Friday, September 30, 2011

When Reading Problems Start

At the end of second grade, we knew my boy had a lot of social and other

challenges in front of him. But academically, his second grade IEP team 

he was doing fine.

Then at the beginning of third grade his teacher said he was reading

barely at first grade level in his comprehension. We spent the year struggling

with this development.  Be alert to the possibility that your child with autism
who reads the words so well may not understand the sense as he or she does
the sound. Make sure your child's teachers engage with your child's reading.
Here is an excerpt from "Reading and Other Learning Disabilities" blog
by  Dr. Gary G. Brannigan and Howard Margolis about the importance of
an early response.

It’s September. Your child is starting to struggle with reading. How long should you wait to get help? Should you wait until November, December, January? After all, his teacher needs a chance to help him. Will it pass if you just show patience and encourage him to do better?
Our Response
Usually, it won’t pass, so don’t wait. Make a formal request to the school to evaluate his reading and related needs and to provide whatever services he needs to become a successful reader. A good evaluation, supported by quality resources, should help your child and his teacher.
Our Reasoning
  • “More than 88 percent of children who have difficulty reading at the end of first grade display similar difficulties at the end of fourth grade” (Juel, 1988; in Leipzig, 2001).
  • “Longitudinal studies show that, of the youngsters who are identified as having reading problems in the third grade, approximately 74% remain reading disabled through the ninth grade. This appears to be true even when special education has been provided. It should be made clear, however, that interventions applied after a child has failed in reading for two or three years may not be effective for several reasons, including the student’s declining motivation and impaired self-concept” (Lyon, 1996, p. 66).
  • “Three-quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school” (Shaywitz et al., 1997; in Leipzig, 2001).
  • “Educators and researchers have long recognized the importance of mastering reading by the end of third grade. Students who fail to reach this critical milestone often falter in the later grades and drop out before earning a high school diploma. Now, researchers have confirmed this link…. Results of a longitudinal study of nearly 4,000 students find that those who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers…. While these struggling readers account for about a third of the students, they represent more than three fifths of those who eventually drop out or fail to graduate on time” (Hernandez, 2011, p. 3).
For more of this post and others on reading disabilities, as well information on the book by Dr. 
Brannigan and Dr. Margolis, Reading Disabilities please click on the link below

My thanks to Dr. Brannigan and Dr. Margolis for sharing their expertise.

-Spectrum  Mom

Thursday, September 29, 2011

According to Schedule

I took this picture. I'm not sure what it's of, or even what I was 
trying to capture at the time. We test our kids constantly, and
decide from the results if they are failing, passing, or excelling.
We just received the results of my son's standardized 
simplified reading and language arts test, according to which
he is advanced. What a puzzle. 

In some ways, my boy is "on schedule." In others, ahead.
In still others, years behind. And of course, somewhere,
is his own schedule-the one we should be trying to help
him meet, the one that gets lost in all of this standardized

-Spectrum  Mom

Blog Schedule

Special Mondays - All Grown Up Series: Books for Adults

All Wednesdays - Books for Children

Special Fridays - Education Fridays

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Poke a Squid (Unstructured Reading)

My 6th grader slogged through his assigned book
(Holes - go see the play at NCT if you're in town)
for school at a glacial rate despite its innate readability
and boycentric themes: dirt, treasure, stinky sneakers.
There was one glorious day when he kept reading
after I told him he could stop. I'm still celebrating
and puzzling over that incident.
But his preferred books continue to be short ones
with pictures, read in a sprawled position, preferably 
while holding a string.
This week he's glommed on to

Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices
Never Poke a Squid by Denys Cazet.
Apparently, Dirty Laundry Pile is purely
for inspiration-
"I don't want to read it, I want to play it."
Like most of the games he plays with his brother,
this involves a lot of repetition, scrambling, yelping
("Dirty laundry pile! Help!")
and has little literary or poetic value, but they seem to
enjoy it.
"I read Never Poke a Squid because they pledge
allegiance to a pigeon."
The first graders of Squid spill all over the
pages, all talking at once, with the main
narrative boxed off. So though the subject
is elementary, the presentation is a bit chaotic
and I think my boy's ability to zoom in on the 
pigeon joke shows progress in filtering. Since 
he's also going into his brother's room and pulling 
out Blue's Clues he is clearly using completely 
different criteria to choose his books than I am.
I guess you can lead a boy to Shakespeare, but 
you can't make him soliloquize.
-Spectrum Mom

