Constipation Transformation

First, I have to apologize to all of you who are wondering why in the world I would write about such an unpleasant subject.  If you are wondering this, you probably don’t have a child on the spectrum.  The statistics vary, but the lower end of the statistics tell us that 70-80 percent of autistics also have digestive issues.  Of the digestive issues, constipation is the most common.  Because of this, I suppose I should not be surprised that both of my boys have had issues with constipation.  Fortunately, this is one area where I feel like we have won the battle!  P’s issues were so bad that we ended up in the ER more than once, but now we have pretty much no issues with him and we never have to give him laxatives or drugs.

These have been our primary strategies (not only for kids on the spectrum):

1.  Squatting on the toilet.
It is just easier for your body to go in this position.  People squatted for centuries until the invention of the toilet.  If your child will not squat, at least try a stool or something that will elevate his/her feet.

2.  Enzymes.
If you child is verbal and can assess how they feel, or if you feel that they have not gone in a while and maybe they are eating foods that have been constipating in the past, have them take a chewable enzyme with their meal.

3.  Increase fiber and magnesium.
There are many foods that can help you with this, but our standard is Salba Chia Seeds.  They have changed P’s life completely and we notice a difference when we don’t give them to him.  There are lots of ideas on their website, but we put two tablespoons them in the pancake batter every day.  Since he eats about half (the other half is for R), he must be eating about a tablespoon per day.  We skip the syrup and top them with a thin layer of homemade Nutella-type spread or Choco Dream (like Nutella, but better).  (Note: Salba has lots of other benefits too – see here, but they are expensive.)

4. Avoid foods artificially enriched in iron.
This is one is almost never on the list of things to do for child constipation, but it has been very important for us.  I am not saying avoid iron all together and let the child become anemic, but there are many, many foods that are artificially enriched in iron.  This includes many flours, breads, cereals, snacks and many other things.  Look at the label and see how high the iron content is.  Look at the ingredients.  Many foods will say ” [x ingredient] enriched in iron [and other minerals].”  Avoid these.  If you don’t believe me, look up the side effects of iron in vitamins.  If you have ever had to take an iron supplement (maybe during pregnancy, for example), chances are good that it caused some constipation.  Foods that are naturally high in iron have not been a problem for us, but those enriched in iron have been very problematic.

We struggled with constipation for years and now that we have found some things that actually work, I hope others can benefit from what we have learned.  Obviously, I am not a doctor and can not give medical advice,  I am just a mom that has found some solutions for us.


I am a mess.

Yes, I admit it.  I am a mess.  A total disaster.  I have piles of laundry.  I can’t remember the last time I got a haircut.  My clothes are always stained and most of  my jeans are ripped at the knees.  My kids have sticky hands and faces and they all need haircuts too.  They all disobey and forget their chores and sometimes I even raise my voice.  I say things that I later think are too strict or too lenient or just too crazy.

I forget appointments and run late for church (and many other things) and I am always trying my best to keep my six year old and two year old from running off.  I see the looks of pity or sometimes contempt from moms with obedient, calm and clean children at their side and I want to explain that we have “issues,” but I am too busy keeping the kids out of traffic.

We don’t always finish our assignments.  We don’t always even start all our assignments. My almost three year old is not potty trained and she is the one that has no known neurological issues.  I often forget to thank the wonderful people in our lives and I forget to thank the Lord for my many blessings.  For all of this, and so much more, I have felt guilty.  And don’t forget about feeling guilty for wasting time feeling guilty.

Motherhood means lots of guilt for many of us and for those of us who have children with special needs, that guilt is compounded.  Was it the chocolate I ate when I was pregnant – or maybe the GMOs or the chemicals that I used cleaning the bathroom? In reality it may have been all of those things or none of those things.  Those things are unknowns, but there are other things that I do know.

I do know is that I love my family deeply.  I know that I love my God profoundly.  I know that I am learning to love them all better.  I trust the Lord more than I did before and I believe that He is FOR us and He is not surprised or bewildered by our problems.  I believe that He wants our ultimate good even more than I do.  I believe that I am my children’s mom for a reason and that all of these struggles have changed and refined me in good ways.  I also believe that there are many more mountains to climb, more pain to bear, more faith to build, but I have faith that our battles are not in vain.

