Sunday, August 29, 2010

Handwriting progress

We did a lot of activities (literacy, numeracy, fine motor, self care) at home today, but I do not have time to write about them. Instead, I’ll do a quick update tonight based on a photo I took earlier this week.

There’s been progress in his handwriting skill and I’m very happy about it.

I opened the page he was to work on, placed it on his kid sized table, took out his pencil with the pencil grip attached, told him I needed to take a shower and left him to it. When I got back to him, I was so happy to see that he completed the entire page by himself!
He’s come a long way. When he started school this year, I had to hold his hand and move it for him. I had to use chunky pencils. Sometimes I had to use the chunky rainbow coloured one given by his music teacher or the chunky crazy coloured one I bought, just to entice him to write. Teacher had to write out the word for him to trace over, and would write on alternate lines so that it’s not so intimidating for him. He’d get tired after just a few letters and gag. He’d drool as he wrote.

Recently, I let him write on his own. There’s a lot less drool and hardly any gagging. I just correct the positioning of the base of his hand, the wrist, and the third finger. There’s just two alphabets that are not so legible – letters x and y. Both of those require diagonal lines and accurate placing of the strokes. His 'x' looks like 't' and his 'y' sometimes looks like 't' or a funny 'v'.

In the photo above, he was able to keep the letters on a horizontal line. Sometimes, even with lined paper, the letters slant down steeply. The spacing between the letters was alright initially but as he wrote more, the spacing went awry.

Using the colour pencils to colour is a totally different matter. He still has a lot of trouble colouring. I have to hold my hand over his to colour. He gags if he colours by himself. He has not learnt to use the right muscles – he uses big arm movement and the placement of arm, wrist and hand are not suitable for colouring.

Overall, in terms of handwriting, I feel he’s progressed well. For that piece of work he did above, he did a very good job. I praised him lavishly. I’m very happy and so proud of him!

Since then, he tries harder to write nicer. He’ll erase those letters that weren’t formed nicely or erase those that were spaced too far apart. He’s taking pride in his handwriting! Great stuff!

Btw, there’s also progress in other areas but I’ve not had time to write about them.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I was so scared

I had a real scare yesterday. I was still very shaken a few hours after the incident. As I write this, more than 24hours after the event, I’m still quite frightened at the thought of what could have happened yesterday.

We headed to KizSports for his exercise after lunch. He fell asleep in the car on the way there and I carried him still asleep out of the car.

He would normally awaken when we enter the shopping mall, what with the noise and all. When I got off the escalator, he had stirred but went back to sleep. He was drooling a little bit. I decided to head to the supermarket to get some fruits instead since he was still asleep and probably too tired.

On the way there, he continued to drool more which was rather unusual. Despite asking him to rest his head on my shoulders, he didn’t. His eyes were slightly open, his head tilted downwards. I thought he was still asleep cos as a baby, he occasionally slept with his eyes not fully closed.

I walked pasted the stalls selling mooncakes and the Disney mooncake package caught my eye. I thought he was also looking at those too since his eyes were kinda open and it was in the shape of Mickey and Minnie (I was still carrying him). But he didn’t respond to my question. That’s when I noticed that his lips turned a shade of blue.

I panicked. What should I do now? Was I imagining it? Was it just the lighting playing tricks? Who could help me? I doubt the security guards or information counter staff would be of any help. Do I rush back to the car? Should I take the Neurosuit off now or take it off in the car? If I take it off now, it might be too cold for him what with the air-conditioning. I was so scared. I had all these questions racing through my head. I walked a few steps looking for a bench to sit him down and take off the suit, but since I couldn’t find one, I just stopped by a quiet corner and let him stand.

He started gagging. He didn’t look right. He then vomited his lunch. He fussed as I hurriedly removed the suit and comforted him. I knew that something was wrong but I didn’t know what. I asked him his name (to check if he was coherent etc). I asked him to repeat what I said. He could. I felt a bit better but was still very worried.

I kept on checking on him via the rear view mirror on the way home. He fell asleep half way and I put him straight to bed upon arriving home. I lay down with him as I was so tired after the incident, but I couldn’t sleep. I was still so scared. I didn’t know what happened. Painful memories of the past resurfaced (I cannot talk about those here without breaking down).

My husband had a Buka Puasa function so didn’t get back til late. I was a wreck. A few times, I had to check if he was still breathing. I prayed. Slowly I calmed down a little and distracted myself by reading the papers. He woke later and had his milk and shower before calling it a night.

He went to school as normal today. Everything seems fine. In fact he had a good day in school. I suspect though, he might be on the verge of falling ill.

But I am still haunted by yesterday’s incident. Analysing the events, I suspect that he might have choked either on phlegm or saliva or food, blocking his airway. Or did he have a fit? Whatever caused it, I didn’t notice it early on because I was carrying him. If he was walking by himself, he would have stopped walking, and I would have noticed he was in distress.

