A few months ago I was feeling lost when it came to tracking how well my 4 year old non-verbal autistic son, Johnny Ben, was doing academically. Sure, I would see him accomplish things and notice where he had issues. However, I just couldn’t get him interested in certain activities and it was taking me a long time to sit and chart where he was thriving and lacking. We had tried a few online programs and apps with him in the past, but they just didn’t seem to get his attention or were not available on a tablet. (He lacks the coordination needed to use a mouse, but he’s getting close!) I whispered a prayer that God would help me find a preschool curriculum that would match his needs, be fun, and challenge him but also not break our bank. It wasn’t but a few days later that I received an email from Miss Humblebee’s Academy asking if I would be interested in reviewing their program. (Can you see where this is going? It’s pretty exciting!)
Immediately I went to MissHumblebee.com and started looking around. First off I noticed that the program worked on a tablet. Perfect! It may not be an app, but that’s okay. It loads easily on our Android tablets. Second, the characters, music, prizes, and everything else were fun and very animated. Then that was when I saw it: All instructions are audible so that the child can hear what they are to do. They could even be repeated if needed by the press of a button on most lessons. Since my little guy is just coming around to following instructions, this is a MUST HAVE. But would it cover as many subjects as I needed it to? I went on to look at what the lessons consisted of. This is where I was completely sold, because Miss Humblebee doesn’t just cover math and reading, but also science, social studies, art, and music. Not just a little here and there, either, but hundreds of lessons. This wouldn’t be a temporary fix, but something that we could continue to do over time. I can’t imagine what I looked like reading all of this, but if Mary Poppins were in my living room she probably would have told me to close my mouth because I’m not a codfish. This was exactly what I had prayed for!
Now, if you’re at all familiar with special needs children, you might know that they live for routine and hate change. It took a couple weeks of just getting him to want to acknowledge Miss Humblebee. He wasn’t interested in creating his own avatar like most kids would be. He would look out the corner of his eye at what was on the screen, but it took awhile to get him to acknowledge it was there. Being we had done this before, I knew it had nothing to do with Miss Humblebee’s Academy and more to do with it being new to him. I pressed on in a way that would not upset him.
In the beginning he would give in and do a little after a some guidance then push it away, but I could see by the look in his eye that he was intrigued. This was more than just another learning tool, this was fun and like a game. We took our time and warmed up slowly. Sometimes he would only do a little, other times he would just look around at the different options. Options like “Art Box”, “Music Room”, “Choose A Lesson”, “Rewards”, “Sticker Room”, and more. After showing him the classroom every so often, he gradually did a little bit more each time. He loves all the characters, Miss Humblebee’s voice, the music, and the “games”. I’ve never had to help him, nor did I ever have to show him what to do. Miss Humblebee made it all so easy, flying around the classroom and guiding him through the lessons.
What he surprisingly shows no interest in is the rewards/stickers/puzzles, but I’m assuming that is because he doesn’t quite grasp the concept. Miss Humblebee also offers printables, which is a great addition so that you can work on motor skills while keeping with the theme of the curriculum, but Johnny Ben just seems to hate paper (Maybe it’s the sound of it rustling?) so while I printed a few out, he wasn’t having it. So unfortunately I can’t give you an opinion on those aspects. That being said, Johnny Ben’s 2 year old little sister, Molly, is VERY interested in what all Miss Humblebee has to say and offer. So much so that we will be purchasing a subscription for her soon after her 3rd birthday as well. For now we have had to cut back our lessons to when Miss Molly Pop is napping or distracted. 😉 I really wish I had Miss Humblebee when 6 year old Tommy was in preschool also. It’s so fun, easy, thorough, and extremely interactive.
So, I’ve told you that Johnny Ben grew to love it and my toddler is aching to get into Miss Humblebee’s classroom… But how am I tracking Johnny Ben’s progress? Every week I receive an email to let me know that a progress report is available. When that email arrives, all I have to do is click on the link and it’s all right there in my account for me to see. How many lessons he’s completed, how many prizes he has earned, and how much artwork has been saved. I also have access for past progress reports so I can see how he’s coming along. It is exactly what I needed.
I do still believe in hands on constructive play for preschoolers. But these lessons are a great addition to all of the other things we are doing without becoming overwhelming. Besides, it is so much more fun that filling out a worksheet! Again, a complete answer to my prayer!
The price of a subscription to Miss Humblebee’s Academy is $12.95 a month for 1 child and $5 for each additional. Another option is a yearly subscription at $129 for 1 child and $60 for each child after that. Not sure you want to make a commitment just yet? There is also a free 1 week trial so you can see if it’ll work for your child.
