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>iLs Week 1 in Review

May 1, 2011

>I have no idea if iLs (Integrated Listening Systems) will be worthy of a post every week. But I want to capture my impressions here as a first-time user of the system.

Don’t laugh. But the thing I like least about iLs is the iPod Touch (zipped inside the padded pouch on Hope’s waist.) Chalk that up to operator inexperience. Like even though the songs are programmed to play one after another, sometimes it stops after every song and I need to select and play the next one. I’m sure it is because I accidentally pushed select at some level where I ought to have pushed play or something like that.

I should have prefaced that by confessing how technically inept I am. Like on the remote control for the TV, I know how to operate the power and the volume buttons. That’s it. I use my cell phone maybe two times per year and don’t even know my own cell phone number. I think the technical writers did not anticipate that people like me still exist in the world when they wrote the page of iPod instructions.

Any solutions for this one? With the unit zipped inside the pouch, the girls still accidentally bump the “play” button several times per session, which pauses the song. This happens regardless of if I position the belt pack on the front or the back.

The other thing I would love to be able to do: rent a second unit. With two kids using it, it would be terrific to have them listen & play simultaniously. But iLs seems to be too popular for anyone to be willing to sell theirs back to our clinic.

Now for the fun stuff. I’m surprised to find that we usually spend 30 minutes or more doing structured play together. The program calls for 15-20 minutes and going into this, I though it might be hard to keep Hope on track for 15-20 minutes of guided work. But we’re having so much fun that I’m not watching the time.

The first 10 minutes or so are structured from the Play Book. (iLs coordinates guided movement with listening. It includes a Play Book of excersices so you don’t have to be creative unless you feel like it.) Stuff like this:

a warm-up crossing midline
bean-bag drop (tracking and eye-hand coordination)
The next 20 minutes or so fly by doing other physical excercises encouraging both halves of the brain to work together. Two activities the girls request every time are “racquets” –which are OgoSport Disks –and bowling.
Hope working on her personal best for sequential rebounds.
They LOVE bowling. Who  would have guessed?
We then spend the balance of the hour (the music is programmed for 60-65 minutes) working on fine-motor activities. All those educational & engineering manipulatives I purchased for home school enrichment are coming in very handy. We’re also catching up on sorting and organizing work like finding and throwing away the dried out markers and the too-broken crayons, keeping our All About Spelling magnets in alphabetical order on the board, sorting laundry and matching socks.

This week I discovered that one of the keys to uncomplaining compliance with the iLs protocol for my girls is me. An entire session for one child takes about 70 minutes. On Thursday, when I had a walking migraine and felt pretty sure that 20 minutes of guided twirling, ball rolling and eyetracking would send me to bed, I hooked them up and let them loose with the box of racquets and balls, the peanut ball (their “bucking bronco”) and beanbags (which they throw like a lariat at a target they call “the runaway pig”) with their non-listening sister for company. It just didn’t work. So I let them loose on Pearler Beads and puzzles. That didn’t work either.
They complained the music was going on forever, their ears were getting squished, they’d already heard this song before, they’d listened to eight songs already (there are only four per session). Wasn’t it time for Sister’s turn yet? They each made it through their full session but not pleasantly.
I wasn’t terribly surprised. I don’t know any six or seven year olds –even home schooled ones –who can be set free to work through a list of assignments for over an hour with no prompts, reminders or encouragement from teacher-mom. And what child would not rather spend one-on-one time with mom than her sister?
iLs is also surprisingly hard work and I’m sure my company adds some incentive to sticking with it. It may have the appearance of  passive listening while playing. But I wore the headset and listened through a session one evening while I cleaned and at the end of the hour, my brain was tired. I listened at the same level the girls do: with the volume (the sound that enters the ears) almost all the way down and the bone conduction (sound entering the brain via  the skull) all the way up. Besides that, the music (100% classical) is gated in ways that are barely pereceptable unless you have previously studied the piece. This gating is  incrementally more challenging as the program progresses, training the hemispheres of the brain to work together to integrate sensory input.

Now for the big question: Are we seeing any changes yet? I think so. But with only 8 of 160 sessions for Hope  8/140 for Mercy compeleted as of this writing, I want to see if the improvements stick, or if maybe we just had a good week.

The strangest new thing is Mercy’s sudden love of Dr. Seuss. She previously thought his language “boring” and has been too  literal a thinker to find the humor amusing. This week, reading “Too Many Daves” (in Yertle the Turtle) she was laughing so hard she fell off the couch and was rolling around on the floor in tears and stitches. Mercy?!

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