Monday, January 30, 2012

You're Going to Love This Kid!

Paula Kluth's "You're Going to Love This Kid": Teaching Students with Autism in the Inclusive Classroom offers a thorough look at reasons and strategy for the inclusive classroom. 
     For some reason I expected a more personal approach, but Kluth
really only talks about her own experiences in the preface. She 
uses many specific examples from schools throughout the book,
but the focus is on equipping teachers with ideas.
    This is an excellent resource for teachers, especially those who 
feel unprepared to teach students with autism. Kluth starts with defining autism and understanding inclusive schooling and then discusses communication, behavior, literacy and other important
     Since many of these strategies could benefit all learners, I think the book a great read for any teacher. As for non-teachers, it's not a sit down and read like a novel book, but a resource. If your child is
having difficulty with a specific issue at school this book may be 
a good place to find suggestions.
     Of specific interest to me (of course) is the chapter "Seeing Students with Autism as Literate" which describes different learning styles and suggests activities that can bring students with autism in while benefitting the whole classroom.

Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Read Aloud Books for Children with Autism Part One

A request from a librarian friend brought a flurry of suggestions for books to read
aloud to children with autism. So today's post shares that group sourced knowledge
with you.*  My boy read all of these too and enjoyed them to varying degrees. He still adores Dr. Seuss. The Little Critter and Berenstain Bears include holiday themed books and make 

good gifts in Easter baskets etc. Next week, some ideas for reading aloud to older kids.
Quotes indicate the parents’ words (I’ve edited, so any mistakes are mine).

Bark, George/Feiffer

Berenstain Bears/Berenstain 
     “Great social stories,” rhyming, pictures.

Don’t Let the Pigeon . . ./Mo Willems  
     “fun” a cute, engaging series.

Elephant and Piggie/Mo Willems 
     His early reader series, delightful.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie/Numeroff
Repetitive (in a good way) with strong internal logic.

Little Critter/Mayer
     “I like that these are written in the first person.”  

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?/Seuss
   Great for group participation.

My Two Hands, My Two Feet/Walton & Gorton 
     “good for teaching about expression of emotions” - a toddler book.

Rainbow Fish/Pfister
     "Sparkly .  .  . everyone can help someone"

The Very Hungry Caterpillar/and other Eric Carle books

-Spectrum Mom
*I've alphabetized by title rather than author. I find myself searching on the computer
first, so titles work better. What do you think?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Education Friday-Dena Gassner, guest expert

Today I'm featuring Dena Gassner in conversation with a great parent of a wonderful kid
with autism. Understanding how
your child remembers may determine best practices in teaching your child.*
Because this was originally a web posted conversation, I've added some clarification.

I was talking with his resource teacher and his EA (he has had the same EA for 2 years) 
and my son is just a slow learner. He does really good at sounding out the sounds and know 
all his letters and the sounds they make. He has a hard time recalling the info he has in his
 little brain. He will know the word and then it's like he has never seen it before. Then we will 
be driving around town and he knows the name of his favorite restuarants or stores. Those he 
can read over and over again with no problem! So frustrating!!!! He is a very smart little guy 
and has so much potential. I also know how important the building blocks are in 1st grade. 
They say 2nd grade pretty much goes over everything you learned in 1st. 

I think working on working memory is the first step. He seems unable to hold the 
cluster of words together long enough to retain it. But when it is in context (restaurant sign) 
he can match the pieces together. Like when you see your doctor out of scrubs...but the opposite.**
** [You don't know who your doctor is out of context. The boy has the opposite problem. 
He knows the letters and the sounds, but he doesn't know them in the new context of a word]

Dena L. Gassner, LMSW, is the director of The Center for Understanding
The Center for Understanding seeks to reduce the disenfranchisement of individuals and families 
who experience the world with autism spectrum differences through individually designed advocacy, 
systems navigation support, training,support groups and holistic empowerment.
*My boy used the Lindamood Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing system at school to help with visual memory
See past posts. 

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012


    I’ve heard about Paulsen’s Hatchet for years as a young adult book popular with boys with Asperger’s. 
    Now my boy with PDD-NOS is reading it for school.
    He usually starts our reading sessions with reluctance 
    (“I’m tired”) 
    even if he has not, as he usually has, done several hours of homework before we start. 
    His next concern is “how many pages?” 
    We’ll read for at least twenty minutes, I tell him.
    Recently, however, he sometimes insists we finish the chapter.
     “So you can find out what happens next?” I ask hopefully. 
    “Yes. No. So I can finish the chapter.”
    He imagined himself as Brian in the early chapters which caused a complete meltdown as thirteen year old Brian 
    must land a plane by himself when the pilot dies. 
    “When will he not be alone? Which page?” wailed my son. 
    The prospect of reading an entire book where the protagonist was alone really troubled him. 
    Eventually he calmed down enough for me to tell him that Brian would be rescued at the end of the book. 
    All of this was really difficult. But I felt he connected to the material in an important way.
    Now we’re back to our usual mode where he reads and cannot answer a simple question right after he’s read. 
    I undoubtedly should go back to KWL* but there’s not enough time to do what we do .  .  .
    -Spectrum Mom
    *KWL - asking the reader before starting "What do you know? What do you want to know?" and after reading
    "What have you learned?"
    P.S. My boy's wonderful team at school is helping cut down on the homework. Only an hour of it last night. Of course he still said he was tired. He liked that there were eight porcupine quills in Brian's leg because it was chapter eight.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Sight Unknown