Monday, September 26, 2011

Be Different

ALL GROWN-UP MONDAYS - Books for Adults

Review by Leisa Hammett @

Be Different: 
Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, 
Families & Teachers  
 John Elder Robison's Be Different gives a vivid image of what it is like to have Asperger's 
and to deal with common situations that most neurotypical individuals take for granted.
 He describes, for instance, what it's like to ask a girl to dance at a party. 
But, the angst he suffers in doing so would normally be seen in a seventh grader, 
only he is in his late teens or early 20's at the time of the incident. Throughout the book,
I had an emotional reaction to his struggle and was extremely impressed with how he overcame 
each Aspergian hurdle. 

At times, when he explains how he vaulted these hurdles, it almost seems braggadocio,
 but I have to take into account that he may not understand why it would sound that way. 
It's as if he has an Horatio Alger's life. He will state in an almost matter-of-fact manner that 
he designed the light-show guitar for one of the bandmates of KISS. Anyone who knows 
anything about KISS knows about the famed guitar. And this goes beyond his skills as an 
electronic genius, he's a mechanical genius as well, owning a high-end automotive repair shop 
specializing in Mercedes Benzes, Range Rovers and Bentleys, to name a few.

Be Different is a unique book that gives the reader an experiential opportunity to step
 in the shoes and life of someone who has Asperger's. And for that reason, the plodding,
 the odd lay out, etc., is more than tolerable. Furthermore, he has attached an appendix 
that will serve as an excellent resource guide for anyone who has Asperger's or for their 
family members.

Readers can learn more about this book and others plus autism and “disAbility” at 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Books for Teachers

When I started this blog, I could not find any blogs or 
books that focused on reading for kids with autism. 
Given how many of our kids have autism and struggle
with reading, this was a significant gap. So I've been
blogging for over a year and now there are three
books for teachers as well, one from 2010, and two
from 2011. 
Autism & Reading Comprehension is a set of
lesson plans with texts and questions for 
kids with autism in group reading. Currently
my boy does something similar, reads a question,
reads a passage, answers the question.
How Do I Teach This Kid to Read?
looks at teaching beginning readers with
autism and discusses the differences 
between neurotypical learners and kids 
with autism.
Diagnosis Autism - Fun with Reading
is an e-book with animal stories that 
suggests you can use reading to teach
concepts like math. I haven't peeked into it.
-Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Marvel

I brought home Unmasked by Dr Octopus from the library, 
but never had a chance to sit down and read it with my son, 
we've been so busy with his school work. 
But he surprised me by using this as part of his precarious 
footstool balancing act in his bedroom, 
which means he at least turned its pages. 
And when I asked if he was still reading it, he echoed 
"still reading it."
I have always believed in letting a kid read whatever appeals 
to the kid. And I think many comics are fine reading materials.
In fact,  I would love, love, love it if my boy really gets 
into Spider-Man comics. They have good stories,
 a sensitive hero, emotional dilemmas galore, 
and his peers would be willing to talk about them. 
Of course I'm getting way ahead of myself and him here. 
Still, if the bright pictures can at least grab 
his attention long enough for him to read a few pages, 
I'll be very happy.
Comics have always been a good choice for reluctant readers, 
especially boys, and they may well be custom made for some 
boys on the spectrum.  
But while I'm fine with his choice, I have no idea what he 
makes of it. Does he follow the words? The pictures?
We used to alternate reading aloud-he would do a page, then
one of us would read a page. Now he usually reads aloud to 
his dad, but at his and his teacher's request, I let him read
to himself. I try to quiz him after each page (not easy, since
I can't see the page-I usually preread). He is slow to respond,
hard to prompt, and I usually have to have him read aloud a
significant portion of the page after all.
When I asked him about Unmasked, he said "Peter Parker
went aaachoo." We discussed why Peter did that and
that Peter became Spiderman. So he did get something
from it on his own .  .  .


