Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dysgraphia Helps


Click here for my original post defining dysgraphia.



A ten-year-old scribe sprouted under the golden sun this summer. Ashi bloomed with creative stories, seven in all; a bounteous book of poetry and a fictional biography. She even founded her own nation bursting with it's own flag, pledge of allegiance, constitution, bill of 'privileges', set of laws, and national anthem. She cleverly designed badges for the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Bureau of Investigation; the VP badge is securely fastened to my shirt now.

In our culture of gaming and social networking kids, she is a rare and precious bud, but even more beautiful is reaping what we've sown to overcome dysgraphia. Your child can too. Here's how we shifted from whining over one sentence to lazy days of writing bliss:

~Make writing assignments super short. Work on getting one line. Work on getting one line happily.

~Make all writing about their own interests, put everything else to the side for now. If trains, bugs, or WWII are the only things written about for the next two years, so what?! The idea is to get excited about writing what they love. Just meet them where they are, let that be okay. 

~After you get one line with a great attitude, gradually work towards two lines. Later, work for a paragraph. It could take months or years, depending where you are. That's fine.

~Be a patient encourager. Patience and encouragement (or lack of) will make or break your writer.

~ Writing research papers, biographies, or recipes uses facts and removes the creative writing aspect for now, save that for later. Creative writing can be the hardest when dysgraphia is involved. Remember, these papers may be just a few lines in length and that is okay.

~Let him dictate his stories to you. If he isn't able to write one line without complaining, then switch up! Have him tell the story while YOU write or type it.

Remember, dysgraphia is one part physical, one part mental. The physical part means it can be painful to write. The mental part means its hard to move creations from the mind to the paper. Dictation can be the bridge.

~ For some people with dysgraphia typing is less painful than writing.

~If you write the story for your child as she dictates, have her type the final draft. Retyping it themselves will often conjure new ideas that they will add all on their own.

~Separate handwriting and creative writing. 10 minutes of handwriting per day is enough. We did use Handwriting without Tears, but we had tears - like a river! Frankly, there is no magic curriculum for dysgraphia, rather it is how you implement it. Your understanding of dysgraphia is more important than the curriculum. 

A word web we made on our white board.

~Use a word web for writing projects. Simply put the main subject in the center. Use the four corners for "who, what, when, how, why, how much" type questions.

Show your student how to convert those 4 questions into sentences and later develop into 4 paragraphs.

A word web is a useful tool, helps develop an easy writing habit, can be used for any type of writing, and will lead to constructing an outline down the road.


~Have patience, stick-to-it-ness, and good communication. Ask, "does this hurt?" or "do you want me to write for you?" or "be sure to rest if it hurts." Be encouraging and say, "you only have to write one sentence and I'll write the rest for you!" or "tell me how the story goes, I'll write it!" or "I know! I'll write it and then you can type it!"

~Give yourself permission to change up writing assignments. Ashi finally loved book reports when she learned she could write about a book she hated! Let's not think inside a tiny, little, box.

~Give time to develop ideas. Ashi always knows weeks in advance of a writing assignment, it is never a surprise, I completely remove that element. Ashi can simmer and stew on it. Almost always, after a couple of days she's usually on the hunt for resources as her ideas take shape.

~Just let them use the grip and posture they have. I know. GASP, right? I'd give it a good effort to correct these things. But frankly, I have a drawer full of useless grippies, and if I had a dime for every time I've corrected posture, paper positioning, feet placement, I'd be rich by now. I gave up. So many people just do hold their pencils weird and have their own style of writing. Nagging about these things just makes it worse. If you have a student that you are able to correct that is a super thumbs up, but I just don't and I always  choose my battles wisely.

 "Let them draw. What if their ideas come out better as pictures?"

~Let them draw. Let them doodle. Ashi's scribbles are on worksheets, tests, doodle pads, notebook paper, grocery lists, calendars, the white board, digitally on the computer - they are everywhere! It's great exercise for weak fingers and what if our kids' ideas come out better as pictures instead of words? It's a lot like sensory integration in my mind. Exercise what they are good at to pick up the parts that are hard.

