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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Do-It-Yourself Educational Intervention

If ever there was a contradiction in terms:  do-it-yourself educational intervention seems to be it!  Nowadays, in many circles, parents are meant to be bystanders and onlookers to their children’s education.  For those of us adopting international children with poor backgrounds, we are expected to shuttle the child(ren) from specialist to specialist, sitting in the car or waiting room while an expert does play therapy, or some other often unquantifiable intervention.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Nothing in some cases.  If you found something that works, great!

Yet, there are many families who fall through the cracks.  They may live in rural areas, far from specialists.  They may not have insurance to cover the $150 per 50-minute session each week for two years ($15,000 would make a nice start toward a college fund, or a start toward a downpayment on a home if higher education is not in the picture).  They may have a crazy schedule (hello), or a number of other kids, which makes it challenging to shuttle one or more children to various appointments.

Let me explain about our kids’ challenges, just two of them with the most glaring of issues that are really not major at all, if you choose to view them that way.  For me, anything that might limit a child is concerning in some small or great way.

Take Sashenka, for instance, our youngest.  She will soon turn 12 and is cuter than cute– a  bright smile, a helpful demeanor, a fun personality.  She was probably born to be a party girl (concern enough in my book, lol).  Impulse control is not her strong suit.  She acts first, thinks second, often interrupts as though there’s no one else talking in the room.  In terms of schoolwork, she prefers the multiple guess system of answering, although we frequently remind her that the answers really should have something to do with the text she just read two minutes before.  Details, details.  If I mark a one-page essay with 25 misspelled words, rather than correct them by looking them up in the dictionary, she simply guesses again.  Incorrectly.  As though I’ll really be snowed and believe that this is now the correct spelling because she “fixed” them.

Something is not computing.  Although I will give a nod in her direction that it is difficult to look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it….  That’s where phonics might help eliminate a few contenders.  Or even knowing the correct pronunciation, such as when she was recently writing a story about pink-pong.  That I understand, and am willing to help her with any honest mistakes.  She really needs focus most of the time as she tries to follow anything happening in a room (except her task at hand), and can often be seen playing with her hair, or aimlessly flipping pages.  If it’s not live-action theater, it’s a bit boring for Sashenka.  Yawn.

Then we have Pasha, our second-oldest son, turning 16 in the fall.  The Russians warned us that he was brain-dead, and many days, he does his best to live up to that description.  He also looks like a Ralph Lauren model and has an easy laugh, which draws people like a magnet into conversation with him.  I’m always amazed by grown adults not understanding that “there’s nobody home” as they speak of him with rhapsody.  They never hear him being nasty to the others, teasing the dogs, or shutting down when he doesn’t want to answer or do schoolwork, not necessarily because he can’t, but because he won’t.  He’s 15, going on 5, and delayed.

Indeed, that’s much of his problem:  everything is slow-mo, which, to a casual observer, would probably appear to be an English-language-processing issue, so they might give him the benefit of the doubt.  No, instead, it’s more of an overall processing issue.  Unless you’re speaking in very- very- very concrete terms, he often doesn’t appear to get the gist of what’s being said.  So we explain.  Over and over.  Not a biggie.

But the reading is slow.  The speaking is slow.  Most of the world that I live in is pressed for time. Benedetto and I have to force ourselves to listen to him, when we’d really rather cut him off, and say, “What’s the point?” as he tells who the lady was, and where she was standing, and what she said, and how warm the day was, and maybe that was in the afternoon, or was it the morning?  Aiiyygghhh!  Get to the point, spit it out, come on, already.

We understand that there may be some brain damage due to Fetal Alcohol, but there’s also a whole lot of Lazy thrown in for good measure.  Not to mention being ignorant of most social clues which again, we explain to him over and over.  So how do we know what he may be capable of in life?  We’ve taken him to an expert and some recommendations were made, but they were basically inconclusive.

Most of the experts work best with those who are willing to go to other experts.  Their prescription for success is to take the child to this specialist and that specialist.  Their school intervention is to get a label, a diagnosis, something in order to put the child into special ed, currently called the “Individualized Education Plan” (IEP), or gain him special services, such as pull-out reading in a resource room.

