Thursday, February 29, 2024

85. Embracing Neurodiversity in Homeschooling

Homeschooling Neurodiverse Kids
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Homeschooling Neurodiverse Kids

Show Notes:

In this exciting episode, Tonya interviews Afsaneh Moradian about the 2nd Neurodiverse Homeschooling Summit, designed to support parents homeschooling neurodivergent children. Afsaneh shares her motivation for organizing the summit, aiming to offer practical help for parents facing unique challenges.

The conversation digs into the first summit’s focus on aiding parents in thriving while homeschooling and the upcoming second round, highlighting the possibilities and creative aspects of homeschooling.

Afsaneh, a homeschooling coach, emphasizes the importance of tailored support for parents dealing with communication, planning, and connection struggles. She extends her advice to parents considering homeschooling, stressing the commitment it entails and advocating for it only if it significantly benefits the child.

Afsaneh also mentions her children’s book series, “Jamie is Jamie,” which champions self-expression, gender neutrality, pronoun awareness, and self-advocacy in kids aged 4-8. The interview concludes with contact information for Afsaneh’s coaching services and books.

📣 2nd Neurodiverse Homeschooling Summing Information:

📣 Connect with Afsaneh:

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Music Used:

“LazyDay” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Afsaneh Moradian is a homeschooling coach and author of the beloved picture book series Jamie is Jamie which has sold over 10,000 copies internationally and has become a classroom and home library favorite. As a homeschooling coach, she guides adults by giving them the language to communicate effectively with their children, empowering them to create learning spaces that are safe and inclusive, so children can thrive. 

Afsaneh is a doctoral candidate in education and has a Masters in Education. As an educator and curriculum writer for over 20 years, she has worked with hundreds of students from preschool to graduate level.

Afsaneh has led various teacher training workshops and has appeared on the Consciously Parenting Podcast, Authority Magazine, CHADD’s Ask the Expert Series, Mamas at Work Podcast, ADHD is My Superpower Podcast, Caregiver Chronicles Podcast, USLA Radio, and more. She is the host of the Neurodiverse Homeschooling Summit. 

Afsaneh enjoys homeschooling her unique child and drinking iced matcha lattes. 

 


Episode #85: Embracing Neurodiversity in Homeschooling

Homeschooling Neurodiverse Kids

(Recorded September 25, 2023)

Full Transcript of Interview:

Tonya: Afsaneh, welcome to Water Prairie.

Afsaneh: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Today we’re gonna be, um, talking about a topic that we haven’t addressed yet, and that is homeschooling for neurodivergent children.

So if you’re a parent who’s. Who’s thinking about homeschooling. Maybe you’re already homeschooling. Stay through to the end of this because we have a lot of good content coming up and some links that you’ll want to check out after you finish listening to this. But before that, if you’ve been listening this season, you know that for each guest, we’re playing the game of Two Truths and a Lie.

And Afsaneh has agreed to play the game with us, even though I didn’t give her any warning on this one. I usually tell my guests ahead of time. But she is prepared to share three facts or pseudofacts with us and let us guess which one is a lie and which two are the truths. So Afsaneh, what are your facts that you want to share with us?

So when I was a kid, I had a pet hamster. And when I was a teenager, I dyed my hair pink. And when I was 17, I got into a car accident.

All right, listeners, your job now is to listen to the rest of this episode. If you’re watching on YouTube, go ahead in the comments. You can post your guess of what you think the answer is.

You can either write the two that you think are true, or the one that you think is lie or is is the liar or all of the above. If you’re listening on the audio or reading it on the the website, then go to either Twitter or Instagram to the matching. I’ll post for this and you’ll see where the, the questions are and you’ll be able to post your answer there.

A week after this episode releases, I’ll come back and I’ll post the answer so you can check your work.

Welcome to the Water Prairie Chronicles, a podcast created to encourage and support parents of special needs children. I’m Tonya Wollum and I’m glad you’re here.

Today, we’re talking about homeschooling specifically for neurodivergent children.

And um, and so Afsaneh has put together, and we first met actually this past summer when she had a summit that she put together called the Neurodivergent Homeschool Summit, if I remember correctly. Do I have the right name?

Neurodiverse Homeschooling Summit.

