Archives for scott

See? I’m not dumb!

Have you ever heard your kids say something like, “See? I’m not dumb!” ? I don’t know if there’s a connection to learning disabilities or not, but I’ve heard this type of statement from all three of my children at different times. It bothers me, because I have never told them or believed that they were “dumb” and in fact I went out of my way to be sure they knew I thought they were great. Sure, AD/HD has its challenges and my children may not always present as if they are on the ball. But I, the mother, never waivered in my belief that they brought a lot to the table even if what they brought was not traditionally appreciated! And how can I explain my “neurotypical” daughter also trying to convince me that she’s not stupid even when I never thought she was? Maybe it’s just a manifestation of self-doubt and a glitch in self-esteem that everyone experiences at times. Yesterday, I was talking with my daughter about her struggles with math, and she quickly pointed out that she got an A in English, adding “See? I’m not dumb!” Let me back up and say that I told her I knew she could do the math and was smart enough to understand it. I told her that her teacher was new to teaching this course and that sometimes the way information is taught can make the subject matter more difficult. I encouraged her to take advantage of the math lab, where she might find someone who could explain how to solve the math problems in a way that made more sense to her. I encouraged her to problem solve how she could help herself, and reminded her that I was proud of how hard she’s working. Hey! That could be in a parenting book! Except…somehow Beckie was still worried that she didn’t measure up in my eyes. When my children imply that they think I might have the opinion that they are dumb, I feel both surprised and saddened. I want so much for them to know I love them no matter what, and when they make statements like that I feel like I have failed them somehow. Then on top of that guilt, I feel dumb for not communicating my unconditional love to my children. So I ask them, “Do you know that I love you no matter what?” and they tell me yes and we hug. See? I’m not dumb, either!

I Love Someone With AD/HD

I picked up a button at a conference because it caught my eye as I was walking past. It reads, “I love someone with ADHD”. Having a husband, a son, and a daughter who all share that diagnosis I placed the pin on my nametag to wear for the rest of the conference. In reality, there are many people in my life who have been diagnosed with AD/HD and I do love them. But I thought it would be interesting to see which of my three family members would:
1. Notice the button and actually read it.
2. Ask which “someone” the button represented.
Once again, my family surprised me. They all noticed the button and read its message, though at different times throughout the day. When my husband, Scott, read it he sighed and hugged me. When my son, Josh, read it he grinned and hugged me and said, “I love you too, Mom.” When my daughter, Beckie, read it she beamed with pride and gave me a hug. I guess this means I’m doing something right and my family feels secure in my love for them since they all three assumed the message was about them!

Down Syndrome: More Alike Than Different

This is a great video featuring several adults with Down Syndrome sharing a glimpse into their lives. It is encouraging and fun to watch. I like having this type of reminder to look past the diagnosis and see the whole person. We are not our labels, our children are not their labels, and sometimes we can exceed what our labels imply about us. I’ve watched this video several times and every time it makes me smile.

My Joke Answer Is…

If you work with AD/HD children, you know how easily they get bored. It’s a balancing act to find work that challenges them without being so simple their attention wanders or so difficult that they become frustrated. My personal goal when teaching is to try and have the child working in an area of strength and achieving success about 80% of the time at a minimum. The more difficult work (in our case, things like listening tasks without visual or tactile cues) takes up about 20% of the time. I want my children to learn to sit down for sustained periods of time. They do need to listen without having a bunch of props to grab their attention. So I work on those things but make sure that they are experiencing success in their assigned tasks at least most of the time. One of the aspects of AD/HD that makes finding such a balance tricky is that our kids may perform differently from day to day or in various settings. This is especially true if the AD/HD is comorbid with other learning disabilities. So how can we tell if we are accomplishing the goal of challenging our children without frustrating them? Sometimes we just have to read the body language and listen to what our children are saying. “This is stupid” may well translate into “I don’t understand and I feel stupid.” “I’m bored” may mean “I need to move around and find ways to alert myself again”. A child who looks droopy may be fatigued on a task and needs to switch to something else for awhile and then come back to the first task. In my daughter’s case, I often get unmistakable clues by how she responds to a question. If she is muttering under her breath, I am challenging her and approaching melt-down levels. If she answers matter-of-factly, I am usually right on with getting her to think but not frustrating her. Since Beckie likes variety and creativity, if I don’t provide enough amusement in our lessons she will often deliver it herself. I knew she was not feeling challenged when I asked her a question and she gave it a few second’s thought before replying, “My joke answer is…” and then went on to tell me the real answer. This was Beckie’s way of letting me know she knew the correct answer but it was not very interesting to her and her joke answer spiced things up a bit. The longer you work with a child, the better you become at reading their cues and figuring out when you are challenging them too much or not enough. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you have a good grasp on it yet. In my experience, children show us over and over again what they need until we recognize it. If we don’t catch on right away, they will give us many more opportunities.

