How to Improve... Sensory Processing Difficulties!

 
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Next up in our series about Primitive Reflexes - sensory processing issues! Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) has become a much more well known and popular diagnosis in the past few years. Children with SPD usually have another accompanying disability, like autism, ADHD, etc. They have either extreme sensitivity or extreme lack of sensitivity to different senses (or they might CRAVE the sense) - and kids can have different reactions to different senses! For example, my son is hypersensitive to noise and touch, but craves deep pressure and heavy work activities for his proprioceptive sense (more on that later!)

Almost everyone out there has a sensory sensitivity or craving tendency. Sensitive to sunlight. Doesn’t like tags. Wears shorts in the winter. Loves crunchy foods. The list goes on. The issue occurs when a child has such severe reaction or so many reactions to the senses that it affects their behavior and learning! Sensory integration is connected with reflex integration. See the same word there? Integration. This process of integrating sensory processing and reflexes happens in infancy/toddlerhood. In our years of evaluating students at Yellow Wood, I’ve come to find that these two are intertwined and one cannot be improved without the other. Today I’ll be sharing symptoms of sensory processing issues, as well as symptoms of retained primitive reflexes so that we can see where the overlap occurs!

Our 7 senses

Did you know there are actually SEVEN senses that we use to take in information around us? Tactile, auditory, visual, gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), vestibular, and proprioceptive. The vestibular system is your inner ear, and is responsible for balance, coordination, and so much more. The proprioceptive sense is your awareness of where you are in space and in relation to other objects.

 

Children who are hypersensitive will have a low tolerance for or try to avoid thing like:

Visual:

  • bright lights

Tactile:

  • Tags on clothing or tight clothing
  • Unexpected touch like a hug
  • Hair brushing

Auditory:

  • Loud noises

Taste:

  • new food textures or flavors

Smell:

  • Sensitive to strong odors or perfumes

Vestibular:

  • Might get dizzy easily, avoid visual/motor skills like catching a ball, be uncoordinated or clumsy

Proprioceptive:

  • Might have trouble recognizing they are in someone’s personal space
  • Bump into things a lot
  • Hyper aware of their own personal space.

 

Children who SEEK these senses because their body is not sensitive enough to them:

Visual

  • Might need bright colors to help learn or stay engaged

Tactile

  • Crave tight clothing
  • Very messy eater
  • Touches everything
  • Puts objects in mouth

Auditory

  • Needs people to speak loudly for them to “hear” it
  • Says “huh” a lot in conversation
  • Loves for the TV to be loud

Taste

  • Loves spicy and crunchy foods

Smell

  • Doesn’t notice strong odors

Vestibular

  • Can’t seem to sit still
  • Thrill seeker
  • Loves spinning, swinging, jumping

Proprioceptive

  • Seems to do things too lightly or too hard, like writing with a pencil will either write very lightly or push down too hard and break the pencil
  • Plays with others or animals too roughly

So, how does a child with sensory processing react when they get too much or not enough sensory stimulation? Their fight or flight response is triggered!

The Moro Reflex is the reflex that startles babies awake when they fling their arms from a loud noise or sudden movement. That is the same reflex that triggers the fight or flight response. As we mature, this reflex is supposed to integrate and make room for a more mature fight-or-flight reflex that we can control. When this doesn’t happen, you very often see sensory difficulties, anxiety, and other struggles.

The fight or flight response can look different in every child. Some kids will have meltdowns when they are overwhelmed. Others may seem like they aren't following instructions, are being goofy, or hyper. Or, it could be that your student who is doing homework will get up 10 times in an hour to get a drink, a snack, go to the bathroom... you name it! It's important to recognize that this response is not a conscious decision but one of survival. If the body overloaded (or underloaded) by sensory stimuli and the child has a retained Moro Reflex, their body will overreact and you'll see these responses.

This is just ONE reflex that plays a part in integrating the sensory systems. It’s amazing how helping the brain finish developing through primitive reflex integration can also help to reduce sensory sensitivities in kids! To learn more about this, join us for the “Brain Based Movements” workshop! You can check it out below. This workshop gives parents the knowledge and tools to help their child integrate 6 primitive reflexes through fun movement exercises!