Neurodiverse. I was close. I was close. Yes. How did that idea even come into being? What was your inspiration? How did you come up with the idea of putting all that together?

I think it’s really hard to homeschool. And I think that a lot of what we get as homeschooling parents is how great it is and all the things you can buy and how amazing it is. And I don’t think there’s that much available about the struggles And when you’re homeschooling a unique child, there are very specific extra challenges and I just don’t feel like anything in life prepares you for that to that point.

And so I’ve always just felt like it’s very unfair. To ask parents, you know, mostly moms to, um, to figure it out on their own. And I don’t think that anybody should have to figure this stuff out on their own. You know, I got into education after, you know, an undergraduate degree. In the field’s practice, a master’s, I’m a doctoral candidate.

I’ve taught from, you know, preschool to graduate school. And when I started homeschooling my own unique child, it was really hard and it took a few years to figure out. And so I get all of the struggles and the resistance and the pressure and the anxiety and all of those things. And I just felt like, um, there should be a place that really acknowledges that and offers.

Real support in so many different ways that can make a very quick impact in the quality of life for the parents. So the first neurodiverse homeschooling summit was really focused on the parents being able to thrive from homeschooling and not so much about, you know, exactly how to help your children, but how to help yourself while you’re helping your kids.

And that that to me was really important because I don’t think there’s enough. caretaking of, um, parents that are put in this very difficult situation. So it’s kind of sink or swim, but you don’t, you don’t have to do it on your own. There are, you know, people that can help. And so this, the summit did that, brought everyone together to offer real support.

When some of the topics that you covered during that one, um, you had some organization things you had, you know, it was, it, I thought it was a really good set of tools. For parents that were either, you know, just had been homeschooling for years or thinking about coming into it. I was excited when I saw, saw what all you had to offer.

What were some of your main goals and objectives that you had for that first, the first one? You said, you said trying to support the parent. But, um, but did you have kind of some, some big ones that you were really trying to accomplish during that one?

Yeah, I think one of the topics that came up more than the others, Was how to, um, take care of your emotions when things get very difficult, how to regulate yourself, how to care for yourself, how to, and how to keep in mind what you would like for your own life.

So, you know, time management, self care. We even had a couple of people about how to start a business. So you can have additional income, you know, if that’s something that you’d like and really, you know, that you still get to be a person and you’re supposed to enjoy the process of homeschooling and still move forward in advance as a human being.

Um, so I think that all of the topics were really connected to that. And then there were some that were, you know, how to have a deeper understanding of what your child is going through. Once you have that, it becomes easier for you as the parent. So I would say, I mean, it was very directed at homeschooling, but a lot of this stuff really comes down to communication and communicating ways through the struggles, through.

the resistance, which, you know, when there’s learning involved, we really want to take care of it. But as we know, as parents, there’s resistance with brushing teeth and getting shoes on or doing homework or, you know, so I feel like a lot of the, the sort of wisdom, knowledge and suggestions really extend beyond just the few hours that you’re homeschooling into, you know, how do you approach parenting and living with neurodivergent kids?

When I, I remember when I saw the list of the topics that you covered the first round, and of course we, we, we’re going to tell more at the end, but there is, listeners, there is another round about to come up. So, so which is why, why we’re talking about this right now. But I couldn’t help but think that whether you’re homeschooling or not, as a parent who wants to be actively involved in your child’s education, almost all of those topics were going to be informative and, and valuable.

So, um, so it is specifically designed for homeschool. If you have a child who’s in a private school setting or a public school setting, you may still find some topics that are of benefit. To you as you’re helping to work with those teachers who are working with your child because as we know, we’re one we may be the main teacher for our child, but our goal is that our child has other adults in their lives too.

And so we need to be able to help those others know how to interact with them too. So I, um, so I feel like even if our listeners are not homeschooling, this still may be of interest to them. So, um, so every, everyone listen through to the end. You may find some pieces in this that, that are, that are of value to you as well.

Can you, um, talk a little bit about some of the specific challenges when we’re talking about neurodiverse children? We’re thinking of, um. Autism, we’re thinking of ADHD, um, dyslexia. What are some of the other, other types of, of students who may have a diagnosis that would come under that category of neurodiverse?

