Friday, January 17, 2020

How to Motivate, Encourage, & Support the Hyperlexic Child When Things Get Hard

Tips for how to motivate kids with hyperlexia and encourage them to do hard things. Plus, things to consider when it comes to motivation and hyperlexia.

I recently shared some of my favorite books on the topic of raising resilient and confident kids because I want both of my children to feel like they can tackle any challenge that gets thrown their way, even if it's hard.

But, oftentimes, the suggestions found in parenting books don't always work great for hyperlexic kids, as they're usually written with neurotypical children in mind.

So I put together this list of tips and ideas for how to motivate kids with hyperlexia so that you can build that resilience and that confidence. Below, you'll find lots of suggestions on how to effectively motivate, encourage, and support your kids, even when things get hard.

Tips for motivating hyperlexic kids

Motivation & the Hyperlexic Child: Important Things to Consider

There are a few things to consider when it comes to motivating the hyperlexic child.

1. Incentives, Rewards, & Punishments aren't Effective Motivators for Hyperlexic Children

Incentives and rewards don't seem to be effective as they are with a neurotypical kid. As noted in Hyperlexia: Therapy That Works, punishment does not work with hyperlexic kids. Punishment can cause anxiety, for one thing.

Furthermore, the reasons why incentives, rewards, and punishment don't seem to work well is that the hyperlexic child doesn't always naturally make the connections between things and they struggle with organizational sequences like first-then or cause and effect. So they might not be able to make that connection between receiving a certain incentive because they did behavior X.

Therefore, rewards and incentives will only be successful when the hyperlexic child has a firm grasp on understanding cause and effect. It's why the Canadian Hyperlexia Association's hyperlexia strategies pamphlet suggests "specifically teaching cause and effect inferencing and prediction."

2. Determine Why Your Child is Unmotivated by a Task

Another thing to consider is why your child might be feeling unmotivated about a particular task in the first place.

  • Is the task too easy?
  • Is the task boring?
  • Is the task too challenging?
  • Is the task causing anxiety?
  • Is the task overwhelming or have a lot of steps?
You need to work together with your child to problem-solve and determine why they might be avoiding a particular task or finding it difficult to complete.

When you can get to the root of the issue, it's much easier to come up with a game plan.

3. The Order of Activities & Tasks Makes a Difference

Finally, you need to consider the placement or order of the tasks or activities for a hyperlexic child. As suggested in Hyperlexia: Therapy That Works, "place high-interest activities either between or following activities you want the child to do."

How to Motivate, Encourage, & Support the Hyperlexic Child

So how do you motivate and encourage a hyperlexic child to do things that are hard or boring or uninteresting to them? You know, things like homework, life skills like getting dressed, and whatnot.

Well, first, you start with what they love.

"Take advantage of the child's interests or obsessions by using them as the basis for teaching activities and as motivators." - Hyperlexia: Therapy That Works

Which leads me to my list of 20+ ways to motivate a hyperlexic child...

1. Use their special interests, obsessions, and passions as motivators

2. Turn the tasks into a game or a fun challenge (e.g., can you get into your pajamas in 30 seconds or less?)

3. Use checklists and have your child cross off the items as they complete them (crossing things off of a to do list is so satisifying!)

4. Pair something fun with something boring (e.g., watching a short YouTube clip while brushing teeth)

5. Use timers to set limits for the tasks that are unmotivating to your child (my kids love timers, especially if the timer has a funny sound to signify the end)

6. Come up with alternative ways to complete a project that are more interesting or fun (e.g., practice spelling words by stamping letters into play dough)

7. Simplify and break down tasks into smaller chunks to make the task less overwhelming, more manageable, and motivating to complete (works especially well with checklists!)

8. Keep things playful and include high-interest activities if possible (e.g., using Paint on the computer to draw things for a book report first so you can help your child plan their final drawings that they'll draw by hand)

9. Make the boring tasks predictable since hyperlexic kids like routine (i.e., they're more likely to complete the tasks because it's so ingrained into their routine, especially if a high-interest activity follows)

10. Sing instead of talking or asking your child to do something (e.g., sing "brush brush brush your teeth, brush until they're clean" to the tune of Row Your Boat)

11. Do something wrong and unexpected because the hyperlexic child often can't resist fixing your mistake (e.g., put their pants on their head, ask them if that's the correct way to wear the pants, and then ask them to show you how to really put on their pants)

12. Offer choices for how and when to complete a task, giving your child some control over the task (they're more likely to follow through when they are in control or made the decisions themselves)

13. Appeal to their sense of logic and love for facts (e.g., eating your carrots gives you Vitamin A which is good for your eyes - trust me, they'll gobble up the facts and the carrots!)