Annie Eskeldson is a homeschooler and author of the Ashi's Gift Series which can be found at Ashi's Gift Website.  She has two children with ASD and enjoys sharing tips and therapy ideas. Come by and friend her on Facebook or like Ashi's Gift page on Facebook too. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Therapies that are a Breeze


Now that Ashi is getting older we do 'cooler stuff' for therapy. She is now able to identify feelings that warn of an impending meltdown. She can tell me when we need a break from school and even when she's feeling a tad bit emotional as those hormones begin to kick in.

Here's some easy, breezy, activities we've been doing:

1.) Flying kites. We live in Kansas and the wind always blows here. What a great way to put it to use! Not only is kite flying relaxing, but holding, winding, and letting out string at just the right time strengthens hands, fingers, arms, and takes coordination. It works the core when a nice strong wind blows too. Ashi runs as the kite flaps fiercely behind her!



2.) Painting toe nails. Either outdoors for fresh air and sunshine or indoors on a rainy day, this is great OT in just a pinch of time. It's hard to operate that tiny brush! I do Ashi's nails and then she does mine (and my feet!) It works hands and fingers and what's really shocking is that it is difficult to tell our feet apart! I can actually fit into Ashi's newest pair of crocs. Crazy!

Photo by Life Fad
3.) Of course, one of the easiest ways to get outside, soak up some vitamin D, relax, do OT, work the core, and exercise all the senses is to plant a garden. Planting veggies, fruits, trees, and flowers is a never ending education. You can study varieties of foods, flowers, soils, bugs, etc. If you can't plant a garden outside, plant one inside! You can even do flowers - grow tulip bulbs in a glass of water, or make an herb garden.  You could also make a wormery (our worms are in our garden now!) or an anthill indoors too.


4.) We have a tree house. This one was made from materials from an old porch and has a home-made ladder. Climbing up and down and having the sensation of being high up off the ground exercises those proprioceptive and vestibular senses. If you don't have one, the hunt for a design and materials, and putting it together makes an excellent project and a great way to spend time with Daddy!

It's super easy to turn everyday activities into relaxation techniques, sensory integration, and occupational therapy. If you have a young autist today, you'll be a pro at it soon enough.




Annie Eskeldson has provided all of the therapy for both of her autists and loves to share ideas with you. She has 3 published children's books about autism that also nurture parents. You can find them in the links around this blog or at ashisgift.com.

You can visit Izaiah's Scroll for information about biomedical issues.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Meltdown that Melted Away

One of the best therapies is patience. The therapy is for me, not the kids, although they certainly learn by example.

I'm much more apt to wait things out. Yep, even the behavioral issues and meltdowns. The behaviors seem necessary for one reason or another and I disagree with rushing in to change little people who appear to be out of sync into soldiers that will simply march to our beat. 


Recently, my oldest autist perfectly illustrated my point.

Ashi had her heart set on purchasing an LPS (Littlest Pet Shop) toy. Now, she is frugal and doesn't make snap purchasing decisions. She diligently earned and faithfully saved her meager allowance. She even tallied up what percentage of her money she would spend on an LPS. After being ready, in spite of herself, she then had to patiently wait for me to be ready to brave the trip. We all know that we don't just up and hit Wal-Mart, two autists in tow, anytime we please, no, that takes guts planning!

The longed for day finally arrived and Ashi had the trip all mapped out. Since we also know what happens to 'best laid plans' you can rightly guess hers did not go accordingly.

Not fun when you are 1.) at Wal-Mart (yikes), and 2.) in the toy section (double yikes.) But, Wal-Mart was completely dry, empty, devoid, of a single, solitary, plastic piece of wide-eyed LPS figurine. I looked at Ashi hopefully and faked a smiled.

Ashi's eyes brimmed with tears. Her bottom lip puffed in and out like a pinball flapper and she began to hyperventilate. Her body shook. This type of public meltdown had not happened in 2 years.