How do I prevent this from happening again? It seemed like such a freak event. I think I must be more alert to his condition at all times. I had let down my guard for some time now because he has progressed so much and continues well on his path towards independence.

I’ve also decided that I absolutely cannot let my helper feed my son, whether it is solids or his milk (but will allow her to give him water to drink). That also means that I will be unable to attend seminars that cross over lunch time. I had considered attending a seminar by a famous Australian speech therapist but because it’s a whole day seminar, I won’t go. I simply cannot risk my son going through that again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grip strengthening fun - more toys that I use

When you squeeze this cute little toy, you’ll hear a child giggling. The laugh is so cute that you’re sure to smile. Since it’s made of fabric, it’s easier to squeeze. The trick is to find the right place to squeeze it cos the hard spherical touch sensitive object inside it, which triggers the giggle, is not in a fixed position. So with this toy, he can squeeze using just one hand to trigger the giggle. With the squeaky toy in my earlier post, he needs to use both hands to get the squeek.

This is called a roll tongue animal. His therapist bought some at Mothercare in Bangsar Shopping Centre outlet (the Early Learning Centre portion of the store). I decided to buy one when I went there recently. This is different from the other squeezing toys he has. It doesn’t make any sound. Instead, it’s tongue rolls out (hence it’s name). But what I like is that you’ve got to squeeze it hard and fast to get a balloon effect on the tongue. So, even if he can’t yet get the balloon effect, he won’t be disappointed as the tongue still rolls out.

There are several animals in the series. I bought the snake as it was the easiest to squeeze. It’s sold at RM9 per animal. I found it being sold at Amazon UK site for under GBP0.89 which is cheaper (but probably not worth it after adding the postage, unless you’ve UK friends coming back to M’sia).

I bought this toy about 11months ago. Back then it was very difficult for him to squeeze it. When he played with it again recently, he could do it after I placed my hand over his to use it a few times. That’s progress!

This toy not only helps him strengthen his grip but also involves hand eye co-ordination, and more arm muscle strength as the toy is top-heavy. I have him use the toy to pick up coloured cotton balls from the floor or from a large container, and place it elsewhere. Sounds simple to you and me, but that’s quite a bit of motor co-ordination required apart from just strength!

I bought it when I visited the KL Bird Park last year. It’s sold in their Souvenir Shop, at around RM20-30, with a large variety of animals to choose from (e.g. flamingos, dinosaurs, reptiles).

I tried looking for a similar toy elsewhere but haven’t found one. There was a toy that looked like a trash grabber (based on concept) but it was difficult for me to squeeze, and it couldn’t grab well. It’s much easier to pick up things with this toy cos the mouth of the animal is hollow. It’s also so much easier to get him to use is cos it’s cute.

This was bought from Daiso, (the Japanese shop where everything is sold at RM5) The Curve branch. (Thanks for recommending the place, Yvonne!) Place the end of it in a container of liquid, squeeze and release to draw the liquid into the tube.

I use it with water that has food colouring in it, for him to have some fun. That way, he learns about mixing primary colours to get secondary colours, while getting in the grip strengthening exercise and hand-eye co-ordination.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

His whiteboard writing

He likes to “write” on the whiteboard. Usually it’s more scribbling rather than writing. Today he was in the mood to write lots. It’s a bit hard to see, so I took close ups of portions of it.

Here he wrote “Bens”. He meant Benz, as in Mercedes Benz. He loves cars, so I guess that’s to be expected. LOL

Here he wrote “hao is”. He meant “how is”. His spelling is wrong cos I’ve not moved on to the Montessori green level which teaches the phonic sound of “ow” (e.g. bow, cow, how). Also, he ran out of whiteboard space, so I don’t know what was the full question he wanted to write.

There were a lot of attempted writing of “how” on the board in various (wrong) spellings e.g. hoo, hao, haoo. But when analysed, some of it sounds phonetically close. For e.g. “haoo” – he still mixes up the English short vowel “a” with the BM “a” sound. I remember reading somewhere that at the early stage of learning phonics, writing, and spelling, it’s ok if the child’s spelling sounds phonetically plausible or close to the correct spelling. I corrected him gently while praising him for his attempts.

Here he spelt “book” correctly. Thanks to what was taught in music class! Obviously, he still has issues with the visual spatial aspects of writing – see how the word slopes down drastically, but I’m working on it.

This is his first sentence that he wrote all by himself! His writing is not legible, so I asked him what he was trying to write. Then I wrote it in blue ink, above his writing: “Home ini besar”. There’s a mix up of BM and English grammar and BM and English vocabulary. He meant to say “Rumah ini besar” or translated “this house is big”. Also “besar” was spelt “basar”.

I think he wanted to write “house” but got stuck with the spelling (the “ou” sound is also at the green level). The 2nd phoneme in the word “house” sounds just like the “ow” in “how”, so he wrote “ao” instead. It’s the same mistake I talked about a few paragraphs above.