This week I’m beginning my first post in the Blogging through the Alphabet link-up that is hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. That’s right, lucky you! You get to read a post by me each week based on the letter of the week. 😉 (I’m working on narrowing down a day, hopefully Mondays, so excuse today’s post being a few days late…) I expect this to be a fun and challenging series, and really look forward to the journey that Blogging through the Alphabet will take me on in the weeks ahead. Be sure to check out the other blogs linked up by heading over to Marcy’s blog… And be sure to check out all that Marcy has to say! In the last few months of reading her blog, I’ve realized a lot about myself and have learned quite a bit. Marcy is a strong woman of God and has great words to share with everyone, not just homeschoolers. She’s one smart cookie!
On with the alphabet…
I’ve kind of tip-toed around my son Johnny Ben’s recent diagnosis here on the blog. We haven’t intended to keep it a secret and it’s not that it’s hard to talk about. I guess it’s just that I haven’t known how to approach it. The whole process of learning John is on the autism spectrum, what all it entails, and the abundance of information along with what has to be done moving forward has been extremely overwhelming to me. Not in a bad way, mind you. I’m just… adjusting, I guess.
There have been tell-tale signs over the last few years to lead us to believe Johnny Ben has autism. He never really started talking. He says a word here and there, maybe a sentence if he feels like it. Toys have never been played with in the way they are intended. Getting him to actually eat something other than a few favorite foods is not even possible. Social situations in which there are crowds, or even more than a few people, make him very anxious. The list goes on and on. So when we were told that he is autistic we were not shocked at all. As a matter of fact, we were relieved.
Relieved, you ask? Yes. Relieved. Now we can move forward and help our sweet boy!
It was that reaction that surprised me, though. In my life, I would hear of a friend or acquaintance who’s child had been given a diagnosis on the autism spectrum and think to myself, “Oh, that poor mother. She must be so devastated. I don’t think I could ever bear to go through that.” Boy, did God teach me a lesson here! How did I not see before that regardless of the “label” that is put on your child’s mental or physical health, nothing changes? Nothing about your child changes. That child is still the beautiful creation that God brought into this world, and is exactly how God intended for them to be. Johnny Ben is still my “Chubby Cherub” that I love and adore. Our day to day life might change, and aspects of it may not be the same as they are for other families, but nothing is actually different than it was before we were officially told. In truth, we never know what our future holds, so there is no reason for me to assume that this will be the way it is forever, either.
I do have to say that Johnny Ben probably has the biggest heart out of anyone I’ve ever known. While he does have issues with feeling, recognizing, and expressing some emotions, he has no problem with showing love to anyone. A few nights after we found out, I was having a particularly hard night dealing with some unrelated problems. I got up out of bed, unable to sleep, and came out onto the couch. I was quietly crying and praying, that God would just help me with what I was dealing with. Within a few minutes Johnny Ben, who had been up singing and playing in his room all night (he doesn’t like sleep) came walking into the living room. He took my face into his hands and smiled, in his way insisting that I smile too. I couldn’t help but laugh. He sat there with me, doing things to make me laugh until we snuggled up together and fell asleep. That night I told him, “Johnny Ben, it’s you and me against the world. Nothing and no one will stop us. I’ve got your back, buddy. You can do anything you want to in this life, and I’ll make sure that it happens.” Since then we have been labeled as “Pinky and the Brain.” I’ll let you figure out which one is the brain… (Hint, it’s not me. 😉 )
The autism spectrum is certainly a mystery. Finding out your child is on it and learning where exactly they fit in can be very confusing and as I said before, overwhelming. Thankfully, I have met some wonderful people here online and have become a part of a few support groups that have pointed me in the right direction of where to begin my research to understanding what my little boy is dealing with. (At the bottom of this post, I’ll list some links to some wonderful blogs that have really helped me.)
Now, some things about Johnny Ben and his amazing little ways:
I do want to mention that in the last few weeks he has progressed tremendously! He now uses crayons, plays peek-a-boo, is talking more, and is showing affection to his little sister that until recently he was either aggressive with or just flat out didn’t acknowledge. This sudden change came out of nowhere! We attribute it to prayer and a new vitamin that we are trying.
So, tell me, have you ever had a situation arise in your life in which you reacted completely opposite of what you thought you would? Did you feel the peace of God come over your spirit and whisper to you, “It’s okay, I got this?” I’d love for you to share with me!
Here is the list of blogs and bloggy friends that have been a great help! (This is the modified list. There were also Twitter friends, real-life friends and family, and many others that have been an inspiration and help. You don’t want to see my loooong list of bookmarks and evernote clips. 😉 )