Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Fun in Active Learning

Active Learning is so much fun! You get to play with your child and share in their discoveries of new things. Celebrate every new accomplishment. Since Jayden loves music, I sing to him a lot. I make up songs and tunes to fit in with what we are doing.

I call this activity our Math lesson. He is learning to count 1 to 4. He is also learning how to take a top off of a box, in and out, and empty. Also, it is important that you set them up to succeed. Since Jayden is not yet reaching into the box and picking the bells up to take them out, I am holding the box at an angle so he can knock them out.

Another activity we do everyday is bouncing, Jayden loves to bounce. I use this activity to strengthen his legs and upper body. He has to hold his upper body and his head up (which he is happy to do so he can bounce).
He will bounce for up to 15 minutes! This is a good exercise routine for him and one that he absolutely loves doing!

Even our therapist use some of the Active Learning equipment to help Jayden learn. Here Jayden is learning to pull himself toward a toy he wants to play with.
In this next video, the OT is helping Jayden learn to roll from his back to his tummy.

There is a piece of Active Learning Equipment called "The Little Room" which encourages rolling to the side. However, it is very expensive and we can not afford it. We are in the process of attempting to make one of our own.
As you can see, the room is full of noise makers, and things to explore. This room is used to help children begin to move arms and legs. The designer, Lilie Nielson, has seen children move hands, arms, legs...that they have never moved before.  It also encourages rolling and grasping, in addition to learning spatial relations.  I am excited about getting Jayden into a Little Room, hopefully very soon.


Support Bench

In September, when TSBVI was helping us with Jayden's Active Learning Environments our Representative from Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Division for Blind Services joined us. She was very excited about Active Learning and becoming a part of Jayden's Action Team. She decided that Jayden needed to get the Support Bench, which is another piece of Active Learning equipment. They purchased the Support Bench for Jayden.

Jayden will be able to lay over this bench on all fours. It also comes with casters so that he can push it around. This is used to encourage crawling and strengthen his upper body and head control.

We received the support bench in October, just before colder weather. The floor was too cold to begin using it on the floor, but I did start using it to strengthen his head control and upper body.

As soon as the weather got warmer, I moved him over to the floor. He started scooting it around almost right away. He seems to enjoy this activity.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Back to Active Learning

In September, the TSBVI Outreach Division came out for their visit and consultation. With assistance from on of the consultants, I completed Jayden's assessment which indicated that he was around 6 to 7 months.

The book from Lilie Works to set up the FEILA curriculum (Active Learning) cost more than I was willing to spend. We had purchased the manual, FEILA Curriculum, at a much lower price. I asked my niece if she could take the manual and type up the activities I felt we might use in Jayden's daily schedule. I had her use activities that were in the developmental levels of 3 - 6 months, 6 - 9 months, and 9 - 12 months.

She used a larger print to make it easier for me to read and put each activity in a box with the colors indicating, Gross Skill (Blue), Fine Motor Skill (Yellow), Fine Motor and Gross Skill (Green)....  I purchased a foam poster board, printed out and trimmed the activity boxes and was ready to establish Jayden's daily activity schedule (called Learning Environments).

When TSBVI came out, we reviewed Jayden's skills assessment and the activities boxes and set his daily Active Learning Environments. This schedule should be designed to be flexible, because if Jayden does not show interest in a particular activity on a certain day or at a specified time, I should move on to another activity. Learning can not happen if Jayden is not interested in the activity.

I purchased plastic tubs to hold all of the toys and various items we will use for each activity. Then after separating everything into the tubs, I labeled them according to each activity.

Our little classroom is small and tight! We have a lot of equipment and even more toys/items for his daily routines. At some point, I hope to move all of the furniture out, pull the carpet up and build storage shelves so that I can easily pull the box I need.

Jayden thoroughly enjoys Active Learning. He is extremely interested in learning new things!  I have become his playmate and spend my days playing with him. As long as he is interested in the activity, he is motivated to learn. My new motto is "If you make learning fun, success will come."!

