It's taken us a couple of days, but I think we're getting a feel for what we're doing. Monday we hit a few snags due to a cold and not being properly equipped. (I read the whole section again on Friday or Saturday so I'd know what we would be doing... and still managed to not be prepared. I'm talented that way.)
The first thing is to learn to breathe deeply from the diaphragm instead of the chest. Our problem right now is that he has a cold so he can't breathe through his nose, which is what is called for in this exercise. So we tried, but it didn't go well.
Then we have the Proprioceptive Joint Distraction Exercises. Big long words for helping your kid stretch. It's supposed to help center and calm the child. Now, I like to think I'm a pretty intelligent person. And I can read well. So I'm not sure what I'm missing here, but even following the directions *exactly* we're not getting any "calming or centering". Maybe it comes later? We'll keep doing it, but I wonder...
We're not doing the Olfactory Exercises. The instructions for this exercise keep mentioning improving the sense of smell and the lack of sense of smell in most kids with right-hemisphere deficits. Since he has a hypersensitive sense of smell, there is no point in us doing this exercise, if I'm reading the directions correctly. Someone else may read the parts of the book I've had trouble with (see my posts tagged "Assessment") and totally get it. But since part of the purpose of this blog is to share my personal experience with the book and the at-home program, including anything I found confusing, I'll just have to risk sounding like an idiot.
The vision exercises are interesting. He can't cross his eyes, so he sees double from pretty far away compared to most of us. I don't know how he reads, but he reads all the time, so I guess he's managing. For the Fast Tracking exercise, he gets distracted after about 5 times and just starts looking back and forth at my fingers. We stop at that point. We're supposed to do the Slow Tracking exercise 10 times, but stop if the child loses interest (that doesn't take long; we've already established that distractibility is an issue; that's how we got here in the first place) or blinks excessively. We had to stop one day because his eyes got tired, but the other two days, he just lost interest. We got 5-6 times in each day. We're working up to 10.
Which brings us to the fun stuff. In the Light-Blocking exercise, he's supposed to wear an eye patch for 30 minutes and work up to 2 hours with it. Covering the right eye is supposed to stimulate the right side of the brain. That's Level 1. Level 2 is wearing a pair safety glasses with part of the lenses blacked out. Somehow, I misread that section and went straight to the safety glasses. When I realized I needed an eye patch, I thought I would just use one of his bandannas until I went out to get a patch. Really? Do I not know my child by now? What was I thinking? So we handed the tied bandanna to Little Brother, who went around with a headband for a while and we went out Monday afternoon to buy an eye patch. ($2-$3 at a drug store if you're wondering) So he wore the patch for 30 horrible minutes while he watched TV Monday afternoon. Well, it wasn't that bad for me, but it drove him crazy. Tuesday and today, I put the Brain Balance CD in my laptop, the patch on his eye and he listened to the CD while he worked on Study Island (part of his schoolwork). Apparently, I'm going to have to buy another eye patch, because the little one yells, "Yo ho ho!" when he sees the patch and gets mad because he doesn't have one. He'll only wear it for a minute before he gets tired of it, but it'll be his and he'll have one just like his big brother.
As for the CD, that's another place I wasn't prepared. But it wasn't because I wasn't paying attention. It's because I'm almost as easily distracted as my child. I meant to buy some ear plugs when he and I went out Saturday afternoon to run an errand, but I forgot. Level 1 is to have your child get used to wearing an ear plug. Just one. Remember we're stimulating one side of the brain. The CD came in the mail Monday, but I didn't realize what it was, and since my husband's name was on it, I didn't open it. So we didn't do any sound exercises on Monday. With his cold, his ears are stopped up (at least he feels like they are, which is pretty much the same thing) and he wasn't willing to try the ear plug. Since the instructions say that the music is beneficial even without the ear plug, I went ahead and played the music. As soon as he's un-stopped, we'll do the ear plug. I want to do the program as closely as we can, so we don't get to the end of 12 weeks and end up saying, "Oh, well maybe I should have done it *that* way." I'll just follow the road map the best I can.
We enjoy the vestibular exercises, too. The vestibular system helps the child orient themselves in the earth's gravitational pull and helps them maintain proper posture and balance. We're still on Level 1 here and probably will be for a while. This is a spinning exercise wherein the child is supposed to identify which direction his chair is spinning and not be dizzy when he opens his eyes. Well he's not dizzy when he opens his eyes because he gets all that out of the way while his eyes are still closed. This is a slow spin we're doing. One rotation. He can tell which direction we're going, but when I stop, he says we've stopped, and now we're going the other direction. His eyes are closed and I've never told him how many times we go around or which direction we're going. He does say his stomach feels funny while his eyes are closed. And of course, after he has his turn, the little one has to have his "Wheee" time, too.
But we have nothing but time because we're also going to be working on the proprioceptive exercises for a while. Proprioception deals with spatial awareness and this is one of our big issues. For a little bit of balance fun, he is supposed to stand with one foot in front of the other for 30 seconds without leaning or falling. His highest time is 13 seconds. He does this exercise with one sock on to stimulate the weak side of the brain (stop me if you've heard this one before). I also have him wearing the one sock for part of the day. His Supine Bridge Core exercise (think yoga bridge) ranges from 29 wobbly seconds to 60 wobbly seconds. He's supposed to have 60 firm seconds for four days in a row before we move to Level 2. The Prone Bridge Core Stability Exercise isn't going much better. It does help when I can keep his brother from walking on him, but unfortunately, we can't blame the whole problem on that.
Curl-ups and push-ups... Before we started, I knew this would take at least 6 months. I'm still sure it will take at least 6 months. He's not anywhere near his minimum for Level 1 on curl-ups and we're still not getting even one good push-up. His muscle tone should improve as the other things start working and that should help with these exercises.
The Tactile Desensitization Activity involves brushing the forearm and leg on one side of the body to (say it with me) stimulate the weak side of the brain. I'm using one of our water color paint brushes and of course the little one has to get in on it, too. He wants to brush everyone and be brushed. I have to take care that he doesn't do the opposite of what I'm supposed to be doing. Then we do the number tracing exercise, which goes as well now as it did in the assessment. I know how hard this one is, so I have to wonder how he'll be able to do it even when he can feel it better.
Aerobic exercise is very important for brain activity for *everyone*. The book suggests six specific activities for kids in the program: running in place, jumping, jumping rope, running, jumping jacks and a mini-trampoline. We don't have a trampoline at this time (we had one in the play room for several years, but the "bouncy thing" finally lost it's bounce), so I'm just using one activity a day so he doesn't get bored with one thing. Monday was running in place and yesterday was jumping. Then, yesterday evening, we all went to the park for a walk. How did it go from being to hot to walk comfortably to almost being to cold to walk comfortably with nothing in between? That's just not fair. *sigh* But we all got some exercise (except Little Brother who rides in the stroller) and J & his dad got some hang out time. Since I can't comfortably walk and push the jogging stroller at J's slower pace, I always end up way ahead of them and they get some time together without the little one.
Today was jumping rope. Just in case you were wondering, jumping rope is not the easiest activity for someone with gross motor skill issues. He was gung-ho about it, though, and we spent about 15 minutes outside jumping rope. Or trying to.