Monday, June 27, 2016

DIY Upcycled Bike Basket for Kids

On a whim, I put together this DIY upcycled bike basket for four year old K. See, he really likes to collect rocks and sticks. Often, he places them in his pockets or mine, but sometimes, neither of us have pockets. 

So one morning, we were going to go for a bike ride to the pond near our house, but he was being a little resistant to go. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted this old empty wipes container in our garage and I asked him if he would like to collect treasures in it. Then I thought, "Hey, let's attach it to the handlebars and make a basket!"

K was thrilled and so was my husband who eagerly grabbed the drill and string. Within minutes, K was ready to collect treasures from the pond in his brand new upcycled bike basket.

Easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Make a DIY Upcycled Bike Basket for Kids

Here's what you'll need to make your own DIY upcycled bike basket for kids:

On the back of the wipes container, carefully drill four small holes: two on top of each other on each side (see photo below). I say drill carefully because it is very easy to accidentally drill through the front of the wipes container. The size of the holes will depend on the size of the string or zip ties used to secure the container to the bike. Loop the string or zip tie through the holes and secure the container to the handlebars of the bike. That's it! It literally takes just a couple of minutes to put together.

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Your kid might want to decorate their bike basket using permanent markers, stickers, or washi tape, but since our container was already decorated with a lovely Finding Nemo sticker (that tells you how old this container is!), we skipped this step.

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

The great thing about this DIY upcycled bike basket is that it can be opened in two ways. Kids can lift the whole lid to insert larger items into their basket...

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Or they can pop open the wipe dispenser part to insert smaller objects. K really loves to push rocks through this small opening.

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Such a simple DIY project! And the kids are going to love being able to collect their own treasures while out on bike rides.

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Easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Signs That Your Early Reader May Have Hyperlexia

When J first started reading just before he turned two, I was shocked. He couldn't honestly be reading, could he?

So I started spelling random words before him and he would read them back to me time and time again.

I remember thinking, wow, this kid is really something special

And he is, but as he grew older and other issues started appearing, I started seeing a gap between his amazing ability to read and his speech.

I searched and searched, to no avail. I simply could not figure out what was going on.

Did he have sensory processing disorder?

Did he have autism?

Was he just gifted and really sensitive?

Years later I would learn that J has hyperlexia and it was exactly what I was looking for in my original searches.

So what is hyperlexia and its signs? And how is it different from early reading?

Signs of hyperlexia and how it's different from an early reader from And Next Comes L

Hyperlexia or Early Reader?

Hyperlexia is a precocious self-taught ability to read at an early age, usually before the age of five, accompanied by intense fascinations with letters and numbers, as well as significant difficulties in oral language. So a child with hyperlexia usually has speech problems and difficulties with comprehension.

In contrast, an early reader develops normally and are considered neurotypical with no issues with speech and/or comprehension. These kids can be classified as hyperlexia type I, as proposed by Dr. Treffert. Although not everyone agrees on this classification system.

Signs of Hyperlexia

Here are some of the signs of hyperlexia, above and beyond the self-taught ability to read at an early age:

1. Intense fascinations with letters, numbers, maps, and logos

These fascinations can almost be OCD-like in nature. Often these kids don't want to play with anything other than whatever they are fascinated with. You can read more about these intense fascinations here.

For instance, Kara shared in our hyperlexia support group that her son "began carrying a letter W magnet around with him everywhere around 18 months. It was his security item!" We had similar experiences as J would play and carry around letters everywhere he went. His security item was an English/Spanish ABC flashcards book that he carried everywhere (until it was beyond recognizable)!

2. Significant difficulties with verbal language

Kids with hyperlexia struggle with verbal language, both understanding it and speaking it themselves. Hyperlexic children struggle understanding "WH" questions and often appear to be selective listeners. They rarely initiate conversations, which was a huge telltale sign for us, and their speech is often echolalic in nature. They also struggle understanding abstract language and are literal thinkers. You can read more about the conversation skills of kids with hyperlexia here.