 

Could reflexes be affecting your child's learning or behavior?

 
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At Yellow Wood, we’re pretty passionate about Primitive Reflexes, and we talk about them, a lot! Primitive reflexes are the first step in healthy brain development, and are the reflexes present at birth to help infants through the birthing process and first year of life. One great example is the “startle reflex”. We’ve all seen a baby get startled and throw their arms out and head back. This reflex is part of an infant’s survival mechanisms, but as they mature and develop, they don’t need it anymore. Other than just survival, primitive reflexes are also responsible for connecting the lower centers of the brain to higher, more mature centers of the brain so that children can do more complex things! These reflexes should disappear by year one, but sometimes they “get stuck”, or are retained, and it halts the brain development process. This can cause a myriad of difficulties for a child, including anxiety, trouble learning to read, poor handwriting, and many others!

When primitive reflexes are retained, kids have trouble using their whole brain effectively, and this makes it hard to access cognitive skills, like attention, memory skills, sequencing, and even logic and reasoning. Many of the symptoms related to these reflexes are also associated with ADHD, dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, and more.  If the brain is still immature, meaning it hasn’t finished developing because primitive reflexes are still intact, then the challenges will become more obvious as the student gets older. That is why primitive reflex integration is SO important to the success of a struggling student!

The amazing news about reflexes is this: learning challenges related to a retained reflex can be overcome! FIXED! See why we’re so excited about this? We LOVE helping families and students overcome their learning and behavioral challenges by testing for retained reflexes and then integrating them through simple movement exercises!

One of my favorite reflexes to “integrate” is called the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR). You can see this reflex in action in infants when they do tummy time! A child who is placed on their belly will automatically lift their head and arms off the floor for a few seconds. As babies practice this movement, it helps to integrate the TLR. This is just one of many reasons why tummy time is so important for babies!

 

When a child retains (holds onto) the TLR, you might see these symptoms:

Weak Core

How many times have we heard that the core is SO important for learning? This reflex is why! Core strength is built through integrating the TLR. Without strong core muscles, students will have poor posture, balance, and stamina for both physical activities and sitting in a desk working! Weak core muscles are also linked to a weak vestibular system!!

Difficulty with Sequencing

Do you know a child who can never tell a story or tell about their day in order? Or struggles with counting, organizing, remembering the months of the year in order? It might be due to this retained reflex! Sequencing is also very important for learning to read and spell.

Poor Sense of Time

We all have a child who seems to never notice what time it is, is always running late or in a rush, and who may have struggle learning to tell time! This is also a classic symptom of a retained TLR.

 

So, you may be thinking, “Wow! This sounds *just* like my child! But, wait! How do we fix it??” Well, here ya go! Many exercises that help integrate reflexes look similar to the reflex in an infant. So, when integrating the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex, you’re essentially going to recreate tummy time! Here are a few ways you can do this:

 

1. Superman

The main exercise we use for integrating the TLR is the superman. In order to complete this exercise, you’ll:

Repeat 3 times daily for 6 weeks.

  1. Lay on the floor or on a yoga ball on your stomach

  2. Lift arms above your head, and life your arms and legs off the floor at the same time, hold this position and count to at least 10.

If this exercise is extremely difficult, parents may need to help hold the legs up while the child focuses just on lifting their arms. Usually this will not be necessary after a couple weeks.

2. “Floor Play”

Another approach is floor time. You can often find activities to complete while laying on the floor on their stomach. Some ideas could be reading a book, doing homework, or completing a puzzle… or even just playing with legos, while propped on your elbows. If you have a scooter board, rolling around on your stomach is a great way to work on the TLR. Many OT’s have stretchy swings that you can lay in on your stomach with your and legs stretched out, so you can swing and do other activities while in the “superman” position. We have a swing like this in the doorway at our home so my 4 year old son can get in some daily tummy time!