ADHD or ADD, anxiety, high anxiety, you know, kids that are easily frustrated, sensory, sensory processing. Disorder is a huge thing. How things feel, you know, or sound or, you know, all the sensory stuff that can definitely impede learning. Um, I think those are those are the main ones. And I would just say also, you know, just for intense kids. A lot of the diagnoses include high levels of anxiety.

Parents, if you have a young one, you may understand what we mean when we say emotionally intense kids, because, um, you may have, you may have seen that behavior, or if you have a elementary age, you may be. Be seeing that as well.

Um, but that, that’s the group that we’re thinking of. Of course, this, this expands beyond just that group, but that’s, that’s what we’re talking about here. But, um, Afsaneh, I wanted to ask you, when we’re thinking of that particular group of kids, what are some of the specific challenges that a parent may face in trying to learn how to homeschool?

with that. You were talking about patients earlier. There’s, there’s some other challenges that, that may come in there. Can you speak to a couple of those? Or I know kind of, kind of putting you on the spot with this question.

No, no, I’m so happy to. This is, this is my, this is my world. This is my passion. Happy to, happy to talk about it. Um, I think that when we go into the idea of learning or learning at home, we take with us what we know of education and what we’ve experienced. It’s, With education, which may be private school or public school, but it’s, you know, a teacher and then kids in a classroom and for most of us, the experience was more teacher centered rather than student centered.

And it was everyone doing the same activities. Maybe not in the same way, but at the same time, and there’s a lot of management of behavior and of bodies and of activities. And so that doesn’t really work very well for a lot of neurodivergent kids, which is why parents decide to homeschool, but then they don’t really know how to create something different.

So it seems like, Oh, I’m going to homeschool. So what I need to do is buy a curriculum, set up a space in my house, and we’ll do school at home. And then it doesn’t go very well often with neurodivergent kids, and the parents are just really caught off guard. They don’t know why, and so what they get is pushback, or we call it resistance, right?

This is the math assignment. I don’t want to do that. That’s too hard. That’s boring. That’s this or that. And the, the missing piece that parents don’t get to learn about, and a lot of teachers don’t learn about either, Is that in order for neurodivergent kids to learn, they have to find meaning and purpose in that learning and really all kids would prefer to have meaning and purpose, but some kids will do two hours of worksheets and not complain, but for neurodivergent kids, they have to, if they don’t have meaning and purpose, they’re not able to do it.

And the other thing about neurodivergent kids is that if they’re unable to do something, they, they can’t. They’re unable to do it. Whereas other kids, maybe they’ll, they’ll try, they won’t complain, they won’t, they won’t give pushback. Maybe they’ll just do it all wrong, right? Get all the wrong answers, but they’re still trying and they’re, and they got a smile on their face.

And neurodivergent kids just can’t, if there’s something they’re unable to do. And they can’t get over it. They can’t get past it. They can’t pretend that there isn’t a problem. There’s a problem. They’re blocked. It’s done. It’s not going to happen. So if the adult pushes, you know, wants them to get over it and do it anyway, there’s probably going to be some kind of explosion and that, that catches parents off guard.

It really, it really does because it’s not what you’re allowed to do at school. It’s not the behaviors. that go along with learning in our experience. And then we see, you know, we’re trying to teach our kids. We’ve spent all this money on this amazing curriculum online or, on paper or whatever. We’re so excited about it and our kids are like going into crisis.

And it’s like, wait a minute. That’s not what I signed up for. I don’t know what to do. So that, that definitely I think are the key, the key challenges that come up. And then parents just don’t know how to respond. They just don’t know what to do about it. So that’s, I think that’s what happens generally.

We’re releasing this on January 5th and in just a couple of days, the second round. What can you tell us about that? What if people want, want to attend, what can they, what can they expect to find? How does it run? Just any information you can give us about, about kind of what, what is it? Because we’ve kind of touched on a little bit, but not the details of what it is.

Sure. So this, the part two, part two of the NeuroDiverse Homeschooling Summit is really focused on the possibilities of really how great things can be and what is possible. And so it’s still going to, just like the first one, there’s still going to be occupational therapists who are giving real tips and suggestions and, you know, valuable knowledge about different aspects of, you know, children’s development.