He then switched to trying to write “home” (the “magic e” or the “silent e” is also at the green level). Maybe it’s time I start preparing material to teach him words from the Montessori green level!

At first, I was really impressed! I thought that he was expressing in writing what he felt of the house he’s staying in. I thought he thought of it all by himself, and chose to write it out. But as I wrote the paragraph above, I remembered that in school a week or two ago, teacher had the class write “Rumah ini besar” in their exercise books! LOL.

So, I was impressed for the wrong reason! But it does show that he did learn some things at school, even though he forgot the BM word for “house”.

This was the last thing he did on the whiteboard. Note that it’s an outline of his right hand. That meant that he held the marker in his much weaker left hand! It's progress for him!

A slow paced Sunday

It was a slow day. I had a quick flick through the newspaper (a rarity nowadays!), a delicious dim sum lunch, a lot more conversation with my husband today than I did the whole week, supervising the helper and the weekly groceries.

I seemed to lack the drive to do lots of activities with my son. He did though, do the following:

- Practice walking up and down the stairs (he’s progressing nicely in walking downstairs using alternating feet)

- Write on the whiteboard (I’ll try to write about that in a separate post tonight after this post)

- Maths using Montessori stuff (revision of tens and units, and the commutative law for addition)

- Maths workbook (just one page which is an introduction to counting in sets)

These were the things he did that required minimal or no effort on my part:

- A Little Einstein’s counting workbook (practice writing numbers while waiting for dim sum)

- Obstacle course practice (he does it without me)

- Puzzles (while I showered)

- Pushed the shopping trolley (grocery shopping)

- Squeezed the squeaky toy (in the car)

- Wiping everything within his reach with a rag (this is his current favourite “hobby” – soon he’ll be sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets and cooking! LOL)

So looking back at today, I don’t feel that I’ve wasted it...well, not totally anyway. Sure, I wanted to do more with him (e.g. swimming, reading) and I think he wanted to do more stuff with me (he was a bit restless). But I tell myself it’s alright to have slow days once in a while....uhhh, it is ok right?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A little break

Lately I’ve not had much of a break. With him starting kindergarten this year, and me being his shadow aide, half my day is gone. Recently his Neurosuit physiotherapy has been intensified which means my Mon-Thurs afternoons are gone too.

It’s pretty much go, go, go on weekdays. Weekends are slower but still occupied with errands or activities.

At times, I really wish for a little break. I don’t mean a holiday although I’ve not had a holiday this year. What I mean is that it’d be so nice to have some time to myself where I can be still. If he’s awake, I tend to feel bad if he’s not doing something productive with that time. If he’s asleep, I’m usually managing my maid or thinking of what to cook the next day or sorting out the household admin.

Today, we went to pick up my husband’s car from the workshop. My son as you know loves cars. He wanted to see them repairing the cars. The air-conditioned waiting area has a large glass partition allowing customers to see into the servicing area. But my son’s height is such that his view is blocked by the frosted strip. I could only carry him for less than 5 minutes (he’s heavy). Shortly after, my husband took over (after he paid etc) and carried him. I sat on a comfy chair. I made myself a hot drink. I sat back and enjoyed seeing how happy my son was watching the mechanics at work. I was happy that my husband was not just carrying him but also explaining some of the things that were going on.

My son fell asleep during the drive home and hopefully will have a long nap. He seldom naps nowadays which is also why I often wish for a little break.

I cleared most of the household paperwork last night. My helper is so much better behaved that she no longer stresses me out. In the very short span of 4 days I had to send her TWICE to the agency for counselling.

Since he’s still asleep, I have the time to write this post. I’m now going to join my son for a (well deserved) short nap! LOL.

Friday, August 20, 2010

To feed soft boiled eggs or not?

Ever sucked out the contents of a raw, freshly laid free range egg? Ewww, yucks? LOL. Not my favourite but as a young kid visiting or occasionally staying over at grandma's house, I do as told!

Runny eggs/soft boiled eggs with a dash of soya sauce....ah, a slightly different story. I loved having that as a kid. By the looks of it, it's still a favorite of many at kopitiams here.

With salmoella scares or alerts occuring every few years in one country or another, sadly, I've been put off having it ever, tempting though it may be.

I'll certainly not be feeding soft boiled eggs to my son even though I grew up on it, and even though it might be the staple of other kids today. Yes, it's easy to eat with minimum chewing (actually no chewing, just swallow) early in the morning. Yes, it's very filling. But, no I won't be feeding it to him.

I'll just have to find other easy to eat, high energy breakfast food that can sustain my son for several hours (break time is at 11.50am if he gets into his new big boy school next year). I just don't know what yet.  Any suggestions?

