Friday, August 30, 2013

End of "summer holidays"

This is the last week of my son's "summer holidays", a term I use, as his school follows the British academic year.

It also means that he has completed Year 2 and will move on to Year 3. It feels like time is simply zooming past very fast, too fast, sometimes. It is still a race against time, for him to continue to progress in his gross motor, fine motor, speech... everything.

His class teacher is happy with his progress in Year 2. He was able to carry on with his work independently. Teacher says he understands what's being taught. He has classmates that were helpful and even a girl that fancied him. : D

However, there are so many areas that concern me. It's hard for him to write stories, stories that have a beginning, middle and end, with characters and setting, a problem and a resolution. There are many levels involved and each level seems to be a challenge - creativity, visualization, thought planning, structuring, legible handwriting.

In maths, he understands concepts like multiplication and division but has difficulty in deciphering word problems. Again, I think it's to do with visualization of the problem. Also, when I do not revise a maths topic with him for sometime, he forgets (e.g. telling time).

Self care skills are progressing and I'm comfortable in that area. There are still assistant teachers assigned to be shared between two classes that will be able to help him get ready for PE (swimming, gym etc).

It's hard to strike the right balance when there are so many areas to look into. What I've written is just a fraction of the many areas. It's like trying to juggle many balls when I'm not a skilled juggler. For example, I've cut down on his time spent reading for the past few months to focus on other areas. Now I realize he has lost his stamina when reading. He'd only want to read one page per session compared to the past where he'd read many pages in one sitting.

But this month long holiday has been good. I made a schedule of areas to cover on a daily basis and award him stars when completed. Earning a certain number of stars will enable him to "redeem" a gift.

I had also signed him up for intensive physio therapy at Amir's Gym. It's brought about good results. They worked on his breath (for speech), posture, strength, co-ordination.

I can feel his arm muscles and leg muscles! He looks fit and strong too, kinda buffed up! He'll need that as his Year 3 class is on a floor up (more stairs to climb!) and school hours are longer.

He's been a chatter box this past week, which I absolutely love! He'll need to speak more to his friends and express himself more, because as they grow up, play time gets more sophisticated. It's also been stated as one of his goals by the SENCO, to talk more in full sentences.

He's progressed in his inline skating too. The therapist in Amir's Gym had built up his core muscles and trained him to put his weight forward when walking. He has a tendency to arch backwards (CP trait) which worsens his lordosis. He's now able to move, albeit slowly, in his skates. I had tears in my eyes when he first managed to go round the park in his skates. Although I wouldn't yet say he CAN skate, it is promising.

Despite all the hard work he's put in this holidays, he's still a happy boy. He's very happy with all the Lego City vehicles that he "redeemed". He had a good break too visiting his grandparents and ate very well.  He enjoyed 3 movies - Turbo, Planes, Smurfs 2.

When told that he has only 3 more days left of the holidays, he was momentarily sad that the holidays are almost over, but then cheered up because it meant school was starting soon. Really blessed to have a happy boy, a good school, and good therapists to support him! Here's to a fantastic Year 3!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A colour poem written by my son

Last week, his school teacher had tasked the children to come up with their own colour poem.

The teacher started off by brainstorming with the kids on what items represent the various colours chosen. For example, purple: Barney, grapes etc; red: fire engine, apples etc. She wrote them down in lists on the white board.

The kids were told to select 2 colours and based on those two colours, select four items that represent them from the lists written on the board.

Then they were to come up with their own poem, writing in their exercise book. After the review by the teacher, they were to rewrite it, this time on the slips of paper like in the photo. The assistant teacher then pasted them on coloured backing and hung them up for display in the class.

My son came up with his own selection of colours and items. He wrote his own poem in the exercise book. Teacher edited the 2nd & 3rd line only, by truncating them. His original 2nd & 3rd line were much longer, continuing with the connective "because". It was explained to him that in poems, you keep it short and it doesn't require connectives.

I was blown away by his 1st and 4th line. It was very much written in the manner of a poem, "poem language" in a way. Teacher was impressed by his 1st line.

The image isn't all that clear, so I'm reproducing it below:

Orange is the sunset when the day is done
Orange is the tigers that are very firce
(correcting it for grammar & spelling: Orange is the tiger that is very fierce)
Orange is the carot that is healthy for your eyes
Orange is the fire that burns very bright.

Late last year, I tried to get him to write a poem. It was about Ferraris (he's crazy about cars). It took a lot of effort and guidance on my part as he had never written one before, and it's so hard for me to get him to write his own sentences at home anyway.

A few weeks after that, we tried to come up with a limerick about his best friend, which also proved tough going.

So, I was really surprised that he came up with that poem & thought it worth a mention in my blog.

He only has 3 books written in poem language and are about vehicles (but of course!) He was assigned a reader book that contained poems about sports a few months ago. That's about the only exposure he has had to poems. So I am really pleased to see his brain working creatively :D

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Progress in his vision therapy

My son started vision therapy slightly over a year ago. Prior to the first vision therapy assessment session, I was skeptical as I had not heard about vision therapy. Furthermore, the ophthalmologist said there were nothing wrong with his eyes.