But also there’s going to be people talking about the creative side and, you know, what’s possible for kids when they’re homeschooling, you know, starting businesses or, you know, learning new things and just the, the real, um, the possibilities, the limitless possibilities. Once you kind of break free of sitting at a table, doing learning as a definition of homeschooling.

And so, I’m, I’m really excited for parents to get to be a part of that. So it’s still support for parents of what you need, you know, to set your day up and set yourself up to succeed at homeschooling. But it’s also kind of broadening out our expectations for what’s possible for our unique kids.

So, there’s a sign up that they’ll need to go to. And then like, how, how do, if they want to check into this, how do they register? How do they get in there?

So I’m sure the link is somewhere very accessible to this video or this podcast. Um, so yeah, you just, you sign up to, um, participate in it. The summit is free. It’s really important that you sign up because the way it works is the speakers.

Um, have a segment, you know, 15 to 20 minute segment, and there’s like one to two speakers a day. So, but their, their pages are only available for that day. So you need to sign up so that you get the email. There’s an email in the morning and then there’s a reminder in the evening. Otherwise. Um, and that way you can see all of the speakers, you know, who’s speaking that day, how to access their page, how to download their resources, because each speaker is sharing a free resource with the attendees and they’re amazingly, amazingly valuable stuff to download, you know, do on your own time.

And so that’s why you sign up and then you get the access every day to the speakers. And, you know, there is a VIP all access pass for people who are busy and they just aren’t able to tune in every day, then you can just have access to the whole thing from day one and just watch it in your own time and have access for months and months and months to the resources, the speakers, the whole, the whole thing.

So that is, um, that’s how the summit is set up.

Great. So, um, she, she said there’ll be links somewhere. Look in the show notes or in the description if you’re on the video and you’ll see a direct link there going to it. So you’ll be able to, to check in where it is. And what I really love about what you’re doing with this is that it is free access to everyone.

It’s um, but if you’re listening, you’ll want to stay on top of it though because it is daily and it’s only what, 24 hours from the time it releases?

Yes. Yeah. 9 a. m. Eastern to, you know, yeah. 9 a. m. Eastern the next day.

Right. So, so whenever, so whenever it releases, just watch it before, before you, you go to bed that night.

So, so you know, you know, you’ve gotten it. And the resources, um, from last time I know they were, they were excellent. The, the, the types of, of free downloads that you were able to get were, were really nice for each one. And um, and then the other thing too is if you are busy and you’re not going to be able to focus on the time.

The, what I noticed was that your price for someone to come in and be able to access all of it was, was a good price. It wasn’t, you know, thousands of dollars or anything like that. This is something that pretty much every parent should be able to reach. And um, so if you, if you’re thinking, I’m, I’m, I’m too busy to be able to attend this, check, at least, at least go, go to the page, see, see what there is to, to, to find there and then, and then see how it’s set up.

I think, I think it’s, it’ll, it’ll surprise you whenever you get there. So, beyond that, um, you also, your regular job, you know, you, you have homeschool mom, you have running a summit, you also have a coaching business. Is that correct?

Yes, I am a homeschooling coach for exactly what I’ve been talking about. For parents struggling to homeschool their unique kids, diagnosis or not, if it’s a struggle, the communication part, the planning part, the connection part. That’s what I work with parents on, because it all, it all fits together. The communication piece is so important. You get rid of, you know, if you change how you communicate, you actually can parent and homeschool without power struggles.

I know nobody believes me, but absolutely you can do it without, without the sort of conflicts, without the pushback, without the power struggles. But what I say, you know, what I always say to my clients is you can have the best communication in the world, but if that math assignment is not developmentally appropriate, your child can’t do it.

So I work with parents to really, you know, go through the communication piece, but then make sure that they’re empowered to be able to, in the moment that it’s not working, make changes so that learning can continue. Um, even if it’s not that exact assignment from the curriculum that they’ve chosen. So being able to modify, being able to really see who their child is as an individual, their learning needs that all, you know, I, I help parents have that and have that approach so that then they’re good to go for years and years and years.

What types of resources and support are you able to give to through your coaching?

