We’ve been super focused on settling into our homeschool routine since the New Year and it’s hard to believe we’ve been at it for two months already! Time really does fly.
Both Little Bear and I have learned A LOT in the last 8 weeks and I want to share some of the helpful tips and wisdoms that have helped me on this journey.
Routine + Time Management Our school schedule has done wonders for my personal time management skills. I struggle with routines but our school schedule helps simplify our day and helps me be more aware of how I spend my time. Working from home can make it hard to keep my boundaries clear and some days I feel like I’ve been too focused on work. But blocking out time for school every day ensures that Little Bear and I get enough one on one time, even if in my head, it doesn’t seem like it. This really helps alleviate the mom guilt I now so many of us struggle with.
Planning Planning is going to become key if you want to homeschool your child. Your life will become a cluster fuck if you try to homeschool without doing sufficient planning first. I plan my curriculum on a monthly basis, then on Sundays I review my plans for the week, gather materials and prep as much as I can. Nightly, before bed, I check out the schedule for the next day and complete any last minute preparations. That way when the morning comes I’m ready to go, no hesitation. Even with advance prepping, sometimes things go awry. It’s important to plan your day so it runs smoothly but it’s more important to be flexible to your child’s needs.
Letting Your Child Lead As adults, when we make a plan, we try our best to stick to it, thats the point, right? Well for kids thats not really the case. They don’t need a plan, and sometimes sticking to your plan rigidly can make life unnecessarily hard for your little one. I’ve found that with our homeschool activities, it’s best for me to follow Litle Bear’s lead on how we engage with the activities. Say I bring out paint and paper, but my little one would rather paint on his skin than on the paper. The goal of the painting activity is not to make something beautiful that you frame and keep forever. Would that be nice, sure, but the point of this activity is to 1. Expose your child to different experiences, 2. To encourage hand eye coordination and motor skill development through using a paint brush and 3. To allow your child the opportunity to be curious, explore and understand at their own pace. If you’re hyper focused on getting your child to paint a line on their paper, you could both miss out on all the other opportunities for learning that activity offers.
Getting help + Not Losing Your Head You’ve heard the expression ‘it takes a village’ well, as i’m learning raising a child, really does. So it’s important that you have a support system and the tools you need to be successful. We don’t all have an expansive support team, and that makes things much harder. But that doesn’t mean that you’re alone. The internet and apps like Clubhouse and Facebook are making it easier than ever to connect with like minded people and grow real, meaningful relationships. People meet their spouses online, there’s no reason you can’t make a legit friend who could support you in real life, online.
Another area where I needed support was in my planning materials and resources. I have a background in education, so iI knew going into homeschooling, what the back end work was going to look like for me. I’m a chronic overplanner so I knew I needed a robust system to help me figure out what homeschooling was going to look like. I wanted our curriculum to be cohesive, not just on a daily and weekly basis but on a monthly and yearly basis too. I needed support in knowing what kind of subjects I should cover and a system that would help make sure we were setting and meeting learning goals and keeping our activities fresh and engaging. I was able to find a very robust planning program that offered that materials I needed and aligned with my educations style (we do montessori in our home). I would highly recommend compiling planning resources and utilizing the resources offered by more experienced homeschoolers when you’re starting out. Even if you’ve worked in education, homeschooling is a different beast entirely, and it’s worth tapping in with an experienced homeschooler before you get started.
What are some helpful tips or ideas you’ve found most useful on your homeschooling journey? Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Instagram and let me know! I’m always looking for new friends and new ideas.
It’s been a little, while am I right? It feels redundant to say but this year has changed our lives forever.
I’ve shifted careers and have taken the leap into entrepreneurship full time. It’s scary, but it gives me the freedom I need to do the thing that’s most important to me now a days: raising a happy, healthy, KIND human.
I’ve opted out of virtual school and decided to homeschool full time for the foreseeable future. I knew pre-pandemic that education for Little Bear was going to be a little different. I’ve spent five years working in public schools and know how difficult it is for them to fully meet the needs of their students, especially given the fact that most public schools are heinously underfunded.
We’re living more simply these days: being stripped of everything you thought you wanted and needed in life has a way of showing you what you really need. We’re making conscious efforts to live a more humble, less wasteful life. Everything from the way we cook to how we sort our trash has changed, to reflect a life of simplicity and resourcefulness.
I know for many folks, the pandemic hit much harder. Many people lost their jobs, and a fair amount of people lost their homes. Many people lost loved ones, relationships and friendships in the last few months.
It can be difficult in hard times to stay positive or find the good in things, especially if you feel your life has been destroyed. But try to focus on the positive elements of the year. Focus on your resilience and the things that brought you small, consistent joy. Lean in towards those things.
