Friday, April 30, 2010

Reading the TV

About the time spectrum son turned 
four,  spectrum dad became convinced 
we should always display the closed 
captions for the hearing impaired
(is that right? closed? why not open? 
or is it close captions?
In which case why not far
-as in I watched from afar?)
(I shall digress in blue today)
whenever we watched tv as a family. 

I had no objections, spectrum son 
had no objections, and so we have 
little words at the bottom of the 
tv screen all the time.

Result 1 His dad thinks he learned to read faster.

Result 2 Meltdowns when the words 
don't match what is said-turns out 
captioners usually go for the gist, 
or sometimes just make mistakes.

Result 3  My son cannot focus on any 
video without subtitles.

I have mixed feelings about all of this.
Videos of books often offer a 
read-along option, so obviously 
people think there's some educative 
value there. But my son is way 
past that stage. Whether because
of subtitles or otherwise, my son 
is an expert decoder. He just doesn't 
understand what he reads. Maybe 
without the captions he would pick 
up better on other visual cues.

Plus the library has some vids&dvds
without captions I want us to watch.

We watch several different book 
video series, one of the oddest is 
Nutmeg Media, which packages
a single book dvd with educational 

We liked A Mother for Owen, 
which I checked out 
from our library. 
Presumably you can also buy that 
dvd if you'd like, but not from 
Amazon which gives me this
image for that title:
Una Mama Para Owen/ A Mother for Owen (Spanish Edition)

In case you can't tell, that's a tortoise 
mothering a baby hippo. 
This really happened.

Which I guess puts any tiny 
differences between parents 
on one side of the 
spectrum and children on the 
other side into perspective.

-Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Comic Book Picture Books

The Amazing Adventures of Bathman
If you have a young child you may 
have noted this interesting genre 
of picture book. These picture 
books use the tropes of superhero 
comic books for both illustrations 
and story. 

My boys love these. We read 
Bathman last night and the boys 
fought over the book this morning
(my older boy specializes in 
passive resistance, my younger in
guerilla warfare).

I think the story may be easier for 
kids with autism to follow, since 
often the narration and dialogue 
echo each other, so you get two 
chances to figure
out what is going on. 

We often both say and write 
what we would like my son to 
do. While repeating words
verbally may lead to confusion,
he can process the written word
in his own time.

As mentioned in an earlier post, meta
concepts don't bother my kid. I do not
know if he understands them fully, but
he seems to enjoy them. Anyway, the 
commentary on and spoofing of
the comic book genre may amuse
the parents, but most of the kids
think pretending to be a superhero
is the most natural thing in the
world. My boy never did till
his little brother came along,
but now they're the Faster
Brothers or the Wonder Family.

Kapow!   and      Ker-splash! 
by George O'Connor 
offer a whole group of kids like 
mine who go in and out of daily
life - rough housing against the 
rules, playing on the beach and 
superhero comics - 
defeating supervillains!

 Ladybug Girl  and  Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy 

by Jacky Davis and David Soman
focus less on the superhero comic
style (the illustrations stay 
"realistic" picture book) and
more on the transformative
power of the imagination.

The stories are more complex
here because they deal with
feelings, and were harder for
my boy with PDD to grasp.

But we liked all of them.

Have a Zoingy day!

-Spectrum Mom

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Last year my 8 year old and I read 
Catwings, Le Guin's story of four
little kittens with something extra.

At the time he was still 
transitioning from full color 
pictures to sketches, and Schindler
includes both full page and smaller
ones tucked into the text. Most 
importantly, there are lots of pictures 
and they show the action.

So this year I brought home Catwings
Return, and my nine year old read the 
first chapter to me.
Catwings Return

He just finished reading
the book with his dad last

My boy has changed how he reads
aloud with us for school. 
When he was eight he
insisted we take turns. He would
read the left pages and Dad or I
would read the right.

Now he insists on reading all the 
pages himself. I don't know what

We both read when we're reading
for fun to his younger brother.

He does seem to understand more
of the story this time. With persistent
(I gently ignore "I don't know" 
and rephrase the question)
he described Catwings Return.
"They're looking for their mommy."

Ursula K. LeGuin is one of my favorite
authors. Her Earthsea series (starting
with A Wizard of Earthsea) is a 
wonderful choice for teens or 
advanced tweens, and with its
emphasis on names might well
appeal to teens with spectrum

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1)
Catwings, of course, 
aims at a much younger group 
and is most appropriate
for elementary school readers.

"it was true that all the 
mastery of names Ged 
had toiled to win that 
year was the mere start 
of what he must go on 
learning all his life."
- A Wizard of Earthsea

Yours at the start,
Spectrum Mom

Friday, April 23, 2010

Direct Address Books-Meta Stories

The Monster at the End of this Book (Big Little Golden Book)
Children are literal little creatures, 
and children on the autism spectrum 
are often especially so. 

I think that quality may account for the laughable 
(or infuriating)
(or misleading)
(look up Martha)
(it's another flight of parentheses!) 
statement found in some descriptions
of autism that asserts children with this 
diagnosis lack a sense of humor. 


My older boy loves books that are as 
literal as he is.  

In these books,  literal means that the 
characters react to aspects of the book 
usually ignored by characters in the 
story, such as the title, the illustrations, 
and the fact there is a reader. 
This is meta stuff, used not for
philosophy or analysis, but
just for laughs.

