Thursday, October 25, 2012

Home Style Fine Motor Exercises

Boo has become increasingly disinterested in maintaining his fine and gross motor skill exercises. I suppose after two and a half years of these exercises he's getting tired of them. However, taking even a week's break causes a very noticeable decline in Boo's abilities. So, we continue his exercises...only in abbreviated forms to appease Boo. That means I need to supplement these exercises in ways that don't seem like exercises. Here are seven ways I've found that are least so far.

Knead bread dough. Boo loves homemade yeast bread and I make a couple of batches of bread, cinnamon rolls, hotdog or hamburger buns, pita bread or doughnuts weekly. (No we don't eat them all. We share.) Boo helps me knead and sometimes shape the dough. The kneading process is great for strengthening his hands and wrists. Shaping is better for fine motor skills and memory. Just how are we shaping the dough?

Cleaning mirrors, windows and smooth surfaces. Using a homemade spray cleaner and a soft cloth, Boo cleans the bathroom mirror, window, front door and bathroom sink. This mimics some of the arm circling exercises, gives some finger exercise guiding the cloth around faucets, window panes and operating the spray trigger and memory of what needs to be done.

Memory of what should not be done is important too. It's also why I only use homemade cleaner. The first time Boo cleaned the bathroom mirror, I glanced at him and noticed him spraying his face...deliberately. He thought he'd clean his glasses without taking them off. So, now Boo only uses water, white vinegar and a few teaspoons of castile soap for safety.

Turning photos over without dragging them to the edge of the table. We have a collection of photos of children, grandchildren and Boudreaux that Boo likes to see. I put them in a stack upside down on a rectangular cloth. Boo then lifts one, looks at it and usually talks about it for a while. Then places it in a separate pile on the cloth. This gives intermittent fine motor exercise.

Talking about the photos helps with verbalization on days when he's not interested in talking. Boo absolutely doesn't need to be induced to talk about family or his cat. It also helps stimulate his memory.

Preparing a fruit salad with melon balls. Boo loves fruit salad; but because it usually raises his blood sugar, it's a treat. Making melon balls using a melon baller is an awesome fine motor exercise. It uses both his fingers and wrists. Boo will vary hands as he tires. So, as an added bonus, this will exercise both of his hands. And we have a fruit salad for the next day. He's usually managed to eat enough melon while making balls that we have to wait a day to eat the salad.

Wind yarn around a small water bottle. This isn't a strictly necessary job. The skeins of yarn I buy are easy to use without rewinding. However, winding the yarn mimics arm circles. Once again, as he tires he naturally uses both arms. Boo couldn't seem to grasp how to make a ball with the yarn. So, he winds it around an empty water bottle instead.

Hanging and buttoning shirts. Confession time: I don't iron unless forced to do so. Some of Boo's flannel shirts do have to be ironed. They're so soft and require that he button himself; so, they're well worth the effort. Usually I hand Boo a plastic hanger and then a shirt. Most of the shirts he wears daily are polo type shirts. So he has to slip the shirt over the hanger and button the top button. On really good days he may hang five or six shirts. Other days, two shirts are a struggle.

Putting change in various banks. Somehow, I end up with lots of change. If I don't have much change, I ask for change at several stores to have enough for this activity. I cut a slot in several water bottles to make banks that are unbreakable and easy to open. All our change is placed in a bowl. Boo sorts the coins and puts each in the appropriate bank. This definitely uses fine motor skills.

This activity uses a certain amount of logic. Surprisingly to me, this has been an issue for Boo some days. He simply can't remember how to sort the quarters, dimes, nickles and pennies. At times, I'll separate the coins into two bowls. One bowl has pennies and nickles. The other has dimes and quarters. Generally this is enough to enable him to finish the sorting process.

Bonus activity: Connecting nuts and bolts. Boo picked up a small container of nuts and bolts when I was looking for a screw driver recently. I didn't notice that he kept the container instead of putting it back with the tools. Boo has enjoyed pouring the nuts and bolts onto a plastic tray and picking up the nuts and bolts and connecting them to each other. Other times he'll unscrew them and put them back in the original container. Wonderful fine motor exercise and sorting activity. I guess using nuts and bolts makes it a manly activity.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reading Basket for July 2012

Following the example of several very coordinated homeschooling families, we've organized our daily readings into “baskets.” Because most of our readings are on our Nook, laptop or CDs, we use a small basket that holds the Nook, a case for the CDs, our rosaries, a copy of our schedule and any actual books that I'm reading aloud. Near the basket I store our old CD player. (It still works. So, until it gives up the ghost, we'll keep using it.) Many times I store the laptop in it's red envelope beside the basket.

Morning Basket

We've begun to use this website for our daily scripture readings and reflections. The reflection link is on the red column on the left of the blog. This is a must for us. Every day, no matter what, we read the scripture and daily reflection and pray a decade of the rosary. Anything else is gravy. Depending upon Boo's vision and interest, we may add the daily video. For a few months we prayed the Morning Office together, but that's too much of a struggle for Boo right now. 

