Iliteracy Literally Stinks…

Jonathon was 7 and ending kindergarten.  We had started him late because teachers were hoping he was a late bloomer.  To get Jonathon to bloom even at this late age was taking lots of hard work.  He was not reading even a little bit, not really even at all.

My quest began to find resources that would help our son.  At first, suspecting Jonathon had special needs going on or even just a learning difference, our faith kicked in.  I started writing down Bible verses and having intense prayer sessions.  But I had a startling discovery as I began to share with other people of faith whom I trusted, they all did not quickly jump into “faith” mode.

No, almost all of them prayed that I would be led to the right resources for Jonathon.  I was surprised.  For several weeks or months, my focus had not been the here and now, but wanting to obtain some sort of answer directly from God.  As I look back, I am so thankful for the people who helped me to want to change the here and now and not wait for a miracle.

So I began Google searching for answers.  I quickly found tutors to be one expensive commodity.  If you would like to make lots of money, you might start into tutoring, especially of the Orton-Gillingham variety of learning suggested for Dyslexics.

How thrilling it was to discover the Mason’s offer a free learning center to children with reading problems.  I was so certain this was our answer for Jonathon.  One more piece of our jig-saw puzzle coming together.  Quickly, I tried to get Jonathon entered into the center.  My enthusiasm to get Jonathon help intensified after our last field trip with his kindergarten class at his private school.

We went to our city’s metro library down town.  It was supposed to be a day filled with adventure through books.  Much to my dismay, Jonathon was saddened by all the books.  He could not find any he could read much at all.  I noticed the other children plodding their way through to some extent or another.  This was after we knew of his learning difference, so I was not totally shocked by this occurence.

Although what was absolutely shocking was an eighty some year old African-American man was sitting at a table in the children’s section of the library, an older African-American woman sat by him.  She was trying to teach him to read.  He was toothless.  She would point out three letter words in a picture book to the man and he would shake his head, “No, no, I don’t know that word.  Others have tried to teach me this way and it has never took.” 

I wanted so badly to share our rainbow making exercise with the magnetic letters, but I didn’t.  I have not been one to invade peoples business.  But that day, I vowed to not let Jonathon turn into that man.

I also soon learned our government designs the size of our prisons by the illiteracy rate in America.  You can learn about it too at  It is a bone chilling web site and I urge anyone reading this blog, if any of us can help a child learn to read, we will be freeing them forever.

I think of Jonathon today at almost 10 years old.  He can sometimes read a little, but to really read quickly, like when in a pinch is not coming easy to him.  He often seems to be an alien in the world of reading.  Over the summer, I realized he was reading aloud some the signs of businesses and he would ask, “What is a Midas?  What does the Good Year do?”  I found myself explaining many businesses to him because they were new to him, very, very new.

And so Jonathon was accepted into the learning center.  I was thrilled.  At a Dyslexia conference teen children had shared how the center had been their place of direction, a safe haven for other children that learned in the same style they did.  How excited I was for Jonathon to have belonging in this way.  A center that would help him for years to come… READ and at no charge.  My heart sang.  My spirit was lifted.  A new day had dawned.  Our Jonathon would thrive, I was certain.  Progress would come quicker, much, much quicker.  The planets had aligned for our family.  It would all be okay.

Our Jonathon was not the big communicator ever.  His speech therapist introduced us to a game called Zingo.  Jonathon took to it right away and it got him talking and inner-acting better.  We loved it!  I recommend this game for every family.  It puts a new fun

Big giant fun 🙂

spin on bingo and we greatly enjoy it! 

It is big giant fun, just in a not so big box!!


Home Schooling

Jonathon was no longer smiling or playing with toys.  His preference was to play in blankets and pillows on the couch for hours.

We decided to home school because we could not afford to send Jonathon to the expensive school that was recommended.  Our speech therapist had been giving us different curriculums to buy that would help Jonathon read.

Much thanks to my sister in law, Jackie, she also helped me find resources for schooling Jonathon.  I gave him about two weeks off after withdrawing him from his school.  I tried to play games with Jonathon and get him to relax again.

As time unfolded, Jonathon began to tell me how children were making fun of him, how he had no idea how to sing certain songs, how he felt very lost.  I soon knew, Jonathon’s learning style was not audible learning.