--------------------------------- remy Melina, Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer – Wed Aug 18, 3:45 pm ET

Although the average egg looks innocent enough, it can harbor dangerous foodborne bacteria called Salmonella. It's these bacteria that led to the ongoing nationwide recall of Wright Country Eggs. But how do the bacteria get in there?

The bacteria, Salmonella enteritidis (also referred to as S. enteritidis), can invade an egg in several ways. One way is by the contamination of egg shells with fecal matter. The bacteria are present in the intestines and feces of infected humans and animals, including chickens, and can be passed to the eggs when chickens sit on them.

Stringent cleaning and inspecting procedures of shells were implemented in the 1970s to decrease this form of contamination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

However, outbreaks of salmonellosis (an infection caused by Salmonella bacteria) still happen because Salmonella also silently infects the ovaries of healthy-looking hens, contaminating the eggs inside the chicken before the shells are even formed, according to FSIS. To curb this form of contamination, the egg industry regularly tests hens for the ovarian bacteria.

Only a small number of hens in the United States seem to be infected with Salmonella at any given time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also assures that an infected hen can lay many normal eggs while only occasionally laying an egg that's contaminated.

So how can consumers tell if an egg contains salmonella? There is no way for grocery shoppers to tell if an egg has been contaminated, according to Rob Gravani, a professor of food science at the Cornell University. In fact, Salmonella affect chicken of every quality, and there is no valid scientific evidence that shows that poultry products labeled "Kosher," "free-range," "organic," or "natural" have more or less of the bacteria, according to FSIS.

"The best thing for consumers to do is to pay attention to the brand of eggs that are being recalled, and to return any eggs that they've purchased of that brand to the store," Gravani told Life's Little Mysteries.

Health officials also recommend not serving undercooked eggs, since thorough cooking kills the bacteria, according to the CDC. Because both the outside and inside of contaminated eggs appear to be normal, even if an egg seems "safe" to eat with a runny-style yoke, it is always best to err on the side of caution and eat only well-cooked eggs. The FSIS recommends that egg dishes be heated up to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).

Typically, a person with salmonella poisoning develops a fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea approximately 12 to 72 hours after consuming the contaminated food. The illness usually lasts from four to seven days, and most people do not need antibiotics in order to recover.

However, the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems may be the most susceptible to becoming seriously ill as a result of salmonellosis. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other parts of the body. This can lead to death unless the person is promptly treated with antibiotics, according to the CDC.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Squeezing time in– toys in the car

From previous postings, you know I feel that it’s a race against time, and there’s just not enough time in a day (other mums of special needs kids say that too).

Well, a few weeks ago his music teacher suggested that I keep a noisy hammer in the car. The purpose - for him to learn/practice rhythm. (He’s still quite stuck at that stage in his music – I reckon it’s because of his disability.) I’m supposed to clap a simple beat/rhythm and he’s supposed to copy the beat using the noisy hammer.

I thought it an excellent idea! Thanks! So, I’ve got that toy in the car now. The hammer is one of his earliest baby toys. Good thing I’ve kept it. I don’t remember where I bought it but I’ve seen it in Tesco, and is probably easily available elsewhere.

That idea got me thinking and I’ve now got a squeezy toy in the car too! (Hence the play of words in the title “squeezing in time”. LOL)

This simple and cheap toy was also one of his earliest baby toys. It was sold in a set of 6 vehicle shapes (he loves vehicles) and bought from Carrefour but I believe it’s widely sold.

I get him to squeeze it five times before I drive the car out of the gate. If it doesn’t squeek, it doesn’t count. You see, he can squeeze it quite hard but he can’t always squeeze it to get it to squeek.

He also has difficulty squeezing it with just one hand, so he uses both hands at the moment. My purpose with this toy is to improve his grip, exercise his muscles etc. Hopefully this would add to the frequency of the hand/grip strengthening exercises we’re getting him to do, and thus, achieve results faster.

Now that I bring my son almost everywhere I go (unreliable helper) and “waste” so much time in traffic, I hope that having these in the car will make it a bit more productive. (Btw, I also play kids song CD or phonics CD in the car to make the time more productive.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Grip strengthening fun - Water shooter

I don’t know the proper name for this toy. I call it a water shooter.

It’s made of a hard styrofoam outer cover/plastic inner tubing. You pull up the green part (plunger) with one hand while gripping the blue part which is submerged in water. This motion sucks in the water into an inner plastic tube.

Then you push the green top (plunger) towards the lower blue part to shoot out the water (aiming at an object or person).

It’s simple, but oh so good for strengthening his fingers (grip) and engaging the upper arms.

At the moment, he still has much difficulty gripping it (both left and right hands) to draw in the water but can now push to shoot out the water. He finds it fun (when he shoots) despite the obvious frustration (I help him in drawing in water). Thanks for the gift, Fe!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pencil grip attachment

Just wanted to let others know that you can buy an attachment to help with the pencil grip (see photo). The ex-shadow aide mum told me about it earlier this year but I only bought it about 2-3 months ago.

