Friday, February 20, 2009

A Review of Heads Up!

In the past few years, I've noticed an influx of “accidental homeschoolers”. Accidental homeschoolers are those who did not intend to homeschool but turned to it because of a less than adequate, or even toxic, classroom situation. Homeschooling is thrust upon them, ready to be embraced for the benefit of their child. Many of these families have bright, wiggly, and sensory sensitive kids that don't thrive in a classroom with thirty other children. Sometimes learning disabilities are at play, disabilities that may hinder learning in the classroom but don't have to hinder at home. With the right information, tools, and support, these kids can move from struggling learners to joyous learners.

Heads Up! is a company devoted to providing parents the tools they need to successfully homeschool their special learners. Melinda Boring, owner of Heads Up!, uses her experience with her own family to guide others to products that may be useful in their own homes. Heads Up! describes their purpose as:

"Our goal is to provide materials and information for homeschooling families, occupational therapists, speech therapists, teachers, and specialists who work with children who have developmental delays, learning disabilities, or other special needs. Professionals, as well as parents and families interacting with special needs children, need materials and teaching tips that will be effective in promoting successful learning experiences while reducing frustration for children, teachers, and parents."

From the variety of products offered by Heads Up!, I received a selection of frames and readers in a variety of colors - Top of the Line, Double Time, Readers, and large and small frames . These products are used as vision aids, particularly for kids that are either distractible or dyslexic.

The Top of the Line, Double Time, and Readers are all used to help readers keep focused on not lose their place. Top of the Line and Double Time, both 2 3/8” x 8”, come in blue and yellow. One line of text is viewable in the color area of Top of the Line and two lines for the Double Time. The Reader , 1 1/2” x 7”, views one line at a time between two strips of gray and comes in seven colors. The various colors help maintain focus on the reading material. All three of these items make great bookmarks too.

The small (4" x 4 1/2") and large (4" x 9") frames are meant to highlight a particular area of the page where you want your child's attention directed. The smaller frames are especially helpful to highlight just one math problem on a page for the easily overwhelmed student. Both frames are useful tools for the drifter or easily distracted, who is prone to look out the window and forget where he/she left off when attention is returned to the page.

My son has had tracking difficulty and other vision challenges while reading, such as pulling words from lines above or below. We even went the route of vision therapy for a time. There was improvement after the therapy, but some minor issues have remained. His eyes tire quickly, all small text is avoided and glare can be problematic. I heard of overlays possibly helping in these areas, but I had yet to give it a try since most of the issues were largely resolved.

I showed my son the selection of frames and readers I received from Heads Up!. Within 15 seconds he knew without a doubt that blue was his preferred color, while the other colors were met with indifference. Using the Double-Time reader, he immediately started reading a book that had text that would have otherwise been too small for him to tolerate. Remembering to use the overlays doesn't always happen, but when he does it seems to help some. I may purchase more of the blue readers to use as bookmarks so they will be handy. Each frame and reader costs only $1 each, a small investment if your struggling reader wants to read more when using them. If you are curious on why color overlays may work for some kids, research Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome and the Irlen Method. There are many reasons that could cause reading issues and I do encourage investigation to discover the source.

When browsing through the Heads Up! catalog, I discovered I've picked up many of the products from various sources over the years. Heads Up! is a great single source supplier for products that you may not even know could help. I've accidentally discovered items that fit in with the learning styles and needs of both of my children. For example, I purchased an inflatable disk to use as balance practice. However, I soon found it on the seat of a chair, which allowed my kids movement while sitting. It wasn't the intention when I purchased the product, but my kids found a better use for it. Flipping through the catalog, I found this exact same product marketed for this use. Melinda Boring knows what works! While these products are marketed for kids with learning and attention struggles, my experience tells me that many work with most any child. While only one of my kids regularly needs help staying focused, both of my children use the products we own from the Heads Up! catalog. Some of the products we own and enjoy are: Time Timer, various fidget toys, Bookzup, therapy balls, Vocabulary Cartoons, Page Up, Mind Music, various pencil grips and more.

Visit the Heads Up! website and check out all the interesting products offered to assist you in homeschooling learners of all kinds. You can also visit Melinda's blog for personal stories on homeschooling, learning disabilities and life. Also, if you are in the area of the Midwest Homeschool Convention taking place in Cincinnati on April 16-18, Melinda Boring will be presenting workshops and will have a booth in the Exhibitor Hall.

Visit the Official TOS Crew blog to read more reviews on this product.

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