3. Develop normally, but regress around 18-24 months

Unfortunately for me, my memory is fuzzy around this time period because I was so pregnant with K at the time, but I do know that J's fascination with letters became evident around 19 months. I don't recall him really regressing, but after speaking with other families, they did notice a period of regression with their children during this time. For instance, Chelsey shared in our hyperlexia support group that her son "regressed at 18 months and lost all of his words, except for numbers, by 2 years of age."

4. Awkward social skills

Hyperlexic kids are awkward socially, which isn't surprising since most of these kids also receive an autism diagnosis alongside the hyperlexia label. J has always bonded better with adults instead of other kids and after discussions with other families, they have noticed a similar pattern with their kids. Their difficulties with verbal language likely contributes to the social skills difficulties, which I have definitely noticed with my son when he interacts with his classmates.


What to Do if You Suspect Your Child May Have Hyperlexia

If you think your child may have hyperlexia, then start by reading everything you can about hyperlexia and ask for a referral to a speech pathologist and/or psychologist. Here are some other helpful resources that you may be interested in:

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is recognizing signs and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.

Sensory Processing Red Flags | Lemon Lime Adventures
Seeing the Signs of Childhood Trauma | STEAM Powered Family

Signs of hyperlexia and how it's different from an early reader from And Next Comes L
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Monday, June 20, 2016

The Intense Fascinations of Kids with Hyperlexia

As I continue to dive deeper into the ABCs of hyperlexia series, I am amazed and surprised by how many subtle characteristics of hyperlexia other parents can relate to, the characteristics that you likely won't find on a hyperlexia fact sheet. For instance, I recently mentioned how my son J gives a canned response of "I don't know" when answering a WH question in this conversation skills post and it turns out it might be kind of common with these kids. Many parents in my support group told me that their hyperlexic children do it too! How interesting!

I remember when I first blogged about my son's hyperlexia that a huge hyperlexia advocate, Dr. Treffert, reached out to me and told me how valuable it was to listen to parents of hyperlexic children because we are the experts. At the time, I hardly felt like an expert on anything, but I can see what he means. Us parents of hyperlexic children have a wealth of information to share about what day-to-day life with hyperlexia looks like. So in preparation for this post, I reached out to fellow hyperlexic parents to find out more about what their kids are fasincated by.

It's no secret that kids with hyperlexia have an intense fascination with letters, numbers, logos, maps, or visual patterns. 

But what do those fascinations look like in daily life? 

And what do those fascinations turn into? 

And what other things do these kids become fascinated with?

A look at the intense fascinations of kids with hyperlexia from And Next Comes L

The Intense Fascinations of Kids with Hyperlexia

I think for most parents of hyperlexic children the first thing they notice is the intense fascination with letters. These kids look for them everywhere, point them out everywhere, play with alphabet toys constantly, and turn practically every object possible into a letter. Here are some examples of how this fascination with letters plays out in day-to-day life:

  • Looking at license plates and reading and/or tracing the letters and numbers on the plates
  • Watching all of the credits at the end of a movie
  • Enjoying movie credits more so than the actual movie itself
  • Playing with alphabet magnets constantly and arranging them into alphabetical order or writing words
  • Singing ABCs both forwards and backwards
  • Preferring to watch TV and movies with the closed captions or subtitles turned on
  • Reading signs around the neighborhood and/or tracing the letters on the signs if within reach
  • Making letters out of any material possible such as crayons, cars, rocks, sticks, etc.
  • Fonts - J loves to write in fun fonts, trace his fingers over fancy lettering, and even taught himself cursive handwriting in less than 20 minutes last summer.
Numbers quickly became the next fascination for my son with hyperlexia, but he also has hypernumeracy so obviously his fascination is really intense. And trust me, it is some days, but definitely not as intense as it was when he was about three years old! Here's how this intense fascination with numbers can look in these kids:

