Apr 30

Repost: Detachment Parenting, or Confessions of a ROBOT mama.

I first wrote this post 3 years ago. My son had been newly diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and I knew enough about him and enough about FASD to know that his behaviors weren’t completely under his control, and that the best thing I could do was not to respond. Since I wrote this I’ve learned a great deal more about FASD, and am an FASD educator. I’m happy to say that by using the 2 strategies I explain in this post, as well as providing accommodations and environmental change for my son, much of these behaviors have diminished. He’s also 3 years older, and as John Holt said (a rough paraphrase) in one of his wonderful books about homeschooling: ‘Never let anyone else take credit for a child’s development that occurs simply because the child is getting older in the world.’

lady_robotI have something to admit: sometimes the very best tool I have a parent is my ability to detach. Or at least pretend to detach, which is just as good when it comes to managing my easy-to-love-but-hard-to-raise child, but which isn’t particularly healthy for me: stuffing and stifling one’s feelings is not generally thought of the most emotionally healthy activity, you know.

What I mean by detaching is this: if my child screams, swears, or throws stuff at me, tantrums on the floor, demands x,y, or z,, perseverates, says “what do you mean?” over and over and over again in response to simple statements, runs from me when I’m speaking, interrupts while I’m having a conversation with someone else, talks nonsense when my husband and older son and I are conversing at dinner, destroys his toys, destroys other people’s toys, takes things that don’t belong to him…I do my utmost to remain calm. All of these behaviors are related to the brain damage he experienced as the result of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. None of them are on purpose. All of them are a response to his needs not being met…and all of them are profoundly difficult to deal with.

I have two basic strategies for managing these types of outbursts: Continue reading

Sep 18

Shocking the carpool moms…

scribbleThis morning was rough.

J, my 11-year old with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) has recently started school after being homeschooled for 2 1/2 years, and while it’s probably our best option out there it is not perfect. He’d be the first to tell you that. I’d be a close second.

We are now in week 4. Weeks 1 + 2 were blissful, week 3 was rough, and now, finishing up the first month it looks like rough is here to stay.

He got up at 4 this morning, then 5, then 7. “You are a f*cking bitch!” he yelled me at 4 a.m. when told to get back in bed.

At 5, “You don’t care about me, you asshole!” He pulled a framed picture off the stairway wall and hurled it at my husband, who was explaining he had to wait until 6 to come downstairs.

At 7: “I hate that fucking school. It is so fucking boring! Get me the fucking salt!” He threw the kitchen chair to the floor. Continue reading

Aug 16

Should brothers and sisters take care of their SN sibling? Where’s the balance?

balanceA couple of weeks ago I was at an event for moms of kids with special needs. I was the facilitator of a group conversation about balancing the needs of the rest of the family with that of our neuro-behaviorally challenged kiddos.

Facilitator does not mean expert or even master of the situation, by the way. I hope I balance things out, but most of the time I feel like I’m failing miserably. No matter what my husband and I do, everything revolves around my younger son and his needs. It kind of has to. He has FASD, and because it’s brain damage caused by alcohol exposure in utero, the best interventions for him are to manage his environment so he can navigate it successfully. He can’t change, so we need to. And us changing = imbalance, sometimes. Fair doesn’t mean we all get the same thing, fair means we all get what we need. And in our house some days it seems like we’re very far from fair. One small person’s needs rule our household most days, although we have developed some work-arounds that help out a little. Continue reading

Nov 12

Homeschooling & neuro-behavioral special needs: what type of homeschooling works best?

If you’re reading this you’re either curious about homeschooling because you think it will help your child, actively homeschooling and looking for tips, or searching in desperation because you’re sick and tired of whatever rigmarole you are going through with your child’s school.

I have been in all 3 situations. And like I said in my last post about homeschooling a child with ADHD or other special needs, including neuro-behavioral disorders, cognitive delays, developmental delays, social skills problems, learning disabilities, or just plain old out-of-the-box thinking, I am pretty new to the whole homeschool thing. I’ve been homeschooling my 10-year old son exactly 1 year and 3 months with a 6 month sabbatical (we sent him to a private special needs school) thrown in the middle. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that pulling our son, diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which includes elements ADHD, ODD, SPD, PDD, cognitive delay, and PBD out of school was one of the best treatment decisions we’ve made for him so far. Continue reading

Nov 12

Homeschooling your child with neuro-behavioral special needs: myths and realities