An early favorite was the classic 
The Monster at the End of this Book.  
Grover reads the title and 
tells the reader that he's
scared of the monster at the end 
of the book and asks for help to
avoid it.

Do Not Open This Book
Do Not Open this Book uses many
of the same ideas, but takes them
further, as a writer pig insults and
tries to get rid of the reader so he
can finish writing his book.

Goldilocks and the Three Hares

Goldilocks and the Three Hares

is (literally) a multi-leveled
book where rabbits below
comment on the story
happening above.

My boy enjoyed these and found them
funny. He really liked it when the
characters talked to him, the reader.

So have a good weekend, and I'll
see you Monday (not literally).

-Spectrum Mom 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Ralphie and the Swamp BabyI said yesterday's post 
would be short, 
and it wasn't. 
Not really.
But today
I'll keep it short. Really.

In my "word perfect" post,
 I mentioned how my older
boy knows if you've read the 
wrong words and corrects you 
(whether you're a mom on a couch 
or a minister in a pulpit).

But I'm not sure my boy reads in the usual sense at all.

The evidence seems to be mounting up that he clicks,
takes a picture of the text in his head. This would
help explain difficulties in comprehension, note
reading, any math that involves pictures (he picks
up math concepts very quickly), and a number of
other challenges.

Last night reading Ralphie and the Swamp Baby to me
and his little brother, he said "cried" instead of
"exclaimed" - but wasn't looking at the page at
all when he said it. 

So tell me,  does this seem familiar to you?

staring at the spectrum,
(I don't have a photographic memory)
-Spectrum Mom 
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Animals, Animals

This should be an itty bitty post before I run to get my itty bitty boy.

My older boy just mentioned The Lighthouse FamilyThe Octopus (Lighthouse Family), a series I mentioned in an older post. He almost never mentions titles and clearly 
remembers this series, read mainly in third grade, fondly.

We should probably read the series again and try to increase
comprehension with questions. Turning delight into work.

Anyway, these charming stories by Cynthia Rylant are sort of 
advanced Beatrix Potter tales.  All of the animals have very
human personalities. A cat keeps a lighthouse and meets
a dog sailor and together they rescue a pair of orphan mice.
All this happens in the first book, The Storm (no picture in

Also wanted to thank author Ilene Fine for her comment
on yesterday's post and express curiousity on how
she combines dogs and books to help kids communicate.
Her books, Brandy and ValBrandy and Val's Special Story.
etc. look interesting and Amazon has pictures of them-
thank goodness, I was beginning to wonder if I wasted
a lot of time signing up with Amazon affiliates-see

Ms. Fine hasn't sent me a book or paid me anything,
I just read her comment and was curious. 

My oldest boy is very funny with dogs. He gets fairly
close, then says-"hope he doesn't bite me."
He seems more intrigued than scared, but I haven't
noticed any deep bond with our furry friends.

Judging from the thousands of children's books with
animal characters, from Pooh to Olivia, most children
enjoy a good animal story. That my boy does is a bit
counter intuitive, since he doesn't take much interest
in animals. I wonder if expressions are easier to
see on an illustrated animal?

Do any of you have children who communicate easily
with animals and/or love animal books? Which animal
book does your child like best? Post a comment at the 
bottom of this post.

Books for Children on the Autism Spectrum is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Monday, April 19, 2010

Books for a Non-Verbal Reader

Big Board First 100 Animals (First Words)
We know a ten year old  with autism who 
is non-verbal. He is a sweet kid who is 
making progress in a lot of areas, 
but so far he is not talking.

I asked his dad if it would be okay
 for me to discuss his son’s 
reading habits on this blog and he very generously agreed to tell me a little about ‘D’ and books.

As a toddler, D started with typical boy toddler 
preferences. He liked playing with trucks, diggers, 
and trains and he liked books about them too. 
He let his dad read to him and seemed interested 
in the books. He always loved Touch and Feel 
books and still does.

At about age four or five, D started resisted having 
his dad read to him. He took the books and flipped 
the pages on his own. 

D  has a lot of board books to try to encourage him
to slow down and look at the pages.

D is very visually and musically oriented
and videos became his preferred activity.
He stopped playing with vehicles and lost interest
in books about them, but he didn't lose interest
in books entirely.

Instead, D picked books about animals or characters
featured in favorite videos, like Barney, Blue’s Clues,
and the Wiggles. 

At about age six or seven he began to let his dad
read to him again.

D has an extraordinary visual memory. He goes right 
to his favorite pictures. His dad will ask for a picture 
on a different page, and D will turn to that and will 
point out pictures in answers to questions.

D’s dad hopes that D can use these abilities to find
pictures to improve communication as they
use the Picture Exchange Communication System 

I find D’s page flipping, his resistance to listening
to a parent read,  and ability to find a given 
page interesting. You may remember my boy
has these traits (I don't think I've talked about
the page flipping yet .  .  .) or do you
recognize them from your own kid?

D is wonderful and unique. But his likes
and dislikes may give us a clue about 
how other kids with autism read or what
they would enjoy reading (premise of this blog).
Please, tell me (and by me, I mean us) more.

and Touch and Feel Horses and Ponies/Bryant.

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