I was worried that he might be overly reliant on it which was one reason I delayed buying it. But in the end I bought it because 3-4 months ago I wasn't seeing much progress in his handwriting skill.

Having used it, I find that it really does help him. He doesn't always use it when he writes cos I'm too lazy to switch it to his colour pencils or to remove it to bring to school. So I don't think he'll get dependent on it.

Last week however, I started bringing that pencil (with the grip) to school. I want to try to increase the frequency of using it because when it comes to learning motor skills, the frequency, intensity and duration are the key in helping brain injured kids. Maybe that will help him acquire the right grip in a faster time.

I still don't think he'll end up being overly reliant on it - he uses colour pencils without the grip and he sometimes wants to use normal pencils like his friends.

It's available in two sizes - small is about the right size for him. It's made of a material that feels like silicon so it's not slippery the way pencils might be. More importantly it's contoured to support the right pencil grip. It's suitable for use by both right and left handers.

It's sold in 1 Utama new wing but it's along the passage heading to old wing. The shop is on the Lower Grnd floor, opposite Roti Boy. It's easy to miss cos the shop sells nick-naks and novelty items. It's not the place you'd expect to find a pencil grip. I think it cost RM11. If you find one sold cheaper, do tell me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Handwriting progress

A short post tonight based on photos taken recently, cos I'm tired. Had a long day today with therapy and two separate unexpected visitors this evening. I'm also still very upset with my helper and will have the agency deal with her tomorrow.

You'll see from the photos that he can form the letters.

His problem is still with gripping the writing instrument properly. His three fingers are still too far from the paper to allow him to write with strength and with better legibility - it's probably an issue with his wrist, finger, hand, arm, elbow...

The other issue is getting him to write horizontally rather than sloping down. It helps when there's a line to follow...but sometimes it still slopes even though there is a line to guide him. I think it's an issue with him not having learnt to adjust his body, adjust the paper etc as he writes further away from where he first wrote his first letter.

In school, he also writes much slower than other kids. He can be having full concentration on his writing but still end up being one of the last few to finish writing. His other friends on the other hand can waste a great deal of time talking (and not writing), then write very quickly and pass up the work before him.

The photo below was taken prior to cutting it up to make labels for the science related craft I last posted.
His writing is below mine. He did it entirely by himself. I wasn't even in the room with him. I just gave him instruction to copy what I wrote, and let him choose the marker colour. He used crayola washable marker, which is chunky and easier to handle (also makes cleaning up easy as it's washable ink!)

He wrote using a chunky pen with a slightly texturised grip area. He wrote it for his grandparents who visited last Saturday. Grandma was very happy to see that he can write the alphabet and numbers.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Science related craft

This is the craft project that I was referring to in an earlier post. It’s nothing fanciful. It’s very simple and basic, using stuff around the house.

As with my other craft projects, I aimed to get in some fine motor work (using a scissors which he still can’t), handwriting and creativity. In this one, there is the element of science as well. I hope to instil a love for learning by making learning fun.

I first wrote out the names of the parts and had him copy it out. Then I drew boxes around the labels as a guide to cutting.

I cut out the horizontal portions of the labels. Then I held his hand to cut out the shorter vertical portions. As with most fine motor things that he’s still learning to do, I have to simplify the process initially until he gets better at it.

I showed him how I wish to assemble the pieces. I summarised what was taught in class – that the trunk is a special type of stem; stems are like tunnels that transport water and minerals (hence my use of straws and toilet rolls); stalk connects the leaf to the stem; veins are tiny tunnels in leaves (I used different sized straws); flowers have petals, pollen, nectar; nectar is a sweet liquid; bees and insects help in pollination when the pollen sticks to their legs and body.

I helped him cut the broad sticky tape. I assembled the pieces while he messed around with the pieces. I helped him roll the yellow play dough into a ball and push it into the plastic container. I showed him how to push the “pollen” into the play dough, and he did some himself. For each label, I asked him where it belongs and then I used sticky tape to stick it.

When completed I brought in the bee. I explained that the bee likes the flower because the petals are bright (hence my choice of red) and they like to drink the nectar which is a sweet liquid. I showed him how the pollen sticks to the legs (that’s why I used Velcro for its legs). I didn’t fill the plastic container with water cos my structure toppled easily. But while I was explaining about pollination, he had begun to get restless. Overall it took slightly over a hour, so I guess it was “reasonable” for him to be restless.