In this video, Jayden is playing with "Finger Toys". This activity encourages the learner to discover various ways of picking up and holding the items. Their fingers are used more, rather than a "fist hold", and the fingers are separated. They will used their fingers to explore the holes. In addition, Jayden used his tongue to explore the holes which is good for developing tongue control. But as you can see, Jayden is enjoying this activity.

Jayden then finds even more toys to pick up and hold. He is now holding two toys in one hand and really enjoying exploring them with his tongue.


This next activity is called "knocking down towers".  If Jayden enjoys knocking down the towers I build, eventually he will want to learn how to build them himself. This could take up to a year or longer, so it is extremely important that he enjoy this activity.  Although there is no picture, the video will appear when you push play.

Additionally, Jayden is learning to find things (in this case, the tower) using sound.

Jayden really enjoyed the activities we used to help him learn to take steps. We used the HOPSA in combination with the UPSEE shoes, which allowed me to literally "walk" him up and down the track in the ceiling.
The other activity we used was his tricycle, which he also thoroughly enjoyed.

As a result, he is now taking steps in his gait trainer. He is doing so well, we are now taking him down the street.



Friday, April 10, 2015


The next item we purchased was a special needs tricycle. I had been looking into getting him a tricycle for a long time, but the cost was between two and three thousand dollars! Much more than we could afford.

One morning while watching the news, I saw a report about an organization, AMBUCS, that helps raise funds to purchase tricycles for disabled children. I contacted them and they added Jayden to their list. Through their organization, we were able to raise the $920.00 needed to secure Jayden a tricycle, which we received in November.

This is an activity Jayden really enjoys. I am hoping that this will help him learn to take steps.  At first, we had to push him to get him familiar with the leg movements required to move the tricycle.

It wasn't long before Jayden was able to peddle himself down the driveway. It doesn't take as hard of a push from him. It is harder for him to push the peddles on the street or up the driveway.

Later I learned that the tires were extremely deflated. One of our neighbors inflated all of the tires for us and said "I bet it will be a lot easier to peddle now!" He was absolutely right! Yesterday when I took him out, he peddled down the driveway so fast I had to run to keep up. Then when we got in the street he peddled about ten feet on his own. I was amazed and excited. Unfortunately, I did not expect that and did not have a recorder with me.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Esseff Board

The second piece of Active Learning Equipment I decided to purchase was the Esseff Board. The Esseff Board is used to help the child learn to balance and can be used to strengthen the legs.

As you can see, Jayden really enjoys the Esseff Board. He also like to bounce which helps to strengthen his legs.

Since we have been using the Esseff Board, Jayden's balance has improved. We use this board with him everyday for at least 15 minutes. I usually will hold his legs because he tends to knock his knees together, but his upper body balance is all up to him.

Now he can sit on his own for almost one minute!

Monday, April 6, 2015


The first purchase I decided to make was a HOPSA. Since we already had a track n the ceiling and a lift that we could use, I only needed the suit itself. This would allow us to get him in an upright position. We placed various textures under his feet, which we hope, he will learn to move himself from one to another. Then begin to move himself to his most favorite texture. 

 We also placed "noise makers" under his feet in hopes that he would enjoy making noise with his feet. This would start his moving in the HOPSA. As you can see, below, he really enjoyed this. He stops for a moment to process what he is doing, then laughs  and continues. He even drops the vibrating chew toy out of his mouth!


 One day, while in the HOPSA, I decided to use the resonance board like a wall for him to track along. Since there is not a wall close enough for him to reach. I held the resonance board in place as he moved, suddenly he realized that he was indeed moving himself.
In the first video, there is very little movement even after two minutes. He is also more interested in the texture belt around his waist and the chew toy in his mouth.