14. Do the task together with your child (things are more fun together than alone and you can even combine this tip with tip #2 and face-off against your child in a fun game or challenge)

15. Use visual aids to help keep your child focused, on task, and motivated to complete things on time

16. Praise your child for their effort and the work they've put into something instead of the outcome

17. Follow your child's lead and consider their mood before requesting that a task get completed (e.g., your child just had a meltdown and is exhausted = don't ask them to practice the piano or do their homework at this moment)

18. Let your kids witness you doing hard things and be a role model (they'll pick up on your perseverance and emulate it)

19. Acknowledge their struggles and validate their feelings (then you can work together to problem solve some solutions to make it easier)

20. Don't fix things for them, but be there to help when and/if they need it (it's way more rewarding to fix something on your own than having someone else fix it)

21. Manage your own expectations, consider the way your hyperlexic child learns, and keep the goals realistic (i.e, don't set unrealistic and unobtainable goals if you know it's in an area your child might struggle with)

Other Hyperlexia Resources You'll Love

What the Hyperlexic Child Needs You to Know

The Best Books for Kids with Hyperlexia

More Hyperlexia Resources for Parents

Tips for how to motivate kids with hyperlexia
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DIY Snowman Stress Balls

Looking for DIY stress balls? Try making these homemade snowman stress balls this winter!

Stress balls are a great tool for kids.

They can be used as a fidget, for building hand strength, and for providing proprioceptive sensory input.

Well, since it's winter and all, I thought that it would be fun to make some snowman stress balls for my boys to squish and squeeze.

Homemade snowman stress balls: How to make a stress ball DIY

How to Make DIY Stress Balls that Look Like Snowmen

There's no reason to buy stress balls when they are so easy to make!

Plus, with homemade stress balls, you get to use textures that you and the kids enjoy squeezing. You can make them any color you want, but with winter here (or with winter coming since we are currently without snow here in Saskatchewan, which is unusual!), I decided that I wanted to make some snowmen inspired stress balls. 

The kids thought it was hilarious to squish and squeeze the snowmen's faces!

To find out how to make a stress ball, head over to CBC Parents for the full tutorial.

DIY snowman stress balls are so cute! Find out how to make homemade stress balls with this tutorial
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Valentine's Day I Spy Game {Free Printable for Kids}

This free Valentine's Day themed I spy printable for kids is a perfect way to work on a variety of skills! It would also make a nice non-candy Valentine's card alternative.

If you're looking for a quick and easy Valentine's Day activity for kids, then this free printable Valentine's Day I Spy game for kids is a perfect idea!

The kids will love visually scanning and counting up the different hearts and valentines. But be careful! The clipart on this printable are all quite similar and require greater visual discrimination than some of my other I Spy printables.

Free I spy game printable for kids: Valentine's Day themed

The Benefits of I Spy Games for Kids

I Spy printables like this Valentine's Day 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 Valentine's Day 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.


Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

Want More I Spy Games?

You'll find even more themes in the I spy games bundle!

Printable I spy games for kids

Other Ideas You'll Love

More Free Printable I Spy Games for Kids

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Next Steps to Take When You Think Your Child is Hyperlexic

Wondering if your child has hyperlexia? Here are the next steps you can take to get a hyperlexia diagnosis or after receiving a hyperlexia diagnosis.

When you first learn about hyperlexia, it can be absolutely mind-blowing and life changing.

You read the definition and it just fits.

"Somewhere along this path, you encounter the term hyperlexia and a description that fits your child to a tee. For the first time, you hear a word that links the paradoxical characteristics of your child." - Susan Martins Miller,  Reading Too Soon

It's the aha moment you've been looking for because finally, you can put a name to what you are witnessing with your own child and that's incredibly empowering and freeing.

You likely feel excited and relieved.

I know I did.