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Look Me in the Eye/Leisa A. Hammett

Today - a new series begins! Instead of the usual fare of autism-friendly children’s literature, 
here is something for adults in this guest review by Nashville-based author, speaker and 
autism-mom/advocate, Leisa A. Hammett.

Here’s a portion of her review of John Elder Robison’s Look me in the Eye his extraordinary life
with Asperger’s.
“Parts of "Aspergian" John Elder Robison's Look Me in the Eye plod. 
Including the beginning and parts of the end. Yet, the writing is crisp, the character
(himself) intriguing and likable. And, the reader hopefully realizes--as I did--that this is,
after all, an autobiography of a person with Asperger's syndrome...The sometimes chokingly-dry
intricate details are his life, the machinations of his incredibly gifted mind,
and naturally in character with Asperger's. Remembering that makes the dry passages palatable
and even a bit charming.
I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to expand their understanding of
Asperger's syndrome, especially parents of children with autism. It is one of the better books
I've read by an "Aspergian." There are many books out by people on this high end of the autism
spectrum and some of them are also dry or disjointed. But the beauty of them is that it is their
story told by them--not an expert writing about them and not a parent. I am very grateful to such
authors because they expand my parent view of the spectrum as well as educate the world,
hopefully, to become more tolerant. I truly turned the last page and closed the cover of
 Look Me in the Eye more enlightened and possessing a deeper understanding of the syndrome.
Robison has been successful with his first book. Here's a link to his second book, Be Different.
Look Me in the Eye was listed as a New York Times bestseller. Both Robison and
highly successful author-brother Auguston Burroughs (Running with Scissors),
though their childhood was frighteningly traumatic, can credit their poet mother
for a genetic gift with words. With skilled effort--that appeared effortlessly--Robinson
takes the reader through his childhood, adolescence, young and middle adulthood.
The childhood scenes are at times a bit harrowing and .  .  . ”
[you can read the rest of this review @“The Journey with Grace:
Autism, Art & All the Rest of Life”].
[Leisa A. Hammett publishes her blog three times weekly and usually focuses on autism and 
“disAbility”on Wednesdays. She also occasionally covers art and autism on Fridays.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Is That You Read My Lord? Words, words, words

The Everything Book
Before my son was born I read about a wonderful
book. The good news is my son liked the book 
too. He still does.
Is this bad news? I'm not sure. I wish he would
read the books other kids his age do. But perhaps
he still needs something he finds in this book.
Maybe, like so many kids with an Autism
Spectrum Disorder, anything constant is
reassuring. Maybe he likes that I never, ever
quiz him about it. Maybe he likes the pure power
of word throughout the book.
If you've read other entries, you know that 
his mind lets narrative slip past while tenaciously
grabbing puns, palindromes, anagrams and rhyme
(see We Talk Silly Most Days & Word Play)
Sometimes trying to get him to talk about the 
story is fighting against the tide.
So, ride the wave? Fight the tide? If your kid goes
here, what do you do?
-Spectrum Mom

Monday, September 12, 2011

Autism Reads! The Book

Easy Instant Decoration Wall Sticker Decal - Rainbow Clouds

While this blog is a perfect place to post short reviews
bring up topics and discuss them,
I've realized that if you want a guide with lists
and more information, an ebook would help you
So I'm going to publish Autism Reads: A Guide 
in March to complement this blog.
So far, that 's the only decision I've made
for sure. The book will probably be in ebook
format only. Send me your comments about what
you'd like in the book.
Creative Rainbow Curve Set
-Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wiggle While You Read

My First Spanish Picture Dictionary (Children's First Picture Dictionaries)
This year I saw my boy's wiggle cushion on the seat of his
chair on the first day of school.
A small triumph, but one worth celebrating because contrary to everyone's (except his) hopes and wishes, he is never going to 
"sit still and read." If we, and I include myself in that we,
can accept that, we'll make progress faster-or at least not 
knock out our brains against the wall.
Currently the favored posture is feet, hands, and book on the floor;
tummy elevated on the footstool. But this morning he was prone on
his bed, a typical position for a typical boy if he had not been
wiggling a string. He was reading a book I checked out for his
younger brother, but hey, he has Spanish too. Pictures continue
to be part of the essential mix that grabs his attention for more
than a few seconds.
-Spectrum Mom