The psychologist had told us he needed a systematic, multi-sensory approach.  So as I gave him time, I collected worksheets for him to complete.

Upon the first day of homeschooling, I was horrified to find Jonathon in tears as he looked at the first worksheet.  He shook as he tried to trace the letter on the page.  I had no idea how impaired my little guy was!  Asking what was wrong, he told me it hurt his hands to write.

I knew from the psychologist that they also diagnosed Jonathon as dysgraphic which goes along with dyslexia.  Dysgraphia is very sloppy hand writing, often the children with this, hold the pencil in such a way that it hurts their hands.  I assumed this was the problem.

Wanting home schooling to be a positive in Jonathon’s life, I wanted him to do things he enjoyed.  So I began a quest to find as many web sites as I could that would help Jonathon play and learn at the same time.

Jonathon’s speech therapist began us on a daily regimen.  It was so tasking and monotonous, but it probably was the one thing that got Jonathon reading.  Every day we would put alphabetic letter magnets in order in the shape of a rainbow.  Every day he had to touch each letter and say the sound each letter made.

Jonathon often bucked this and would beg to not have to do it.  After weeks of doing it, I gave him the week off.  I thought it was no big deal.  Again, I was horrified, he could not remember how to do it properly after one week of not practicing.  From then on, I stuck with our ritual.

We would then pull out a few letters and practice writing the letter and would go over the letter and how it was used in three letter words.  After months of doing this, the time had come to segment phonemes. 

We got out legos of two different color.  Each block represented a letter.  We started with the simplest words: on, an, as, etc.  Jonathon would have to repeat the word and then drag down each block as he said the word over.  Eventually, he connected these sounds to letters and could spell the small words we were reviewing.

I was delighted, Jonathon was making progress.  He seemed to smile just a little more often.  He was gaining confidence.  His speech therapist was excited too.  But the bills were mounting.  We had quickly blown through our small nest egg from the withdraw from private school, even with insurance and co-pays.

Jeff was not sure if we could continue.  I could not see how we couldn’t.  I felt strongly that we were saving Jonathon’s life.  And then an idea came, Ohio Virtual Academy.  Maybe I could home school and his IEP would make a way for the school to pay for Jonathon’s therapy.

And you know, my plan worked!  His therapy doubled to twice a week.  They felt he needed more intense amounts of therapy.  I was over-joyed!  I felt we were on a wonderful path, Jonathon was blossoming like a wonderful flower.  Soon, as the psychologist at the Virtual Academy was reviewing Jonathon’s file, I got a phone call the offended me to my core.  I was enraged with the audacity.  That is for next time’s blog.

During this time, a book that worked beautifully for Jonathon was Sounds Abound.  The activities were not Jonathon’s favorite, but it laid a foundation that he needed to be able to read.  Bob books were also wonderful readers that helped to build Jonathon’s confidence without adding any confusion.

Puzzled in Kindergarten

We did not home school Jonathon until almost the 100th day of school.  Jeff took Jonathon to school one day, instead of me.  He walked Jonathon into school, he wept if we did not walk him all the way to his class.  Upon arriving, Jeff realized Jonathon did not recognize his hook and had no idea what to do to start his morning.  Jeff finally was alarmed as well as I had been.

I tried to be at the school often, wanting to keep a close eye on Jonathon.  Many days I passed his class, looking in, Jonathon looked lost.  One time the class was reading a book aloud together, Jonathon was looking off to his left and seemed “checked out.”  Thinking about it, I realized he did not recognize all his letters yet, how could he possibly  keep up with reading.

At class parties, he was often withdrawn.  On another occasion, the class sang a phonics song.  It was Jonathon’s turn to go up front and point to the right phonological blend in the song.  Jonathon stood, I could see the sadness on his face, he tried his best, but was not “getting it.”

Everyday we would send him to school, I saw him at home withdrawing more and more.  He came home with pencil marks on his temple where a child had marked up his head.  Jonathon did have one faithful buddy at school, he was a life line of friendship for him. 

Jonathon cried every day on the way to school.  My son was drowning.  He needed rescued.  The same education that made Jordan equipped was torturing Jonathon.  Constantly instead of a feeling of accomplishment, he was having the feeling of being “dumb” pounded into him.