 

Here’s the key to success with integrating the TLR and any reflex: you MUST do it daily for at least a 30 days! Just like when starting a new habit, the habit won’t form until you’ve done it daily for a few weeks. With Reflexes, we’re making new brain connections and pathways, so that will take time and it must be deliberate in order to integrate the reflex! In order to help you out with this, I’ve created a free printable chart that you can print for each of your children and hang on the fridge! Every time they complete the super man or at least 10 minutes of floor time, you can add a sticker to the chart!

What happens if you fall of the bandwagon? Don’t worry! If you’ve only missed a day or two, just jump back in and add a few days to your chart. If you’ve missed more than that though, I would suggest starting over!

Are you a classroom teacher? This is an amazing and easy exercise to implement in your class! Use it as a brain break, and encourage your students to continue with it on the weekends! You’ll see results in any student who has a retained TLR, and it will only help your other students to strengthen their core even more!

I hope you enjoy this exercise and find it helpful and freeing for your student! And if you are interested in learning more about all SIX reflexes we help integrate, you might want to check out our Brain Based Movements Online Workshop! Hundreds of families and professionals have taken this course and helped to change the lives of their students through reflex integration!

To get your FREE Progress Chart, Fill out the form below! 

Ready to learn more about primitive reflex integration? For the month of January, our Brain Based Movements course is $20 off! Grab it before this great deal is gone, and learn how to integrate all SIX reflexes! 

 

Writing Success!

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Before You Throw the Book at 'em... Part 4: Writing

Today we’ll be sharing our favorite curricula for writing! Many of our parents struggle with helping their students learn to write paragraphs, stories, research papers… etc. There are several great choices out there, but we typically use two main programs for our schoolhouse students: Writeshop and Writing & Rhetoric.

*note - this post contains affiliate links. This means we'll make a small percentage of anything purchased from these links. But don't worry, we only suggest items we truly love and would recommend them even without affiliate links! 

 

Reasons we LOVE Writeshop:

1. Offers writing curriculum for K-12!

Wow! This is a rare find and Writeshop does a great job offering age appropriate lessons.

2. A great curricula for those who are allergic to writing!

Is your child allergic to writing? Writeshop is written for students who struggle with this skills, as well as for students with challenges such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. It is visually friendly and easy for even those who hate writing to make strides!

3. It is step by step!

Writing lessons in Writeshop take it slow and methodical. Steps and expectations are clearly given with checklists for rough drafts and final drafts that are written in a way students can easily understand. Students who are literal thinkers or who need to be given each step will appreciate this method, as will their teachers/parents!

4. It is comprehensive!

Writeshop teaches writing AND grammar! There are so many English skills that need to be taught, so finding a curriculum that kills two birds with one stone is amazing! You can always build on the grammar and writing lessons, but this can also be a stand alone program for these skills.

5. It teaches creative writing AND academic writing!

Lessons include all types of writing, so students gain a well rounded perspective of writing types and skills!


 

And... reasons we LOVE Writing and Rhetoric:

1. We mainly use the first 3 books of this program.

Here’s why: this curriculum, specifically the first 3 books, uses fables and stories to teach what good writing looks like. From there, students build upon the original story to make it their own.

2. Great for students who struggle to put their thoughts on paper!

This program starts with a story, so students don’t have to pull the whole story line from thin air! This is incredibly helpful if a student struggles with this skill. It allows them to learn how to write well first, and then work on the skill of creating their own stories later!

3. It is a classical curriculum.

For the grammar stage, this program is my first pick! It doesn’t expect students to argue or create yet, but instead teaches them to imitate great writing.

4. Charlotte Mason style!

Dictation and narration are a large part of this curriculum. These tasks build skills like auditory processing, handwriting, note taking, and more. These skill are vital for the elementary years in order to build on them later!

 

So there you have it! These two curricula are great starting points for any homeschool family! I’d suggest starting with writing and rhetoric 1 if your child is in 3rd-5th grade and you’d like a more classical approach. Then switch to writeshop 1 in 7th grade! Or, for a more creative approach in younger years, use Writeshop from the start!