So I have, um, an eight week. Highly customized coaching program. So it’s one on one and we just go through who you are and what your needs are and your expectations of homeschooling. And we work with that while also recognizing who your kids are.

You know, some people are homeschooling more than one child with more than one diagnosis and they’re kind of, you know, it’s hard when they come to me, they’re, they’ve usually, you know, they’re in dire straits. Um, and we, we turn it around so, so fast and, you know, we work together to look at what is that specific situation?

Who are the people involved? What do they need? How to streamline planning, how to make it so much easier for yourself so that the learning is actually on the kids, not on the adults, which is like, it’s, that’s a tough thing, especially, you know, so many teachers. Are like sweating by the end of the day and it’s like, nah, you know, when I was teaching like, nah, the kids, the kids are going to do the work and I’m going to, I’m going to like facilitate the learning.

I’m not going to do, you know, they have to, they have to sweat more than I do. Right? So, you know, figuring out what does that mean for your kids and then really creating the meaningful high level learning experiences so that the kids are engaged, intellectually challenged, excited about what they’re doing.

And you don’t have to have the stress and the worry and the anxiety of, you know, is my child learning enough? Are they going to succeed in life or, you know, there’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of, a lot of pressure from external pressure, pressure we put on ourselves. So that’s what we do over the course of eight weeks as we go through all of that.

What’s the communication? What’s the planning look like? How do we modify? How do we create experiences? That are going to be amazing for your individual family because homeschooling kind of has to be unique as unique as your kids are because they, they’re, these are not one size fits all children and neither are you, right?

So we want it to be fun for you with your passions, your interests, you know, you should laugh, you should, you know, this is your life, so I’m very focused on the parent and, you know, that. If you’re struggling, the kids are struggling. If you’re confident, empowered, you, you know, have an idea, it’s not always going to go perfectly, but if you know how to do the trial and error, if you know generally what direction you’re going in, then you can handle anything that comes up and you’re fine, right?

So that’s what I set you up to do. I give you those tools, this, you know, an approach to, to fall back on. And then, you know, parents are, are pretty okay. And I do have some, you know, digital products, some like self study type things, um, for people who aren’t ready for one to one coaching, but there’s, there’s really nothing like going through your specific situation and the help that you need.

And I, you know, just like, I can’t create a one size fits all thing because it’s so highly customized, but I do, I do have, you know, like a resistance handbook that just gives a very in depth explanation of. What resistance is, why do kids resist and sort of, you know, how to respond in ways that won’t lead to a power struggle.

So that’s, that is something that is available. But, um, and I’m making more and more, you know, smaller digital products too, but that’s mainly what I do is the, is the one on one coaching.

So, parents who have not started homeschooling yet or those who are and need a little bit of extra support, they would both be potential clients for you?

Absolutely. Okay. And you know, I mean, I do focus on homeschooling, but parents who are struggling with communication and just, you know, battling over homework every night and that sort of thing, who really would like a different approach. You know, I can, I can help out with that as well.

What advice, do you have any final advice that you would give to parents who are considering homeschooling, but they haven’t started yet?

If you want to do it, go for it. If school is working for your child, you don’t have to homeschool. I know it’s very on trend. Everybody’s homeschooling now, but I’m just going to say it is a real, it is a real commitment. It is a real endeavor and it’s not, it’s not easy. Like it takes a little bit of time to figure out.

So if your child is fine, is healthy, is thriving at school. It’s okay. You don’t have to pull them out of school to homeschool if, if they’re not, and you have the option to homeschool. I absolutely recommend it. I think homeschooling is an amazing opportunity to create a totally different educational experience where kids can really have, you know, amazing experiences and meaningful learning where they just Learn beyond what you thought was possible beyond what’s possible in school.

So I, you know, absolutely recommend giving kids, you know, an education where they feel confident and supported and excited. And I, I think if at all possible, you know, we should remove the anxiety and the stress and the pressure from learning. So that, you know, kids can just learn and have the joy of learning.

So homeschool enables us to do that. Once you know how to do that, then you can give your kids that. So. That’s, you know, so I’m, I’m of two minds about it. I don’t think everybody should pull their kids out of school and homeschool at all. But if you see that your kid is really struggling and it’s, they’re really not able to learn in the school settings available and you are able to homeschool, I think it’s an amazing gift that you can give your kids.

