Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No, David Before Be Five Be Four

For Fours - Part Four
I never dared read my boy No, DavidI thought he'd mistake it 
for a how to book. Now in double digits, he still climbs and destroys furniture and fixtures. Not often, he's not destructive, 
just a boy with little sense of his body's boundaries who 
sometimes really wants something that's out of reach. 
He's read No, David on his own. It's not like there's anything new for him in the story of a boy wreaking havoc through
the house as his mother chides "No."  But I digress.
J likes No, David as he likes those other picture books of young beings being young. As a four year old you hear "No" from 
somebody. J has a great mom, but I'm sure she has to say "No" sometimes.
I'm not sure whether J's autism affects how he thinks about the 
"No" he hears and the "No" David hears in the book. At one level,
the repetition is just funny. And if the kid identifies the "no" behavior, helpful ("uh oh .  .   .").  Unless you're as 
hyper-cautious as I was about giving bad examples, No, David works on enough levels to appeal to most children.
Like the other books I've discussed in this series, the end message 
is reconciliation. The message I knew I wanted to give my
children even before they were born:
"Yes. I love you."
-Spectrum Mom

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Write Your Own

"Do you think you can meet the PiBoIdMo challenge and create 30 new picture book ideas in 30 days? Well then, sign-up for all the craziness!"
That's the challenge from children's author Tara Lazar and she's offering encouragement, guidelines, and giveaways at her website. 
If you want to take her up on the challenge or to find out more,
click the link:
Now, I haven't even sat down and written out all the social stories my son
needs, so it is unlikely I am going to do this. But if you are a  
picture book author looking for an idea, let me encourage you-think
about a child with autism-not as your theme, but as your audience.
If you have a child with autism, I probably don't need to 
encourage you to do this, but if you don't, think about a
kid you know you know with autism and make one of your thirty ideas 
something that would appeal to that kid.
If you know one kid with autism, you know one kid with autism, so your
book isn't necessarily going to be "a book for kids with autism." But if you
make a book that can appeal to a kid who doesn't like to read or that includes
a kid who's usually excluded, you will have done something as special as Mr.
Geisel did with his little Cat in the Hat trick.
You can look through this blog for ideas if you feel intimidated (don't-kids with autism are no more or less difficult to please than others, totally depends on the kid). If you don't know a kid with autism, write for a reluctant reader. Write for an individual and you'll be sure to have at least one reader. 
In general,
-simple and clear
-avoid abstract pictures
- or completely absurd
Now, get writing! (and thank you)
-Spectrum Mom

Monday, October 24, 2011

Not Even Wrong

Paul Collins's Sixpence House and Not Even Wrong use autobiography
as a framework for thoughtful and entertaining digressions. I almost
said scholarly, but Collins wants to reintroduce knowledge, not
prove a theory.
Collins wrote Sixpence House first,  but I read it second. The narrative
centers around his family's (himself, wife, and baby son) adventure of
moving to the used book capital of the world. Auster belongs to the
relatively small group (seemingly getting smaller all the time) of
people who read non-fiction and enjoy the feel of a real book in
their hands. Baby Morgan provides moments of charm, or if you
have a child with autism and read Not Even Wrong first,
moments of "oh." Like "oh, I remember
when my little one was absolutely entranced by curtains."
For in Not Even Wrong Morgan is diagnosed with autism.
Not Even Wrong is a marvelous book. I have never yet read
a book about a family and their reaction to the autism diagnosis.
I am not sure I can.
Instead of doing that, Collins places the events of his family life
within his research life of the wild child, which to his surprise,
turns out to be something of a history of how children with autism
have been (mis) understood in the past.
Not Even Wrong refers to an answer so remote from the question
that it can't even be understood as a mistake. And that is often how
I feel when talking with my son. We are simply not even starting at
the same place. I look for clues to our divergences all the time and
Collins provides quite a few. Collins has given us two enjoyable journeys
 in mind, space and time by a man who's found the interesting spots
and is willing to share.

-Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Llama Llama brings the Drama

For Fours - Part Three
If you are looking for a book that gets right
to the basic fears and frustrations of 
preschool childhood, you cannot do
better than the Llama Llama trio.