One of the biggest changes for our family during the pandemic has been education. We were enrolled in early intervention when the pandemic hit in the United States in March. All schools in our county were shut down until July, when many facilities began the process of reopening. During this time, I struggled with whether or not to send Little Bear back to school. A big part of his developmental deficits has to do with social interaction. He had just started to blossom with his peers when we had to shelter in place. I literally agonized over weather the risk was worth the reward,
I took some time to think about what was best for Little Bear and for me. I thought about how much he had changed since starting school, then his progress via teletherapy, and finally, how he had advanced since stopping teletherapy. For us, the answer was homeschooling. So as we start our homeschooling journey, we’ll take you with us, sharing what we learn, strategies that work for us and helpful resources to streamline the process.
I hope you’re all ready to talk about something other than coronavirus and quarantine, cause we sure are! Today, we’re going to begin exploring the world of neurodiversity.
Nuerodiversity is a word that has been around since the late 90’s but really gained traction in the last 3 to 5 years. It refers to “the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders)” (23).
If you’re new to the journey of nuerodiversity, it can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you’re struggling to get a grasp on what your little one may be struggling with. So we’ve compiled a beginner’s vocabulary list with the intention of helping you better understand the needs and challenges of a child with sensory processing disorder. We believe that understanding is the foundation for strong connections and proper care, the cornerstones of a healthy and balanced life.
This list and the words on it can be difficult to wrap your head around, so we divided it into three categories, each dealing with different concepts relating to sensory processing and Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD). We’ll circle back to this list and expand on these concepts and ways to address them at home in the coming weeks.
The Basics: What is sensory processing?
Sensory Processing: refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into responses in our bodies. (1)
Nervous System: A complex collection of nerves and specialized cells called neurons that send and receive signals to different parts of the body. The nervous system can be compared to a home’s electrical system, carrying ‘messages’ of electricity all over the house. (3)
Senses: Senses are the ways in which our bodies take in information about the world around us. There are actually 8 senses, not 5, that help us navigate the world: visual (sight), auditory (sound), tactile (touch), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), vestibular, proprioception, and interoception (14, 15).
Vestibular Sensory System: The vestibular system is a complex system of structures located in the inner ear and is responsible for providing our brain with information about motion, head position, spatial orientation, and helps us to keep our balance, stabilize our head and body during movement, maintain our posture and control our eye movement (15, 16). It is an essential part of movement and equilibrium.
Proprioception: The proprioception sensory system is the sense that lets our brains perceive the position, location, orientation and movement of our muscles and joints. It provides us with a sense of the relative position of neighboring body parts and the effort needed to move those body parts. The proprioception system runs throughout the body with receptors in the inner ear, joints and muscles. There are two kinds of proprioception, conscious and unconscious, each with its own distinct pathway of communication to the brain (15, 17).
Interoception: The sensory system that relays information to our brains about the physical or physiological condition of our bodies. Sensations of hunger and thirst are examples of the interoception system at work. This system’s primary function is to guide the regulation of our bodies through heart rate, respiration, hunger and elimination. Interoception tells us what our bodies are feeling by creating feelings like pain, temperature and itch, among others. There is some evidence to suggest that our feelings of energy, stress and well-being are based on sensations received from our interoception systems and interpreted by our brains (15).
Bilateral Coordination: the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organized manner. This can look one of three ways: both sides doing the same motions, alternating motions, or different motions on each side (11). Bilateral coordination is key to the development of gross motor skills (12).
Motor planning: the ability to conceive, plan and carry out a non-habitual motor task in the correct sequence from beginning to end (10).
Occupational Therapy (OT): a form of therapy that works with patients throughout the lifespan, to help them develop the skills necessary to complete tasks or activities of daily living (ADL) through the therapeutic use of daily activities. Some of the most common occupational therapy interventions include working with children with disabilities, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing support to older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes (19, 20).
Praxis: The complex, multi step neurological process where cognition (thinking) directs motor action (movement) in our bodies (7). The process that is praxis is made of three distinct parts; ideation or the ability to conceptualize an activity, motor planning or the brain’s ability to organize and sequence novel (or unfamiliar) motor actions, and finally, execution, performing the motor action (8).
Sensory Inputs: The stimuli that is perceived by the systems of sensory receptors located throughout our bodies. Each system responds to different inputs or forms of stimuli. Anything that you perceive with your senses can be called sensory input.
Sensory Perceptual Disorders: Cognitive disorders characterized by an impaired ability to perceive the nature of objects, concepts or environments through use of the sensory organs throughout the body. (21)
Stimulation/Stimuli: Relative to Sensory Processing, stimuli is an object or event that is perceived by the senses and elicits a response from the body. The stimulus can be from light, heat, smell, taste or any form of information perceived by our eight senses (18).