Compared to many people, I haven’t been homeschooling very long. J, my 10-year old with ADHD, learning disabilities, audio processing difficulties, developmental delays, poor short term memory, and sensory processing issues, all under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, is only just starting his 2nd full year of homeschooling along with his brother, 13, who is neurotypical and a typical early teenager. But deciding to homeschool was no easy task, and I’ve read a lot and thought a lot about why this is the best choice for our family. Continue reading

Sep 12

Why we quit school…again: homeschooling my special needs child (how we got here in the first place)

My son, Little J, is 10 years old. If he was in school technically he’d be in the 4th grade. I say “technically” because he’s nowhere near that level, educationally. If I had to guess – and at this point it’s a guess since all our current testing data says what he CAN’T do, versus what he CAN – I’d say he’s around beginning 2nd  grade level for literacy, and beginning 1st grade for math.

J has FASD, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. FASD is largely characterized by behavior. Because of J’s processing speed,  poor working memory, developmental delays, and cognitive difficulties he can appear oppositional, immature, and forgetful. He has a number of strategies he’s developed to buy himself time and not reveal that he’s having trouble. These include calling names, saying “no!” destroying his work, becoming frustrated, and downright refusing. These things “read” as J purposefully being difficult, but really, they’re just him managing his frustration. Most of the time if you can wait a beat and not react to these behaviors he’ll comply with what you’ve asked. But you have to wait a beat.

He is a hard kid to have in class. Continue reading

Sep 12

Part 2: Homeschool, the Special Needs School, now back to Homeschool.

Here’s part 1: Why we quit school…again: homeschooling my special needs child (how we got here in the first place)

image by flickr user sheeronSo we homeschooled. It was rough. The learning curve – MY learning curve – was steep. I was spending 24/7 with a child who had major behavioral difficulties and who really needed to be watched like a hawk with almost no respite and a heart full of worry and fear and anger and exhaustion…and even though I tried really hard (read about that here), I burnt out. We both burnt out. You can read all about that here.

The great homeschool experiment was last year: 2011. In January of this year, after being rejected from the special needs private school closest to our house, we enrolled J in a different special needs private school. An hour from our house.  And I mentioned private, right? Which means TUITION. Continue reading

Feb 06

Hefty Topic Are Brain Food For Kids

Just try talking about an issue of substance in front of your kids. If they’re like mine, they dig right in with their questions and opinions. That’s what makes dinner table conversation so lively.

No surprise, a recent study notes that family discussions about current issues boost kids’ reasoning and mathematical skills. Unlike more casual chats, conversations about social and political concerns help kids make sense of numbers. That’s because parents tend to give examples, use real life mathematics and ask children to reason for themselves.

In our house, family blather tends to include topical issues but the study reports very few of these conversations are taking place between kids and parents around the world. In fact, they happen less than once a month for 58 percent of children in the 41 countries studied.

The study’s author suggests talking to kids about oil spill volume and asking them questions about clean-up methods, but there’s no need for a despair-laden quiz session. Open-ended discussions can easily touch on the math, science, history and ethics of any concern society struggles to resolve. The big issues don’t have easy answers but they do make great topics, even if we talk about them around the table while still chewing.


Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at www.lauragraceweldon.com

Jan 18

School ADD Isn’t Homeschool ADD

Today we’re pleased to offer you an an excerpt from our soon-to-be-released anthology,  Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. The personal experiences shared in our book cover a whole range of viewpoints. This is one family’s story.


Image from W1LL13's Flickr photostream

I hesitated at the heavy glass doors of my son’s school. I’d cheerfully walked in these doors many times. I volunteered here, served on the PTA board, joked with the principal and teachers, even helped start an annual all-school tradition called Art Day. But now I fought the urge to grab him from his first grade classroom, never to return.

Continue reading

Jan 10

Reading Readiness Is Linked to Movement

kids need to move, movement linked to pre-reading,

CC BY-SA 3.0 via Flickr Joe Shlabotnik

Today’s children sit more than ever. Babies spend hours confined in car seats and carriers rather than crawling, toddling, or being carried. As they get older their days are often heavily scheduled between educational activities and organized events. Children have 25 percent less time for free play than they did a generation ago, and that’s before factoring in distractions like TV or video games.

Left to their own devices, children move. They hold hands and whirl in a circle till they fall down laughing. They beg to take part in interesting tasks with adults. They want to face challenges and try again after making mistakes. They snuggle. They climb, dig and run. Stifling these full body needs actually impairs their ability to learn.

Continue reading