Seeing the word hyperlexia for the first time was a huge aha moment for us and it likely is for you too.

"Regardless of how you learn of hyperlexia or when it seems certain that this is the right description for your child, the process is full of emotion. You may react by saying, 'Aha! This is what it is!'" - Susan Martins Miller,  Reading Too Soon

But now what?

What do you do with that information? What's your next step as the parent?

Here are some of the next steps you can take.

Hyperlexia diagnosis - the next steps for parents

So You Know it's Hyperlexia...Now What?

There's no right or wrong next step, and you can certainly do these in any order, but here are some things you might want to consider now that you know what hyperlexia is, even if it's on a very basic level.

1. Get a "Diagnosis" 

Already have a "diagnosis"? Then you can skip to the next section.

However, if you discovered hyperlexia on your own (instead of as part of the diagnostic process like us), then you might want to consider getting it officially "diagnosed."

Now, it's important to understand that hyperlexia isn't a standalone diagnosis. Instead, it's often diagnosed alongside another diagnosis such as autism. You can learn more about the hyperlexia diagnostic process here.

2. Educate Yourself About Hyperlexia Further

Parent education is so important. The better you understand the complexities of the syndrome, the better equipped you'll be to help your hyperlexic child. Here are some ways to educate yourself about hyperlexia:

  • Read through The Hyperlexia Handbook, a free ebook and email series that introduces you to the basics of hyperlexia
  • Watch these videos about hyperlexia made by hyperlexic adults - I think it's always important to learn from hyperlexic individuals themselves!
  • Dig into the hyperlexia research if you're really looking to get more indepth knowledge and insight - Best not to dive into this right away if you literally just stumbled upon the term hyperlexia mere minutes ago...
"Parents of hyperlexic children find reassurance in knowing there are other children like theirs and other people interested in helping them." - Susan Martins Miller,  Reading Too Soon

3. Inform Relevant People of Your Child's Diagnosis

It's important not only for you, as a parent, to understand hyperlexia, but there are others who need to understand it as well. Who needs to know about your child's diagnosis will vary from family to family, but here are some resources to help you navigate this aspect of the journey.

  • Consider telling your child about their diagnosis since they, after all, are the hyperlexic child and deserve to have that knowledge - These resources should help:

4. Start Implementing Strategies that Play to the Strengths of a Hyperlexic Learner

Let's be honest, you really just want practical tips on how to nurture your child and help them grow. You want to know how to help them with their language struggles or get them potty trained. You want to know what therapies to seek out and which to avoid. Well, this section is for you!

  • Browse for resources for particular struggles, challenges, or goals - from potty training to fine motor to comprehension!
  • Get quick digestible tips and information about hyperlexia by following me on Instagram - Perfect for those of you who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information here

Other Hyperlexia Resources You'll Love

Hyperlexia & Hypernumeracy Resources

What is Hyperlexia?

Best Advice for Parents of Hyperlexic Children

The next steps before or after a hyperlexia diagnosis - a guide to help parents understand how to help their hyperlexic child
Read More

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Valentine's Sensory Bin with Dyed Chickpeas

Looking for Valentine's Day sensory activities? Then you'll want to try this gorgeous Valentine's Day sensory bin with dyed chickpeas.

When it comes to Valentine's Day sensory activities, the color red and hearts are a must. 

Then add a dash of something pink and it's absolutely perfect.

Well, this Valentine's Day sensory bin with dyed chickpeas is all of that. It's got hearts and lots of red and pink shades. And it's super fun to play with! The kids will love scooping up the chickpeas.

Easy Valentine's Day sensory bin for toddlers and preschoolers

Valentine's Day Sensory Bin for Toddlers & Preschoolers

This sensory bin is easy to put together, even if you've never made rainbow dyed chickpeas before. Dyed chickpeas only take a few minutes to dry - I promise - and are way easier to clean up than dyed rice.

Once you have a batch of dyed chickpeas made, simply dump all the materials into a sensory bin and it's ready to go!

You can learn more about how to put together this super simple Valentine's Day sensory bin idea over on CBC Parents.

Valentine's Day sensory bin activity that's perfect for toddlers or preschool and kindergarten kids
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Valentine's Day Gross Motor Activities

This collection of gross motor Valentine's Day activities for kids is so fun and so inexpensive. All you need is something from the dollar store!