For that very reason (and because I never read them
to my boy with autism when he was four) I haven't
thought of them as must haves for kids with autism.
Depending on your child, you may be all too 
familiar with drama. 
But if your child (as J, the four year old who prompted this 
series and likes these books, does) likes the emotional
roller-coaster of strong feeling-acting out-happy
resolution in these books, Llama Llama spells it
out: Mama is gone (not in your room) at bedtime. 
Shopping is boring. Mama will leave you at preschool.
And everything will turn out okay.
These may or may not be issues for your kid. My boy
had no separation anxiety. But if they are, and your
child can take some strong transitory unhappiness 
(mine couldn't) in a book, Llama Llama may
help your dramas. Or at least be a fun, rhyming read.
-Spectrum Mom

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thinking in Pictures

Thinking in Pictures reviewed by Leisa Hammet
This is my favorite book by Temple. 
It's a must read for any "parent" and anyone wanting to understand autism. 
Temple is the defining voice of autism. True, she may not represent all forms, 
but she speaks to all of them through her journey of being diagnosed severe and then her progression to a high-functioning adult. It is her dual gifted-ness that distinguishes her and allows her to explain in personal, specific and in user-friendly scientific details the machinations of the enigmatic autistic brain.(Apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.) 
She is simply one of the most fascinating individuals, and how she has used autism to share and explain her world is extraordinary. This book and hearing her speak early on in my personal parental autism journey were essential beacons that greatly aided how I chose to maneuver this tricky path. 
Read it!

For many more insights from Leisa A. Hammett about Temple Grandin
(whom she has shared a limo with) check the link below
Leisa A. Hammett publishes her  “The Journey with Grace:
Autism, Art &All the Rest of Life” three times weekly and 
usually focuses on autism and  “disAbility”on Wednesdays.
 She also occasionally covers art and autism on Fridays.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are for Fours

Books for Four Year Olds
Part Two of Four 
Last week I said that The Mineosaur met the needs of 
four year olds and kids with autism. 
If you know the plot line of The Mine-o-Saur
(selfish dinosaur throws a fit, loses friends, learns to share, 
gets friends back) you probably did not need a week to 
figure out why this book might help children cope. 
All children misbehave. All children need models of
how to behave and reassurance that they are still loved
after they misbehave.
In its way, this is some sophisticated stuff, and not all
four year olds with autism will understand the message.
Some may seize on the yelling and grabbing things
example. You know your child best. The classic Where 
the Wild Things Are offers an equally reassuring ending
with more abstract mischief.

Children with autism often do a lot of non-standard behavior,
and the more self-aware kids may look for it in their books.

J's mom told me that he liked books about bad behavior.
Next Wednesday, a look at the Long Day's Journey into Night
of Children's Literature, those masterpieces of toddler angst and
hyperbolic dramatics:  the Llama Llama series, another of J's
favorites in the misbehavior genre. See also @autismreads
J is not alone.
-Spectrum Mom
*Today on  Leisa A. Hammett's blog-
“The Journey with Grace: Autism, Art & All the Rest of Life”
a non-book, non-reading related post by me about how opportunities for our
children with autism decrease as our children age.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beyond Words

