Friday, September 28, 2012

Reading Advice from Resources for Educators

Sometimes I forget the basics when working on reading
with my boy. This method,  from a 2010 Middle Years
handout, resembles KWL. The Check Understanding
step can be especially valuable for readers with autism
struggling with comprehension.

Textbook Super Sleuths
Like investigators on a case, good readers examine clues, 
and fit pieces together. These steps can help your middle schooler 
understand the material, connect with what she’s reading, and use the 
information in textbooks.  
Look ahead 
Before starting, your child should identify what 
the section is about. Checking the table of contents or end-of- 
chapter questions can provide valuable clues. She can also 
browse headings, diagrams, and illustrations. This will prepare her 
for the type of reading she’ll be doing and help her zero in on key 
Check understanding 
After reading a sentence, paragraph, or chapter, your 
youngster can ask, “Did this make sense?” If not, she should try
 to pinpoint where she got lost and go back and reread the pages. 
To shed light on the meaning, she also might find definitions for words
she doesn’t recognize, make a chart of the information, or write 
a summary in her own words.  
Put it in context 
Once your middle grader is finished, she should think 
about how the material fits with what she knows. For example, 
how does the information build on another topic she has learned about? 
What was the writer’s opinion, and does she agree with it? 
Making connections will help her master the material so she can 
discuss it in class and draw on it when doing homework.

copyright 2010
Resources for Educators, a division of Aspen Publishers Inc.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Asterix the Gaul

My son took my Asterix comics off my shelves earlier than I meant to share them. These silly, witty, comically violent,* comic books spoof the historical period of Julius Caesar from the French
(pardon me, Gaulish) perspective of Asterix's indomitable village,
surrounded by Roman fortified camps filled with highly trained,
disciplined legionaries terrified by the rowdy villagers filled to the brim with brio and magic potion.
Hard to say what exactly my son makes of all this. He loves puns, and the books are filled with them. The plots mix up history that he is still learning. The plots follow Hitchcock's McGuffin rule, 
the characters are all after the same object. This is much easier 
to follow than stories with more emotional subtext.
Comic books tend to focus on a simple clash of protagonist and
antagonist. And the pictures help give information about
vocabulary or concepts that might otherwise delay the reader.
Most importantly, the books entice the reader. As witness my 
falling apart Asterix books.

*Biff! Paff! Pow! (No one ever dies, everyone walks away (eventually) from the fight.
-Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mother Goose Forever

Here's my son's review of a new Mother Goose book:
Mceldery Book of Mother Goose
I’ve never heard a lot of poems in there.
My least favorite poem was “Ten Little Penguins.”
I almost liked it.
I didn’t like the subtraction.
The worst was when 8 became 7. 
I asked him why that was the worst, and he said
"because he never went home from Devon."
My twelve year old son reads and rereads Mother Goose
in lots of different editions, including a great big omnibus 
of hundreds of verses, yet this volume contained ones
new to him. This is what he told me:
"It starts with a little pig wanting to hear all the news,
and at the end he's heard all the news.
And this must be the news:
Alphabet and then A Wise Old Owl .  .  ."
I have mixed feelings about this continued fascination.
The rhymes and meter give him great satisfaction,
but the nonsensical content yields little useful information, 
and there's scant likelihood of this being a shared interest 
with a peer.
I'm a great believer in letting kids read what they enjoy, 
but is there a limit? What do you think?
Of course if your child is six or younger, this is a delightful book. A few of the poems go grim, but only the most 
sensitive kids will worry about poor Judy's black eye, or 
Betty Pringle who died because her pig did.
The collection includes several of my seldom seen favorites, "Who Killed Cock Robin?" and "There Was an Old Woman Tossed Up in a Basket."
"Oh, that I were where I would be;
Then would I be where I am not.
But where I am, there must I be,
And where I would be, I cannot."
For even more about this book, check out the New York Times review

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nashville Libraries: Special Story Times!

10 am Saturday Donna Reagan will read stories for all in
Centennial Park near the plane and the train.

