Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Exploding Gravy

The fame of poets has steadily declined. 
I trust you've heard of Nash and Lear,*
but X. J. Kennedy I fear,
has fared the worse with his light verse.
Still, he make my boy giggle in utter bliss
with poems like this:
"Babbling baby, left alone,
Punched some buttons on the phone.
Poppa paid for her to coo
All the way to Katmandu."
So check out Kennedy for rhymes and giggles,
and allusions to chivalry, rocs, ice cream phantoms,
dinosaurs, and combustible food stuffs.
*and Will Shakespeare**
**Happy Birthday Will.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Wonder Book

More Poetry!
I actually haven't seen that much about either autism or poetry
this month. 
This saddens me.
I think both require us to interact with cognitive differences.
And I think we are reluctant to do so, even though
we know that thinking differently enriches us.
Whether you have autism or love someone who does,
every day you encounter someone who thinks very
differently than you do.
And unless you think constantly in rhyme, metaphor,
synecdoche (yeah, I'm going to look it up)*, metonymy
(that too)** and meter, poetry is a different way of 
thinking as well.
I associate The Wonder Book with
a book of mythology, but Amy Krouse Rosenthal 
seems to mean wondering about stuff. And she
wonders about the same kind of stuff my boy
does, and she often wonders in rhyme.
Paul Schmid did the line drawings, including
the two page spread of kids wondering in
a tree:
"I wonder what sheep count when they're
trying to fall asleep . . ."
My Boy's Comments:
According to The Wonder Book, Miss Mary Mack is now
a mother. In the poem "Half Birthday," there were a
lot of half words, and the picture had a half birthday
cake. Eeny Minney and Miney Mo is so funny, 
because it’s about two characters.
*"A synecdoche (/sɪˈnɛkdək/si-nek-də-kee; from Greek synekdoche (συνεκδοχή), meaning "simultaneous understanding")
is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something, or vice-versa." (Wikipedia)
For the funniest piece ever written about synecdoche, read James Thurber. Read James Thurber anyway. Also Robert Benchley.
**"Metonymy (/mɨˈtɒnɨmi/ mi-tonn-ə-mee)[1] is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but 
rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept." (Meriam Webster via Wikipedia) 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Curious Collection of Cats

Once again it's April, and those of us affected by autism 
know why April is important.
Happy Poetry Month!
People with autism often have a special affinity
for poetry and today's books of poems will also
appeal to animal (especially cat) lovers.
Betsy Franco wrote the "concrete poems" in
A Curious Collection of Cats and Michael Wertz
did the illustrations.
In all the poems the shape of the poem relates
directly to its words (concrete poems).
The bright color block illustrations and the poems 
intertwine. Most include rhyme and humor - often
the humor is visual as in "q-tip and rosie" with
a happy cat dangling from a dog's mouth or
in both words and pictures as in the graphic
novel type treatment of "a question for scooter
about squirrels."
My boy's review:
A Curious Collection of Cats
It turned out that there were 34 poems in that book. 
Some were written in funny places. 
In the poem “The Cat Door”, 
there was a cat who tried to squeeze through the door. 
In each picture of the poem, 
some of the letters had gone away from the previous picture. 
"princess" by Franco and Wertz  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Education Friday - Vanderbilt Reading Clinic Part One

In January my son started at the Vanderbilt Reading Clinic.
He starts High School this Fall, so he really needs to improve
his reading comprehension.
His tutor agreed that I could post how they work
together here (thank you!)

1. Visualize and Verbalize (workbook 4a) – 
In this activity we break activities down sentence 
by sentence to create visual images and talk about 
how as we read we use the author’s words to change our picture.  
We answer comprehension questions and talk about how we tell 
the difference between what the reader thinks and knows versus 
what the author tells us in the text.

2.Reading strategies (History text) – 
Before reading, during reading, 
and after reading strategies to help us make sense of the text.  
We’ve also started working on summarizing the paragraphs in order to gain meaning as we read.  
- Before Reading:  
Scan the text (Title, Pictures, Headings – ask ourselves what they mean?), 
See if we can identify the author’s purpose (Persuade, Inform, Entertain), 
Set a Purpose for Reading 
(Ask Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions regarding the text), 
Tap our Background Knowledge (what do we know about the topic?)
- During Reading: Look for new information 
(that answers our questions, that is something we didn’t know, the describes the main idea/details of the passage), 
Ask Clarifying Questions, 
Make Connections between sentences and paragraphs, 
Make Predictions, 
Create mental images, 
Summarize as we go to ensure we understand what we’re reading.
- After Reading – Summarize the reading 
(Who/What, Did What, Where, When, Why, How, and What), 
Check to see if we answered all of our questions, 
Answer the questions using what you know and what the text tells us.