  • Calendar and important dates, such as holidays and birthdays - In fact, J usually reminds me of birthdays so I don't ever miss them!
  • Time and clocks, including learning to tell the time at an early age
  • Temperature and thermostats
  • Calculators - We never left the house for years without a calculator or two in our hands!
  • Page numbers and table of contents - J never asks about the title of book. He always wants to know how many chapters and how many pages the book has!
  • Speed signs
  • Nutrition labels - J loves looking at how many grams or calories food provides.
  • Scores and timers at sporting events
  • Large numbers like zillions, trillions, and all the way up to a googol
  • Counting to large numbers over and over
  • Counting backwards
  • Skip counting, forwards and backwards, at an early age
  • Money
  • Watching movies or TV with timers showing - J used to refer to movies that he wanted to watch by their total length in hours, minutes, and seconds versus saying the title of the movie.
  • Roman numerals
  • Dot-to-dots
  • Tally marks
Another fascination common in kids with hyperlexia is with maps and geography. These kids love to learn about countries, capitals, and more! I suspect my younger brother could be hyperlexic and in addition to him reading at a super early age, he knew some of the most ridiculous facts and information about every single country in the world when he was little. Here are some of the topics that kids with hyperlexia often get fascinated with:

  • States/provinces and capitals
  • World capitals
  • Studying and reading atlases
Kids with hyperlexia also love to doodle. Like all the time. I've shared some of our favorite doodling materials before, but J's favorites have always been drawing with chalk, drawing on his Magna-Doodle, and doodling non-stop on paper. And actually, letting these kids doodle is a wonderful strategy to implement at home and/or in the classroom.

The periodic table is also extremely appealing to kids with hyperlexia. Why wouldn't it be with all of those letters and numbers all over it?!

Another fascination of kids with hyperlexia is space and planets. J absolutely loved learning everything he could about planets and space from about age 5 to 6. He would create constellations and planets out of random objects. He particularly loved labeling how hot or cold each planet is with their temperatures.

I also polled other parents of hyperlexic children in my Facebook support group about their children's intense fascinations and here were a few other topics that came up:

  • Mazes
  • Checklists
  • Flashcards
  • Polygons and shapes in general
  • Building signs
  • Logos
  • Atoms
  • Human body parts
  • Encyclopedia type books
  • Traffic lights
  • Famous people like presidents or composers
  • Fruits and vegetables - Chelsey shared how her son possesses "an encyclopedic memory of each and every one from around the world. He still likes to carry fruit everywhere and will often sneak it in to bed so he can cuddle it throughout the night."
  • Warning signs and stickers - Sandra shared how her hyperlexic child loves "warning signs (wet floor!) and warning stickers, like the ones on the car's sun visor containing the air bag warning."

How to Use These Fascinations to Help Kids with Hyperlexia

Sometimes it seems these kids can get stuck on one topic for a long time and I know how tiresome it can be to hear about the same things over and over again. Trust me, there are days when I cringe a bit when I hear J say, "I have a math question for you!" because I hear it approximately eleven billion times per day. Or how he lives and breathes all things traffic light related. But here's the thing...I will never ever try to discourage his fascinations. They are the key to engaging and connecting with him. I have already talked about how important obsessions in autism are for that reason.

So how does that translate into everyday life?

Well, here are a few things that I have done using J's fascinations:

  1. To encourage him to eat his lunch at school, I use a lunch box with a chalkboard in it. He can feel free to doodle if he likes, but I use it as a checklist of his lunch. I always write the menu down for him in order of importance. He always eats the food in the order it is presented in the checklist. Then he checks off the item once he finishes eating it.
  2. J goes through periods of time where he is absolutely terrified of bath time. We don't know what triggers it, but I have solved our bath time troubles (at least for now!) by handing him a translucent ruler and telling him to measure the bath water. Once it reaches the desired measurement, then I shut the water off. So we don't have bath time at our house we have 5 inch baths or 3 inch baths.
  3. We used J's love of numbers and winning games to encourage him to try something new such as sitting in a new chair at mealtimes.
  4. I ask my son hard math questions to connect with him and engage him with others when his body and mind become disorganized.
  5. To encourage my son to tell me about his school days, I ask him to list three things he did during the day instead of asking him a WH question. He loves lists so much that he is always motivated by them!
  6. Read books and come up with activities based around their fascinations. For instance, to tap into J's fascination with traffic lights, we do traffic light activities such as this suncatcher craft.
  7. When J started kindergarten, he still struggled with getting dressed by himself. Not because he didn't know how, but because he would not be motivated to do it. So I fixed that issue by timing him. I challenge him to try to put his socks on in less than 15 seconds or his shirt on in less than 30 seconds. Works awesome! And works great for almost anything he resists wanting to try. A point system also works well! I like to give him random points for trying new things and new foods. 
The bottom line is this...use their fascinations to encourage exploration of new topics or to work on new skills. Use them to develop social skills or speech or any other area that they may be struggling with. Use their unique ability to their advantage.

