Tag Archives: Chiari malformation

Multiplication for Kids With Decreased Attention Span

So, we’ve taught Andres (9 – Chiari malformation post-decompression) his multiplication tables, he understands the process of long multiplication, he can even multiply a four-digit number by a three-digit number. So what’s the problem? Well, on most days, somewhere between multiplying the top digit by the bottom digit, Andres loses his train of thought and can’t find his place in the problem. Then all heck breaks loose on his paper as he scrambles to remember what to multiply, what to add and where to put it all. This is when your typical teacher pulls her hair out and screams, “But you knew how to do this yesterday, you even knew how to do this ten minutes ago.” (And then the inner silent question as we look at the kid sideways thinking “Are you doing this on purpose – are you TRYING to drive me crazy?”)

When you are dealing with children with cognitive difficulties (a.k.a. learning disabilities, special needs, intellectual disabilities, ADD, learning differences), one thing to remember is that when the child is having to work hard in one area on a task, decrease the level of difficulty on accompanying tasks. In other words, if your child is having to concentrate hard on learning the process of multiplication, don’t tax his ability to recall multiplication facts.


Remember these? This is a Magic Math Multiplication press and reveal board. You press on the button with the multiplication fact printed on it, and as it depresses, it reveals the answer. No plugs, no batteries. It sells for ridiculously big bucks on Amazon – Ebay is much more reasonable. I happened to pick up ours at the thrift store.

I admit, this Magic Math Multiplication press and reveal board had gotten pretty dusty sitting in the back of our homeschool cabinet. By itself, it does not offer much in the way of motivation to a child learning his multiplication tables. But after pulling out hair after hair working with Andres last week, I had a flash of inspiration. I handed this to him at the beginning of a session of working long multiplication problems and told him to use it when multiplying digits. All he had to do was stay focused on the sequence of steps, and he could let the board do the figuring. BINGO!!!! Freeing up all his mental energy and working memory by giving him a tool that just required him to push a button for multiplication facts was exactly what he needed.

Hmmm. “Aren’t you just giving him a crutch?” you ask. Well, sort of. Except I know kids. And I know that kids gravitate towards the quickest way to do a job. So I know just as soon as Andres gets to a point developmentally where he can handle recalling his multiplication facts while he is following the process of long multiplication, he will ditch the press and reveal board quicker than you can say “What’s 7 times 4?” In the meantime, Andres works on long multiplication in the morning with his board and works on drills and flash cards without his board in the afternoon.

This is just one of the many ways you can support a child with learning difficulties so that he can continue to progress rather than allowing him to stay stuck when a challenge presents itself. What are some more ways that have worked in your classroom or home school?

DIY Optical Illusion – Cool Mommy Rides Again

Yesterday, the kids were clamoring for child/mommy time which roughly translated means quality time.

“What? We’re together 24/7/365 – aren’t you getting enough child/mommy time?”

The unanimous answer was “NO!”

True story.

So I guess all that time we spend cleaning, folding laundry and running errands doesn’t count.

Seizing the opportunity to justify getting on Pinterest in the middle of the day, I jumped on my Kids Arts and Crafts board; see it here: http://pinterest.com/mamajoyx9/kids-arts-and-crafts/.

The pin itself is here: http://pinterest.com/pin/234961305531991123/.

And the original post/picture tutorial is here: http://justimagine-ddoc.com/crafts/crafty-finds-for-your-inspiration-no-2/?pid=9988.

I also found this free video tutorial on U-Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TCKUalhvYI. This is a fun little video with a funky beat playing in the background – a nice touch for the younger set.

With my focus on visual learning, I found it very interesting that both tutorials were done with visual steps only, no words. I had no idea I was a strong visual learner myself. I never would have been able to do this by written or spoken instructions; yet, it was really easy to just imitate the pictures.