I have come to realize that faith doesn’t have time for mommy guilt.  Faith moves forward, not back.  Faith learns from mistakes, repents of sin and takes a new path.  Faith is the “hupostasis” (the assurance, the “substance”, the guarantee, our “handle”) on those things that we cannot yet see with our eyes.  I build my life on the invisible things that I will one day see – the purpose in the difficulty, the building of my trust in God’s goodness, the “success” (in whatever way) of my children, the other things that I have not even imagined yet, but I believe are there. Those things motivate me and give me strength.

Yes, I am still a mess, but  I am a mess with a purpose and I can live with that.

Visualizing and Verbalizing® at Home

I originally said that I would not post the V/V® steps on this blog because I found a PowerPoint presentation that already had a good summary of the steps here.  However, I recently discovered the V/V® training videos uploaded by someone to youtube.  Before I went through the V/V® training, I wanted to implement V/V® at home, but I had a very hard time understanding what it should look like.  I did see that they sold (expensive!) training videos, but I was not sure if they were worth the money.  If you are like I was (interested in the program, but are a little unsure), this post should be a real help to you.  With the manual, a few workbooks and these videos demonstrating the most important steps, it will be much easier to do V/V® at home, either in your homeschool program, during the summer, or after school.  Again, please don’t rely on this alone to do the program.  This should give you a better picture of the program and can accompany the manual and other materials from Gander Publishing.

****UPDATE:  Sorry, readers, it looks like the person who uploaded the V/V instructional videos (not me!) did not actually have permission to do so, which has resulted in youtube removing the videos from their site for copyright infringement and the empty links have been removed.  If you want to purchase the videos, they are available here.  They are expensive, but if you’ve never actually seen V/V in action, it could be worth it.

Here is my post about some general Lindamood Bell® information and here (below) is a very brief summary of the steps with the videos illustrating those steps:

Visualizing and Verbalizing® Steps

1. Set the Climate

Tell your student what you are doing and why.  Make a small simple drawing to illustrate.

2. Picture to Picture

Student looks at a simple picture and describes it so that the clinician has the same image in their head.  The student should use the structure words (see below) as prompts for further details.  Compare the images and point out missing/misrepresented element in a non-confrontational way.

The Structure Words are:


3. Word Imaging

The student makes a mental image of a familiar noun.  The student describes his/her own mental image to produce the same image in the clinician’s mind.  Use structure words to probe for more details.  Compare images.

4. Single Sentence Imaging

The first sentence of a paragraph is read aloud by clinician or student.  The student makes a detailed mental image and describes it to the clinician alone, then goes into more detail using structure words.  The clinician guides the student to an image consistent with the text.

 5. Sentence by Sentence Imaging

After the first image is established, the image is changed with each sentence, always based on the original image.  Structure words are usually used to probe for details on the first sentence only.  The student describes changes in his/her mental image as the sentences progress.  It is here that the multi-colored felt pieces are used.  Each one represents an image and at the end, the student reviews the paragraph, sentence image by sentence image, referencing the felt pieces and then summarizes.

6. Sentence by Sentence with HOTs

Same as above, but HOTs (Higher Order Thinking questions) are incorporated (inference, predictions, etc.).

7. Multiple Sentence Imaging with HOTs

Images are now described multiple sentences at a time (2-3) and each image is a felt piece.

8. Whole Paragraph Imaging with HOTs

The student reads or hears and entire paragraph at a time and images.

9. Paragraph by Paragraph Imaging w/ HOTs

Images are now described a paragraph at a time (2-3) and each paragraph image is a felt piece.

10. Page Imaging with HOTs

Imaging is described a page at a time, instead of small steps.

I hope that something here has been a help to you as you teach your child(ren)!

Why you should NOT homeschool

I remember several years ago entering the words “Should I homeschool” in Google, hoping it would give me some great insight.  The truth is, I didn’t find out anything new, just some really extreme opinions on both sides.  There are advantages to homeschooling, but there are real negatives to consider.