And always embrace their quirkiness. Our kids are incredible!

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A look at the intense fascinations of kids with hyperlexia from And Next Comes L
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Camping Themed I Spy Game {Free Printable for Kids}

Summer is a great time to head outdoors and do fun things like go camping, even if it's in your backyard, like we recently did. This free printable camping I spy game for kids is a great way to get your kids excited for any upcoming camping trips and pairs perfectly with our free camping themed WH question cards.

Free camping themed I Spy game for kids from And Next Comes L

The Benefits of I Spy Games for Kids

I Spy printables like this camping themed one are great for providing visual sensory input to kids, making them a great choice for visual sensory seekers. They also help develop a child's visual tracking ability and improve visual discrimination. This printable requires kids to visually scan through the objects and find ones that are the same.

Playing I Spy with your kids is also a great way to improve speech, language, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. I've discussed how playing I Spy games with kids can improve comprehension in kids with autism and hyperlexia before.

These types of I Spy games also encourage math learning by asking kids to count how many of each object they find.

Download the Free Printable Camping Themed I Spy Game

This printable includes one I Spy game sheet and one answer sheet to record the number of objects found. The answer sheet uses the written word as well as an image of the object to search for to help improve comprehension - something kids with hyperlexia struggle with.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Explaining Hyperlexia to Others

It's one thing to be able to advocate for your child with hyperlexia when no one has heard of the diagnosis, but I find it is even trickier to explain hyperlexia to other parents. And trust me, other parents do take notice of your child's hyperlexia.

But before I discuss how to explain hyperlexia to others, I want to tell you three recent stories.

Let me backtrack to the fall of 2015, when I was talking with J's teacher. She was telling me that J had been writing in another language during school. He's in French Immersion so for him to write in another language other than French or English would be worth noting. Well, that and he's in grade one. The teacher wasn't 100% sure what language he was writing in, but it appeared to be similar to Italian or Spanish. Regardless, I told her it wasn't unusual for him to write in other languages or sometimes even in his own invented languages. Meanwhile, a mom of one of J's classmates overheard the conversation and eventually shared it with her husband. Later that week, the husband approached me and asked me, "Can J speak or write in other languages?"

To which I responded that it was a bit more complicated than that. So I mentioned that J had hyperlexia and hypernumeracy, explaining that J had a precocious self-taught ability to read and started reading before he turned two. The husband than asked, "So he's gifted? He can help me predict lottery numbers or something?"

Then a few weeks or a month later, the grandmother of one of J's classmates asked me similar questions out of the blue. She said that she had "noticed J's superior reading ability" and asked, "Is J gifted?"

Again, I explained that he had hyperlexia and hypernumeracy by using the precocious self-taught ability to read definition, only to be cut short with stories from the grandmother about how her daughter was gifted too. The grandmother never let me finish adequately explaining hyperlexia, which frustrated me.

Finally, sometime during the early part of the school year, I had another conversation with a father of one of J's classmates. I mentioned that J started reading before age two and that he had hyperlexia. The father then went on about how he knew lots of kids who were really early readers, including himself. But here's the thing: 

Hyperlexia is more than just early reading.

These conversations left me a bit frustrated because obviously, I wasn't explaining hyperlexia adequately enough to them. So how am I to explain hyperlexia in a way that will help others understand what hyperlexia truly is?

And judging by discussions in some of the hyperlexia support groups, other parents encounter similar issues.

How to explain hyperlexia to others from And Next Comes L

How to Explain Hyperlexia to Others

I've learned from my mistakes from previous conversations and now I know to try to explain hyperlexia in a particular way. Whenever I discuss my children, it is always in as positive a manner as possible. Sure, J has challenges and quirks and K is stubborn as they come, but my kids are also witty, kind, and fun to be with. So I keep that in mind while explaining hyperlexia. I always highlight J's superior ability to decode the written word and his self-taught ability to read at an early age because it is the cornerstone to understanding what hyperlexia is.