 

Do you have a writing curriculum you love? We’d love to learn more about it! Comment on this post!

 

Take the Guess Work Out of Your Homeschool Day!

Feeling overwhelmed by your schooling this year? Ever feel like you aren’t sure if you’re accomplishing what you should be? Or are you frustrated that you’re not making progress in a subject? Many home educators struggle with these questions, especially those who are schooling a child with a learning challenge or disability!

Our goal at Yellow Wood is to help homeschool families find confidence and success in all they do. We also love to partner alongside families to OVERCOME those challenges through strengthening cognitive skills.

One great way to do this is our Trail Guide program. If you are looking for some extra support in your homeschool journey without overhauling your current curriculum, OR if you need help finding curriculum that works best for your family, this is an excellent option for you! We can help take the guesswork out of homeschooling and helping your child overcome learning challenges through customized and deliberate goals and monthly coaching sessions!

 

5 Reasons why you should consider our Trail Guide program this year!

1. Gain weekly and monthly goals for your homeschool!

We help you determine SMART goals for your homeschool curriculum and school work! Each month during our coaching session we’ll discuss what’s going well, what’s not going well, and goals to work toward for the next month. We then create a goal plan for your month that includes Success Training, and any subjects you choose to have help with.

These goals may include…

  • New ways to approach your homeschool routine

  • New ideas for memorizing information, spelling, and more

  • Games to play at the beginning of each subject, designed to prepare the brain for learning at its best!

  • Games and exercises to strengthen skills like memory and attention!

  • Goals for helping students gain independence in their work

  • Ways to improve learning using your curriculum

  • And more!!

2. Customized to your specific needs!

These goals are customized to your specific situation. You can continue to use your current curriculum but gain knowledge, resources, and tools to better succeed through our monthly coaching sessions. Or, if you’re feeling disappointed with your current curriculum, we can help determine a better fit! We work with you one-on-one to provide exactly what you need from our program.

3. Strengthen Cognitive skills!

You’ll receive weekly and monthly assignments for Success Training, our cognitive therapy program, to complete at home! Each month during our coaching session, we’ll discuss how things are going, what progress you’ve made, and what your child is struggling with. Then we’ll assign games, exercises, and movements to work on those specific skills. We help you strengthen your child’s attention, memory, processing, visual and auditory systems, comprehension, and more!

4. A unique approach to teach your child new skills!

As I’m sure you know, there is no silver bullet when it comes to curriculum. By implementing brain-based approaches to your school day, you can improve learning no matter what curriculum you use! We have many tricks up our sleeve to help make things stick! Improve skills like social skills, executive functioning, handwriting skills, auditory listening skills, reading speed, and sooooo much more! You can continue to use your curriculum and add manageable tasks to your day to strengthen skills and find success!  

5. Great for both new homeschool families and homeschool pros!

This program allows new homeschool families to receive guidance on curriculum choices, tips and tricks for establishing a routine in your homeschool day, and many other skills needed to make homeschooling successful! Veteran homeschool families can also benefit from this, especially those facing learning challenges or feel they need to mix up the way they are doing things to find more success!

You can get started TODAY! Learn more about this program and sign up clicking the button below!

Strengthen your Brain with Sudoku!

 
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At Yellow Wood we LOVE playing games to improve cognitive skills. One of my favorites is Sudoku. We also play a game called ColorKu, which is a “color” version of sudoku! It’s a great brain challenge, especially for those who have mastered the regular Sudoku game!

I'm sure you're aware that sudoku is a great "brain game" or "mental floss". But what exactly does sudoku do for your brain? It improves some very specific cognitive skills! 

#1 Working memory

Working memory is the "post it" for your brain. You use it every day for many tasks! Sudoku improves working memory because it requires you to:

  • hold onto the step you’re completing
  • remember which numbers are on the board and missing

You’re working memory might be weak if:

  • You struggle to remember what you’re looking for or what step you're on
  • You need to write in each possible number in order to keep up with the puzzle, rather than holding those options in your head!