The CHADD Conference

I just got back from the CHADD Conference (Children and Adults with AD/HD) yesterday and it was great to attend some sessions and connect with old friends. I did a video interview with Sarah Wright, one of the authors of the book Fidget to Focus. I also interviewed Kathy Kuhl, author of Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner and Clark Lawrence of the Executive Function Center. I enjoyed re-connecting with those folks and it was a blast to interview them considering I have absolutely no expertise with any videos other than my home videos! I suspect it is far easier to interview than to BE interviewed, but all of my “subjects” were informative and appeared relaxed. I also got a kick out of meeting Kim, who approached me the first night there to tell me she had seen the video I did with my daughter about the Sock Boxes for ADD-Friendly sock organization. A few others recognized me from this blog or other conferences where I’ve been a presenter and were nice enough to make a point to come over and say hello. I met Deisie from Chicago, who sat with me through two sessions and then came to my panel presentation the next day. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up presenting at CHADD in a few years herself. I answered a question in Chris Dendy’s session and she said she liked my idea and might use it in her future presentations. How cool is that to have someone you admire (and her books are on my shelf) like your idea enough to use it? Woo-hoo! I left the conference motivated to keep advocating for our children with differences and with a few new ideas to work on to add to my skill set when working with these kids. I heard stories that helped me keep things in perspective. Things with my children could be worse. Things with my children could be better. I’ll keep working to support and encourage them as we teach each other through life. Stay tuned for those author interviews as a future blog posting.

Burning Rings of Fire

I recently had a conversation with my son, Josh, who told me he was weary of people asking him where he attends college. When he tells them that he is not in college but works full time, they look at him expectantly and ask, “But you’re going to go to college, right?” Josh goes on to explain that he has taken several college classes, but with his various learning challenges it has been much harder and more time consuming for him than it is for most people. Given that experience, he does not want to take more classes until he is sure of what he wants to do so that he can make every bit of effort count toward a goal. The people who are talking to Josh share the expectation that bright, young adults who can go to college will go to college. Josh told me that for him, going to college seems like jumping through burning rings of fire to get a little piece of paper at the other end. Stop and think about that for a minute. If you know something is going to be that difficult and potentially painful, you think long and hard about whether it’s what you really want before you go forward. Furthermore, you consider other options and devise strategies that increase the likelihood you will succeed. Josh is doing exactly that as he works, writes science fiction novels in his time off, and stays away from the burning rings of fire until he is sure he cannot attain his goals unless he moves through them. I think that’s pretty good problem solving for a young man who knows himself and his strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps he will take more college classes someday, but for now Josh is making the decision to put that on hold and develop himself in other ways. A lot of people would benefit from taking such a thoughtful approach to why they do what they do, and to what end.

Changes with Homeschool Conferences

This is a strange time for me.  Things seem to be changing in the homeschool world, as evidenced by reduced attendance at conferences for the last couple years.  That’s been the case for every conference I’ve been to across several states.  Conference organizers are making budget cuts, and vendors seem to be viewed as having limited value.  This year, I spoke at a couple conferences that didn’t pay me, or even give me a thank-you note or a token pen or coffee mug.  I know the people I speak to appreciate what I have to offer, but it baffles me that homeschoolers seem to expect me to give away my services.  I’ve even offered to speak at some conferences, and they reply that I can pay to reserve one of the “vendor” speaking spots.  They want me to pay them to serve them and bless the people who hear me?  I don’t understand that.  I don’t do vendor workshops, and I work very hard to do professional presentations and then make myself available to talk to people throughout the entire conference.  The response to my presentations has always been extremely positive.  No other venue that I know would expect to benefit from my personal and professional experience and then not pay me at least something for my work.  But it has happened multiple time with homeschool conferences.  I did five workshops in one weekend at a conference and was given a verbal “thanks” by one person but was not paid anything for speaking and was still charged full fee for my booth space.  I want to help people, and speaking to groups has been very effective to accomplish that goal.  But I won’t pay to speak, and I won’t go to conferences and work as hard as I do just to lose money or barely break even.  I know there are people who need what I have to offer, and I hope I will be able to continue providing it.  I also know I’m worth being paid.