I often noticed in preschool and kindergarten, when books were read to him; he would not look at the reader.  Since, I have learned that children with processing issues, most often can not look at a person and listen at the same time.  It is simply over load for them.  This issue of “not paying attention” caused many a vivid conversation.  I am so thankful for one preschool teacher who noticed Jonathon was paying attention and often comprehended more than others in the class.

Comprehension has been a real strength for Jonathon.  We have rejoiced in his strengths, making sure he is aware of what he is good at.

Knowing he was feeling more and more failure, we homeschooled.  We put the rest of his private school money into therapy.  We were very ignorant of how quickly that money would be gone.

I hoped Jonathon would be back to his before kindergarten self again.  He had regressed into a stoic shell of a child.  I knew he was still in there somewhere.  I thought he could be reached, but how?

Books that really helped us kick homeschooling off, is a series by Peggy Kaye and are all called: Games With Books, Games For Learning, Games For Math, Games For Reading.  These books are invaluable, truly priceless.  I used these books to make games for Jonathon and I to play.  At times, I think, I snuck learning into Jonathon’s day without him realizing.  I highly recommend these books to every parent who has a child

Love it!

who needs a little extra especially in the learning area.

The Incomplete Diagnosis

It was the start of kindergarten, Jonathon was very nervous.  I was too.  It was all day, I did not know if his fragile system could make it for that long.  We had the uniforms, school supplies, all set.

I told the teacher before the first day that I was concerned about Jonathon and learning.  A few weeks into school she told me she agreed psychological testing was needed, something needed addressed, she wasn’t sure what.

So I completed some surveys asking my observation of Jonathon.  I fudged the test, I know I did.  Any questions that I thought might be along autistic lines, I answered in the “never” category.  I couldn’t bear to think Jonathon was in that category.

God must have known what we needed when.  The teacher also urged me that Jonathon needed speech therapy asap, she could not understand him.  During the speech evaluations, I found out about a therapist who was conducting seminars in libraries for children who learn differently.

I went to one of the seminars.  I didn’t think Jonathon fit into any of their diagnoses.  I saw Jonathon as complex, not with any of these “symptoms.”  The conductor of the seminars ended up being Jonathon’s first speech therapist.  She may have helped him more than anyone!

During this time period, Jonathon tested, at the speech center, that he had processing delays and an expressive language delay with articulation delays.  Then with the psychological testing, they diagnosed him Dyslexic.

Jeff and I decided I would home school Jonathon and get him the help he needed.  This made the psychologist irate.  They wanted us to enroll Jonathon in an expensive school which is the school he is now attending, God is so good!

It was during this new season for us that more surprises awaited…

Knowing Jonathon had Dyslexia was a surprise.  The book that helped me understand his learning difference the best was Overcoming Dyslexia for Dummies.  It had great learning games to play with him and also had some wonderful suggestions in presenting new materials to children. 

Great, fun easy read book!! Loved it!

Quirky Quirks – The Undiagnosed Years

To the average onlooker, Jonathon seems to be just like every other child.  His smile would charm the coldest heart.  His brown eyes melt me like chocolate.  He is very shy and does not often like to talk to people he doesn’t know well. 

He had a hard time making friends in our neighborhood.  Even early on, I noticed most of his social inner-actions left him in tears.

Jordan and Jonathon soon became best friends, only Jonathon followed her every whim to a tee.  He was overly submissive, as though he was a slave.  More “friendships” went that way too.  Jordan was his translator.  Jonathon did not talk often, but when he did it was very hard to understand or follow what he was trying to communicate. 

He had to have things the same every day.  If life threw us a surprise, Johnathan would tantrum.  Not just throw a fit, but the fits would last, at times, for up to two hours.  Sometimes after having a tantrum it was like he was “done” for the whole day.

Jeff and I periodically decided to be extra strict on him, we declared, “We will whip him into shape.”  So soon we would correct Jonathon’s every mistake: jumping off furniture, crashing into things in the house, not listening.  As our demeanor grew more tense so did Jonathon.  He caccooned himself until he hardly would look at us.  Jeff and I decided he did better when we encouraged him more for good than correcting for bad.  This was very different than how we parented Jordan, but it fit more for Jonathon.

We would work to help keep Jonathon engaged.  He seemed to quickly slip into his own world and would stare.  “I am bored,” he would say often.  He loved trains, so we celebrated trains.  Reciting all the Thomas the Train characters gave Jonathon such pride as did knowing construction vehicles and dinosaurs.