Not to be a know-it-all, but I can read with and to my children.  I can play with my kids and redirect them toward proper emotional or behavioral responses.  I can have them do “tummy-time”, crawling on their bellies and learning body-mind connections they may have missed as infants and toddlers.  But most therapists and interventionists will never reveal what exactly it is that they do to help children, of course, because they wouldn’t want any therapy undertaken in the wrong way.

And that leaves parents with the mistaken notion that they can do very little to help their child behaviorally or educationally if they sense that there has been some brain damage, or some learning delays.

Well, recently, I came across a great website full of hope.  This one comes from a Christian perspective, so if that irritates or annoys you, that’s a shame.  Help is help.  It’s run by a woman with a Master’s Degree in Education, and 30 years of experience, who now takes a neurodevelopmental approach to changing lives by teaching auditory processing and other helpful techniques which benefited her daughter, and then many others. (Note:  these people don’t know me from Adam, and this is not a paid endorsement.)

Based at www.littlegiantsteps.com, Jan Bedell doesn’t teach coping and compensating skills, instead working on the brain’s neuropathways that need strengthening.  By stimulating neuroefficiency, children (and others) can learn to receive, process, store, and utilize information to a greater and greater extent due to the brain’s plasticity.  This is not rote memorization (which our kids can do quite well).

Many of their case examples and testimonials, also found at www.icando.org sound like my summation of our kids’ issues found above… but with happy endings.  Much of it is linked to one’s auditory function and how the child is able, or not able, to process information.  This can lead to social immaturity, the inability to follow multiple directions, interruptions in conversations, and definitely, learning difficulties.

Their materials also discuss how to remedy limited sequential processing ability, which could cause the student to read slowly, or respond slowly.  By doing exercises intended to form new connections and pathways in the brain, the organization gives very specific steps toward help, rather than the usual, “Take them to a specialist.”  We were encouraged by the books, flashcards, and DVD seminar for parents which our family ordered, and have started putting them to use immediately with Pasha who is also excited about it.  If we can get a word in edgewise and Sashenka stops talking for a minute, we’ll be starting with her soon, as well.

In my opinion, Little Giant Steps is very refreshing and full of hope for the parent who needs or wants to help their child in a more hands-on way.  Just read their testimonials if you want a little lift to your day.




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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Linda says:

    I saved the link, after having a very quick look at it.

  2. avatar melin says:

    Hi – you may recognize my name from another chat site.
    So nice to virtually catch up on you and your family via
    your blog. You all sound well and I am glad.

    We have some experience with the type of programming you refer to.
    My dd has done a lot, a lot of “Learning Rx” – their program is much the same
    minus the christian piece. It does work , for sure. However, my experience
    is that unless the work is done continually (as in never ever stopping), many of the gains
    are lost. Not trying to be negative – just my experience. Still, I don’t consider it lost time or money since I suspect she benefitted in ways that can’t be measured.

    When I get discouraged I remind myself that there is proof -positive -progress towards my highest goal, teaching her to know and love Our Savior. I trust He will stand with her when I can’t but she will need to recognize Him on her own.
    Which, I believe, she does.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thank you, Melin, it’s good to hear your experience. There’s so much that is still being learned about the brain. There are many parents who would be happy for gains in the here and now… and hope that they last well into the future. Using the muscle analogy, it does seem to make sense that you’d have to use it or lose it. You must be very proud of your daughter!

  3. avatar Dawn Baggett says:

    Wow, thanks for this post; just what I was looking for/needing. We have four kiddos adopted from Russia with varying degrees of “issues”. With one in therapy for his cochlear implant already it is a lot to consider adding more therapy on top of regular homeschooling. Too, bonding is still an ongoing issue that I think adding too many therapists and other authority figures will undermine. I and my husband are fairly intelligent folks and with our desire to help our kids and God’s enabling I think we could learn and do whatever therapy is needed with the right info. Thanks so much!!

    • avatar admin says:

      You’re welcome, Dawn. I think we’re all necessarily really, really, really committed to our children’s success. If we exhaust all the options, then we can think about trying something else…. 🙂

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