#2 Visualization

Visualization is the ability to see numbers, patterns, and images in your mind! Sudoku strengthens your visualization skills because: 

  • It requires you to picture in your mind what numbers go in the box, even if they aren't there yet
  • You also have to look across the board and visualize where else that number could land

If you cannot “visualize” where the pieces might go, you’ll struggle to complete a more complicated sudoku puzzle. Visualization is also a skill needed in math, reading, and so many other daily tasks!

#3 Critical Thinking & Executive Function Skills

While playing sudoku, you must logically think of why a piece goes where it does. If you make a decision and it’s not correct, you’ll mess up the whole puzzle! I find many times students want to rush to fill out the board, but do not double and triple check their choices, or simply guess what looks correct at the time.

Playing a sudoku puzzle daily will help improve your critical thinking and executive functioning because: 

  • You'll practice working to self-check your decisions (AKA, self control and self monitoring!)
  • You learn to make those decisions logically rather than guessing (AKA, critical thinking!)

 

There are also ways to add another layer to your game to make it even more of a brain workout! Here are a few tips for getting the most out of Sudoku:

#1 Play a board game version of the game! 

It forces you to hold onto those numbers in your mind to complete a step without writing down the numbers, which will help improve both working memory and visualization!

#2 Verbalize your steps!

In Success Training, we require students to explain each move they want to make before they can make it! They must tell us what they want to do, and WHY that specific spot is the only option.

#3 Play the Colorku version!

With this game, your brain has to keep track of which colors are needed in a box, row, or line. While they may sound easier than numbers, for many it’s more challenging because our brains don’t visualize and hold onto color names as easily as with numbers 1-9. But, if a child struggles with the number version of sudoku, they may find the color version easier! Try both and see!

 

Visual Vocabulary

 

Part 3: Vocabulary Curriculum (SERIES: Before You Throw the Book at 'em)

and a FREE Printable!

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Today I’m excited to share with you my absolute favorite ways to teach vocabulary! I think we’d all agree that learning vocabulary is an important part of English class, but is usually a frustrating and laborious one. At Yellow Wood, I’ve developed a fool-proof method for helping students memorize new vocabulary. Here are the steps:

1. Choose a vocabulary program geared toward visual learners!

At Yellow Wood, we use a variety of curricula for vocabulary, but they all have one thing in common: they were created for visual learners. But you might ask, how do these help auditory or kinesthetic learners? I’ll explain!

Each program we use has a picture AND a sentence that goes along with their vocab word that are aimed at helping you memorize the word and it’s meaning. The picture is a great aid for visual learners, and the sentence is the aid for auditory learners! Its very important though that you practice memorizing vocabulary using BOTH methods. You want your student to be well rounded in their skills, so studying vocabulary using both visual and auditory cues will help exercise both sides of the brain, regardless of their preference.

When introducing new vocabulary, make sure discuss the word and it’s meaning, what the picture depicts, and how the example sentence fits with the vocabulary word. Handing students a list of words to “memorize” is rarely fruitful or productive! Instead, walk them through the process of learning these words.

Here are a few options to choose from that we LOVE! (These links are affiliate links. We receive a small profit from any that are purchased using this link. But don't worry, we only suggest products we truly love!)

2. Vocabulary Flip Books! (Printable)

Once the new vocabulary words have been introduced, help your student make a flip book for studying purposes. At Yellow Wood, we keep a spiral notebook for vocabulary and cut out and paste the new flip books into the notebook each week. You could also create lapbooks of vocabulary using file folders!

When our students create flip books, they are given the option of using a picture or a sentence to help memorize the word! This allows them to navigate and choose what method works best for them. We still study in class using both methods so that students are familiar with both the sentence and picture.

Using these flip books negate the issue of losing flash cards or index cards, and are less cumbersome and more conducive to studying than using the book! It also gives students an opportunity to perfect their neat handwriting and drawing skills each week!

To make this step even easier for you, click below to get our FREE printable Vocabulary Flipbook Template! 