1.  In many cases you are with your kids all the time.  I love my kids.  I love spending time with my kids.  I love teaching my kids, but every once in a while it would be nice to go to the grocery store alone or actually hear what is said on the radio in the car.  I wouldn’t even dare to dream about a lunch out with a friend (or even alone!).  Do summers drive you crazy?  Do you feel like you can’t wait for the kids to go back to school?  Homeschooling is probably not for you (although everyone needs a break sometime).  (See exhibit A, B and C below.  P climbs on my lap while I work on the PC 🙂 )

P on my lap at PC

P on my lap at PC

PIXECT-20130605114705 PIXECT-20130605114501



2. You don’t want to be the teacher.  I have had several moms tell me that they think about homeschooling, but they don’t want to be their child’s teacher.  They just want to be mom.  This one is valid too.  Homeschooling causes an increase in conflicts because you have more to ask of your children.  Not only do they have to clean up their room and take out their garbage, they have to read and do writing assignments and practice their multiplication facts.  As a matter of fact, much of the reason that I sent D back to school part way into second grade was because I was just tired of arguing.  I thought, “We just moved into this great new district with excellent schools.  Why am I fighting with him all day?”  Going to school was okay, but now I see how coming back home allowed us to actually deal with the issue of disobedience head on rather than pushing it off and in our case, we are better of for it.

3. You don’t really want to learn.  Some people are just done with school and don’t want to repeat the experience with their kids.  You should remember that school is not necessarily what you remember.  It can be the school of your dreams where you pursue the things your kids are curious about and eliminate the busywork and help them through the rough spots.  Still, you probably will have to re-learn dividing fractions and how to divide syllables and read all the novels first, so if you are just not curious and don’t want to learn anything else with your children, you should not homeschool.

4.  Your child(ren) are happy at school and learning well.  No one should feel like they are doing their child a disservice by sending them to school.  No one should feel that they have to teach their kids at home.  If your children like their school and you think that they are getting a good education, why take them out?  I find many homeschooling families that feel like the best decision is always homeschool.  In reality, the best decision you can make educating your children in an environment where they are thriving.

5.  Your child requires help that you cannot give them.  This is what many of us with children who have disabilities have believed.  Maybe your child is autistic, like mine, or dyslexic or has an IEP at school for some other reason.  It can seem like only the “experts” can help him and that public school is the only option.  You should know, however, that if you want to teach your child at home, you probably can.  Most of us have become mini-experts on our child’s condition(s) and we are certainly the expert on our child as an individual.  Armed with that information, you may be able to address the issues at home and in many cases, that is just what the child needs.  Schools also have funds set asides for students in private school or homeschool.  They would not receive the exact same services that they would at school, but if they qualify for special education services, they will probably have access to some services as a homeschooled child.  That can range from direct services (such as one on one speech therapy for the child) or just consultation with therapists.  There is also the option, in most states, for dual-enrollment.  For example, if your child is dyslexic, you can enroll them in school for Language Arts only and he/she would receive services to support their success in that subject.  In some cases private insurance pays for therapy also and in that case you can choose a therapist that allows you to be present at the therapy to observe and then implement the same techniques during the week at home.

Planning First Grade Homeschool

My middle son, P, is autistic, hyperlexic and has very limited language. This makes planning first grade a little more of a challenge. He is a smart boy and capable of learning plenty, but I need to teach him in a highly visual way and we need to work on language as much as possible. He will be in public school for Language Arts/Literacy and PE, Speech and OT, but because their expectations are so low, I am treating school more like a very good babysitter where he may learn something while I teach his older brother in the mornings.

First, I start by setting goals for the year and I choose which resources I will use to accomplish them (not every detail, just main textbooks, workbooks, etc. used for each subject).
Click here to see my goals and resources: P First Grade Plan and Goals

From my list of goals, I then break it out into months, setting goals for each month (many months are the same because we are going through a certain book or curriculum all year for that subject.)

See our monthly plan here: P First Grade Monthly Plan

The last step is to set a sample schedule to see if the plan will work.  See our sample first grade schedule here: Weekly Schedule P First Grade

It seems like a lot of work, but we prefer to do many shorter assignments, so it is actually only about 2 hours and 30 minutes of actual work each day.  We have actually begun our schedule already and P is as happy as ever and he actually chose to spend extra time doing a math app after all his work was done, just for fun.

Beacause P has such unique needs, I often end up making things myself, instead of using prepared curriculum.  Here are two examples of “journal pages” that we fill out daily to work on printing, talking about the past and expressing feelings.

P Day Review

Today I feel

I am looking forward to a new year of fun, learning and progress!

Our Favorite Apps

We bought an iPad2 a few years ago for P because we saw that at school he was doing things on the iPad that he would/could not do anywhere else.  Now the whole family is addicted and it is by far the best educational tool we have.