 The next video is short, but I found it difficult to hold the resonance board and video at the same time! It is also sideways but he moves himself and tracks along the resonance board. If I had room, I would have placed the track close to a wall.
Once he realized that he could move himself, he got very excited and moved himself up and down the track several times.  He is no longer playing with the "scratch belt" and has dropped the chew toy from his mouth. He puts all attention on moving himself.
I also used the HOPSA in combination with the UPSEE shoes in hopes to help him understand stepping and shifting weight from one foot to another. As you can see, he really enjoyed this and after a few weeks I could feel him taking steps.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

2014 Year

Jayden, unfortunately will regress in his skills if we take summer breaks. Since there are no summer breaks, My posts will be from one year to the next and I will update as often as time allows.

In January 2014 we attended a seminar at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, Texas. It was called "The Power of Touch". The information I received was extremely helpful and I recommend that anyone wanting to start Active Learning with their child attend this seminar first.

It taught me how to present new toys, equipment, and people to Jayden before starting to work with them.  It also taught me how to let him know when I am playing with him.

One of the first lessons was all about observing him while letting him know I am there with him. Observation is an important aspect of Active Learning. You will have to observe your child to determine which activities and items he enjoys. You certainly do not want to make them perform an activity they do not like. Nor do you want to work with an item he does not care for.

Another important point that was made is that they do not have to use a specific item for it's intended use. Allow them time to explore it, hold it, mouth it, whatever, they want to do with it.

The next lesson covered offering the item/toy to them. Let them decide weather to take it or not. If they do not want it, you certainly do not want to force them to take it. This helps them to understand that they have control and can make decisions. This was also the first time Jayden had ever reached out and taken hold of something.

Before Jayden reached for the brush, he started clicking his tongue and I responded letting him know I was there. After he takes the brush, he really begins to "chat" with me.

Our next lesson was about following your child and what they do. For instance when Jayden takes a brush and starts to scratch it's bristles, I would do the same with my hand beside his which lets him know I am there.

And finally we learned to share which is combining all the steps. Once the child takes hold and begins playing (or whatever they are doing), you follow their lead and share the experience with them. Jayden got really excited the first time he realized that I was playing along with him.

In June, I attended another seminar at TSBVI, "2014 Low Incidence Disabilities Active Learning Conference". There I learned all about the "Functional Schemes" Skills Assessment and how to use it to properly assess Jayden's current emotional level. Again, this is important knowledge to have before starting to work Active Learning with your child.

Knowing exactly where your child is emotionally, is important information you will need to determine which activities to use. I had been going through the assessment (which is very long) but had not yet reached the emotional level section. Nor had I "scored" him on any of skills. I went home and worked on that task right away.

Before returning home, I requested that the Outreach Division of TSBVI come out to assist me in setting up an emotional level appropriate activity schedule for Jayden.

This summer has been very busy! In addition to the workshops I attended, we purchased a lot of equipment for Jayden.

First, our family helped us to get funds together for an UPSEE for Jayden. Two of my sisters and one of my nephews gave us some money for the UPSEE. This, I was hoping, would help him and motivate him to walk. I had planned to play kick ball and take him Easter Egg hunting. Walk up steps and maybe even run.

Unfortunately, it took 12 weeks to get the UPSEE delivered and by the time we received it, Jayden had grown too tall for me to use it with him. I asked a neighbor to come over to see if he could help me out, but even as tall as he was, it was a huge strain on his back.

In July, a local motorcycle club, Voyagers MC, held a fund raiser for Jayden. What a wonderful group! Jayden so enjoyed attending the event and everyone was so good to him.

He especially enjoyed hearing the bikes, so they took him out to enjoy hearing one close up. He squealed and laughed, then reached out to feel the bike.
This wonderful group raised almost $3,000.00 for Jayden! With that we were able to purchase some of the Active Learning equipment I was only dreaming of getting. So I must take some time to give a huge thank you to the Voyagers MC. They did a wonderful job and showed us amazing love.
With the money that was raised, I was able to purchase Active Learning equipment, so I went to work researching and planning.