Although, we could not teach him how to write his name or recognize numbers.  We put him into preschool not expecting any trouble.  During the second year, the teacher started telling us things like, “Jonathon can not recognize letters unless they are in order.”  I began to wonder what was going on with my “Boy Wonder” as I loved to call him. 

My mother in law mentioned after watching Jonathon one day that he paced often.  I had not noticed it, but every day since it has been apparent.  He was easily startled by noise.  Bright lights tended to hurt his eyes.  His clothes caused him to dig into them and he said they hurt him.  He would not climb high at all on playground equipment.  He had a “system” to playing at play grounds.  Playing with toys had come to a hault.  I found him romping in blankets in pillows making noises over and over (tsk, tsk sound).  I did not understand at all what could be going on.

Still, I tried to be a good mom.  I found a game called baby dinosaur I would play with Jonathon.  I would have him curl up tightly on the couch and cover him in pillows.  Then I would run and growl and rip the pillows off of our “Baby Dinosaurs” nest.  Then suddenly, the bad dinosaur that had broken his nest pretended to go away (me).  Finally, Mommy Dinosaur would come and carry Baby Dinosaur away on my back.  He would ask to play that every day.  Now I wonder if he liked the pressure of the pillows on him.  This game brightened his countenance.  Jeff and I and others who care for Johnathan would soon make brightening his day our goal.

Little did we know, Kindergarten would be an even more eventful year for us all…

Thera-putty has been another God send for us.  It is a specialized putty that strengthens hands.  The boys love to play with it.  We often hide small objects in the putty and they have to pick them out.  They also love to shred the putty with their hands.

fun "therapy"

And It Began and; We Had No Idea :)

It was the year 2000, I had so much trouble getting pregnant!!  So when Jordan, our oldest, the one without anything extra that way, was 12 months we started thinking about another baby and cutting to the chase, I was already pregnant with Jonathon.

Jonathon entered the world my smallest baby.  He had severe Jaundice and was one point away from being placed back into the hospital.  Not waking to eat, he concerned me.  He had reflux at 7 days old.  Collic set in at three weeks.  The first ear infection was found around 5 weeks.  My husband and I prayed as we have kept praying.

Jonathon’s ear infections were unreal.  Sometimes his ear was filled with flourescent puss, other times they would look normal.  Right before tubes, one ear was caked with green dried fluid.  My baby needed help.

At the 16 week well check appointment, the doctor checked Jonathon.  Things seemed to be going great and in a flash the tone changed.  “Mom, he is doing super for 8 weeks old, but he is 16 weeks,” the doctor chatted.  “What is going on here, mom?”  She was the M.D.  didn’t she know?

Like a deer in headlights, we started physical therapy for Jonathon.  All baby toys were strictly prohibited.  You know the ones that help parents get things done when the children are young: exersaucer, swing, johnny jumper, vibrating chair.  He was to be on the floor for two hours a day minimum, on his tummy.

When Jonathon laid on his tummy, he would spit up.  For the first year our house and Jeff and I smelled of sour milk.  Jonathon looked sad most of the time.  When we got him to brighten up, it was so exciting.  It was a tough year..

One way I could count on a smile was dancing with him every night.  I would sing, “We could have danced all night and still have danced some moooore.”  He loved that, then I would insist he would give me a lip kiss and he eventually would.  Today, Jonathon does not like affection like that.  I wonder what changed.  What has remained, is that all three children with sensory issues love to rough house.

At the eleven month physical therapy appointment, they told me that if Jonathon were not crawling by the time he was one year old, they would do tests.  I went home and prayed like I would pray many times over when professionals say scary things. 

Jonathon started to crawl and pull up the week of his first birthday.  He was walking by his thirteen month appointment at the physical therapists. 

A funny moment is how he took his first steps.  While Jonathon was having surgery, my mom took Jordan to a toy store and bought her a ball pit.  She set the whole thing up before we got home.  Jonathon was still on the “loopy medicine.”  He saw the ball pit and immediately wanted to play.  Against all common sense, he let go of the sides and took his first steps in a most hard to balance spot and while he was still under the influence.  Jonathon has often chosen some surprising ways of doing things, but most often they work for him.