Decade of the Rosary

We vary the way we pray the rosary. Sometimes we pray a whole rosary at once. Usually it's just a decade or two that we manage before Boo's attention wanders. Because Boo has a minor infection, his dementia is more pronounced.  We'll only be praying one decade of the rosary in the morning...and maybe not a whole decade then. Yesterday, we even split that one decade into parts and dedicated certain Hail Marys to specific priests, etc. It took all day, but that one decade was prayed and prayed with meaning. I'm not sure how we'll manage the mysteries. Maybe one a day or one mystery for every two Hail Marys? This may not be an appropriate way to pray the rosary at all. I really don't know. I'm just trying to find ways that Boo can pray it meaningfully with his limited attention.

Special Intentions:
Sunday: for priests, bishops and the Church
Monday: for our children
Tuesday: for our grandchildren
Wednesday: for our local church and local needs
Thursday: for parents, siblings and extended family
Friday: for friends
Saturday: for each other

Twice Weekly

We're beginning this again at Boo's request. We read two chapters a week. If nothing else, we'll have a great overview of British history.

These are EWTN podcasts. Boo loves them! He tends to retain quite a lot from these thirty minute devotionals. We listen to two different podcasts each week. There are dozens available. We usually choose randomly.

Once Weekly
We read one story weekly, usually on Friday. These are children's stories, but they appeal to Boo. This isn't an audio resource. It is a Google book that's in the public domain. I've downloaded it as an epub book for our Nook.

Evening Basket for July


The Our Father or a Decade of the Rosary
Once again, until Boo is physically and mentally better, we'll need to keep things short and sweet. More than likely we'll pray an Our Father and some short spontaneous prayers. Perhaps we'll be able to pray another decade of the rosary.

Twice Weekly

We've listened to this one together two years ago, but Boo requested it. Besides it was one of my favorite childhood books.

Boo requested a book about Robin Hood that I'd read to him a few years ago. I, however, can't find that particular book. This will be a good substitute, I hope. A big plus is that I could download the audio version.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Literature as Therapy

In our struggle to find ways to engage Boo's mind and improve his long and short term memory we've tried many different approaches. The first was using several photocopied pages of slightly weird paragraphs that I read to Boo and asked him about twelve to twenty-four hours later. That didn't work. The paragraphs were ridiculous and inane. Why even bother to try to remember nonsense, especially when Boo was recovering from a stroke and there was so much to relearn? We liked the basic concept though. It was easy to implement, easy to evaluate effectiveness and it was definitely a natural for us. We were used to reading and discussing articles and books.

Searching for something that would enhance his memory and work naturally into our lives, I remembered Charlotte Mason's educational method. After an online search, I located several sites that were dedicated to her methodology. The one that I've found most useful for us is Ambleside Online. Charlotte Mason's students read living books, instead of textbooks, slowly over the course of a semester. Her students regularly narrated the selections that they read---oral or written, depending on age and ability. Because of the length of time spent on each book, the student became more intimately aquainted with the story line. They also retained more information. (Think quality as opposed to quantity.) That seemed like a program tailor made to enhance long and short term memory and language skills.

We've modified the AO program to fit us. Boo and I are slowly reading or listening to several books. We read small chunks at a time. It might be a chapter or part of a chapter. In some cases, it's just a page or two. It all depends on the complexity of the material and Boo's state of mind. Later that day, we'll discuss the passage we read. Waiting more than a few hours for a first discussion, simply doesn't work for Boo. He can't remember enough about the passage to do anything except frustrate him. A few days later,when we read the next chunk, Boo narrates the previous passage first to “set the stage” for that day's reading.

For us this is a simple, enjoyable way to routinely practice memory and verbalization skills. This method has shown its effectiveness in Boo's increasing ability to follow short news stories on TV and to follow conversations. In addition to enhancing memory and verbalization, Boo has begun to make connections between the readings and things he encounters in other contexts. This unexpected increase in his logic and analytical skills is a nice bonus.

Home-style Therapy

One of the side effects of Boo's strokes is an ongoing need for various kinds of therapy. For a long while we had a wonderful home health team that came to our home and worked with him. The physical and occupational therapists had an endless supply of exercises that helped him relearn lost skills. On the days they weren't scheduled to come, Boo and I did his exercises. Unfortunately, the exercises took much of the time he was awake and left little time for anything else. Still, this was for a season. This was Boo's time to heal. I've never seen anyone so motivated to be as well as he possibly could. Finally the day came when Boo “graduated” from home health services. We were ecstatic! Now, we could get on with our lives.

In the process of continuing with our lives, I began to notice that Boo was regressing a little. He was “losing” small skills that he had regained. After a short while, we realized that therapy needed to continue. For the first time, Boo was resistant. He wanted his life back not endless rounds of therapy. We had long talks about what was important to us: time together reading, talking, taking walks, praying, cooking, working together. Obviously it was time to rethink our approach to therapy and initiate lifestyle changes that would make ongoing therapy an integral and satisfying part of our life together.

This section of our blog is about the ways we are trying to integrate the therapies Boo needs naturally into our lives.