Friday, April 27, 2012

Education Friday-Why Testing Fails

Yesterday my son took a standardized test to measure
his achievement, that of his teachers, and of his school.
Because of his autism, his assistant reads the question
and answers and he tells her what to mark.
“I’m not going to pick an answer with a b word in it,” he
told her. And later, “I like the word coil. I’m going
to pick that answer.”
Testing kids with autism is difficult. Relying on test results
as the best measure of their learning is insane. 
Often my son tests quite well. This is just as misleading.
SInce he can memorize information, if we study with him
he can pass most tests. What he cannot do is use that 
information to make predictions and inferences. He cannot
write a coherent paper on his own. And frequently he forgets
the information almost as quickly as he learned it.
Tests are not going to disappear. But we need to remember
they give us limited information about a student’s learning.
All sorts of factors can affect test results. 
And I certainly don’t want my son’s talented teachers to
suffer because the right answer had the word “baseball”
in it.
-Spectrum Mom

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Choo Choo Round-Up

Met a cute kid with autism the other day who doesn’t 
talk yet. But like so many toddlers he likes trains and 
train books. 
When my boy was three we had a small train book
collection and of course my younger boy enjoyed 
them too.
So, all aboard for a few train titles:
I’m Taking a Trip on My Train uses repetition and 
replaces repeated words with pictures to help engage 
little listeners and encourage pre-readers to join in the 
story. Since the story also rhymes, this appeals to 
most kids.
If your kid wants facts, The Big Book of Trains has 
enough engine types and descriptions for your 
budding buff.
Dinosaur Train predated the PBS show in combining two
special interests that kids often obsess about. In the story 
the boy's obsessions give him a wonderful ride on this
special train.  
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo takes the toy train through its day and tucks up the kid and the toys together at the end. 
A very calming read for a train-track mind.
Featured Books
The Big Book of Trains/Dorling Kindersley
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo/Lewis & Kirk
Dinosaur Train/Gurney
I’m Taking a Trip on My Train/Neitzel & Parker

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poetry Month in the Library

I missed library week. But it’s still poetry month. 
So here’s a tip for both. Your
library has a whole section devoted to poetry for kids.
Sure, there are a few elsewhere. 
My boy’s enjoyin Snuffles and Snouts
from the Easy Readers section, 
a book of poems about pigs.
He’s fond of the poem on the back cover:
“ ‘Oink!’ the Captain cried. ‘Oink! Oink!
Methinks me ship’s begun to soink!”
He invaded his brother's room again
to get "both A. A. Milne's"
meaning When We Were Very Young
and Now We Are Six, the poetry books
which feature Pooh but many other characters too.
Especially my favorite dormouse in Geraniums red
and Delphiniums blue.
Alas, I am not allowed to read them because
they rhyme. He loves to read them himself.
Back to the library: the Dewey Decimal for
kids poetry is j811. Adult poetry, much of
which is suitable too, is (surprise) 811.
Coincidentally, I think that's the number
to call around here to flag underground 
utilities .  .  .
-Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peach & Blue

Sometimes my oldest son is exactly like me. 
Like yesterday when he was supposed
to be doing his homework and I found him lying on the floor 
looking at The Runaway Sled.
Most of the time he's not. 
We read Peach & Blue together to his brother, and his
attention wandered long before the end. I'll give him his own time with it later, since the story, words and paintings all seem about the right level for him.
He read the part of Blue, the blue-bellied toad who helps Peach (guess) see the world and who discovers the delights of seeing his pond through new eyes.
The paintings are lovely, the themes sophisticated, so the book reaches beyond my boy's favorite Seuss titles. Oddly adult in some ways, the book touches on the joy of spending time with your children and the reality of mortality. How much of this a literal-minded kid will pick up on, I don't know.  
I think most kids will just enjoy the friendship,
and the way Blue helps Peach travel.

-Spectrum Mom
Featured book: Peach & Blue by Sarah S. Kilborne
Paintings by Steve Johnson with Lou Fancher

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mo Willems - Please Let the Author Read the Book

Mo Willems hears that kids with autism like his Elephant and Piggie books a lot at book signings. I know that because 
he told me so -  at a book signing. 
But not just a book signing, the wonderful event Parnassus hosted 
Tuesday started with a bravura performance by Mr. Willems himself, reading his just released The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? 
and Listen to My Trumpet
Mr. Willems is The Pigeon, Elephant, and Piggie. 
Apparently, as a former writer for Sesame Street he is also Elmo,
or at least the person who came up with the name (think in Spanish). He is hilarious and captivating and you should take 
any chance you get to see him. 
My boys both enjoyed watching him perform. I worried about taking my eleven year old with autism, not sure how he'd handle 
the crowd, and whether his interest in the books would sustain him through a wait and a reading. But his sensory system has matured amazingly and he focused well on the stage and Mr. Willems.
He enjoyed both books, which we bought. 
My neurotypical six year old was the one to complain 
about the crying babies.
Thank you, Mr. Willems.
Thank you, Parnassus Book Store.
(and yes, Parnassus is in the mall with the Donut Den to those who've asked and endured my ums.)
-Spectrum Mom
thanks to my wonderful librarian friend for the photo. Mr. Willems is photo averse (eye problems w flash) and my camera sympathized, so I missed the photo window.
For more Mo, visit his website.