And then you probably need some support to figure out how to create that in your house for your kids.

Our listeners, some of them may want to get in touch with you. What’s the best way for them to contact you?

So my website is mlccoaching.com and I have, um, free consultation calls, 30 minute calls, and we can do a lot in 30 minutes.

So that I think is one of the best things to do, because then we have a chance to actually talk about. What you’re thinking and feeling and the kind of help you’re looking for and get an action plan together during that time. But you can also send me a private message, um, on Instagram. It’s my last name, then my first @moradian.afsaneh on Instagram and on, um, Facebook. It’s MLC Homeschool Coaching. So, if you send me a message, I will read it and I will respond. But I think the best is to, is to set up the consultation call and then we have a chance to really talk through whatever you’re going through. Cause some people send me messages and I don’t, I don’t have like two hours, you know, there’s a lot to say.

I don’t, I don’t have the time to really put it all in messages. So, you know, face to face, it goes a lot. It’s a lot faster.  

And we’ll, we’ll include those links in the show notes too. So you, you don’t have to remember them just hearing it once. Um, asana, what else do you want to tell me about, about what you’re doing?

Um, between your coaching, some projects you have coming up, anything else you want to talk about?

Sure. I’m so I’m also a children’s author and I have a picture book series, the Jamie is Jamie series at through, um, Free Spirit Publishing. And, um, it’s a really, you know, if I, if I do say so myself, it’s a really fantastic series of, um, validating kids and letting them know that play is all about just expressing yourself and being who you are.

So the first book is, you know, that play just doesn’t have gender, that you should just play and be yourself and be proud to be who you are and follow your interests and be a good friend. The second book is all about pronouns, people’s pronouns, how pronouns change, and how not to make assumptions about pronouns.

And the third book is self-advocacy for kids. You know, how do you share really important information with your grown-ups, which is kind of hard to do for kids sometimes? What do you, you know, to really say, what do you like, what do you dislike, what are you scared of? What are your preferences? Sometimes it’s really hard to say that even to your parent, like, Mom, I don’t want to do that.

You know, cause there’s kids are so scared to disappoint us or that we might get upset at them. So it’s all about self-advocacy and how to really, how to share with grownups. And then for the grownups, how to really listen to kids and really see them as individuals and respect. Their wishes, their, you know, their preferences and their ideas.

So, you said they’re children’s books. What age is it geared toward?

Four through eight, they’re picture books. They’re available on, you know, Free Spirit or Amazon or, you know, they’re in a lot of classrooms. You may have seen them, but, um, that is, that is the other part of my life. And it all fits together because I, you know, I had a unique child who couldn’t see themself in the books that we were reading.

So, I had to write one. And then I had, you know, I became a homeschooling mom because my kid couldn’t get what they needed from the schools that were available to us. And then, you know, I became a coach because I thought, wow, this was really awful. No one should do this alone. I want to make sure nobody goes through what I went through, so I’ll just help.

So that, that sort of, you know, my child very much set my life on. A different, a distant course that I never could have anticipated.

It’s amazing how much we learn from our children.

Absolutely. Well, absolutely.

This has been fun. I appreciate you sharing about this. Um, listeners remember, um, check out the links.

There’s several different types of links. You have the, the coaching if you’re, if you are homeschooling or thinking about it and want to work one on one with her, look for those links. You have the, The homeschool summit coming up, um, just in a matter of days and it, it’s more than just a couple of days.

So if you’re listening to this a week late, go ahead and, and check it out cause it’s still going on. And then you also have the book series. So we’ll try to find the links to those and get them in there as well. So you can, can find all of these and the resources. And if not, you can always shoot us an email and ask us more.

So, so thank you absolutely for coming on and joining us and sharing all of this with us.

Thank you. It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Tonya Wollum

Tonya

Tonya Wollum is a disability advocate and host of the Water Prairie Chronicles podcast which connects special needs parents with resources to help them navigate parenting a child with a disability. She is the mother of 2 college-age children who have each grown up with a disability. That experience, along with a background in education, led her to create the Water Prairie Chronicles to help share what she has learned with parents of younger children to help them know how to advocate for their children.

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