Progress – The reader has shown improvements in identifying when his answer is his thoughts or the author’s.  
He is able to complete the pre-reading strategies and can independently look for information during reading.  
We will continue working on the other strategies as we go.  
When answering questions that require inferences, 
I encourage the reader to think about what he would do 
and why he would do it in order to try and connect to the text.  
Reader really enjoys describing mental images of the text and 
has shown improvements in changing his image as he reads.  
We have focused mostly on Before Reading and have just started 
practicing During Reading 
(looking for information, making connections, and summarizing).  
We will continue to work towards the rest of the During Reading strategies and After Reading.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Blue is Happy

A book blogger walks into a library .  .  .
The other day I walked into my favorite library,
and the librarian (one of the reasons it's my fave)
introduced me to Nashville author Jessica Young.
So we read her book, My Blue is Happy
(illustrated by Catia Chien, published by Candlewick).
My Blue is Happy is for young readers and
introduces both colors and how we feel about
them. In that way it echoes Seuss's My Many
Colored Days. The twist here is that the
narrator and the people the narrator knows feel
differently about the same colors. This is
a great example of theory of mind for readers
with autism, and you can see from my thirteen
year old's review that the point was not lost on
My Boy's Review:
My Blue is Happy
Mother’s blue was sad, but the narrator’s blue was happy. 
Mother liked yellow, but the narrator did not. I don’t know about red. 
The narrator’s friend’s favorite color was pink, but the narrator did not like it. 
Dad thought brown was ordinary, but the narrator thought brown was special. 
I don’t know about green. I don’t know about orange, either. 
Nor do I know about gray. Not even black. But I loved that the book had colors in it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
My boy and I always take note of books
written in rhyme. This picture book
rhymes whilst extolling the versatility
of Superworm. A fun read aloud, with predictable
rhymes and a pattern
to appeal to the young 
(or older child clinging to picture books)
reader with autism.
My Son's Review:
There was a toad on the road. Superworm became a lasso to pull the toad. 
Superworm then became a skipping rope for animals to play on. 
An animal was going to sink into the well. 
Superworm became a fishing line to rescue her. A crow put Superworm in his beak. Superworm’s friends tried to rescue him. 
When Superworm came back, he became a swing! Then a slide! 
Superworm even became a belt! And a hat! And an ac-ro-bat! 
Hip, hip, hooray for Superworm!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dear George Lucas, Please Answer His Letter

Yesterday I saw a Star Wars comic book in my son's room.
My son does not go out and buy comic books on his own.
I hope he will some day.
So I was surprised. I didn't remember buying that
comic book. I've bought him Muppet Show comics,
because he's obsessed with The Muppet Show
Many of his peers, with or without autism, are
obsessed with Star Wars, but he isn't.
So I asked him where the comic book came from,
"I think George Lucas sent it."
And then I remembered The Letter.
We've tried to teach him to write down what really
bothers him instead of having a meltdown. Sometimes
that means a letter to a real person.
These letters are not the kind of missive you or I might
write to vent anger and then tear up when we cool down.
My son is not angry. He just wants to know 
everything about what interests him and has a hard time
accepting that sometimes there are no answers, or that
sometimes the people with the answers do not want to
share them.
If you or your child like The Muppet Show you may already
know that Seasons 1 - 3 are available on dvd. And that's it.
My son certainly does and he has searched the internet to
find out why. One theory out there is that Disney does
not have the rights to Star Wars, and Season 4 has a Star Wars spoof with Mark Hamill. I have no idea if this
is true, but it's a crazy litigious world out there and there's
a Clone Wars sized army of lawyers protecting 
billion dollar properties like the Star Wars universe.
So one day my son tells me he wants to write to George
Lucas and ask about it. With my help, he sent Mr. Lucas
a letter.
And back at Skywalker Ranch they sent out a form letter and
a comic book. Which is really far more than I expected.
Thank you, kind Star Wars Corporation PR folks.
With luck, perhaps he'll read that comic book some day.
But hey, Mr. Lucas, it would be beyond wonderful if you could
answer his letter. If the reason for delay has nothing to do with
Star Wars, say so. If it does - well then say or do what's in your
I expect nothing. But perhaps I'll be surprised again.


Spectrum Mom