluck, cluck, kiss (for repeating rythm and pattern)

Stem Cells

I recently re-discovered another mother's blog. I say re-discovered cos I remember coming across her blog many months ago.

What attracted me this time was her posting on stem cells. Her daugther who also has CP had such good progress resulting from it. You can read about it via the links below:

Her update 6 weeks post stem cell therapy:

Her journal whilst at Costa Rica for the stem cell injections:

The recent round of newbies that came for Neurosuit included an Indian family who flew in from India. They did stem cells for their daughter in India. Whilst I did not get the chance to talk to them, my son's therapist did. She said that they saw remarkable progress as a result.

Am I thinking of stem cells for my son? Yes and no. When the therapist first mentioned it, I was very wary about it. I'm a risk averse person. Anything invasive, I'll try to avoid. But, now, after reading her blog, I think that it's something I should at least research further.

It holds promise. There's hope. It may be the accelerator that my son needs before he reaches primary school age. Perhaps the harsh reality of how people here react to my son's differences and how unsupportive the education system is, is pushing me towards stem cells.

But, I'm so scared. What assurance do I have that it wont make things worse? If it's status quo after the treatment, then I'd have wasted a huge amount of money, but he'd still be the same as before the treatment (ie bad but not so bad). But I can't live with myself if it instead makes him worse.

I'll have to tread carefully. I'll need lots of prayer and God's guidance. It took the mother a year of researching. How long will it take me? Perhaps I should tag along with another mother who has plans for stem cells therapy for her CP son.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Phone enquiry to Shine

This morning, I finally got through to Shine over the phone, speaking to a knowledgeable polite young lady who's presumably not one of the specialists there. They've been innundated with phone calls, which is not surprising.

Sadly, it's not a school programme which I thought it was because they've a special ed teacher on their team of professionals. Turns out it's more of a therapy centre. They dont just focus on autistic/Asperger's kids.

The special ed teacher (Jessie) teaches school readiness, skills needed to learn etc. She does have one on one sessions charging about RM80/hr. She also has other packages like a 2:1 session.

I've made an appointment for a first consultation for next week, and put in a request for the special ed teacher to be present. It's only 30minutes, so I've to prepare my list of questions well.

Things he's saying

Excerpts of the things he's now saying that has amused me:

"I cannot talk now because I'm sick. Aaackkk (fake cough). Acckkk. Like this (pointing to his mouth) Aacckk. Acckk. I'm sick." But a few seconds later he talks!

I asked him how we should group some maths manipulative pieces. He said "Uhmm. Uhmm (pointer finger to the side of his cheek). Uhmm. I got an idea (right hand raised up). I got an idea!" "What is it?" I ask him. "Uhhmmm. Uhmm." He doesn't say what he's thinking. He's somehow picked up that response and is practising using it without really having an idea to share ...or perhaps I didnt give him enough time to say it out. But I usually do wait a few seconds for him to respond, after which, I suggest some ideas.

"Please don't do that, mama." is his response when I do something he didnt want me doing. That response sounds so grown up. I'm glad he doesn't just whine like he used to. He still does whine but this phrase is being used quite often nowadays. Hooray!

This one happened 2 weeks ago. He ran up to me just after dinner and unexpectedly said "Hug me please, mama. I miss you." I was having a tiring week and that simply melted away all the stress! Later that night I asked when it was that he missed me. He didnt answer. I asked if he was referring to me leaving him at KizSports with my helper (while I did groceries), he said yes.

Last night, while trying to fall asleep, he said "I miss you, mama..." I was momentarily puzzled because I was with him the entire day. A split second later he continued " KizSports." I gave him hug and a kiss.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shine Child Guidance Centre

The Star newspaper had an article yesterday which I only read today (I read stale news!) about a new centre for special needs kids.

It's called Shine Child Guidance Centre, at Jaya One. They tout it as a "one stop multidisciplinary development and guidance centre" for kids with learning disorders from age of 2 to 18. It's set up by an altruistic individual who bought the unit, teaching materials and hired professionals to run it. It's a not-for-profit centre, with a team comprising a psychologist, a SLP, OT, and special ed teacher.

I'll call them or even drop by to check it out. But I think it's focus is slightly different from my son's needs. Their target group is those with learning disorders, inc those with autism, Asperger's, Downs, developmental delays and behavioural issues.

But having said that, I do remember another mother of a special needs boy saying that you wont necessarily know if your kid has learning disabilities until they start school. My son hasn't started school. But so far, he doesnt show signs of learning disabilities apart from the speech disorder dysarthria. My only concern is on his maths ability cos he doesnt seem to grasp the concept of the number line, or measurements, and not so good at patterns. But then again, he's still young and I've not really focused on maths.

Nilai International School
That individual is also setting up Nilai International School, an associate institution of Nilai University College, offering Cambridge International Curriculum and has inclusion programme for high functioning autistic kids. Wow! Finally we see a model of schools overseas that have inclusion programmes, being set up locally. Only problem is Nilai is so far from KL.

Contact details of Shine: Tel: 03-79608809. Their website isn't quite ready yet but you can check back later at

For the article in The Star that mentions the Centre, go to:

I couldnt find the other article just on Shine and the Nilai International School, which has far more details, in the online version of Star. So if you can, best to look up the physical newspaper dated Wed 2 Dec 09, Page T19 (Section Two of Star)

Stayed home this morning

He had a slight fever last night. Restless sleep too. So, decided to keep him home for one more day. Will likely go to kindergarten tomorrow.

So far, these are the things he did today, in no particular order...