3. Play a matching game!

Another way we study vocabulary is by printing the words and meanings on cardstock, and then cutting each out and mixing them on a table. We then work as a group or individually to match the words with the correct meaning. This is a great timed activity too! You can keep track of the time it takes so that students can see their progress and also try to beat their record!

If your kids love computer games, you can also use quizlet (for FREE!) and play some great games with vocabulary words! Here's an example of a word list already in quizlet's system for the SAT Word power book listed above! You can also create your own word lists.

4. Play Hangman!

You’ll probably laugh when I say that hangman is a GREAT way to study vocabulary, especially the spelling of vocabulary words! Last year I worked with high schoolers on their vocabulary each week. These students all struggled with spelling. We played hangman with their vocabulary words several times a week, and by the end of the school year they were AMAZING at guessing the words with just a couple letters on the board. What changed? Their ability to visualize the words was much stronger than the beginning of the year. This bled into their daily spelling abilities too!

5. Play Pictionary or Charades!

Another fun game to play is pictionary or charades! This is great for kinesthetic learners especially. By drawing the picture of the vocabulary word, or acting it out, students are able to better retain the information!

6. Not Homeschooled? No problem!

Even if you’re not homeschooling, or you already have a vocabulary program, you can implement these methods! Any vocabulary or spelling list can be studied using the ideas I listed above. In fact, we often use flip books for science and history terms, foreign language vocabulary, and more!

 

Show Your Smarts with Working Memory!

 
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Today I’ll be sharing about one of my favorite cognitive skills! Is it too nerdy to say I have a favorite cognitive skill? Oh well, I do! It’s working memory! This skill does SO much for us if it’s strong and has an impact on our whole person if it’s weak! A student who has strong working memory is going to be quicker, more accurate, and more focused on the tasks given to them! Many students who struggle with this cognitive skill are very smart but aren’t able to show it because their working memory weakness is holding them back!

Working memory acts as the “post it” in your brain. It’s responsible for holding onto information long enough for you to use it. It helps you by keeping that information while you make decisions, answer math problems, remember driving directions, cooking from a recipe, and countless other daily tasks!

Working memory is actually 3 part of the brain “working together” to function: verbal short term memory, visual-spatial short term memory, and central executive. These three create a “video” for your brain to play back, which allows you to finish the task at hand.

Your working memory actually increases naturally as you get older, or at least it should. In kindergarten children should be able to hold onto 2 or so items in their working memory. By the time we reach adulthood, we should be able to hold 5-7 items, but this is often not the case! I’ve worked with many middle school and high school students who struggle with THREE items! Just imagine how this affects their learning. In fact, it’s said that working memory is a better indicator of intelligence than the IQ test!

When a student has a poor working memory, daily tasks become difficult, frustrating, and sometimes impossible. Following a morning “get ready” routine, learning long division, remembering spelling rules while writing… all of these tasks require working memory. As we get older, especially once students hit middle school and high school, teachers and curriculum expect a certain level of attention and capability which often require several steps and a strong working memory.

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Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for when working memory is weak. Keep in mind that many of these symptoms are also symptoms of other cognitive weaknesses. If you think your child has MANY of these symptoms, I encourage you to reach out and look into our evaluation process! We test for cognitive skills, primitive reflexes, and more, and can help you find the best methods for overcoming learning challenges.

Our Working Memory Workshop OR our Working Memory Workbook is a great place to start improving this skill today! You’ll gain more information on how working memory affects and helps learning, AND you’ll receive a workbook full of exercises to improve this cognitive skills! Check it out below!

 

Want to try it out before purchasing? Fill out the form below for your FREE working memory game “Echo Echo”, just one of many exercises in the full workbook!

*Hint! You'll get a coupon too for the workshop or workbook!! 

 
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Fun Ways to Integrate Snacks & More into Your Math Lessons!

Fun Ways to Integrate Snacks & More into Your Math Lessons!

Math often has a bad rap, and is thought of as boring and mundane.  If we can catch younger students early, or catch the attention of our older students, to see that snack time and play time can fit into math time, we can turn their minds around about math! When the students find math fun, everyone is winning! Here are a few ideas to get you started! ...