Through the Eye of the Storm, Through the Eye of a Child

Hurricane Irma…another hurricane that will not be forgotten in the state of Florida. For Mom, Dad, and Nana, this was not our first hurricane, but for my children, it was their very first experience to see and feel the heavy rain and wind that passed and hovered over us during our stay in Arcadia, Florida.

As Mom and Dad were watching the news, Adam and his sister, Naomi, had their eyes on their toys. There was no evacuation for us until in the middle of the day. Before the storm, we drove from Charlotte County to Arcadia to experience the feel and sound of it from a safer location. Our first comforting sight when we arrived at the Arcadia Seventh-day Adventist Church was the double rainbow in front of the church.

It did not rain the morning or afternoon that Saturday. The storm hit Florida on Sunday at 2 a.m. Twelve hours later it hit Lee County. Seven or eight hours later it hit Charlotte County, where my family lives. Four hours later Arcadia was hit.

It was the roughest 36 hours for all of us. We adults were trying to prepare for our comfort by selecting pews in which to rest; meanwhile, my son and daughter were finding comfort in each other by playing, jumping and crawling around, positioning their toys in the spot where they would sleep; and finally, together, we were singing “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” and “Psalm 40:8.”

We got the remaining bands of rain and the winds in gentler movements. It was the best way to take refuge in the worst part of the storm. We slept in the sanctuary of the church. We prayed. We got on each other’s nerves. Dad’s birthday was Saturday, but in the midst of it all, we did not get to sing “Happy Birthday” until that night, when a friend and his wife prepared a special dinner for him.

In my son’s eyes you could see a bit of excitement and urgency. He did well getting his toys and helping me gather a few pieces of clothes to put into the suitcase, but during the storm he struggled with being cooped up inside for hours and hours, not able to go outside to play.

There was a moment that my daughter was scared and told me so. So while the wind howled, the story of Noah and the Ark immediately came to mind. She lay on her back, and I lay on my stomach near her feet; we lay still on the pew in pure darkness, talking about how Jesus, in His great power from his Father, calmed the waters after 40 days and 40 nights. I also told her this storm wasn’t going to last as long as the one in Noah’s day, and that brought comfort to her. I prayed with her and shared with her Psalm 46:1, 2, which says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea….”

After it stopped I was hoping to see another rainbow, but God had already allowed us to see that double rainbow on Saturday, prior to the coming of Irma. What a beautiful sight that was to all of us who were able to see it. What also brought comfort to the children and me was the scripture verses, as well as what we were able to do for one of our neighbors.

This storm also helped us with learning to deal with little storms in our lives, and it gave us hope again to live for Jesus and God by becoming missionaries for them. So, thank you, Irma — and good-bye!


Autism and Teaching Techniques, Part 1

Autism and teaching techniques: I wish I could say I know them all, but to tell you the honest-to-goodness truth, I’m just learning myself.

These techniques that I’ll be sharing were first done with Temple Grandin, the first activist for autism. I’ll be sharing some of my own, too, that I have been learning in my current year of homeschooling.

Many people with autism are visual thinkers. I’m constantly praying for God to give me something to share every day from both Sonlight curriculums that I’m using — SonLight and SonLight Education Ministry (SEM) curriculum. I choose to use both because of the extra reading books that I can get, which help me find where his interests may lie…besides just Thomas the Tank Engine.

Last year, I made a lapbook. A lapbook book is a book that can be made with any folders that can be folded in three sections. You can add pictures and words to get what the lesson is all about. For instance, our character quality for our unit  study was on “love.” In SEM, its structured in a way that each character quality is mentioned in subjects like math, voice, nature, health, Bible, and history; I focused was introduction to math, voice, nature, health, and music. Lapbooks are great teaching tools. Pictures are like the first language for autistic children, and then the words become their second.

In our introduction to health last year, I wanted my son, Adam, to learn the 10 commandments of health with his sister, who is not diagnosed with autism. I created a “God Loves Me” booklet in a heart shape, and cut and printed the laws of health onto it.

I also created a small replica of the biblical Ten Commandments by covering a single, flat, open, double-sided type box with butcher paper, and found and cut out images of the 10 Commandments that would be easy for him and his sister to remember, and also cut out some safety signs to place onto the back of the box. I wanted to compare each creation to get a comparison to God’s love and our obedience towards Him.

The next technique I use is to avoid long strings of verbal instructions. Instead, I talk to him, step by step, about what we will be doing for the day. Math is the only subject where I have to write down for him instructions — for example, what to do in locating the tens and ones.

I’m currently keeping a record of the time I give him morning and afternoon on his computer. Every morning he loves to go onto the computer after worship and exercise, so I give him maybe 20 or 30 minutes for Thomas the Tank Engine stories that he love to hear, and then again when he wakes up after his nap, he gets maybe 20 or 25 minutes more. We use this as part of his math lesson, since we are learning to work with double digits. I write down the number of minutes I give him for both morning and afternoon, and then show him how we can add them by looking at the ones and tens place. I also time him when he’s on his chromebook for his learning apps, which helps get him motivated to learn spelling, math, and the world map.

Another thing that helps him is me writing step-by-step instructions for our morning workout. This makes it easy for him to lead out as a personal trainer.

Investing in a chromecast device adaptor to hook to your TV enables you to share videos from Youtube. I was able to create a playlist for Adam to learn the hymns that went with our theme study on character and nature study.

Many children with autism are good at drawing, art, and computer programming. These talent areas should be encouraged. My son doesn’t like to draw or do art, but he loves going onto the computer.

Another technique is sign language, if a child with autism cannot talk, using sign language and pictures to tell a social story are helpful. Making emotion faces with construction paper and sticks are good starters to language.

If a child has a favorite TV show, record the show with the closed captions and incorporate the show as part of the reading lesson.

There are more strategies that I have discovered, but the last one I’d like to share is using special interests to facilitate the learning process. Many autistic children are more motivated more by their special interests than other things, and this passion can be used as an advantage when teaching.

For example, if a child loves cars, use toy cars to teach geography on a map by “driving the car” to different states. I did this just recently with Adam when I pretended to take his train to South Dakota to discuss Mt. Rushmore, while we were talking about rocks in our study.

These techniques seem to work out for me, and I thank God for his help through this journey. It’s not over, though, so I’ll share more techniques in my next post.