1. Decorated the christmas tree
We're doing it in bits and bops. Wherever there's a bit of time and if he feels like it, we decorate it together. He did put up quite a lot of the baubles yesterday and the days before that, but today he wasn't keen. Perhaps the novelty has worn off. Perhaps he's caught on that mama's sneaky and turned it into some kind of fine motor activity. The tree is far from complete. Perhaps I'll have to finish it off myself but I'd rather he help.

2. Made a greeting card
Very much a fine motor activity. This time he wanted to use the glitter glue stick. He used various things for today's session: Crayola marker (finally got the washable ones), a large roller stamper, a small roller stamper, stickers. For yesterday's session, it was chunky crayons, stickers, Crayola's TaDoodles, small roller stamper.

3. Dug out the alphabets from his foam alphabet puzzle
After digging them out of their frame (finger strength needed, so I allow the mess), he decided to throw them over the staircase banister, down to the lower level. At times it got stuck and he had to retrieve it. So, from the location he chose, he had to throw quite hard and far in order for it to fly/drop all the way down without being stuck. That's different from his usual throwing of the balls downstairs. Balls bounce easily downstairs. Foam bits dont. The banister is higher than the safety gate so he had to stretch, but he was also on tip toes to reach higher.

I tried to turn it into a puzzle activity, as part of tidying up, but he wasn't interested. Perhaps I can do puzzles, with a proper puzzle set later today.

4. Watched Ni Hao Kai Lan
Today's episode taught the value of practising/trying again when learning a new skill. It's an important lesson that's also taught in his music class. Mandarin words taught: shang (up) and shia (down). He did repeat shang when asked to.

Tried to get him to suck on the straw (oral motor activity - I'm sneaky) while he watched the show. He only sucked a little, I think because I used a different tumbler where the straw part jutting out was very short. That meant that he had to use his lip muscles a lot more to hold onto the straw, use cheek muscles more to get stronger negative pressure and he cant quite bite down on the straw to assist.

The theme for today's episode was putting on a music show where everyone plays an instrument, except the koala who likes to sing. So, I took the opportunity to bring out some instruments - xylophone, wooden frog with jagged spine, castanets. I was very happy to see that he can now clack the castanet using his right hand. That's progress! He cant do it with left hand, and that's to be expected since he rarely uses his left hand.

5. Read a book together
It was "The Spiffiest Giant in Town" by Julia Donaldson, the same author of famous book "The Gruffalo". We didnt finish the book cos he had a toileting accident (he forgot to say he wanted to go toilet to urinate).

I might buy that book myself cos I like the rhyming and simple but witty writing style. Love the illustrations too. I'll read through the book first before reading it aloud to him so that at times when needed, I can improvise.

6. Fed his fish
He uses his words when it comes to his fish. He says things like
"Fish hungry. I'm hungry too."
"Where's the big fish, mama?"
"Fish hiding. Fish scared. Fish scared of me. Fish scared of me and mama."

Papa has promised to buy him some guppies for his birthday. Papa says it's more meaningful cos he can choose them himself and bring them home from the shop.

7. Shower
Of course, I incorporate other activities when I shower him...but only sometimes when I'm not in a rush. He either learns to soap up himself (self care), or squirting using a spray bottle (finger and hand strengthening), or squirting an empty shampoo bottle (strengthening his grip). Today he was busy filling up his empty shampoo bottle with the slow drip of water from the shower head, and then emptying out and repeating. That requires hand eye co-ordination and faster reflexes. He figured out it's faster when the water is turned on full. So he tried to lift the tap to turn it on, but thankfully he's not figured it out yet (or else I'd get all wet).

8. Lunch
He didnt finish his lunch. Not sure if that's due to a poor appetite caused by being ill or from the lack of exercise. Just before lunch he was saying "I'm not hungry" and "I don't want lunch". He prefers western food like spaghetti, pasta bake, shepherd's pie (today), homemade pizza, baked chicken. Perhaps because it's less dry?

Later today, we'll go for his CST and I'll try to get in more fine motor skill activities. Right now, he's having his nap and I'll try to get some errands done.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

He's sick

Last night while I was out running errands, he started coughing. My helper described it as a different type of cough, like something was stuck and he was trying to get it out. Kinda like "acccckkk" repeatedly. He then cried until he vomitted.

I got back in time to put him to bed. It took a very long time to settle him down and for him to fall to sleep. He was talking a lot which meant that he was ok, and not in pain and nothing choking him or stuck in his throat. It was obvious to me that he missed me. He's been clingy lately - probably trying to cope with school. It was slightly past 11pm when he finally slept.

He had a restless sleep. Woke many times, which is an indication of being sick. I could hear him breathe through his nose, so his phlegm wasn't too much or too thick. I think occassionally the phlegm builds up and he wakes up, all upset.

He didnt go to kindergarten today. I got a few hours extra sleep while the helper watched over him. Ah, felt so good to finally sleep soundly even just for 2 hours.

After lunch, his temperature went up to 37.8C so he was given some Panadol. No physical exercises today. Just some reading (I read aloud), fine motor and imaginative play of craft (making christmas card) and Mega Bloks. After his nap, we'll go for CST, and some light activity after that.

So, that's why I have the time to write several posts today.

I expected him to fall ill when he starts kindergarten. Other mothers say it's very normal. A friend totalled up the number of sick days her son had in his first year of kindergarten. It totalled 6 months! Another mother pulled her son out of nursery after 6 months, cos he fell ill every month. I just hope he gets well fast. I hope he doesnt need trips to the hospital for nebuliser. As it is he's trying to cope with the changes in his routine and the whole going to school thing. I also hope not to have wasted the money we paid for his holiday programme.