Andres’ (9 – Chiari malformation decompressed August 2012) neuropsych report mentioned that it is difficult for him to listen and watch at the same time. I didn’t get it at the time. I mean, who wouldn’t benefit from hearing words as well as seeing something done at the same time? Now I get it.

Mental note – Use step-by-step pictures, video or demonstration to teach Noah (6 with Down syndrome) and Andres new processes.

I am a disaster when it comes to art, but I thought this project turned out fabulously.

And Eden got her child/mommy time.

It Never Occurred to Me

Romans 8:26 – www.biblegateway.com

“26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

It never occurred to me to ask God for a physical therapist to add to Andres’ Chiari team.  I had been wondering how in the world to find out if any of his learning or behavioral idiosynchracies were linked to his Chiari.  Since he has been homeschooled from birth, there is no one else who has assessed him and can give me any input about potential weaknesses or deficits.  I am often left wondering if his behavioral and learning differences are just normal boy (he’s our first boy) behavior or if they are a learning disability or effect from the Chiari. 

I have suspected I am missing something in the Chiari picture and wondering who in the world could fill in the blanks for me.

The director of the therapy center I take Noah to asks about my children, and I had shared with her Andres’ Chiari 1 malformation and syrinx diagnosis.  I also mentioned to her that I was concerned that he might have some deficits that we were overlooking, but I wasn’t sure how to positively identify and address them.  She offered to have him go through full PT, OT and speech therapy evaluations, but I had a nagging feeling that Andres needed something more specific.

So the next time I saw this wonderful woman, she told me that she had mentioned to the new physical therapist Andres’ condition.  Turns out the new PT did a rotation at a children’s neurology clinic and had a group of children there who had Chiari malformations.  Some were pre-op, some were post-op.  So she is intimately familiar with Chiari and the effects it has on the rest of the body. 

And if that wasn’t enough, she followed up that rotation with a rotation at a rehab where she worked with two young adults who had Chiari malformations. 

Meeting with her was such a blessing.  Together we marveled that God had been weaving this meeting together and that He had placed her at the children’s hospital with that specific group of children and at the rehab with those particular Chiari patients and then at the very therapy center that we are involved in, and into that specific meeting with a mom who very much needed to hear what she could tell me.  She said in all her schooling she probably read a paragraph in a textbook about Chiari, nothing more.  After working with the patients she mentioned, when it came time for her to present, she chose Chiari malformations as her topic.  So on top of her weekly sessions with Chiari patients, she also had done extensive research on the subject.  Such a random topic, such a random meeting, except for the knowledge of God’s soverignty.

I loved the fact that in talking with me, this young physical therapist said that when the director of the therapy center mentioned Andres’ story, this therapist knew she HAD to meet with me.  Talk about being fired up and passionate about her job!!!  Her strong, strong, strong recommendations to me are to have the neurosurgeon refer Andres to a neuropsychiatrist who can test all of the areas that may be effected by his brain condition.   If he has surgery, it will be important to also do a postop evaluation.  If he doesn’t have the surgery, then it will be this baseline evaluation that we can turn to if Andres suddenly has changes in his presentation (balance, coordination, short-term memory, mood swings, executive function, etc.).  If there are drastic changes, it will paint a much clearer picture of whether or not the Chiari is causing the trouble if we can compare findings.  This will also allow me to address his specific deficits, if he has any, through the work I do with him at home during homeschool and also get him the appropriate therapy he may need.  I suspect he will wind up with OT and possibly speech therapy for language issues. 

For now, our insurance changes a bit in July, so I’m going to wait until then to set up an evaluation with the physical therapist.  But he’s definitely going to have one.  How cool that he can be evaluated by a lady who has worked with Chiari kids and will be familiar, not by textbook scenarios, but by hands-on-experience with the effects that Chiari malformations  can have.

I didn’t know to pray for a physical therapist.  Thank the Lord He does not only answer the prayers I lift up to Him, but He also answers the prayers of my heart in the ways He knows are best.