Sensory Processing Disorder Patterns and Subtypes
Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD: A complex set of conditions that involve an inability to accurately intake and correctly process sensory stimulation, or information(13). Current research suggests that there are six subtypes of SPD that fall into three major patterns, each describing a different way sensory perception is affected (13). A child with SPD will perceive and respond to stimuli differently than a child without it (2). The brain misinterprets the incoming signals, causing it to misfire and give an inappropriate response (4). Imagine a child with poor eyesight trying to play baseball without their glasses. When the ball is thrown, their brain misinterprets it’s location, causing them to react too early, too late or maybe not at all. It can cause a great deal of frustration for the child and eventually lead to a meltdown. Sensory processing is just like this, except that it involves multiple senses at once, instead of just one (4). The three main patterns are Sensory Modulation Disorder, Sensory Based Motor Disorder and Sensory Discrimination Disorder.
Sensory Modulation Disorder: a pattern of sensory processing disorder where a chronic and severe problem involves the ability to turn sensory information into behaviors that match the nature and intensity of the sensation. Children with Sensory Modulation disorder fall into three subcategories: Sensory Over Responsive, Sensory Under Responsive, and Sensory Craving, or can display a mixture of the three. Sensory modulation difficulties can affect all eight senses and can cause disruptions to more than one sensory system at a time (5).
SensoryOver Responsive / Sensory Defensive: Children who are sensory defensive experience an over response from their body to sensory stimulation. These children experience sensory messages more intensely, more quickly and/or for a longer period of time than a child with typical sensory perception. As a result, they are in a heightened state of arousal more often than a typically developing child. This means that sensations that are harmless and even pleasant for you or me, can be overwhelming and even painful to a person who is sensory defensive, or over-responsive. This can cause children to become anxious in environments and situations with too many sensory stimulants at one time, like a graduation ceremony or airport, for example (5).
SensoryUnder Responsive/Lethargic: Children who are under responsive to sensory stimulation have less of a response to stimulation than what is required. They may take longer to react, or require longer or more intense forms of sensory stimulation before their body can produce a response. Sometimes called sensory seekers, individuals who are under responsive may fail to notice activity going on around them, people speaking to them, something touching them, or even their own body sensations like being too hot or too cold. Sensory seekers may display an insatiable desire for sensory stimulation and will require guidance about appropriate ways to get what they need (5).
Sensory Craving: Sensory Craving is a subtype of SPD that falls into the pattern of Sensory Modulation Disorder. Children who are sensory craving actively seek out sensory stimuli and can display an unquenchable desire for sensory input. Unfortunately, the input often results in disorganization and does not satisfy their need for more (13).
Sensory Based Motor Disorder: a pattern of sensory processing disorder where a child has difficulty with balance, motor coordination, and the performance of skilled non-habitual and/or habitual motor tasks (13). There are two subcategories of Sensory Based Motor Disorder: Postural Disorder and Dyspraxia.
Postural Disorder: Impaired perception of body position, poorly developed movement patterns that depend on core stability, thus making the individual weak and/or low endurance. A child with Postural Disorder has difficulty stabilizing their body during movement or while at rest in order to meet the demands of a given motor task or environment. When a child has strong postural control they can reach, push and pull with the appropriate amount of resistant force. When postural control is weak, a child may not have the body control to maintain a proper standing or sitting position (13).
Dyspraxia: a condition where an individual has difficulty with the praxis process, most often in the motor planning stage. The underlying disruption is usually caused by a deficit in tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular sensory processing. These three senses are the foundation for developing a body percept, an essential – and unconscious – part of understanding how our bodies work and their physical limitations (8,9).
Sensory Discrimination Disorder: A pattern of sensory processing disorder where a child has difficulty accurately precieving the qualities and/or characteristics of sensory stimuli they recive (13). This manifests as difficulties discerning what they are seeing, hearing, feeling and even what they are doing with their bodies, and creates perceptual questions like, “Do I hear ‘cap’ or ‘cat’?, Is that a quarter or a dime in my pocket?, and Am I falling backwards or to the side?” Sensory Discrimination Disorder can interfere with processing information from any of the eight sensory systems (13).
Still with us? That was a lot, we know! Feel free to bookmark this page, and use it to refer back to as you begin your journey with nuerodiversity. It’s a lot of information to take in, so don’t beat yourself up if after a once over, you still feel overwhelmed. That’s why we broke it up for you. Start with The Basics, and don’t move to the next section until you feel like you really understand those concepts. Take it a day at a time, a section at a time, or even a word at a time, if you need to. We’ll be here waiting for you.