An Honorable Man

Last week a local businessman passed away after a short battle with cancer. John McConnell, or “Mr. Mac” as he was known to anyone with more than a passing acquaintance, was one of those special people whom, it would seem, cannot come into contact with another human being without touching their lives in some way. For me, his lasting legacy was bringing an NHL club to Columbus. The cynic will say that it was a shrewd business decision and his investment has gone up in value. But Mr. Mac knew next to nothing of hockey, except that there were many sports fans in his city without a professional team for which to root. Since entering the league, the Blue Jackets have suffered seven consecutive losing seasons. The 2007-8 season was the best, when the Blue Jackets finished 11 points out of the playoffs, but were competitive right up to the last few weeks of the season.
While I may quibble a bit with the theological implications of the above quote (I believe that God and my relationship with Him is what truly defines me), Mr. Mac’s philosophy is a fine and admirable one to practically direct one’s life.
Mr Mac was a fine, honorable, caring, respectful man who lived a life of integrity and sacrifice for his fellow man. He will be missed.

We are still alive; Hard times

Sorry for the long delay between posts.

Last month we had an interesting experience. A longtime friend who is very well known among homeschoolers as well as the special needs community emailed us. She was scheduled to speak at a conference in Illinois, but her health just wasn’t good enough to allow her a long drive and then the exertion of presenting workshops. So she was looking to find someone to fill in for her. HUMom accepted. Then we found out that she would be doing six workshops over two days. So……

HUMom learned the material from audio and video recordings, edited the handouts and I modified PowerPoint files. For six, one-hour presentations. In two weeks. In short, this was a rather stressful time. Yikes!

All went well, and actually we had a very pleasant weekend. The most difficult part was that there was so much information that HUMom could have probably presented twice as long and still not gotten through everything. Our friend has over 30 years experience with special needs children and has written dozens of books and curriculum. Her name is Joyce Herzog and if you have never run into her or seen her work, I would urge you to look her up at She is a wonderful lady, with a huge heart for kids who learn differently.

The point of this post is that sometimes we are put in situations that are overwhelming and seem much more than we can endure. The demands and the difficult circumstances are just beyond us and we cannot win. I’d like to say that we will all overcome and have success, but that just isn’t true. I do want to say that sometimes we need to look from a new angle or point of view to see what is going on. What if your definition of “success” is only one of many? Outcomes that are not what we wanted or desired can still be useful to help us learn about ourselves or life. Or they can serve to strengthen us or teach us endurance.

I have a few heros in life. One was Lou Gerhig. The epitome of consistent, reliable excellence. Until Cal Ripkin broke his consecutive game streak, Lou held the record for most games played without taking a single day off. Not only that, but he was productive – many years leading the league in RBIs, homeruns, etc. If it weren’t for a fellow named Babe Ruth, Gehrig would have been known as the most prolific hitter of his time. Lou was struck down in the prime of life by ALS, which has come to be called “Lou Gehrig Disease.”

Another hero is Brett Favre and here is the point for all my ramblings. Brett is another Ironman, with the most consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback. He recently retired after 17 year career. Sports Illustrated interviewed him in 2007 when they named him Sportsman of the Year.

“Ask Favre for his own favorite memory, and he is quiet for a moment. “I’ve got so many plays running through my mind,” he says, finally. “The funny thing is, it’s not only about the touchdowns and the big victories. If I were to make a list, I would include the interceptions, the sacks, the really painful losses. Those times when I’ve been down, when I’ve been kicked around, I hold on to those. In a way those are the best times I’ve ever had, because that’s when I’ve found out who I am. And what I want to be.”

Working with special needs children is not glamorous. Often it is not pleasant. Most times it is exceptionally difficult. But, in teaching them, you just may find out who you are. And what you want to be.

Home again.

Well, we are finally done with the convention season. Back from Washington, DC from the Children and Adults with ADD (CHADD) conference. On the way there, we blew out a tire on the trailer and had to jack up the trailer, take the tire and find someplace that had a replacement. We ended up in a Washington, PA WalMart. Thank goodness for cellphones, AAA and WalMart.

As usual, I knew that the tires were getting worn, and that I needed to replace them, but life always seemed to be too busy and other things got in the way. And I forgot. And I procrastinated.

And I paid the price.

Luckily no one was hurt, and it just pushed our time-table back a few hours. God is good, and we are thankful to Him for keeping us safe.

Melinda was able to attend many workshops and gained a lot of new and useful information. We exhibited some of our products, met many new friends, and got reacquainted with many old friends. Overall it was a good time. Beckie was the only child with us, and she had an upset stomach part of the time, but she was a trooper and a good sport.

On Saturday night, we took a “Monuments by Moonlight” tour and saw many of the memorials in our Nation’s capital. It was about a four hour tour, but I think you could spend several times that long and still not see everything.

But we are still very glad to be home. Exhausted and ready for some rest.