I hugged Ashi and calmly said that they were just out of LPS and that I was so sorry. Maybe they would have some the following week and we could come back. I gently reminded her how I acted earlier when the things I needed were sold out too and that she should try to imitate me. Her eyelids blinked, quivered, and were just about ready to unleash a flood.

Thankfully our lives are rooted in Christ and the Bible. I lovingly told her that this could be a sign of not being content. I reminded her that God wants us to be thankful and content with the things we already have and that she has a basketful of LPS's at home. Perhaps she was discontented.  

This really struck a nerve for her. More than anything else her walk with Christ and being obedient to God mean everything to her.

Surprisingly, not one of those giant tears slid down her cheek. She breathed a little slower as I held her. And then she began to converse with me (and herself) that all would be okay. That she had lots of LPS's at home. That we could try again next week. She talked herself out of the whole transaction by the time we hit the checkout.

The meltdown just melted away. I told her how proud I was. It's wonderful how she is gaining control over meltdowns. We've had a decade of practice and practice is exactly what is needed. Along with some age and maturity.

The following week, she forgot all about that LPS. It was a month or so later when she said she was ready to try again. She made a successful purchase. She deserved it.

This was an incredible lesson about autism and age and maturity. I do tend to run away from behavioral therapies, especially ABA (that's a different post), because I know how much age and maturity matter for progress...it's ALOT, so take heart if you have a very young autist at home.

For us, a whole lot of love, validation, understanding, togetherness, patience, and best of all, a good, rich understanding of God's Word has been the best 'behavioral therapy.'



Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autists. She homeschools and has provided the therapy for her two autists at home and is still sane. You can find links to her published children's books on this page!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Goals and Lists


A new school year is blowing in! As a homeschooler, it is super exciting gathering and preparing new academic material, but I love setting a new life skill goal too.

Ashi did great job accomplishing last year's goals:  learning to buckle/unbuckle her own seat belt and brush her teeth by herself. Sounds easy for most, but for someone with muscle apraxia, everyday tasks like this seem impossible. Ashi rose to the challenge and went beyond by learning to help with her little brother's seat belt too!

This year's goal is for Ashi to learn to shower by herself.  Using the tub has become a back-breaking chore for me and I'm all elbows washing her hair in the shower since she's only a head shorter than me! And, I can't bathe her forever, this is truly a life-skill she needs now.

When you set a goal, remember to prepare and provide the tools needed to succeed. Provide helps as needed along the way and gradually remove them as the the steps are mastered. 

In order to prepare for the showering goal, Ashi and I agreed to trim off (another) foot of her long hair so it's more manageable.

My next chore was to find bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and soap that she can actually open or a dispenser like the one I found here.   This is specifically for hands that are disabled. No-rinse shampoo is also an option I may have to consider later down the road.  I found those products here.

The other very, important, thing I did was make a step-by-step instruction list of what to do.  Even though many of our kids have photographic memories containing gargantuan amounts of information, their 'working' memories often aren't as sharp. It's common for Ashi to get in the shower and forget what to do. I laminated the list so it won't get damaged in the shower.

It's not enough to just post the list. To ensure Ashi's success, I will have to work with Ashi until all the steps are mastered. After several weeks or months of practice and the confidence to do it by herself, I will step aside, just being available for questions.  As we move along, I will teach her how to get her own towels, refill soap dispensers, turn the water on/off by herself.  It's always a work in progress, but we start with the main task, master it, and then add in the little details later on. Consistency and a fun-loving-to-learn attitude are keys.

We use lists constantly, for school and life. Here's  another instruction guide we use. It's not that Ashi is rotten or disobedient. She truly needs a list posted as a reminder and your child may as well.

Step by step instructions are great for these kids and can be used for any and every activity in life that requires instruction. It flows best when Mom always has things prepared, such as clean clothes in the drawer, for the list to the left to be used successfully.





I easily made these signs on Power Point, added some clip art for fun. They could even be handmade, using your child's art to decorate, or stickers. I laminated mine, but you could also frame them for use in your homeschool and/or daily life.