I try to get free apps when I can.  The site has lots of free and reduced apps. is good too – especially on Fridays.  What I usually do is go there on my PC and get them on iTunes if they seem like they are something we may use.  Then you don’t have to use the memory on you iPad unless you want to use the app that day.  If we are starting a new skill I look in my iTunes library to see what I already have for that skill.

We have hundreds of apps now, but here is a list of some of our current favorites:

For Everyone:
We all love the Kindle app.  Especially since you can usually download the first chapter of books before you buy them.
We also all love the Amazon Instant Video app.
A subscription is $79/ year, but it gives you many shows and movies (and you can play it on a Kindle Fire, iPad, PC and/or the Wii).  I play videos from here and ask Pablo questions about the videos for speech practice.  Since he picked the video, he is more interested and more likely to answer my questions.

For D (9 years old)
Talking Tom (They all love this annoying app!)
Angry Birds (I don’t get the appeal, but millions of users can’t be wrong – maybe)
BrainPop!  (Movie of the Day is free)
Crazy Machines (Think: Rube Goldberg machines)
Chicktionary (Fun Word Game)
Stack the States (Great for learning the states- lite also available)
States and Capitals Challenge
iAllowance AT (chores and allowance system)
Galaxies by Kids Discover (great app from a great magazine)
Maily: Your Kids’ First Email (kids email app you can monitor)
Robots for iPad (more info than interactive, but great if you like robots)
Notes! Learn to Read Music (good for supplementing music class)
Science 360 for iPad (lots of fun science info)
30/30 (Very useful for homeschool – to schedule your subjects.  He sets up his own schedule for himself here.)
Scramble word game

For P (6 years old)
****My Favorite Tip:  Use “Guided Access”
(triple click the home button) to temporarily restrict the iPad to the one app they are working on.

Visual Cue Lite (Great for preschoolers, kids with ASD, etc.) Even the free version can be customized with you own pictures.
Autism Apps (not actually for P, but for us to help him.  Here they have reviews of other apps that can be useful for kids with ASD)
Handwriting Without Tears: Wet Dry Try (Handwriting practice) (We use this stylus with handwriting apps)
Letter School (for Handwriting – probably his favorite EVER)
(especially for interactive books)
Slate Math This is one of the most unique math apps I have seen so far.
Montessori Crosswords (spelling app)
Word Wizard (spelling app)
Doodle Buddy for iPad
Word Magic (spelling app)
Spelling City (spelling app)
Speak it!  Text to Speech (Simple AAC – just type and it speaks)
ABC Pocket Phonics (Reading and Writing)
Clean Up: Category Sorting
Leveled Readers from Learning A to Z
Base Ten Number Blocks (Great visual app for learning place value)
Meet the Sight Words (What could be more fun that animated words?)
Same or Different Game
Math Kid (we use it for simple addition)
Little Solver Preschool Logic Game (not that easy!)
Milo Speech apps (Great for a “pattern” thinker) We use the Verbs and Prepositions.
Sentence Key: Who is Doing What (Great practice for building “doing” sentences)
LAMP Words for Life  (AAC app) Caution: This app is $299 (Two HUNDRED ninety-nine dollars)!  It is by the people that make the Dynavox devices, so they have been doing AAC for a very long time and Pablo has learned it quickly.  Also, there are different levels – simple “one hit” for just starting out to the the advanced level that allows you to make more complex sentences.  Unfortunately, I have never seen it go on sale.

For R (almost 3 years old)
R uses a lot of the apps for Pablo, but she also likes these:
Another Monster at the End of this Book (with Elmo)
Alphabet Find Meet the Colors Flashcards (based on the DVD series)
Meet Biscuit (based on the books)
Pat the Bunny (based on the book)
Meet the Vowels
Meet the Letters
Conoce las Letras (Letters in Spanish)
Shape Builder (Puzzles)
PBS Kids Video (Pablo likes this too)
Pete the Cat: School Jam (based in the book)
PBS Kids

For Mom and Dad
FilmOn – There are some strange things, but I go right to the Live Local TV.  It’s like having another TV!
PBS for iPad (There’s always something good to watch on PBS.)
TuneIn Radio (Live radio from around the world)
Pandora Radio (for whatever kind of music you like)
Talkatone (lets you use your iPad as a phone for voice calls, voicemail or texts – with its own number through Google Voice)
Splashtop (access your desktop PC from your iPad)

The possibilities are endless!  If you have an app you love, tell me about it.  It is hard to keep up with all the great apps that come out each day. I hope to add to this list as we find more that we really love.