* More on language struggles

Yesterday I shared my concerns about Stacey, a rising 3rd grader who appears to have a language disability.  It can be difficult to intervene if parents are unable or unwilling to accept that their children have major challenges; it’s even harder if all of the kids are struggling in some way.  Where does that leave us?  If I were a regular classroom teacher at Stacey’s school, I might initially attribute her unusual verbal responses as shyness or as a misunderstanding.  In a large group setting, it can be harder to evaluate students if they aren’t eager to respond.  Hopefully, Stacey’s teacher would spot Stacey’s unusual errors and word finding problems.

As a special educator, I might not notice Stacey’s language struggles, either.  If a parent or teacher does not refer a student, I would have limited contact with that child.  On the other hand, I have had opportunities to refer kids for speech and language issues when they have been invited to social skills groups called “lunch bunches.”  A lunch bunch is when my special needs kiddos could invite one or more friends to a small group lunch. In that setting, I typically found that all of them could use a hand in conversational skills!  But seriously, I think the easiest way to get to know kids is in a small group setting.

The best hope for Stacey to receive some language intervention comes from small group interactions with adult supervision.  In that setting, it would be much more obvious that Stacey is not functioning at typical levels for her age.  Whether an official evaluation process ever gains traction is uncertain in light of the family dynamics.

Stacey on electronics

* Noise in your head #1

Reid Wilson’s approach to cognitive behavior therapy changed my life.  No longer trapped by a driving phobia, I drive anywhere and everywhere, sometimes still telling my amygdala to give it a rest.  Reid now has a new online course which I can guarantee will change your thinking about anxiety!  The course is called “Stop Worrying: Powerful New Tools for Anxiety Relief.”

Why am I so convinced that this course will be life changing?  Two reasons: Because it is founded on the latest brain research and Reid Wilson is an expert in this field.  The video below explains what happens in your brain when you come across something scary, like a snake.  Watch it and be amazed at how fabulous your brain is- and how that amazing brain can make a mess of fear.

More info on this course to follow!

* Identifying language struggles

Stacey dancing 2When Stacey was in kindergarten, I had serious concerns about her language development.  As a rising 3rd grader, now heading back across the states after a summer visit, Stacey continues to display many indicators of a language disability.  She still struggles with basic prepositions, directions, and word recall.  Sadly, she is so desperate for attention that when her grammatical errors entail hoots of laughter from her sibs, Stacey will repeat whatever she can to earn even more laughter.  One of the worst indicators of her struggles to communicate are her increasingly serious behavior issues, with physical aggression and a “shorthand” verbal teasing.

Yesterday she attempted to ask me to subscribe to a YouTube channel featuring, “It’s Raining Tacos,” but I had no idea that’s what she wanted:

Stacey:  Aunt Katharine.

Me:  Yes?

Stacey (holding a tablet in front of me):  Can you do that?

Me:  What do you want?

Stacey:  Can you…?

Me:  Is it working right?

Stacey:  See?  I want this.

Me:  “It’s Raining Tacos?”  You want to play it?

Stacey (irritably pulling away the tablet):  No!  Never mind.  Forget it!

Me:  Show me what you want.

Stacey (pointing in the direction of the screen):  See?  That.

I was desperate, checking for the battery level, sound level (all earlier issues that took just as long to sort), and trying to keep her with me long enough to figure this out.  Eventually I asked, “Do you want to subscribe to this channel?”  She answered, “Yes, but forget it.”

More tomorrow on what could be done to support Stacey’s language growth.

* Another farewell

Yesterday was our last full day with the kiddos for the summer.  Again.  It was a fun day, with lots of laser tag, enjoying the Beatles’ Help movie, endless SpongeBob episodes, and many ventures with Roblox and Minecraft.  Poor Christopher had the toughest time with goodbyes, but we were all very sad.  Their friends who joined us and became part of the gang also mourned the end of movie nights.  We hope they will all be able to return next year!


The folks at Walmart always breathe a sigh of relief when we leave!