I went because of 2 reasons. His CST therapist had noted through her CST sessions that something was not quite right with his vision. Secondly, he was putting up a big fuss whenever he had to read his school reading books. In the past, he would read his school readers without fuss, but by Term 2 of Year 1, the size of the text got a lot smaller, and there were a lot more words on a page.

I'm really happy that things turned out well. There have been so many areas that have improved as a result. Here are just some of them:

He currently enjoys the Mr. Men/Little Miss series, Horrid Henry stories and Geronimo Stilton.

  • He enjoys reading and his ability to answer comprehension question has improved tremendously.

  • He doesn't fight when it comes to doing his homework.

  • His handwriting has improved. He is able to write on the line (previously, the letters float) and the size of the letters are pretty much the same (previously, some were large and some small). However, when he's tired, his handwriting goes awry.

  • He is far more focused in school and gets his work done pretty much by himself. 

  • He's significantly better at recalling events. For most of Year 1, his standard answer was "I cannot remember" or "I don't know" when asked about things that has happened (e.g. what he ate for lunch, whether he had a BM lesson)

  • He's more confident.

  • His gross motor, fine motor, proprioception have improved. Note that these were also because he continued with the various therapies at Fezia's.

Vision therapy did bring good progress but it isn't a magic pill that gives instantaneous results. It requires commitment and discipline.

After the initial assessment by the vision therapist (also known as developmental/behavioural optometrist) he went for weekly therapy sessions where he was also assigned homework (vision related exercises) to be done on a daily basis.

One reason for the speed of his progress is that there's a high level of compliance, ie. he does his VT homework (bar illness or holidays) as required. This is one key factor that I've seen in all his therapies that bore good results, and it is linked to what I had learnt from Fezia - you need the right amount of frequency, intensity and duration to see progress.

Some of the exercises are seemingly simple & not immediately obvious that it is a vision exercise, but it works by reorganizing the brain in ways that benefit him overall because the body is linked in far more ways than I have understood in the past.

Some exercises are clearly vision related like getting his eye balls to repeatedly track a moving object, or that focus on hand-eye co-ordination.

The number of exercises and reps vary depending on how difficult it would be for my son to do. But it usually is completed in 20mins (provided he co-operates). I am required to note down my observations of him performing those exercises, for feedback to the therapist at the next session.

During the VT sessions at the therapist's office, he will also perform exercises (but different from those assigned as homework) and it usually involves gadgets that I do not have at home e.g. prism glasses, computer related activities, and electronic gadgets.

He is very blessed to have a great VT who works well with kids. He is able to challenge my son at the right level - not too difficult (so as not to discourage him) and not too easy (so that there's progress). He's also very creative in coming up with exercises that are usually fun, incredibly patient, and understands the psychological and emotional side of kids.

Oh, and he's also been very patient in explaining things to me & trying to incorporate exercises that will address my areas of concern. One of the earliest things that I learnt from him is that you may have 20/20 eyesight but you'll need your brain to do a whole lot more to process the image at the back of your retina. That's when I learnt terms like eye teaming, convergence etc. That made sense to me because with CP, it's part of the brain that is compromised rather than the physical limb/muscle.

I've been meaning to write this post for some time now because I wish to share therapies that have worked well for my son and also because vision therapy is very new in Malaysia, but have been just so busy and tired (I've been without a live in helper for about the same time as when he started VT). It is also in response to a question asked by a fellow blogger, to share my experiences on VT.

This is a link to a YouTube video by Dr John Abbondanza, that I viewed that gives a very good insight to vision therapy. Other videos by Dr John Abbondanza are also very informative.

Here's the website of my son's vision therapist which provides detailed information on what vision therapy entails and how it is of help.

His contact details are on this link, which is also on his website under the "Contact Us" tab:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Swimming progress

My son has achieved a breakthrough of sorts in his swimming during the recent Dec school holidays.

He hasn't had many lessons ever since he started in Aug 2011 because he often had colds. His runny nose would continue for 2 weeks at a stretch. Back then, his therapist Fezia, hadn't built a pool yet and I had to drive 2 hours through traffic from school to the club for his swimming lessons. Obviously that was unsustainable and we stopped after 2-3 months.

Now that Fezia has built her pool, she has very very gradually built up his confidence in the water. She's absolutely great with him because she already knows his character and abilities. She's also superb because she has such a wide and varied selection of "tools" in her toolbox (ie. techniques learnt over the years from various courses she'd attended) to use in helping him.

But because he still often had a runny nose, swimming sessions at Fezia's place was infrequent and irregular. The unpredictable frequent thunder and lightning storms in Malaysia also works against us.

However, there was a wonderful stretch of a week last Dec where we managed to put in 4 sessions of about 1-2 hours each.

This video shows what he achieved by the end of it. I cannot yet say that he has learnt to swim but he's come a long way from the days where he'd stiffen his body when in the water; where he'd gulp mouthfuls of pool water because he forgets to close his mouth; where he chokes and vomits because he breathes through his nose underwater; where his legs float up in front of him because he can't keep them down or behind him; where he couldn't even submerge his face for a split second without vomiting because of fear.

Hopefully, by the time he reaches Year 3 (Sept 2013) he'd be able to doggie paddle and swim. That would greatly add to his self confidence as his classmates are already not only able to swim but swim well.