Materials used:

-Coloured paper for the petal and leaf (I cut out a leaf shape from an earlier leaf rubbing activity)
-Paper to write the labels
-Inner tube of a toilet roll and aluminium roll to represent the trunk
-Straws of different diameters (bubble tea straw, normal straw, boxed drink straw, middle part of cotton bud stick) to represent stem, stalk, vein
-Cotton buds dipped in yellow food colouring dye (I prepared this part a few weeks earlier cos it takes a long time for the dye to dry) to represent pollen
-Velcro (for the bee’s legs)
-A toy bee (happened to have one made from pipe cleaners)
-A small container to sit on top of toilet roll (to hold the play dough and pollen)
-Play dough
-Broad sticky tape

Friday, August 6, 2010


Over the past few months, the science theme in school had been on plants (subtopics: flowers, trees etc).
Today in e-science class, they learnt about stems and trunks. He found it interesting when the picture showed a white flower turned red after being placed in a red liquid (to demonstrate how stems transport water). Generally, he’s quite interested when I get the chance to explain stuff about nature. It’s unfortunate that I can’t do it more often.

Coming home from therapy today, I had a few minutes to spare before having to cook dinner. My original intention was just to show him that we too had a banana tree in front of our house, and a papaya tree at the back (his BM workbook today had a similar picture).

It quickly instead turned into an opportunity to teach science. It’s one thing to learn it via pictures in a workbook or images projected on a wall. But I think it’s far more interesting (and he’s more likely to remember) if shown the real thing.

I had to keep it simple due to time constrain. So I just showed him words they used like trunk, bark, stem, stalk, leaf, vein, blade, waxy surface, long broad leaf, thin small leaf, flower, pollination, fruit, pollen, nectar (2 butterflies and a bee were there) and took a few photos.

He enjoyed it. For e.g. he ran to another part of the garden to point out how different the leaves were on a plant there.

Actually a few weeks ago I thought of a craft activity that mirrors what was taught. But there are a few more pieces needed. Will write about it when I finally get it together.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I recently wrote about the distractions in class and also about the suggestion by his music teacher on what to do to improve concentration amidst distractions.

His suggestion was to have the TV on while requiring the child to concentrate on a piece of work, starting with a very short time span and slowly increasing the time. Honestly, I’ve tried it only once (and he did well) simply because I hardly have time for activities with him at home. Instead, I apply those principles directly in the classroom setting since I’m there with him!

Today, teacher had the kids practise their concert dance in class, during the last 30mins of the day. The kids were excited. She had the kids practise by groups. The rest of the kids were told to colour the pictures in their maths book (it was maths prior to that).

There were a few pages in the maths book that weren’t done because he was absent. So I gave him the choice to either colour or do those pages. He chose to work on those pages.

The CD was switched on quite loud. The music had a very fast beat (Indian music). Of course he was observing them. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to watch the goings-on for a short while (less than 3mins). It was surprisingly easy for him to get back to his book. I explained the first page – count the number of objects and write the answer in the circle. I didn’t count with him. I immediately left for the toilet. When I came back, this was what I saw:

It was surprisingly easy for him to focus! I’m so happy! I’m happy not just because he concentrated amidst the distractions but also that he could do the work without me! On top of that, he counted it all correctly except the top right box. Usually his mind and his eyes/fingers count at different speeds resulting in a wrong answer for quantities larger than 5.

We moved on to another page. I again explained the instruction – follow the path and count the number of flowers, then write the answer in the box. Then the kid next to me asked for my help. When I turned back to my son, he had traced his pencil along the path and wrote the right answer (7). Wow. We did 2 or 3 more simple pages until dismissal time. Somewhere in between, it was his group’s turn to practice, but it was again easy for him to get back to his work.

However, the episode above is in contrast to what happened with the BM workbook which was before the maths period. Teacher explained the page but after a while, most of the kids weren’t paying attention and talking. My son wasn’t paying attention. Since he hardly talks, he was instead underlining the words on the page, scribbling a little on the page etc. It was very hard for me to help him.

I noticed a similar thing happening with the phonics workbook. This is what I suspect: the work is too hard for him/he’s confused/it’s not explained clearly.

The BM workbook - I think it’s too hard for ALL the kids judging from my observations and interactions with them. They don’t understand the meaning of the spoken words in the activities, let alone expect them to decipher and understand the written word. On top of that, they’re not yet familiar with that activity’s presentation. The activity was to fill in the blank with a choice of words written in brackets, separated by a comma or a big dot. That’s seems like something for Primary school kids, no? There were other matters to do with the presentation that confused the kids, but I won’t mention it here.

The phonics workbook – Along with the other kids, he’s slowly getting the hang of what’s expected in those activities because the activities (e.g. bingo, word search, treasure trail) are always repeated for each alphabet. Also, the words used are presented frequently via story, song, etc (and via powerpoint presentation and their workbook).

Anyway, I side tracked a bit on commenting on their workbook activities. I think I’ll have to teach him how to cope when he finds the activity too hard (be it a poorly designed activity or instructions poorly explained or he lacks the knowledge). What strategy can I teach a 4.5 yr old child that can be applied for all situations?

Neurosuit Physiotherapy Progress

He continues to progress! Now that he’s fully recovered from his diarrohea and probably mild flu, he’s working hard during therapy.

