Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Alpha's Bet by Amy Rosenthal

I planned to write about C D B by William Steig,
the inspiration for Wumbers. But my son had other
plans. He glanced at a few of Steig's letter-number
puzzles, but he wanted to talk about Alpha's Bet.
I said "Arrrr," 
he said "Ssssss. Like Alpha and the snake. 
Say Arrr again." 
We'd still be doing that if I were willing.
Alpha's Bet  has lots of little silly exchanges like 
this that appeal to him immensely.
The alphabet provides a completely predictable
structure for the book and for jokes that my
son understands. He has no interest in the narrative
(which is slight anyway) but the way the protagonist
fits the letters together really works for him.
Of course, an alphabet picture book has little to no 
educative value for an eleven year old who has
known his alphabet backwards since he was three
(Literally. I walked into his room when he was three
to find he had put all the alphabet letters in backwards
order). But the amusement value is high.
And a younger child with autism learning the
alphabet will most likely like the sound jokes 
too. Of course, that child may firmly believe
for years that a man named Alpha figured out 
which order the letters of the alphabet should
be in, but you can explain the distinction between
fiction and non-fiction after your child learns
to read.
-Spectrum Mom

Monday, June 25, 2012

Talent Tuesday - Shawn Colton Interview Part 1

Illustration by David Hanson
Welcome to Talent Tuesday, a new series for authors affected by autism.
As I wrote in my last post, Shawn Colton's son David inspired to him to write Legends of the Boo-Monster, a book project he is funding through kickstarter.
I sent some questions Mr. Colton's way and he kindly and quickly responded with thoughtful answers direct from "Stately Boo-Monster Manor." Look for the rest of the interview next Tuesday and for the book some time this Fall.
How does David react to the Boo-Monster stories? Does David read?
David is non-verbal and doesn’t read, I talk to him constantly but I don’t know what exactly is getting through. When I talk to him about the Boo-Monster’s adventures he seems more interested than when I’m talking about other things, but maybe he’s just noticing my excitement. Also, I use a lot of funny voices when telling him of his other-world adventures. That might have something to do with it too. I’m certain that he knows that something exciting is happening. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is having a physical copy of the book in my hands to read to him.
Is the book aimed at any particular age group?
I think everyone from 10 years old and up will be able to enjoy the story on their own. I think parents will enjoy reading it to their little ones. There’s certainly nothing objectionable in the book and I’m fairly squeamish by nature, so, as a writer, I think I have a good handle on keeping things very “G” rated. The “reality checks” that will appear every five chapters or so will tell David’s story in the real world and those portions of the book will probably be better appreciated by adults, but I make it very clear that those portions of the book can be skipped over if younger readers are just interested in the fantasy story. The message of love, acceptance and tolerance will come through either way.
Is the book intended for those with autism? Those who want to know more about autism? Both?

As far as for those with autism go, it depends on the person with autism. I’ve had more than a few parents with kids on the spectrum tell me their kids would be very excited by the book and others that said that their children don’t read and don’t like to be read to.
The book will help others understand autism better I think. Though the Boo-Monster is on the low-functioning end of the spectrum by the end of the book there will be many younger characters that represent other areas of the spectrum as well as kids that aren’t on the spectrum at all.
To be continued .  .  .

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Kickstarting Legends of the Boo-Monster

Once there was a father who loved his son with autism 
so much that he created a whole world for him.
That's the story behind the story of 
Legends of the Boo-Monster,
a book project that you can help fund on kickstarter.
Shawn Colton is the dad behind the project and I'll 
feature an interview with him Tuesday!
In the meantime, take a look at the kickstarter page 
to find out more about the book, and consider funding it.
The great news is that this project has the basic funding 
Shawn Colton needs to make the book. 
But since he didn't include a penny for his own work, 
it'd be nice if he had a few dollars over to pay for his labor.
He's also offering some very cute rewards for investors.
My initial impression is that the book's audience will be
parents, friends and siblings of kids with autism rather
than kids with autism themselves, but Mr. Colton 
can tell us about that.
Because this project doesn't really fit with 
Books for Kids w Autism Wednesdays 
All Grown Up Mondays
or Education Fridays;
So I think I need another sporadic series: 
Talent Tuesdays.
Mr. Colton's interview starts that series this Tuesday. 
And if you have a book project and autism, or one
about someone in your life with autism,
let me know.
-Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wumbers It’s Words Cre8ed with Numbers!

The second I saw Wumbers I knew my boy 
would enjoy it. Instead of a story, 
Wumbers combines words and numbers. 
In any book, my son focuses on
the individual words or phrases,
and sometimes the page or chapter
And that's all this picture book has, 
phrases with words and numbers.
Billed as a book and a game, 
Amy Krouse Rosenthal replaces 
letters with numbers to make words
with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld.
The game part is you can do this too.
Here’s what my boy says -
“It’s funny. ‘Alice in 1derland. Comedy 2night’”
I challenged him to come up with his own wumbers:
“2day is some1 special’s early birthday.
Have you read the story 
‘Back to School’ b4?
I don’t ∅ my favorite part.”
Click on the picture above for the video
by Chronicle Books.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stims - a cautionary tale