    My youngest has neurotypicism and is educating me about
    his brother's strengths. Who knew that not every kid just
    started reading books by Christmas in Kindergarten?
    (yeah, I know, everybody but me)
    So I bought sight word flash cards last Friday. He hated
    them, but he liked a game they suggested-bean bagging
    words. I spread out a grid of some he knew and some
    he did not and the goal was to toss a bean bag on one
    he could read and keep that card until he had five.
    He did, and then we did five more and five after that.
    Now this would not work with all kids with autism. I'm
    not sure his brother would have been at all interested in
    dropping bean bags on cards and he certainly couldn't
    aim. But this game or some variation is worth a try if your
    kid is struggling to read those first words. 
    The trick, as always, is to give your child success.
    If your kid knows one word, make winning one card the
    goal, but keep the spread and take turns so you can
    read out other words.

    -Spectrum Mom

    p.s.  I just saw that someone got to this site through searching for "what's the shrink ray
    on the magic school bus called?" Very cute, and yet if the kid who wants to know has autism, 
    this may be an important search. I think it's called the shrinkanator. Or is that on Phineas
    and Ferb?

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Shimmering Sky Part 2

    Last week I wrote about picking Shimmering Sky as a 
    reading book for my son because of lavish illustrations, straight forward stories, and large format.
    As promised, I'm going to tell how well my choice worked with 
    my son.
    Okay. It worked okay.
    Getting him to read it with me was not a huge struggle. But he wasn't eager for it either. We've read two of the stories and a few of the science activities in the book. He engaged a bit with the stories,
    but didn't want to talk about them afterwards.
    Of course, that wasn't the only book I brought home from the
    library. And one of my other choices he grabbed and read on
    his own eagerly and discussed avidly. Am I happy about that?
    Surprised? To answer in order: sort of, and not at all.

    My son loves Dr. Seuss.
    He loves jokes.
    He likes nonsense words.
    He loves asking strange (to me) questions.
    The Cat's Quizzer is packed with all of that.
    It is not packed with narrative, or grade
    appropriate information. But it does remind
    me of my own beliefs-focus on the fact that 
    your child is reading and not on what they are reading.
    Hard to do when what I believe clashes with what I want. I want 
    him to read stories. I want him to enjoy and learn from what he reads. I want him to connect stories to the world I live in, and not just to his own amazingly different world.
    I counsel myself to be patient and enjoy his unique strengths.
    -Spectrum Mom

    "I give myself such very good advice, but I very seldom listen."
    -Alice in Wonderland (Disney, not Carroll)

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Logging the Books

    Both my Kindergartener and Sixth Grader have a 20 minutes
    a night reading assignment. The little guy colors in (well, I
    do) a chart and the big guy has a log-which I also fill in, because
    his autism affects his fine motor skills and motor planning and
    his handwriting is a messy casualty of those deficits. I have him
    add up the minutes and sign the log, but I do the daily stuff.
    Which means-I'm not sure what it means. But sometimes the
    daily summary is written days after the reading, because getting 
    him to summarize is a struggle that can last far longer than 20
    We read the first story of Shimmering Sky last night
    (see Wednesday's post), "The Division of Day and Night" and I
    couldn't find a blank book log so I tried to discuss the
    reading with him a bit. He liked the idea of making a box to
    see the sun because of some word in the description.
    This focus on the part rather than the whole is completely 
    typical. He repeats words or phrases that catch his fancy and
    is almost completely indifferent to the story-like last night
    when he cared nothing about the possible eviction of the
    family in the tale and everything about a character's name.
    He often seems to not know the meaning of words, 
    but not when requested not to know. 
    That is, Wednesday when I needed to help him find some words 
    he didn't know for vocabulary homework, he was at least 
    partially defining everything from ecosystem to crystal 
    and refusing to look up definitions/write about
    anything he felt he knew.
    -Spectrum Mom

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Choosing Books for Your Child with Autism

    Usually I write about books that work fairly well for my boy.
    But of course not every book I pick out for him interests him at all.
    Since I want these reviews to be useful, I write about the ones that
    he likes-or is at least willing to read.
    But maybe that gives the wrong impression. Maybe you think that I always pick just the right books because I am so attuned to him 
    and that if you don't do the same for your child, you're not doing well by him or her.
    Or perhaps you would like to know my starting point, 
    how do I decide which books to try?
    For those reasons 
    (and because he did unsupervised reading over the break)
    here's a book I picked that he hasn't read and why I picked it. 
    Next week I'll let you know if he liked it.
    Tales of the Shimmering Sky: Ten Global Folktales with Activities
    Retold by Susan Milford.
    Large type
    Lots of pictures
    Short sections
    Folk tales-emotions etc. stated rather than implied
    Stylized pictures
    Complex activities

    -Spectrum Mom