He’s learning how to walk down the stairs using alternate feet (instead of needing to have both feet on the same step before moving down to the next step).

He was able to do the wheelbarrow for a very short distance yesterday. It’s very hard for him cos it works the core muscles and upper body too. Of course, it was made easier for him to start off with. Therapist held him at the hips, with legs together and almost horizontal, instead of lifting his legs much higher than his head, with legs apart.

The therapist has also taught him how to cope when he’s tired but still need to carry on. She taught him how to breathe/exhale. Sounds simple but it works! In the past, he’d just plop himself on the floor when he got tired. Now, he breathes and exhales, then is able to carry on. That’s important when he starts Primary 1.

The therapist has also taught him to blow silently. For a very long time, he’d blow but use his vocal chords. So for e.g. when blowing bubbles he’d also say “Hooo-hoooo-hooo”.

His speech is also getting a bit louder. Today in class, it was very noisy at dismissal time, but yet, I could hear him thank the teacher above the din. But when he has to talk to his friends, he gets very self conscious and his volume goes way down. I think it’s a confidence issue.

One habit I find very annoying is that he can’t stand still (seeks proprioceptive input). His feet will take little steps around where he’s standing, sometimes moving backwards or onto my toes, or ends up leaning on me. He can’t continue this habit into adulthood so the therapist is teaching him to ground himself and to be still. In school today, I noticed he was a bit better in this aspect. The therapist is also a yoga teacher so she brings that aspect of her yoga experience into his therapy.

The therapist is also teaching him to push his weight into both his feet (he tends to place weight on just one feet).

There’s so much that needs to be worked on and the therapist is doing brilliantly in helping him. She’s very creative in making the exercises interesting. She also brings things she’s learnt from the various courses (yoga, oral motor, CST, sensory integration etc) she’s attended over the years, into the therapy session. She’s been very dedicated in helping my son. Such a wonderful blessing!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On his wall - days and months

This is just to complete the series on the stuff that I’ve put up on his wall.

I had tried to teach him the days of the week when he was about 3 yrs old, but I was getting nowhere.

I’m very sure that attending kindergarten has helped in this aspect because he now knows it. Teacher writes the day and date on the whiteboard everyday and gets the kids to copy it on their workbooks daily. Earlier in the year, they also occasionally sang a song to help them remember the days of the week.

I also reinforced it by striking days off a calendar with him. So now that he does know the days, this chart will still be useful for him – I hope he’ll learn the spelling of the days.

This chart is actually placed below the window and since we’ve curtains, it’s not visible all the time. I’m running out of space but I’ll have to find a better place for it. I don’t like to blu tack it to the wall as the blu tack leaves a greasy imprint. So it's currently stuck on plastic corrugated board and leaning against the wall.

I’ve created it with numbers beside the months. It’s to help him understand the meaning behind the number that represents months when we write the date as dd-mm-yyyy.

To date, I’ve not done much to teach him the months apart from striking it off the calendar (which I've actuallyforgotten to do lately!), and marking up some special dates (e.g. birthdays) in a year.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On his wall - numbers in words

This was put up for him to learn the spelling of the words. The symbols are a lighter colour cos I wanted the focus to be on the words.

This first series was made as flashcards and used as such for a few rounds until I decided to paste them up.

For the later series (e.g. tens/hundreds), I shortcut the process and went straight to just print and blu-tacked it (no cutting, pasting on cardboard, and cutting again).

I also have a similar set put up but in BM and in a different colour (green) to distinguish it from the English version. I use slightly different colours to help him decipher/learn it using sukukata (e.g. e-nam with "e" in black and "nam" in olive green).

For the BM version, I have exactly the same set cut up and pasted on cardboard to use as flashcards (cos he's weaker in BM). I would use my hand to cover the numbers on the left so that he’s forced to read the words on the right.

I’ve recently taken down those in the photos above. I’ve replaced it with the tens series (twenty, thirty, forty etc) and the hundreds series (one hundred, two hundred). Sorry, haven't uploaded those pics.

I've replaced them because I know that he’s learnt the earlier series, and because teacher has moved on beyond “twenty” in words. But I’ve not made a BM version of the tens and hundreds series.

I’m fortunate that each time I put up something new, he shows interest in it and wants to learn it. It sure makes teaching him that much simpler.

I’m happy to email you the file of the stuff I’ve made (saves time even if you need to make modifications to it). I can’t upload powerpoint files here, so just let me know if you'd like them.

On his wall - the number chart

I might do a series of posts on the stuff I've got up on his bedroom wall/cupboard door. It's my way of sneaking in some learning and it's working so far. I'll start with the number chart.

I think I put up this number chart in early June when he was recovering from his HFM/cold (but it was made a few weeks/mths before that). It was before I realised teacher had moved on beyond the number 20.

I decided to make my own chart instead of purchase one. I wanted it clear and simple. Store bought ones tend to have other bits of distractions like words printed on it, or pictures.

