Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin

My box of Halloween decorations includes a few 
Halloween books, and Spookley has become a 
yearly tradition. 
Both my boys know how Spookley’s odd shape 
became an asset one stormy night in the pumpkin patch.
I had no idea Spookley’s fame had gone beyond our box 
until Sunday when I saw a dvd of his adventures playing 
on the television at a party.
So many books celebrate the value of being different
that you’d think we’d all believe it by now. The trick is to remember all the little ways differences can help see the world in new and sometimes wonderful ways. 
If that’s not enough of a treat for you, curl up with Spookley
or Shadow and the Halloween Party (another from our box)
Today's Book:
The Legend of Spookley, the Square Pumpkin
 Written by Joe Troiano and Illustrated by Susan Banks.
Happy Halloween!
- Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Monster Books for All Ages

Two books today that should fit the Halloween needs of most boggarts and ghouls, sorry,  I mean boys and girls.

The Sleepless Little Vampire by Richard Egielski
is an unscary Halloween charmer that should appeal
to fans of simple picture books, onomotapoeia, 
and reversals.
The little vampire listens to the bats flitting, 
"FLAPPITY!-FLAP!” and “the cockroaches crawling
SCRATCHITY-SCRATCH!” and all the other nocturnal creatures wondering if it is the noise keeping him 
awake, until he finally remembers why he cannot sleep 
at night.
Egielski places white text on the left and the picture on the right on black pages. As the creatures increase, the pictures expand across the center until dawn lightens the pages and they all go to sleep. Your little goblins may not comment on this clever design, but the effect is calming and the story
ends with the reassuring message that no matter how
different you are, you are normal for you.
For children who enjoy poetry, rotting heads, and zombies,
I recommend Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex.
My twelve year old does too:

“This is funny stuff. The part that made me laugh was 'An Edgar Allen Poem.'”
The book is full of puns and ends with this haiku for 
the monster sticklers among you:
"He knows Frankenstein's
the doctor, not the monster.
Enough already."
If your kid loves this one, check out Rex's website.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Secret of the Stone Frog

Toon Books has a plan to make readers out of your kids.
Give them wonderful comic books written for young readers.
The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra skews
a little older than Benny and Penny, Nina, or the other
fun Toon books. Stone Frog is Toon's first graphic novel.
Nytra creates a fantastic universe for kids to explore along
with his sibling protagonists. Buildings come to life, and
strange fishy characters roam the streets, while giant bees
take the words right out of your mouth.
When I read it with my twelve year old, he found it very easy to understand
and express the emotions of the characters. The drawings of the children
are simple and make them easy to connect with, while the backgrounds
and other characters are strange. The strangeness of the adult world 
perhaps - or even that of the neurotypicals.
Toon takes its educational mission seriously. Here is 
a link to the lesson plan for the book and here's the reading level: 
This is my boy's review of The Secret of the Stone Frog:
The stone frog was the only one who knew the way home.
The two children were named Alan and Leah.
There were a few mean guys.
[That was unprompted. Then I asked him to write what he thought
about it and why]
I thought it was fine, because books that sound great are fine. 
It sounded great.  And I mean ALL of it. When we read it together.
One of Nytra's giant bees