Monday, June 24, 2013

Karate...Ashi style!

Ashi's instructor teaching her some kicks.

I've patiently waited for Ashi to get interested in ballet, tap, piano, or any kind of extracurricular activity where she could learn a new skill or discover a talent. Typically she's interested in nothing new unless mud is involved, but recently, she told me she wanted to learn Karate! I jumped all over that opportunity.







Yep! I think she's got that kick down!




I was disappointed that I couldn't find a gym with instructors trained to work with children with autism or other special needs, but I found one willing to give it a try.








Ashi did great her first 2 classes! At first, the classes were small, consisting only of 3 students including Ashi so I was encouraged. But then I was asked bring her to a different class where although it would be larger, there would be 2 instructors and one could work solely with her. I hate changing something that's not broke, but was agreeable. The next class had 7 students. Even so,  Ashi did a good job. She had one instructor work with her individually the whole time which was essential to her getting through. 

Ashi hanging out with some new friends.
Unfortunately, the next time we went to class, there were 14 students and a whole lobby full of their noisy parents. It was a disaster. Ashi couldn't hear, focus, or process. My heart wrenched when she was sent to a corner twice for 'disobeying' instructions. The instructor's lack of special needs training could not have been more obvious.

It killed me to see that and reinforced the many reasons we homeschool. This is a clear picture of a child getting "lost through the cracks" as they say. Ashi wasn't being disobedient, she never heard or processed a command or instruction. She was doing the best she could under the circumstances and getting punished for it.

The other instructor was more positive. I asked if he would be willing to allow me to take photos of him doing the Taekwondo moves. I would develop them, label them, and work with Ashi at home. That would allow her to process visually instead of auditorally.


Ashi practicing at home on the trampoline.

He politely agreed and I took snapshots of him that night. Ashi was able to easily learn several moves. I was so proud of her for not being a quitter.  

After we completed our paid for sessions, Ashi decided Karate is not for her. There just are issues beyond her control regarding apraxia of muscles and coordination. But, she did her best and now she knows trying new things is fun. We can always figure out ways to make it work for her. 

 I think I heard her mention she's ready to try soccer next!



Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autistic children.  She has two, one is of tween age, the other a preschooler.  You can find the other blog here Izaiah's Scroll and also Annie's children's books about autism at Ashi's Gift Website.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Awetism Awareness






Autism Awareness month pounces in like a lion then pads out like a lamb. We didn't do anything special this year. No parties or activities; no blue light bulbs. With two autists at home I'm already very 'aware' especially this month which has been tough, but I'd rather write about what I think is awesome about autism!  Here's my list:






  •  Simplicity. This started with eliminating sensory triggers, needless fanfare, parties,  celebration and their expense and extended to people who were not supportive of us.  We haven't raced or rushed in years. I love the way autism has helped us learn less is more.   
  •  Honesty.  Autism brings an extra special innocence to our kids as they have no motivation to lie.
  •  Trust. We validate our kids, no matter how quirky they are. They trust us to support them and have their best interest at heart.  They know that wherever possible we will put all of our efforts towards their goals. 
  •  Love. Our kids are exceptionally affectionate, kind, and gentle. Today, Ashi tells me often that she loves me. Izaiah who is still non-verbal smiles at me now and is very generous with his hugs and cuddles.
  •  Potential. The wild spring of possibilities amazes and inspires me daily.  I'm newly exploring the depths of Ashi's photographic memory and, in awe, I barely dare to imagine what Izaiah is thinking about as he examines angles, reflections, shadows, and water.  Their creativity and imagination is endless and the responsibility to help them develop it is like the weight of the world on my shoulders.   
  •  Faith. Our family is utterly dependent upon Christ for every eyelash flutter and vapor of breath. The trials seem endless, but His provision is deeper. I don't think I know anything more precious than Ashi asking a little girl her own age, "do you know Jesus?" She does so assuredly, confident in her role as a missionary.
  •  Growth in me. Autism has stretched and refined me in ways I never knew possible. A complete paradigm shift from trying to change our children to changing ourselves as parents instead is what has catapulted our kids to success. 
  •  Family.  Autism has made our family strong and resilient. Homeschooling has been a lifesaver for Ashi, who 'the system' labeled as hopeless and is now a straight A student. It has also strengthened and nurtured our sense of family and our dependence upon one another.
  •  Contentedness. Our kids aren't into the latest fads or gimmicks, they are content with the simplest things. Autism caused them to not like new things in the house as youngsters which was good as we couldn't afford stuff anyway! I love that Ashi can make an adventure out of virtually nothing but God's creation.
  •  Teachable.  My kids with autism have made me teachable.  Although I have provided all of their therapy and schooling, I have learned more than I ever imagined.
  •  Humor. Our kids are so witty, silly, smart, and inventive. We are satisfied with each others company and the life given us.  Autism freed us from what the world considers important and helped us focus on what God considers to be rich.  And when you're that free, you laugh...a lot.     
  • Happiness.  Our kids have autism and they are happy.  They are happy to be free to create, to live, to research, to discover, to learn, to be loved, adored, believed in; validated.  
So, happy Awetism Awareness Month to you.  Better late than never!  I know that the years go by fast while the days can be slow and filled with adversity. You're not alone. For every one thing that goes wrong, try to think of five that are right and you can make it through another day.


Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autists.  She has two of her own and has had a most difficult April coping with illnesses and such with kiddos.  Autism sure didn't make it any better...or did it??!!  Be sure to write a comment on this post.  All persons who comment will have their name put in a hat and one of you will win a complete hardcover set of the Ashi's Gift Series.                                             


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sleeping Single in Her Full-Size Bed

A common problem parents endure while raising energetic children on the spectrum is the lack of sleep. Mysteriously our little angels only need a wee bit of shut-eye, while we zombies parents are desperate for just one good night.   

I'm elated that Ashi has started going to bed all by herself.  Now, before you get jealous, please know that I have spent over 6 years going to bed with her at night, every night, without fail. 

Rather than risk complications of meds or battle rigid night-time routine and clocks, I decided to just go to bed with her.  Simple, right?  I became her personal teddy bear with a heartbeat.

All those years ago, it took forever for her to nod off and I'd dare baaarely move to sneak out! Most mornings the cricks in my neck let me know that once again I had slept all night with her. 

But, over the years, she drifted to sleep faster and faster and finally, at age 9, she's been telling me she's tired and ready for bed, even if I can't join her. I almost have to pinch myself to make sure it's real! 

Ashi and Izaiah, 3 years ago.
We could've let those 6 years be a time of difficulty, but why miss out on an opportunity?  Our nightly sleepovers have helped with:  overcoming apraxia, learning how to read and spell, learning to play pretend, making up games, and telling time. We've went from learning to count, to practicing addition and subtraction, to practicing multiplication and division all in the dark. (And may I say that learning how to do addition/subtraction with 3 and 4 digits, and renaming, in the dark is a fabulous mental exercise.)  We've learned about God and the Bible, and prayed together for so many people. We've learn to talk about our day, to tell each other we're sorry and ask for forgiveness.  Ashi has learned through role play, conquered fears and also coped with death. It's been our time to love, belly-laugh, foster a meaningful relationship, talk about painful things, and answer questions only a child who trusts their parent asks.

Today, Ashi would be 9 whether or not I helped her through those tough years. And, true, she might be sleeping by herself now whether or not I had been there. But instead of 6 years of strife, she has 6 years of joyful memories and I believe she has come face to face with what the true love of a Mommy looks like. 

And, so have I.  By giving up my own 'private time', I've gained the whole world. And Ashi's new achievement is much more touching after being a part of the solution.

It's also very timely, because, like clockwork, my 3 year old is now needing me to tend to his sleep issues.  Here we go again. A Mommy's work is never done!

Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autistic children. She has provided all of her children's therapy and homeschools. You can check out her books at Ashi's Gift Website and on Amazon.  She will be speaking at the Ultimate Online Home-school Expo in March.  Friend her on Facebook to find out more!