But I also like to touch on these key points that separate hyperlexia from giftedness and/or early reading:

  • Expressive speech delay
  • Difficulties with oral comprehension and WH questions
  • Awkward social skills
  • Intense fascination with letters, numbers, logos, or maps
So if I were to sum up my explanation in one sentence, I would usually say something along these lines: hyperlexia is a precocious self-taught ability to read at an early age that's accompanied by difficulties in speech and comprehension.

Obviously, I also like to mention J's hypernumeracy when explaining hyperlexia saying that he is extremely good at math and give an example of what he's currently working on in terms of math. Most people find this part extremely fascinating! Who wouldn't?!

So when people ask, "Is he gifted?"

I respond with, "Well, it's kind of complicated...." and then launch into a discussion about hyperlexia. I get a bit passionate about it if you get me going! 

But overall, yes, I do think he is gifted when it comes to math and decoding written words. He has a remarkable ability that frankly blows my mind most days.

And my response to those people who say something along the lines of "Oh, I was an early reader! I didn't know it was called hyperlexia!" is usually this: "Well, hyperlexia is more than just reading at an early age as these kids struggle with comprehension, expressive speech, and social skills. Early readers don't necessarily have these speech and language difficulties. Also, hyperlexia is usually diagnosed alongside autism."

I hope my explanations are adequate, I really do, but at the same time, I must admit that I find it odd that people ask questions like, "Is your child gifted?" But I will have to save that topic for another post...


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How to explain hyperlexia to others from And Next Comes L
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Free Printable Sports Themed WH Question Cards

Although our kids are not in organized extracurricular activities and sports at this point, we do like to expose them to a variety of different sports. We recently started working on baseball skills with our boys, for instance, by taking them out to baseball diamonds to run bases, hit balls, and practice throwing and catching. In addition to building their gross motor skills, I'm hoping J will pick up on key elements of playing sports that are also targeted in this set of free printable sports themed WH question cards such as knowing that we kick a soccer ball and throw a baseball.

Free printable sports themed WH question cards for kids to work on speech and language skills from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Use the Free Printable Visual WH Question Cards

Simply download, print, cut, and laminate (optional) the WH question cards in this pack. Each card targets a specific WH question regarding common beach items and includes an image of the item. 

When you have the cards laminated and ready to go, then work through each individual card with your child. Either ask them the questions on each card or have them read the questions out loud themselves. Most of the questions are WH questions, which are a weak area for kids with hyperlexia.

Please keep in mind that I am not a speech therapist. I made these cards simply to help my son practice WH questions, oral comprehension, and expressive speech. Some of the questions require more detailed answers and/or knowing more about particular sports such as the names of places such as soccer fields, hockey arenas, etc.

Download the Free Printable WH Question Cards

This printable pack includes 36 sports themed visual WH question cards. I have also included alternative cards to cover the difference in names for soccer and football.


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Free Printable Camping Themed WH Question Cards

We recently camped out in our backyard to do a trial run of camping with our kids as we are hoping to do some camping later this summer. So in spirit of our camping adventures, I created this set of free printable camping themed WH question cards to work on camping vocabulary, while targeting a variety of speech skills that J is working on.

The main goals that these speech cards focus on are answering WH questions, oral comprehension, and expressive speech.

Free printable camping themed WH question cards for kids to work on speech and language skills from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Use the Free Printable Visual WH Question Cards

Simply download, print, cut, and laminate (optional) the WH question cards in this pack. Each card targets a specific WH question regarding common beach items and includes an image of the item. 

When you have the cards laminated and ready to go, then work through each individual card with your child. Either ask them the questions on each card or have them read the questions out loud themselves. Most of the questions are WH questions, which are a weak area for kids with hyperlexia.

Please keep in mind that I am not a speech therapist. I made these cards simply to help my son practice WH questions, oral comprehension, and expressive speech. Some of the questions require more detailed answers.

Download the Free Printable WH Question Cards

This printable pack includes 34 camping themed visual WH question cards.


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