For more fun and to order Toon books, check out their website

Friday, October 12, 2012

Education Friday - Guest Expert Linda Hodgdon M. Ed., CCC-SLP

12 Essentials Every Classroom Must Have for Autism Success
Students with autism can achieve great success in environments that help them succeed. How does that work? Settings that are “autism communication friendly” provide a variety of little things that result in big positive changes in student participation.
Of course, there will be variations, depending on age and skill level of students. Classrooms will have differences. But these essentials are essential. We have learned so much about what students on the autism spectrum need to be successful.
One thing that we know is that the majority of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and lots of other students, too) are visual learners. You’ll see lots of visual tools on my essentials list.
The problem is that we don’t always use what we know. That’s human nature. So here’s my challenge and here’s my list.
12 Essentials
(1) Camera
This can be one of your most powerful communication tools. 
They are so common now. You probably have a camera on your phone that you carry in your pocket. Teachers can take pictures or you can teach students to use the cameras on their own phones.
Take pictures of everything. Use them in the phone or print the pictures as needed. Use your photos for conversation starters, demonstration tools or reminders to help students remember what to bring to school tomorrow.
(2) Calendar
Posted on a wall, written in a notebook or accessed on a smart phone, the calendar is an essential tool for helping students orient to their flow of life. Calendars can focus on group information at school. But many students need a personal calendar for school info or one that also includes home and family information. Does that mean one for a classroom and one for personal needs? Possibly yes.
(3) Schedule
The daily schedule has finally become one of the most used visual tools. That’s because they work really well to help students follow their daily routines. Everyone benefits from knowing what is going to be happening today.
Linda Hodgdon, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Here's the link to Linda's other nine essentials. I think teachers largely forget the camera. One year his SLP gave my son photos of all his classmates. Another use could be making social stories and even illustrations for student writing.
Linda Hodgdon is the author of the best seller, Visual Strategies for Improving Communication. To learn more or to sign up for her FREE E-newsletter, visit

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We Both Read About the Ocean

One of the techniques we use is so simple and effective that 
there are multiple series of early reading books that use it too. 
If your children do not want to read to you out loud by 
themselves, take turns with them. First you read, then your child
The We Both Read series does this nicely, as I've mentioned
before. About the Ocean pairs beautiful photos with informative
text that covers the seas from shells to ocean conservation.
The child's side is about 1st grade level (the book is labeled
1-2, meaning grades 1-2).
We Both Read Books include fiction and non-fiction titles 
with the same format - parent page on the left with one word boldedchild page on the right with that word included 
among easier words.
The books range from Kindergarten to 3rd Grade and 
can be found at libraries, bookstores, and their website.
Of course, the alternation technique can be used with
any book. We've alternated pages with everything from
Hatchet to Hugo Cabret.
This series is not my boy's favorite for alternating
readers. More about that series later this month.
May you surface in time to breathe,
Spectrum Mom

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Make Suggestions for Gift Book Selections

It's not even Halloween yet, so I will not use the C word.
Or the Ch word. Or the Kw word.
But one of my friends has, so I started thinking that I 
should plan ahead. Do you have some books that your
child with autism loves? Ideally I'd like to be able
to feature different books that appeal to kids on many 
different points of the spectrum. If your kid has a
favorite book, please comment or email me
with the book title, your child's gender and age,
and his/her diagnosis (or reading gift/challenge).
Thank you! Let's help make this a happy season
for all of us trying to find the right book for 
a special kid.
Do you have a favorite app or reading related
gadget? I'd love to hear about those too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Fly Went By and By and By

Repetition. It's how we learn. Kids know this, underneath the demand to repeat the game, reread the book, retell the joke, 
is the brain building itself up and strengthening connections.
Kids with autism know this, and some demand the game,
the book, the joke in quantity and duration almost unbearable
to those around them.
Early rhymes and songs like "The House that Jack Built," and "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly" use this joy 
to teach.
So do kids' authors, particularly authors of early readers.
Repeated vocabulary gets that originally unfamiliar word into
the eyes and brain of the kid.
A Fly Went By is a classic of repetition where a boy 
encounters a veritable parade of the local fauna chasing
each other - or are they? His efforts to stop their flight
lead to repeated descriptions of the situation with the
animal names and feelings written out each time.
The fly ran away
In fear of the frog,
Who ran from the cat,
Who ran from the dog."
The story also rhymes and has simple illustrations, giving 
new readers reliable clues to what is happening in the text.
When the Elephant Walks is a newer version of this type
of story available in board book format.
So, to repeat myself, your comments and favorites are welcome
-Spectrum Mom