Review of Beyond Words - Part Two
by Leisa A. Hammett 

Beyond Words: The Successful Inclusion of a Child with Autism 
by Mary Donnet Johnson and Sherry Henshaw Corden
Truly a hands-on guide for parents, the book includes an appendix of how-tos including a homemade book on the child - both the child's personal version and a fill-in-the-blank copy, 20 questions for a prospective teacher, schedules, reward boards, social stories and more. 
Every parent of a school-age child with autism can relate to Johnson's descriptions of her heart-gripping fears as she navigated this first year. 
Corden's frank concerns and responding courage in turn offer parents a bird's eye view of a teacher's perspective. The teacher's revelations plus the comments of the typically developing peers and their parents are a true gift. Autism parents come to the experience of school inclusion with a weighty bag of anxiety, hopes and dreams. The honest, tender and redemptive observations from those on "the other side" from the inside provide a medicine cabinet's stock of soothing antidotes for a parent's weary soul.  
Pace is a good role model for inclusion. Having PDD-NOS at the time of kindergarten, he was blessed with typical and almost gifted cognition. Yet, he was challenged by the fact that he was largely nonverbal. He also had some fierce behaviors described in detail and not uncommon to our children - kicking, hitting and sometimes class-disruptive screaming. It would be easy to romanticize the successful inclusion of this child, but Johnson and Corden bring the reader back to reality. This kid had some big pluses but also some hefty challenges.  
Luckily, his team had the right attitude plus a saint of an autism mum leading the way. Johnson gives us parents a template of how to work with school systems. Corden, as well, is a role model for general education teachers, the kind we wish we could all be so lucky to have.
Here's the link to Beyond Words at Amazon
For more of Leisa A. Hammett-Nashville-based author, speaker and autism-mom/advocate,
visit her blog at
“The Journey with Grace: Autism, Art & All the Rest of Life”
published three times weekly and usually focused on autism and 
“disAbility” on Wednesdays. This Wednesday in her blog-a post by me!
She also occasionally covers art and autism on Fridays.
You can find this review in its entirety and others by Leisa on Amazon. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Last night we saw Disney on Ice thanks to 
Disney on Ice, and which reminded me I always mean to write a bit on Disney books but never do, partly because they are so commercial.
But like Disney on Ice, the commercial is part of the appeal.
The familiarity had my boy up and singing with the Mickey
Mouse Club March and has him reading through the
storybooks with their very familiar plotlines and pictures
for umptyumpteen times.
Disney on Ice and the Disney books do have some very
well crafted magic that can engage our kids.

-Spectrum Mom
again, many thanks to Sami Cone's wonderful blog which I highly recommend
for any parent. Also, Leisa Hammett will be gracing my page here again on
Monday and in a twist, will run a non-book post of mine Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Books for Four Year Olds The Mineosaur

For Fours - A Four Part Series
This Sunday I met a great four year old and his mother
who told me about his favorite books. Since he was so
cool, and his mother was so cool, and since it's been
so long since I've written about this age group, I 
decided to make this a Wednesday series.

J proves the adage that when you've met one
child with autism you've met one child with

His taste in books could not be more different than my son's at 
his age. Not only that, at four he already knows what "favorite" means, a concept my son still struggles with at age eleven.
Asked for his favorite book, he says "Mine, mine, mine," 
clearly referencing a Nashville Books from Birth title The Mineosaur
I love this program, because it gives children 
from this area and age cohort a common literary heritage.
All kids need ways to connect. Wouldn't it be great if 
characters from books joined Elmo and Thomas the 
Tank Engine in our toddlers' conversations?
Now why does this story meet J's needs? Might it 
meet the needs of other four year olds with autism? 
Does it meet the needs of four year olds in general? 
I say yes and yes. Why? 
 I'll explain next Wednesday in Part Two of 
1,  2,  3,  Four!

-Spectrum Mom

Monday, October 3, 2011

All Grown-Up Mondays

Review of Beyond Words Part One
by Leisa A. Hammett 

Beyond Words is another user-friendly guide for schooling our special children. Johnson's first book, 1,2,3, Get Ready! an eight-week summer program preparing a child for inclusion, proved highly popular among Autism Society of Middle Tennessee library users. 

Johnson, a former off-Broadway actress and mother of a child with autism, has again performed her magic, co-authoring with teacher Sherry Henshaw Corden and psychologist William Allen. 

Beyond Words is a simple how-to inclusion guide for parents, teachers, and other school personnel. Deftly, Johnson and Corden walk the readers through Pace Johnson's year in a Knoxville general education kindergarten classroom. Information is dispersed throughout the book, in several readable formats including short paragraphs, sidebars and bullets of comments by typically developing peers and their parents, Q and A sections between parent and teacher, and candid solo recollections by each. Psychologist Allen backs all with insightful scientific-based commentary. Pictures documenting Pace's inclusive school year provide a warm visual to the book. 
 (to be continued next Monday)
Here's the link to Beyond Words at Amazon
For more of Leisa A. Hammett-Nashville-based author, speaker and autism-mom/advocate,
visit her blog at
“The Journey with Grace: Autism, Art & All the Rest of Life”
published three times weekly and usually focused on autism and 
“disAbility” on Wednesdays. She also occasionally covers art and autism on Fridays.
She also reviews books on Amazon where you can find her full review of this book
if you can't wait until next Monday.