* Changing the brain for good

Research continues to support the use of specialized instruction for rewiring the young dyslexic brain, changes which persist into adulthood.  A new study reported by the Dana Foundation found significant improvement in reading AND changes in the brains of 24 dyslexic children over an eight-week summer reading program.  The changes occurred not only in the brain’s language areas, but also areas which allow monitoring of sensation and movement.  The study used a Lindamood-Bell program, similar to one with which I also have positive experience.  The cool part is that changes occurred so quickly.

I have seen such rapid changes in reading performance with youngsters I’ve taught.  I’ve seen as much as three years reading growth in less than 10 months for some kiddos.  And in other cases, that growth occurred in three months!  I would identify developmental readiness, small group size, and administrative and regular classroom support for pull-out sessions as key factors to speedy improvement.

Kid portrait

* Things that leak

Ok, I am starting a list of things that leak.  Feel free to add your own.  I am not including body parts other than the brain.

  1. Complex instructions to kiddos spoken in the midst of asides and other students’ comments.
  2. Classroom lectures that last 30 minutes.
  3. Classroom lectures that last 20 minutes.
  4. Social skills instructions that are not practiced in real world situations.
  5. Tips for dealing with bullies that don’t include adult supervision and support.
  6. Phonics instruction presented by teachers who have no scope and sequence.
  7. Phonics instruction presented by teachers who never learned phonics skills.
  8. Ditto #6 and #7 for phonological instruction.
  9. My brain after less than 8 hours of sleep.
  10. My words after a strong cup of tea.
  11. Dishwashers.

Even this dehumidifier leaks- but into the sink, not the subfloor, like our dishwasher.

* Sunday funnies — bluebird of bitterness

From The Babylon Bee. Average American Now Complains More in a Week Than People Living Through the Black Plague Did Their Entire Lives Demonstrating just how bad modern life has gotten, surveys now show that the average American today complains more in a week than people living during the black plague complained throughout their entire […]

via Sunday funnies — bluebird of bitterness

You know how funny she is.  You think you have read it all.  But then, Bluebird of Bitterness comes up with more reasons to laugh, all the while exposing my griping personality!  


* Bureaucracy “at work”

Question:  What would happen if schools were run this way?  Are they run this way?

After years of putting it off, my dearest teaching widower (DTW) and I decided to refloor the upstairs.  That was over 2 months ago.  We got 2 estimates from Big Box home improvement stores.  We went with the $500 cheaper quote, but it turned out their offer was cheaper because they didn’t order enough laminate.  For over a month, people at various levels in the Box world assured us that the delivery would be made “on Monday.”  My DTW called and emailed and went in person to sort this out.  The laminate finally arrived, but we were still short those 11 boxes.  After another month of reassurances and many more “Mondays,” we were told by a multitude of folks that indeed our order was there, waiting for us to pick it up.  Seriously?  We had paid for them to deliver it.  My endlessly patient DTW told the last person who called, “I don’t believe you, but I’ll wait.”  As a rule, DTW’s become quite patient waiting for their wives to return home.


There are even more boxes in our kitchen- but still missing 11!

This experience is not unlike having a leak fixed in my classroom.  No one was ever responsible, the only person who knew how to fix it had retired, and there were multiple “fixes” that never worked.  It became just about as difficult to identify and serve a student with special needs once the Box Response to Intervention model was instituted.  I am 100% in support of providing modifications and accommodations to ensure that kiddos don’t get placed unnecessarily.  But when you have a kid who can’t read 3 letter words in second grade, you don’t need months of new strategies.  You need your 11 boxes of laminate OR specialized instruction, whichever comes first.


* Google Duo

Long distance learning just got a lot easier with Google Duo.  It’s been around for a couple of years, but my student with an Android phone can now chat and work face-to-face with my iPhone or iPad.  Google Duo, an app similar to Facetime, connects seamlessly between our devices.

Why use Google Duo instead of Hangouts?  In my sample of one, I’ve found that the Duo connection is clearer and not subject to the freezes and glitchiness of Hangouts when broadband width is sketchy.  Google Hangouts allows for screen sharing, but my ingenious student can not only show me his work, but also reveal where I am “sitting.”  Enjoying his first phone, this kiddo relishes every opportunity to show off its awesome features. I would rather have seen his Quizlet score, but hey, that came next.

Google Duo

You can see the definition is sharp, revealing my bedhead and makeup-less face.  Oh well, we were having too much fun with gadgets to notice!