Jonathon had tubes put in both ears and had surgery to repair a blocked duct, which is when the above event took place.  No more ear infections or therapy.  Everything seemed calm and in the clear.  We did not know, we had only started our journey…

The other thing I shared on Google, that I will share here, is the body sock.  All 3 of our children that “need a little extra” love to roll in blankets and pillows.  The body sock is small & easy to carry with us.  It often helps calm the kids and provides them with something familiar when we are in new settings.  It works in much the same way Temple Grandin’s “Hug Machine” worked, it provides deep pressure that the kids seem to crave.

The Body Sock

Just Needing A Little Extra

Hi.  I am Jennifer, I have 4 children & I am married to a minister.  I started a blog on google & got much more feedback than I ever imagined.  Thank you for all the feedback, affirmation, and support!  (“Special needs” is becoming so much more prevalent, and I wonder why so often, it turns out there are ALOT more people than I ever thought I knew whose lives have been touched by such situations…)

It was hard to talk and I was bored, I had strep throat.  So I hit Google’s blog button and started in.   But once I had so much feedback of appreciation, I decided I should put more thought into what I was writing.  I also was in a bad mood when I started blogging, which carried over to my former screen name 4&nomore.  That was not what I wanted to convey, my message was not one of birth control.

My husband and I do have 3 children labeled special needs right now, but today they are very high functioning.  My hopes in starting this blog was to help anyone in a similar course on life.  When we have children, few of us picture “special needs” children in our family.  But when it happens, all of us respond differently.

Doing this blog is not to say my way is perfect.  Perfect or even good would be a complete wrong term for our journey.  Topsy turvy would probably sum it up best.  Professionals were not thrilled when they diagnosed our oldest son, Jonathon, at almost 8, “early intervention is best.”  I have messed up a hand full of times, which I also want to share.  Each day with our children, I learn  more – more about each of them, what will work and what will not.  Sharing our path is my goal.

What I intend to do is write our “map,” so maybe, it can, in turn, help someone else.  Learning that our children were “special needs” or in my mind just, “need a little extra;”  I kept thinking, “Surely, this is America – there must be a systematic protocol, for parents, to direct them when encountering special needs.”  As I searched the internet, read books, only possibly one publication had such steps (First 100 Days After An Autism Diagnosis).  Almost all of the responsibility of what to do for these children are completely on the parents and in our case, we had no idea what to do…

What I am going to blog here may not be applicable to everyone, but get my heart here:  My goal is for us to get these kids, all of them, reaching their full potential.  Not everything that has worked for us, will work for you; as everything that has worked for you, will not work for us.  All of us, are as different as each snow flake falling from the sky.  All of our children are wired differently.  All of them are equally precious.

My children were not born with severe medical needs that shown a light on their “special needs.”  Given the wrong help, we may have never known why our children respond the way they do or what makes them “tick.”  The children are high functioning and I am thankful for that, however these type of children could easily slip through the cracks.  My heart is to help others whose children might fall in that category too.

All families with every type of special situation needs more help and support than most and I believe everyone could find inspiration from our journey.  I have a heart for all families affected in this way.  Although, much compassion goes out to those children who have been put in the typical setting and are found to not be able to swim as quickly or as well as the rest of the fish.

In sharing what therapies have been best for us, what products have been life changing, I hope to show that no label is a life prison sentence.  Progress can come, although often with this population of children it is slower and we often have to search for progress and focus on it because others might not notice.

I want to be a support, someone out there, that goes through a lot of the same stuff, fights, and celebrations you do and help others who are searching for the right fit, the right path for their children.  For me, realizing the tough choices that had to be made, was a lonely road.

Our story is not over yet, as none of us who are living are “closed books” yet, every day adds more to each of our stories.  But each day I see a brighter future unveil for all 4 of our kids.  We will keep working, keep reviewing, and I believe they will each reach their full potential eventually.  Please join me, as I tell you our story down this path of helping our kids…

And if you missed the google blog, I always want to end by sharing something that has helped our family.  I shared that the Fun and Function Catalog Company is on Facebook, I am on Facebook too.  Their aim is to make special needs products cool, which I give them “props” for.  Anyway, I liked their company on Facebook, and almost everyday they post some of the neatest new findings.  Often these posts make my day.  I hope they might just make your day too 🙂