Announcement from Librarian Donna Reagan: 
Some of you may already know that the Nashville Public Library 
has special needs story time one Saturday a month at Green Hills 
with Miss Terri. 
We have just begun doing special needs story time at two other locations: 
Madison and Bellevue. 
Miss Lin at Madison and I have the one here at Bellevue. 
All abilities are welcome. 
We meet from 10:30 to 11:00 for the program portion and 
leave the room open to parents and kids for another half hour or so. 
Bellevue and Madison dates:
October 6, November 3 and December 1. 
Green Hills: 
October 20, November 17, and December 15. 
The programs follow similar patterns but the content will be slightly different. 
For instance, our stories will not be the same (unless kids ask for them) 
and songs may be a bit different (and, of course, we take requests!). 
There is little that can happen during a story time 
that I haven't experienced in my 25+ years as a children's library programmer
and, of course, as the mother of two children (one neuro-typical daughter and a hyper-active son with autism).
 I also have considerable experience with people of all ages who have developmental challenges both physically and mentally. 
I am always open to suggestions! Please help us get the word out and do, 
of course, come if you can at all. Would love to see you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Most RecomMended

Some books get read until they fall apart. You don't get
out of this house that easily. You get taped up and read
again. If you fall apart again, you may get tossed. But
not if you're How Are You Peeling, that rare and  
delightful picture book whose photos are cuter than
many a drawing.
Kids with autism need books about feelings, and this
delightful book has rhymes and produce that more
clearly show emotion than the confusing human 
The creators, Saxton Freymann and Joost Elfers have 
a number of food photograph books including the
board book of Baby Food , but the focus of those
is more on the clever creations. Here the text,
with its repetition of "How are you feeling?"
is of at least equal importance. I wish it were a
board book.
Where's the tape?
-Spectrum Mom

Editorial Note: Of the late the blog has been picture book and early reader heavy.
You can help. If you are or know a tween or adolescent with autism who would
like to write a book review (one sentence is fine!), comment here or email me
at  Reviews by relatives about a book a kid with autism
loves are very welcome too. Thank You!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Education Friday - Theory of Mind & Fiction

Today's post by Taylor Platt comes courtesy of The Autism Research Foundation


A few months ago our staff attended The Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC. While there, a speaker named Diana Tamir presented her research on theory of mind in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Tamir says, “theory of mind — the capacity to infer others’ mental states — is crucial for the development of social communication.” She showed that when reading fiction, people can experience what others are feeling beyond their own emotional state. Research done by Atsushi Senju supported her idea, demonstrating that thelack of theory of mind in children with ASDs may “relate to impairment in social interaction and communication found in ASD.” 
So what does this mean?
Individuals who may not have strong theory of mind (capacity to understand or predict another’s emotions or actions) may be more apt to have an autism diagnosis.
Tamir points out that reading fiction has been shown to increase a child’s theory of mind because it can draw out emotions from the reader through characters and events. Picking up a great book is an indirect way to stimulate social interaction: it can help develop larger imaginations and, over time, teach individuals how to predict social cues without immersing them in what could be an uncomfortable face-to-face situation.
Tamir’s research focused on two things: the extent to which vivid physical scenes are pictured while reading, and the mental content of the reader.  Her results showed that the participants who read the most fiction demonstrated the most enhanced theory of mind. So, if reading can stimulate emotions and help improve the ability to understand another’s perspective, this is a great tool for children and adults with ASD to improve their social perception.
Just watching a narrative on television or at the movies won’t cut it: videos allow the audience to focus their attention on whatever he or she likes, but books require the audience to focus on precisely what the author is trying to convey.
Luckily for parents and educators, books are available on intermediate tools like iPads and Kindles. We don’t have to pry our kids from the stimulating TV screen; we can transition them to another media app.
While there isn’t a ton of completed research out there about reading and theory of mind, we can say this: it is important to read for any child, more than many may have ever  thought before.
We will keep you updated on Tamir’s fascinating reading research as it develops. In the meantime, start turning some pages!
Happy reading!
- Taylor Platt
Check out the Autism Research Foundation website and the Current Trends in Autism Conference 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Very Easy Reading

Easy Readers for children with autism 
(I am talking very first readers for kids with autism 
just beginning to read)
need as many of these features as possible:

- short words

- complete sentences

- short sentences

- big typeface

- color pictures

- pictures that correspond to the text

- a simple story and/or rhyme scheme

How can I make such a sweeping generalization when
kids with autism differ so much? Because these are features
helpful to all new readers, and for readers with autism,
just a little bit more so.  Often people with autism
value completeness and those complete sentences 
(as opposed to single words or fragments) become
vital. And if you want the world to have sense and
pattern, understandable stories and rhymes are key.

I thought Boy, Bird, and Dog by David McPhail 
an exemplary early reader. 
A very simple (in the best possible way) book,
The pictures show exactly what is said in the 
text. This is oh so important for kids with autism
and oh so helpful for all kids learning to read.
The pictures are representational against a
white background. The typeface is big,
and the words are small. The sentences
are short, with only one or two sentences
per page. The story is a short 22 pages.
I did not know the “I Like to Read” series,
but I will be looking for it now.

-Spectrum Mom