So there we were, soaked to the skin, my little family and two nice teenagers,
listening to my son wail about a missing string.
Needless to say, this was not the performance my husband and I expected.
My son had some issues during theatre camp, but the reports were positive.
He had not volunteered to do extra,
(he didn't understand what was asked) but was otherwise "doing great."
Our first inkling of something wrong was when we saw he had
a string on stage.
Strings are his stim. They are strictly limited to his bedroom.
This has been true for so long now, we don't think or talk about it.
Put a string in his hand and he's gone-you've got physical presence,
not much more.
No one could tell us when or how the string showed up-
it's even in the little bio they posted (not shared with us before the show).
When the string fell during the show he wanted to find it. Disaster.
For the next show we told him, no string.
Almost as simple as that, though because it was an unexpected change,
we told him he could have it in the car on the way home.
I had him write it out.
He did fine.
He seems fine.
I'm not.
Next order of business,
writing out "no string" for him and his counselors for his next camp.
Reading, by the way, was not a problem.
He could have read and memorized 100 lines.
He had two.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Education Friday - Guest Moms 2

More Mom Wisdom on Reading Comprehension
"It does get better with time as their life perspective changes and they have more life experience. For example, when you are reading a mystery novel, you start to figure out what you think might happen based on the knowledge you have from reading other books, movies etc. With D, we used to use cliff notes and he would read that over first and then read the book for better comprehension since he had the idea of the story. Another strategy we used for him was to highlight text as he was reading picking out main ideas and important text. That helped. In college, he uses a tape recorder to record the lecture and then he can listen to it at home at his leisure to gain comprehension of all that was said."

"It takes a lot of patience, to be sure. Sometimes I stop often and ask J questions, and let him ask me. I find he does better if I explain the plot details to him before we read a book or watch a movie. Then he gets interested and more attentive and is able to follow better
I have found that telling him beforehand what it was all about for longer books and movies tends to help him get through the parts that are more 'tedious' for him, because there's so much context and language that is difficult to him. If he understands where it's going it helps him stick it out and understand it better."
"I have begun asking A to ask ME questions about something she just read to me or something we read together."
What works for you and your child?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Board Books for Big Kids Part 2

In my Autism Reads book (in progress) I write that some kids with autism may always do better with sturdier books. Judging from the number of views for my post Board Books - for Big Kids? 
post; I understated that need.
Unfortunately, my post doesn't list board books that work well for big kids, just that my eleven year old wants to keep reading them.
That's because if you want board books that offer enrichment
for older readers, you're going to have to adapt or invent. 
Point to Happy, a board book specifically for
kids with autism helps you start your child's
interaction with books, but expanding the meaning
beyond kindergarten level is up to you.
In the Garden with Van Gogh is an example
of a board book in a series that could be used 
with an older child to discuss art.
You could try the Little Miss Austen and Little 
Master Shakespeare series to introduce some basics
of authorship and a few words from these authors.
There are some Little House and Wind in the Willows
board books out there too.
In general, the sturdiest books for older kids are
activity books like this one:

But if you really want a sturdy book with a more advanced
narrative, you're going to have to make one. 
Here's how to make your own board book.
Have you found a great board book for older kids?
Please share!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Education Friday-Guest Mom

Today, a perspective from a mom friend:

"This summer I am leaving the majority of homeschool 

subjects to the little guy's dad, his tutor, and his big 

brained therapists. What am I working on with him? 

Reading comprehension. Every afternoon I write 

sentences that are pertinent to C's life, and then have 

him read them aloud and then answer written questions, 

sentences like : "I like to watch youtube videos about 

elevators. Some elevators are made by Schindler or 


Working on reading comprehension is a pretty tough 

workout, and today, I tried to approach the concept of 

"why". I remember a television show talking about 

"why" as a "nasty little protestant word", and I think C 

feels the same way about it. It is now after 5:30 and I 

am pouring a very rare and well-deserved daytime 


Another mom mentioned the existence of a book by an 

autism mom on how to approach why, how, and similar

concepts. Anyone out there know the author's name or

the title?

Why? Because I could use some help.

-Spectrum Mom

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Middle School Summer 7th Rising

Once again we embark on the perilous waters of summer reading. Reading age appropriate books is a challenge for my son, but when I must choose from a list of young adult novels, it becomes an active pain because my boy hates reading sad stories. I suppose books for the young have always included the sorrows of real life. 
Little Women has a father away at war and a child’s death. 

The Treasure Seekers face genteel poverty and Oliver Twist 
endures horrors almost equal to The Hunger Games 
(he doesn’t have to murder anyone, but it’s close and he’s nearly killed).
 But you know the triumphantly happy ending is just around the corner.
The topics of Wintergirls (anorexia), Tales of the Midnight Driver (addiction),

Under the Persimmon Tree (war and refugees) are not only deeply sad but 
deeply alien to my boy. 
That’s the point of course, to create empathy for those in different circumstances. 
But with his degree of autism and his challenges in comprehension, that is not going to happen.
As for happy endings, the realism of these books precludes any but the subdued 
“I’ve survived and grown” sort.
I thought I could choose another book, roughly equal in difficulty but gentler in subject,
but instead of essays or projects, the assignment is online questions and conversation.
So no go. 
No chance to read Pratchett, or another Dodger book, or Wonderstruck.
So he will be reading Return to Sender (migrant workers), and The Skin I’m In (bullying).
I thought he might choose Beast (retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which he knows), 
but he showed no interest. 
Our speech/reading specialist chose Return to Sender.
The Skin I’m In seems slightly poetic, short, and relatively mild.
Wish us luck!

Writing It Out

"Where are you going?"
"To get a pencil."
"To write a letter."
"To whom?"
"To you Mom."
And he did.
“Dear Mom,
I have a problem. My problem is .  .  .”
It seems that my son has discovered the power of the written word.
I find this a very hopeful development. At the very least, he has devised
a coping mechanism. At the most, maybe he’ll focus more on the feeling behind the words written by others.
-Spectrum Mom
(this is a random post-tomorrow, summer reading books)