I also wanted it colour coded my way to make it like a pattern. All those ending with the same digit are of the same colour. Store bought ones are sometimes coloured differently e.g. those in the 50 series are a different colour from those in the 60 series.

Back then it was my intention to teach him skip counting (counting in 10s) and for him to learn numbers beyond 20. I didn’t know how to teach him numbers beyond 20 in a fun way. It’d be rather boring to do 20, 21, 22, 23... So I had hoped that by putting up the chart, he’d see a pattern and learn it himself. Through some short lessons (5 min or less) and through lessons in school, he’s learnt to associate the number symbols beyond 20.

He understands roughly which number is larger/more than another. I realised this in an unintentional way – through sipping water! You see, it’s hard to get him to drink enough water. So I state the number of sips he has to take each time. When I state a large number (e.g. 20) compared to his usual 11 or 7 sips, he complains! I’ve turned this into a lesson! Sometimes I intentionally state a really large number like 33, (to which he protests) so that I can then state a smaller number (e.g. 28) or sometimes a larger number (e.g. 38) to check his understanding. But sometimes I can’t tell from his reaction e.g. I bring it down to 15, but he renegotiates for 16.

I’m not just relying on the number chart as it might be a bit abstract for him. So I’m using the Montessori wooden cubes that I bought, to make those numbers a bit more concrete. For e.g. he now understands how much more is a thousand relative to a hundred (a hundred and a thousand are big numbers as it is).

But now that a friend has lent me the Montessori manual, I might have to revamp that chart. I might instead make it so that each row ends with a digit 9 instead. That’s to introduce him to the decimal system. I think that comes in handy when he later learns to add two or more digit numbers (hundreds, tens, units). I’m not so sure about it at the moment, so will have to think about it some more.

Feeling down

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been feeling a bit down. That’s one of the reasons I’ve not been updating my blog.

I think I’m feeling down partly because on and off, I’ve been slightly ill (feverish, sore throat, aches). When I’m not in the best of heatlh, it’s too easy for me to get frustrated with the tiniest of things. I’ve been shouting and getting angry, with my helper (if it weren’t for the hefty fees already paid, I’d rather do without her even though it’d make life physically harder for me).

I'm getting impatient with my son’s seemingly slow/lack of progress these two weeks. There are so many things I want him to be able to do independently, but it’s taking so long to achieve. One of the things that I’m most impatient about is the lack of strength in his hands/fingers. At times, I think it’s also that his brain has not learnt to engage the right muscles.

I’m beginning to think that it’s unlikely that he can start Yr1 next year without a shadow aide. Perhaps my husband picked up on that vibe cos he said there’s no point in trying to build up his stamina (to last the 6 hours of schooling in a day) cos there’s no progress in his self care. Even though it’s an important goal, if it’s not achieved, it that’s not disastrous cos I can continue to be his shadow aide in a primary school that allows shadow aides.

I know that there are other families who have it much harder, but at times like this, this journey seems just so hard. I’m not wallowing in self pity. I’ve not asked “why me”. I’m just frustrated that he’s not achieved as much as I expected.

At times like this, I think I’m grossly inadequate in helping him even though I think I can’t possibly do more activities in a day with him. I feel that I don’t have the right skills or knowledge or adequate patience or energy to bring him forward. Yes, he’s progressed well over the years, but as they say of a fund’s performance...past history is not a prediction of future performance!

I do not wish to lower my expectation to starting school in Yr 2012 instead. But I do see how much faster other kids in his class are learning things, and how they’re more matured compared to him. Delaying him a year would buy us more time to help him, but I think I’ll face a lot of resistance to that. A mother said of her GDD son (she delayed him starting school for 3 yrs) that there’ll always be a gap between her son and the others. So I too am trying not to delay his starting school even though it’ll be harder on all of us.

Hopefully, this is just a short phase that I’m going through that’ll end when I shake off the virus.

I’ll end with his song that comforted me yesterday

Thank you, Lord,
for the trials that come my way.
In that way I can grow each day
as I let you lead,

And I thank you, Lord,
for the patience those trials bring.
In that process of growing,
I can learn to care.

But it goes against the way
I am to put my human nature down
and let the Spirit take control of all I do.

'Cause when those trials come,
my human nature shouts the thing to do;
and God's soft prompting
can be easily ignored.

I thank you, Lord,
with each trial I feel inside,
that you're there to help,
lead and guide me away from wrong.

'Cause you promised, Lord,
that with every testing,
that your way of escaping is easier to bear.

But it goes against the way
I am to put my human nature down
and let the Spirit take control of all I do.

'Cause when those trials come,
my human nature shouts the thing to do;
and God's soft prompting
can be easily ignored.

I thank you, Lord,
for the victory that growing brings.
In surrender of everything
life is so worth while.

And I thank you, Lord,
that when everything's put in place,
out in front I can see your face,
and it's there you belong.