With my oldest back in school, I'm trying to avoid falling into a rut again with my four year old. He really doesn't like to play at home without his best buddy, so it's hard to find activities that he will actually engage in.

So after dropping J off at school, we made a quick stop at the dollar store. Then we came home to spend hours playing and moving with these Valentine's Day gross motor activities. There's zero prep, but it encourages lots of gross motor play. It was exactly the type of activity K needed!

Valentine gross motor activities for preschoolers

Valentine Gross Motor Activities for Preschoolers: What You'll Need

On my most recent trip to the dollar store, I picked up a package of felt hearts, not knowing what I was going to do with them, but I figured that I could come up with something. Well, not only did I come up with something, but my kids created lots of their own variations of my original idea.

All you'll need for these gross motor games are:

  • Large felt hearts from the dollar store - You could substitute foam hearts, paper hearts, or even cut out your own heart shapes from felt.

Gross Motor Activities for Valentine's Day Using a Package of Hearts

We scattered the hearts on the floor, a fair distance apart to encourage jumping and large steps. For extra fun, I told my four year old that the carpet was lava and he had to only touch the hearts. He's really into the whole "the floor is lava" stage of childhood.

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Instead of stepping from heart to heart, try hopping on one foot from heart to heart. Or practice double footed jumps, like below.

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Another way to play is to move from heart to heart on all fours, only letting one body part touch a heart at a time. It's a great way to stretch the body and get the kids moving. You can see it in action in the video further down.

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Gross motor boredom busters for Valentine's Day from And Next Comes L

Even More Valentine's Day Gross Motor Activities to Try

Finally, here are some other ways to play with the felt hearts:

  • Arrange the hearts in a snake-like game board shape. Roll a die and use your feet as game board pieces to move from the start to the finish.
  • Arrange the hearts to make a hopscotch. You could label the hearts with numbers if you wish.
  • Make a tic tac toe grid on the floor using tape. Play tic tac toe with the felt hearts (one person uses one color, while the other person uses the other color).
  • Arrange the felt hearts into a tight grid, sort of like a Twister game board. Then grab a die. Depending on what number you roll on the die, that's what body part you place somewhere on the hearts, but only one body part per heart! We used the following:
    • Roll a 1 = Place your head on a heart
    • Roll a 2 = Place your left hand on a heart
    • Roll a 3 = Place your right hand on a heart
    • Roll a 4 = Place your left foot on a heart
    • Roll a 5 = Lift your head up from the hearts
    • Roll a 6 = Kid's choice

Other Ideas You'll Love

Valentine's Day gross motor activities for preschoolers and toddlers
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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Winter Hat Deep Breathing Exercise {Free Printable Poster Included!}

Looking for some deep breathing exercises to teach the kids? Try this winter hat themed technique and grab a copy of the free printable poster too!

Considering it's -46 C as I type this, I think it's a perfectly good time to share this winter deep breathing exercise for kids.

After all, nothing beats a good warm toque (aka winter hat) on a cold winter day. Except for maybe hibernating. But let's be honest, that's not really an option. These temperatures are a regular occurrence during the winter months on the Canadian prairies.

So when your kids complain about yet another indoor recess and are easily frustrated because they haven't been getting the body breaks outdoors they need, then you'll want to pull out this free mindfulness poster to help your kids cope and self-regulate.

Winter hat themed breathing exercise for kids with free printable poster

A Simple Breathing Exercise for Kids with a Winter Twist

Have you heard of the triangle breathing technique before?

Well, that was the inspiration for this winter hat themed breathing exercise.

Free deep breathing printable for kids that's perfect for winter

About the Free Printable Winter Deep Breathing Exercise Poster

This one page printable offers a simple deep breathing technique using a winter hat (or toque here in Canada, eh?) theme. I highly recommend laminating the poster for durability.

As for how to do the actual deep breathing technique, simply trace the arrows along the outside of the hat and follow the instructions. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Repeat.

To get your copy of the printable, simply click the link below.


Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

Other Mindfulness Resources You'll Love

Mindfulness Picture Books for Kids

Free Printable Deep Breathing Social Story

Mindfulness & Meditation Resources, Activities, & Printables

Winter hat deep breathing exercise for kids with free printable mindfulness poster
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